Dendromancy is a form of divination that has largely been forgotten. It was once common among Druid priests in Britain, Gaul, and Germany. This sacred rite, called “divining the Golden Bough”, used mistletoe and oak trees to divine the future.

Mistletoe grows as a parasite attached to a shrub or tree. This interesting plant has been associated with magic and mystery since ancient times. European folklore records the incredible powers ascribed to the sacred mistletoe – it could protect against poison, enhance fertility, and even bestow life. It was also said to have aphrodisiac qualities.

Mistletoe itself was sacred. The most sacred of all was the mistletoe that grew in the sacred oak trees. Druid priests, their white robes glowing in the moonlight, would enter the Grove on the sixth night of the moon. The oak mistletoe was always cut with a sickle of gold. During the ceremony, two white bulls were sacrificed as the priests prayed that those who received mistletoe would continue to prosper. In later centuries, cutting mistletoe from its oak tree took on a different meaning, as the new king symbolically emasculated the old.

Dendromancy took on many forms, most commonly, oak and mistletoe were burned. Diviners would observe the smoke patterns for clues to the future. In a related version, the oak and mistletoe were simply examined for omens.

In the 16th century, diviners believed that observing the wood and mistletoe, omens could be found. An oak apple is a swelling on a leaf of the oak tree, caused by an insect. If an oak apple is opened and the diviner discovers a worm, it is a terrible omen. A life of poverty and hard labor is sure to follow. It’s bad enough to find a worm, but if the worm should “run about”, the plague is on its way. If you find a spider instead, the corn crops will be sparse and pestilence will be common; a fly is an omen of war within the next year.

In the Middle Ages, and even into the following centuries, mistletoe was hung from the ceiling in an attempt to ward off evil spirits. It could also be hung over doors – House, stable, and business doors – and would prevent which is from entering. Oak mistletoe was also thought to extinguish fires.

Oak mistletoe. Courtesy Wikipedia.
Leaves and acorns of oak tree. Courtesy Wikipedia.