Monday, September 27, 2010

Xylomancy - divination using trees

Xylomancy, reading trees, is so old a technique that no one actually knows today how it is done. If you look at the definition, you will see that it is an "old Slavonian divination method" using twigs. Some say that a xylomantist read the formations of fallen twigs. Some others say that people used to ask advice of logs instead of twigs. (This probably means watching how the logs behave in the fireplace, and the Yule Log superstitions are reminiscent of this.) Yet some others say that it is the predecessor of arrow divination, Belomancy. It could have been something like I Ching - in one form of I Ching dried stalks of yarrow are used. It could also have involved having a bag of odd pieces of wood and sticks and tossing them on the ground, like runes or stones.

As no-one knows how this is done, you have very free hands to create your own method. I would use the Omen Walk, as described by Callia Underhill in her wonderful book, Witch's Book of Divination. Basically, what she says is that all the symbols we use in divination are quite personal and self-created. We LEARN to know the tarot cards and others, even though we already have enough experience and understanding to read them subconsciously. She suggests that you write your own book of symbols, by writing in your own meaning to the symbols.
To me, dreaming about flying and horses have nothing to do with sex, but everything to do with freedom and happiness. To me squirrels are not thieves, but slightly mischievous pranksters.

Go to the woods, walk around and see what there is. Trees could have boughs and twigs that look funny, or interesting, or something. When I was young there was a pine tree by my school road, and it looked as if there was a pony locked inside, trying to escape. I could see the head and neck, and two legs. The twigs of another formed a word "isi", which is "daddy" in Finnish.
There is also an old sign language. Almost all native peoples who live in a forested area have a tradition of using twigs and stones put in certain formations to convey messages to those who pass by. The Boy Scouts have adopted some of them to make their “trail signs”.


I think it would be beneficial for your efforts to understand what the woods are trying to tell you, if you learned these and both runes and Ogham. The more symbolic languages and pictograms you have in your mind, the easier it is for you to interpret the omens around you.

Write in your symbol journal all the possible ideas you get when walking in the forest, so that when you need to start reading the trees, you are prepared.

General tree symbolism

Almond: Divination, clairvoyance, wisdom, money and business.

Alder: A water loving tree, but is highly combustible, often used as a symbol of appearance used in glamour spells and has protection against oracular powers.

Apple: One of my favorite trees associated with healing, prosperity, love and perpetual youth, innocence. The juice is used to infer strength and beauty. Also represents a choice.

Apricot: Love.

Ash: Toughest , most elastic wood. Represents the linking of the inner and outer worlds. Wood for purification, good for removing and cleansing internalized strife. Mental purification, protection and sea magic.

Beech: Stability and flow of energy. Beech is an incredible conductor of energy.

Birch: The first tree to grow on bare soil represents the rebirth of the forest. The inner bark of the tree provides a pain reliever that is used to treat arthritis. Represents protection, purification and new beginnings. Useful in spells involving structure support shielding warding and cleansing.

Blackthorn: A winter tree representing unexpected change, realization that you and your life have changed radically, enter life reborn.

Cedar: Prosperity and longevity. Used to repulse energies. Best if used to drive of negative energies.

Cypress: A sad tree, A tree of mourning, often used to build funeral pyres.

Dogwood: Charm and finesse. Used to enhance one's social abilities and increase personality. The flower is good to cleanse wounds.

Elder: Represents the end in the beginning and the beginning in the end.

Elm: Protection often planted in tainted areas to warn off others.

Fig: Symbol of fertility, strength, energy and health.

Fir: Symbolizes malleability, cleverness and ability to change.

Hawthorn: Hottest fires. A symbol of strife and harshness, tool for protection, Its energies will work for defense, use to dispel energies, excellent for banishing strife.

Hazel: Divination marriage and protection. Skills in poetry divination and meditation, inspires others.

Hazelnut: Symbolizes attraction, loss of inhibition or will power or drowsiness.

Heather: Listen to your bodies message.

Hemlock: Do not use.

Holly: Symbolizes a challenges of the will to be overcome with unity and concerted effort. Sometimes symbolizes combat and defense often used has symbol of life.

Honey suckle: Pursue your desire, allow yourself to experience pleasure.

Ivy: Represents your links with others, the search for ones inter self.

Lemon: Divination and healing.

Lime: Chastity and neutrality.

Juniper: Protection

Maple: Divination and love. happy tree, luring, drawing in bringing together.

Mulberry: Knowledge divination, wisdom and the will.

Oak: Healing strength and money. King of the forest grows slowly, the doorway to mysteries. Symbol of widow and strength and endurance, good for storing and conduction power. used in spells involving authority, majesty, power strength wisdom and endurance.

Olive: Peace, fruitfulness, security and money.

Orange: Love and marriage.

Palm: Strength.

Peach: Love, divination.

Pine: Purification health, fortune fertility and prosperity.

Reed: Symbolic of music.

Rowan: Protection and strength.An aid and protection against enchantment.

Sequoia: Symbolize eternity longevity and vast wisdom.

Silver Fir: What you seek shall be found.

Spruce: Symbolize north and cold.

Sycamore: Symbolize growth and persistence. North American holy tree.

Vine: Release of prophetic powers.

Walnut: Healing and protection.

White popular: The challenge you face will be endured and conquered with determination.

Willow: Healing protection from enchantment, wishing and easy delivery of babies. This tree is strongly linked to lunar rhythms and feminine aspects. Ability to banish depression and sadness. The bark contains w used to treat rheumatic fever and various damp diseases.

Yew: Symbolizes death and rebirth, transformation, great age and reincarnation, good shield.

(c) Ravenfox

I Ching

I Ching is The Book of Changes, is one of the oldest Chinese texts. It is believed to be several thousand years old, though the oldest copy is probably from only some hundred years before current reckoning. I Ching is also a divination method, when combined with coins or sticks. The idea of this is, that you get "lines" by throwing the coins or sticks according to a certain method, and these lines read in 64 different ways, thus referring to 64 different strofes in the book. These words are rather mystical, weird for a person who hasn't grown in the old Chinese culture, and was the origin of fortune cookies' messages. Some of these words have become Chinese proverbs. I Ching has strong influence in the Chinese culture, as the text was interpreted not only as a collection of proverbs, but as a philosophy of life and a system of cosmology - basically, I Ching was the picture of the world as the Chinese people knew it 2000-3000 years ago. The basic principle of this world order was that everything changes, flows from one event into another, everything is built on the balance of opposites, the eternally swirling disc of yin and yang.

The oldest divination method used yarrow stalks, but as it was replaced with the more reliable (that is, all the possibilities are as possible, while with the yarrow stalks some combinations are more probable than others) coin method during the Han Dynasty, it was also forgotten. The modern yarrow stalk method is a reconstruction and recreation.

You are to have 50 (or 52) yarrow sticks.
You are to take one from the bunch and lay it in front of you.
You are to divide the rest randomly in two piles, and set the piles right and left from you.
Take one stalk from the right hand pile and place it between the ring finger and little finger of your left hand.
Remove the stalks from the left hand pile four stalks at a time until you have only four or less stalks left. Tuck these between the ring finger and long finger of your left hand.
Do the same with the right hand pile and tuck the remaining 4 or less between the long finger and index finger of your left hand.
You should now have 5-9 sticks between your fingers. (Why not 3? Because if you have only one stick left in one of the piles, you will have 3 sticks in the other. Anything else just isn't possible.)
Now you lay these sticks across the first one you removed from the pile, and take the rest of the sticks and repeat what you just did - divide in two, remove sticks 4 at a time, stuck between fingers and so on, twice. This time you will end up with 4-8 sticks.
You should end up with 3 piles of sticks across the first one.
Now, there's only three possibilities here.
All piles are small (4-5 sticks). This is a changing yang line. (draw a cross over the long line)
All piles are large (8-9 sticks). This is a changing yin line. (draw a circle between the two short lines)
Two are small and one is large. This is the unchanging yin line. (two short lines)
or
two are large and one is small. This is the unchanging yang line. (a long line).

This is your first or bottom line of your hexagram. You need to repeat this five more times to get the rest of the six lines.

You can really use anything, it doesn't necessarily need to be yarrow sticks. It could be long matchsticks, pieces of bamboo, pick-up sticks or even strips of paper.

The coin method is a bit easier.
You need three coins with a distinct head and tails side. Any coins, even buttons or tokens will do, even though the old chinese coins are preferred.
You toss the coins for each line.
Heads give you 3, tails 2, so you will get any result from 6 to 9.

6 (all tails) is a changing yin line. (draw a circle between the two short lines)
7 (two tails, one head) is the unchanging (or young) yang line. (a long line).
8 (one tail, two heads) is the unchanging (or young) yin line. (two short lines)
9 (all heads) is a changing (or old) yang line. (draw a cross over the long line)

Here is explained some probability and a method of using only two coins or 16 marbles, beads, stones or anything else, that is of 4 different colors but otherwise the same.

Now, what do these hexagrams "say", then? That will be explained later :-)

Collected articles about divination

I have been interested in divination for over 20 years now, and I am one of these people who collect every available piece of information there is, the more obscure it is, the better.

I won't be talking much about Astrology or Tarot cards, as there already is tons of information about those subjects. I will be speaking of the divination methods that are more unusual and less used.