For me, winter has always been a very spiritual time of year. The corridor of darkness between dusk and dawn stretches ever wider as we draw closer to Yuletide, and these cold, sparkling nights inspire me to explore my spiritual side more deeply, particularly when it comes to divination.
Dendromancy: Mystical Messages & Mistletoe
Dendromancy—from the Greek root dendro meaning tree and mancy meaning divination—is a method of reading trees’ leaves and branches for insight into the future. Dendromancy is particularly potent during the cooler months when the leaves begin to turn and drop from the branches. Once the branches are bare, we can derive any number of mystical messages from them by looking for runes or other signs.
Widely practiced by the ancient Celts across Europe, dendromancy may also refer to the specific tradition of harvesting mistletoe from oak trees. The Celts held both the oak and mistletoe as sacred, believing them to be imbued with healing and protective properties. Oak branches were often used in wand-making, and mistletoe was harvested to make medicine or to be burned so that druids could read signs and warnings in the smoke.
While we may have lost some of the ancients’ devotion to the natural world, we can still use dendromancy to connect to trees and benefit from their wealth of ancient knowledge.
Dendromancy for Beginners
Going for a tree walk is one of the simplest ways to get started with dendromancy. For this ritual, the focus is on allowance and observation. You’ll want to quiet your mind as much as possible and pay close attention to your surroundings.
Perform a Tree Walk
- Find an area with plenty of trees. This can be a forest, park, or simply a street lined with ornamental trees.
- Set an intention—anything from gaining wisdom about a weighty decision to simply using the walk to relax and connect to nature.
- Ask for a sign. This could be something like having an acorn fall in your path or seeing a single orange leaf on a branch.
- Walk at a normal pace, observing the trees around you as much as possible. Try not to look for your sign. Allow it to come to you, if it’s meant to.
- Journal about the results of your walk to help you derive meaning from your experience.