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Tree-Centred Practice, Part 6

Updated: Jul 3, 2023

Wild Divination

Red sky at night, shepherds delight, red sky in morning, shepherds warning.
Red Sky at Night


Animism and Omens

Divination is the practice of obtaining information, such as insights, omens or guidance, from the past, present and future. Divination is said to access 'supernatural' forces using various tools, methods and systems. Supernatural refers to a force out with the laws that govern nature, or forces beyond nature. In this discussion we will consider that divination is not 'supernatural', and consider that human tendencies for divination are inherent occurring human processes.

Tools of divination can include natural items like sticks and bones, or man made items like tarot cards and pendulums. Method, indicates the process of divination, for instance scrying or systems such as astrology. Astrology is the action of divining the past, present and future through assigning the significance of where and when we are born, and by identifying the celestial bodies present at the time of our birth. Scrying is a method of divination that employs the seer to look at (or through) a surface of matter. With the purpose of identifying shapes and form which will be symbolic or trigger insights or visions. Scrying can be achieved in almost any surface the eyes can settle upon. Flames, water, a crystal ball, the clouds, leaves, wallpaper, the water running off your shower curtain or even the back of your eyelids, can all become a scrying surface. Scrying surfaces can be transparent, reflective or opaque. They can be polished, have inclusions or be granulate. Be moving or fixed. The kind of divination practiced by a person will be uniquely informed by their background and experiences including their spiritual paradigm and culture.

Tree-Centred Practice is an animistic spiritual path, and therefore holds the core belief that everything present in nature is animated by a life force. Life force can be expanded upon to include energy, sentience and spirit. Embodying what I fondly refer to as Beingness. Animals are embodiments of beingness, as well as insects, plants, fungi, trees, rivers and stones. The elements are also considered as embodying a life force (spirit). The spirit of land and place is observed at holly wells, lay lines, groves of trees, burial sites, cairns, monoliths, dwellings, rivers and mountains.

Animistic beliefs in aliveness, may also be extended to human made items. Items such as tarot cards, dolls, weapons, and modes of transportation, can all be observed as embodying a presence of being. Basically anything natural or made can be viewed as alive and animated with the presence of an energy. And beyond embodying life, be attributed with further characteristics such as names, personality traits and human feelings. Personification and anthropomorphism are terms distinct from animism. But they are connected with animistic beliefs. They are words that describe natural human tendencies in relating to not human animals and items. These tendencies can illustrate how we make sense of what we are in relation with. So when we believe our tarot deck has an attitude, the tree has a personality, the mountain spirit is feminine, or we call our car Betsy, we could be tuning into the beingness of that other, and translating information through our felt-senses. Considering also that most human made items are created with natural materials like metals, wood, earth and stone, it would be logical to recognise the presence of the life force of their origin.

Interpreting omens is one of the purposes of divination. Omens are events or signs that indicate when something good or bad is going to happen. Omen interpretation within an animistic spiritual path, can be thought of as animistic divination. And an exchange in alive relation, between one living being and another. So, scrying in the element of water, becomes contacting and communing with the spirit of water.

This rhyme which probably originates from the fishing or farming communities is an example of interpreting an omen through weather observation. It was likely used to plan the following days work, but is still commonly observed in the present day as an indication of the coming weather.

Red sky at night, shepherds delight,

Red sky in the morning, shepherds warning.

In animistic divination methods, the practitioner will acknowledge the spirit of the matter, tools and methods used. And so diving the sky at night, becomes keeping company to the spirit of the sky. It might be more respectful along our animistic path, when divining, to also consider the terms we express to illustrate our actions. We can change 'to use' into 'to borrow' or 'to keep company', as we are divining through relation with a living being.



Augury and Ornithomancy

Apantomancy is a term used to describe a kind of divination that places an emphasis on omens from chance encounters with animals or items. Apantomancy with animals can have personal or universal meaning also, and refers to animals that present for us in a meaningful way. Like the 'black cat crossing your path' will represent good or bad luck. An animal or insect may present right at the moment when we are experiencing a challenging situation, need to make an important decision, or are deep in thought. We will interpret the presence of the animal or insect as a visitation, a message, or an influencing factor on what we should do. People may also recognise animals as a manifestation of deity or a personal spirit guide. Examples of apantomancy through contact with chance items could be 'walk under a ladder and you will get bad luck' and 'break a mirror and you will get seven years bad luck'. Knocking on wood may also be seen as apantomancy when the observer wishes to reverse an invoked 'thing' from happening. knocking on wood usually follows a realisation that one has tempted fate. Apantomancy also includes gaining knowledge through chance encounters of hand to item contact. For instance, the gaining insight from the holding of a piece of jewellery.

Ornithomancy can be viewed as within the umbrella of apantomancy and refers to the divining of the future through all aspects of bird observation. For instance the type of bird that appears, and how it presents itself, will be significant to the observer. The number of birds present or how they are grouped will have special meaning. Peculiarities in the flight pattern of birds, or which direction they are going, will also influence the observer in diving an interpretation. Augury is a similar form of divination, it can be understood as a form of ornithomancy that specifically focuses on observing the flight patterns of birds. Although nowadays the term augury is used to refer to a wider context of divination. Augury and ornithomancy are illustrated in this old nursery rhyme which identifies magpies as messengers of news or omens, (jackdaws, crows, rooks and other corvids can also be identified in connection with this rhyme). There are many versions;

An older version goes like;

One for sorrow,
Two for mirth
Three for a funeral,
Four for birth
Five for heaven
Six for hell
Seven for the devil, his own self

With a more recent retelling;

One for sorrow, Two for joy, Three for a girl, Four for a boy, Five for silver, Six for gold,
Seven for a secret never to be told.

Eight for a wish, Nine for a kiss, Ten a surprise you should be careful not to miss, Eleven for health, Twelve for wealth, Thirteen beware it's the devil himself.


Tree Stump Magic

Dendromancy and Casting the Sticks

Tree stumps are powerful points of energy. Tree stumps often live far beyond the loss of their trunk, branches and leaves. They can live for hundreds of years beyond the demise of their above ground parts. They survive through being connected with other trees and fungi through roots and mycelium. Trees have both an above ground life and an underground life. In this way the tree represents the decent of the soul and the journey into the underworld. Being with trees can awakening great insights and spiritual experiences within us. Tree stumps embody a pillar of light energy in the absence of their trunk and crown. We can borrow the company of tree stumps for a time as our altars of nature, or as a great place to meditate while resting. Many a time I have been out walking in the woods, and to give my sensing field an extra boost of green energy, I have stepped up onto a stump for a few moments, for a few breaths and received a wee boost of energy, thanked the tree stump, then continued on my way.

Dendromancy is the divination of the parts of trees and plants. This divination method is defined as using leaves and branches, but can also be expanded upon to include scrying on the bark of a tree, crown gazing or noticing the vein patterning on a fallen leaf or how twigs cross each other along your path.

A really beautiful woodland divination practice is Casting the Sticks. This is a practice I intuitively began while on my woodland walks. As I walk the woodland I will pick up items such as fallen sticks, twigs and bits of root pieces. I may pick up other woodland parts like stones, quartz, cones, leaves, feathers and bark. By the time I need a rest or before I leave the woodland I will cast my sticks (and other bits) onto the earth, atop a tree stump. I will notice how they fall over the visible tree trunk rings. The rings of the stump can represent time, in hours, weeks, month or years. The past, present and future. I observe how the items relate to one another according to their individual meanings. Items can also be cast onto water, into a gentle stream or calm woodland pool or puddle.

In Druidry the name Crane Bag refers to a bag of curiosities, collected over time. Meaningful items from nature such as stones, leaves, bark and feathers, that may be regarded as gifts from spirit or deity, charms or actual inspirited companions. The items of The Crane Bag can also be used for divination. If this practice appeals to you, you may wish to create a Crane Bag and carry your items on your walks. You can cast these items onto a tree stump, as describes in the practice of Casting the Sticks. Or draw a single item from the bag by placing your hand inside and allowing yourself to feel drawn to, and select an item of meaning.


The Felt-Sense

Gestalts and the Third Eye

The felt-senses can themselves be viewed as gestalts. Gestalt refers to the way we make sense of the stimulus around us. Suggesting that we naturally group together similar perceived elements as relating to one another. In addition to our collective sensing field, each Felt-Sense has a sensing field and perceives phenomena relating to that part. We have within us a highly attuned, deeply complex sensing systems. Systems that sense into the animation of all beingness around us all of the time. So while we naturally communicate in every present moment with the beingness outside of ourselves, through the transportation of information to and from the felt-senses. We can also divine the past and the future, through our felt-senses and our gestalts, the parts of us that hold related information.

An example of a gestalt is the Third Eye, the chakra, a name given to, and recognised universally as a part of the body that deals with intuition and visualisation. When we invite presence to this part of ourselves, many of us will have a felt-sense reaction. We will feel a physical sensation between our brow. For instance, a tingling feeling, or temperature change. By bringing presence in awareness to the Third Eyes, we will also notice a tuning into our intuition. And we may begin to sense into divination methods, such as scrying. This area also deals with memories and visions and so we may begin to also see animations of moment in our time, experiences and feeling, also relating to the divination. This illustrates the felt-senses and sensing fields operating is a gestalt way.


Wild Divination

We have identified some interesting tools and methods of divination relating to a Tree-Centred Practice. And explored how these forms of divination can be understood within an animistic spiritual path. Recognising the aliveness of matter. When we are aware of the presence of life, we will also consider the participation of life within our divination practices. We can think of this as animistic divination.

We have explored how human divination tendencies can be naturally occurring processes within our parts. And that these parts are like communities, seeking out and making connections with other parts, also recognised as related. These communities can be views as gestalts, complex pathways of information transference. Connecting our tendencies, with our instincts and our environments.

When I was a young child I began to related strongly to the presence of geese. I would be mesmerised by their migration, watching them flying over the land, listening intently to them calling to each other. I would feel a physical sensation in my chest, a longing, a sense of belonging, of family. My feeling didn't come from some learned information on the symbolism of geese. The same feelings and sensations would return every time I seen the geese. A naturally occurring relation from my senses. I perceive my reaction to their presence as coming from my felt-sense and the omen I receive is one of family togetherness and connection. When I see geese, I naturally divine their presence as a meaningful encounter.

When I began Casting the Sticks and working with Tree Stump Magic, I had never read a book or any information on these methods either. I had never seen them illustrated anywhere, or spoken to anyone exploring these ideas. These ideas for the method and tools of divination, simply arrived, they came from deep within my being. Maybe they were a remembrance of ancestral memory through instinct. Or maybe they came direct, communication from the woodland and trees, translated through my felt-sense. Wholly natural, animistic, wild divination.

Yours in the heart of the woodlands,

Mags Black

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priscilla young
priscilla young
Jan 05, 2023

Oh wow. This may be one of my very favorite blog post you have written. I entertained this thought the other day. I had not been divining with my cards lately. Rather I fancied asking questions and observing,not necessarily with words, but with the clouds,or maybe the wind,the crows,stones. A divining practice that come from within and one that comes as natural as breathing. Thank you Mags🫶🏻

Jan 05, 2023
Replying to

Exactly, wild animistic divination. Communication with the surroundings through the sensing field is so natural, like breathing. Thank you Priscilla. 💛

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