Xylomancy

Xylomancy is a form of divination that seeks clues to the past, present, and future using twigs and other pieces of work. The shape, form, and patterns of tree branches or other pieces of wood were considered in order to interpret the omens.

In Slavonia, diviners looked for small twigs and branches lying in their path, studying them for omens. In other areas, soothsayers studied fallen tree limbs or other pieces of wood on the ground to determine the future. Originally, xylomancy relied on branches which had fallen naturally. Over time, variations developed. In one technique, branches were cut down. Half the bark was stripped off of each one. The soothsayer would then toss all the branches to the ground, reading and interpreting the patterns of branches. Interestingly, only the branches that fell with the bare wood facing upward were used in divination.

In a related form of divination, omens were interpreted based on the logs in a fireplace – how they are arranged, the manner that they burn, and more. This form of divination is believed to be the origin of at least one common myth: when a fire brand is disturbed, a visitor will arrive soon.

Xylomancy is closely related to Dendromancy, a technique of divination practiced by the Druids which used sacred oak and mistletoe. It is also related to Tephramancy, which seeks to divine the future using the ashes of a tree trunk. The worship of trees and other natural spirits is an ancient tradition, one that is reflected in xylomancy.

Twisted branches in Emirgan Park, Istanbul. Courtesy Wikipedia.