In this ancient form of divination, soothsayers seek to foretell the future by burning herbs, leaves, and tree branches.

Although many plant species could be used, there were two that were most popular. Vervain, also known as verbena, are herbs that produce a display of five-parted flowers. Brier, on the other hand, was a prickly or thorny shrub. Both were used in fortune-telling.

As branches and leaves were burned, the smoke and ashes were studied for omens. In one form, the branches had to be carved with the relevant questions before burning.

Another technique preferred leaves, commonly from figs or sage. A word was written on each leaf, and the leaves were left for the wind. Any leaves that remained would indicate the answer.

Other soothsayers would foretell the future by studying living plants – their growth patterns, overall appearance, and even behavior were used to tell the future.

Ancient Druid priests had a deep respect for the Earth. Tree spirits, especially from the oak tree, were sacred. These ancient Druids are responsible for giving us the practice of botanomancy. Other references include the Old Testament, and there is proof that ancient Romans also used this method.

In addition to the Romans, many other ancient cultures practiced botanomancy. The Arabians, Babylonians, Greeks, and Scythians have all consulted plants to determine the future.

Common Vervain (V. officinalis) from Deutschlands Flora in Abbildungen by Johann Georg Sturm and Jacob Sturm), 1796. Courtesy Wikipedia.