During a detour in Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable en route to “behemoth” we came across “botanomancy” which the volume in questions defines as:

Divination by leaves. Words were written on leaves which were exposed to the wind. The leaves left contained the response.

Web definitions are slightly different, involving less wind and more fire, mentioning fig and sage leaves in particular. Or oak. Or vervain and briar. Take your pick, really.

I loved the word itself and the idea of words on the wind, on leaves. There was a young fig tree in the garden, a red permanent marker in the desk, a random webpage of quotations relating to the month of October on the laptop from which to pick chance words and a slight but sufficient breeze.

The tree yielded an adequate crop of fallen leaves, the marker left a mark once the leaves had been dried of excess moisture and the dog, by rampaging through the pile a couple of times, assisted the wind in its distributary divinatory work.

Were I to punctuate the result it might go something like this:

Moon rise.
Frosty silence.
Autumn grain,
Scarlet flowers.
Mellower – again.

This is my entry for the October retrospective/November 1st Festival of the Trees which this month is being hosted at its founding home, Via Negativa.

8 Replies to “Botanomancy”

  1. Damn, what a great post!

    If any of your readers are still interested in posting something for the FOTT, I’ll be accepting submissions right up through Friday, because for once I’ve been working well in advance and compiling the post as the month went along. (In fact, I just hit the “publish” button by mistake, so you’ll probably see a rough draft of the damn thing showing up in your feed readers. Which is one reason why I usually DON’T keep posts in draft for too long!)

  2. w000t! Glad it struck chords. There’s a great list of fancy-mancy words here. Cromniomancy? ONIONS! Gelomancy? not jello but LAUGHTER. Spatulamancy? the burnt shoulder-blades of animals. Petchimancy? divination by observing the result of brushed clothes. I mean, wtf? I could go on, but they’re all there at the link and it would take far too long to type them all out. Too fantastic for, er, words. And the title of the book in which the collection is to be found? Robertson’s Words for a Modern Age.

Comments are closed.