Dendromancy

Dendromancy is the art of divination by leaves and branches of plants, usually oak and misteltoe.

Etymology

From ancient Greek dendron, a tree.

History

Mistletoe is one of the sacred plants of European folklore. It was considered to bestow life and fertility; a protection against poison; and an aphrodisiac. In the Middle Ages, branches of mistletoe were hung from ceilings to ward off evil spirits. In Europe they were placed over house and stable doors to prevent the entrance of witches. It was also believed that the oak mistletoe could extinguish fire.

The mistletoe of the sacred oak was especially regarded by the ancient nations in Gaul, Germany and Britain. On the sixth night of the moon white-robed Druid priests would cut the oak mistletoe with a golden sickle. Two white bulls would be sacrificed amid prayers that the recipients of the mistletoe would prosper. Later, the ritual of cutting the mistletoe from the oak came to symbolize the emasculation of the old King by his successor.

Methods

A simple form of dendromancy was to burn oak and mistletoe and observe the resulting smoke patterns. Other methods of this type of divination involved examining oak and mistletoe parts for particular signs and omens. According to 16th century folklore, if an oak apple (a gall or swelling on a oak leaf caused by an insect known as a gallfly) is opened, and a worm is discovered within it, this indicates a life of poverty and strife.

If the worm should “run about,” it presages the plague. If a spider is found, it is a omen of pestilence and scarcity of the corn crop. A fly presages war in the ensuing year.

 
Divinations by Observation
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Divinations by Observation