Daphnomancy: What Does Burning Bay Leaves Actually Mean?
Last Updated: July 25, 2023
When you are manifesting with bay leaves and scrying it’s outcome, you may be performing a method of divination you were previously unaware of that is actually millennia old.
Since the documented Greek Oracles of Delphi, bay laurel has been used by many cultures for its purported ability to offer prophetic insight into the future. It’s believed that if done correctly, you can open a door between you and the spirit realm through which messages about your destiny may be revealed. I use burning bay leaves as manifesting tools, and as a messenger to the universe – the burned leaf ignites my intention which I’d written on it’s glossy side, and the smoke carries it away to the universe.
The method of bay leaf divination is quite simple but it must be done with intention and focus in order to work properly. Below we will explore the history of bay laurel, those crowns you often see in greek mythology, and more about the divination method called daphnomancy.
What is Daphnomancy?
Daphnomancy is divining messages through use of bay laurel leaves, whether from it’s smoke and patterns, from ingesting to the point of narcotic (therefore inducing a semi-conscious trance-like state) or from it’s appearance and form.
It is believed that by focusing on the shape of the leaves, one can interpret messages from spirits and gods. Ancient Greeks would burn the leaves and study the smoke patterns for messages from Apollo, while in some cultures it is believed that by eating certain bay laurel leaves one can induce a trance-like state in which messages from the gods are revealed.
Bay laurel has also been used by Roman and Greek cultures to make crowns worn by leaders and heroes. This was believed to aid in the wearer’s ability to receive prophetic messages from the gods, as well as to symbolize their power and authority. Bay laurel has also been used as an ornamental plant, often planted around sacred sites.
The modern method of daphnomancy is likely a combination of the methods used by ancient cultures combined with meditation and visualization techniques to provide insights and tap into a subconscious or otherworldly wisdom. The idea is to focus on the shape of the leaves, or their smoke patterns, and interpret what they may be telling you. This could be especially useful as a divination method if you have a relationship with a fire element deity such as Apollo. But the origins of bay leaf use are, as you would expect, a little messed up.
Bay Leaf Divination Origins
We begin with Daphne at Tarsus. Daphne was an oracle priestess and a naiad waterway nymph, Tarsus a powerful city-state located in what is now modern-day Turkey and also resided at Mount Parnassos, the mountain of the Gods. She was tied to being the daughter of King Teiresias, a renowned seer from ancient Greece, being the daughter of River gods (which makes sense for a naiad) and being a prophetess originally to the earth goddess Gaia.
According to legend, Daphne was so talented at prophecy that she could predict the future with accuracy. One day she was visited by Apollo whilst she was our by Mount Parnassos, who sought to use her prophetic powers for his own purposes. He fell in love with her, and pursued her, despite her disinterest in relationships or marriage preferring priestess life and being surrounded by maiden companions. When a boy named Leucippus tried to get to know Daphne by dressing as a female maiden simply because he also loved Daphne, Apollo exposed him and killed him. Apollo wanted Daphne, and it’s said that Eros (in a spat with Apollo over who was allowed to be an archer, man or boy) had initially shot Apollo with a love laden arrow, and Daphne with one of lead (and therefore repulsion).
When Daphne refused Apollo’s advances, Apollo cursed her into a bay laurel tree – or her goddess Gaia seeing all of this, changed her into a bay laurel tree to keep her safe from being assaulted.
This legend is the origin of Daphnomancy and why bay laurel is so prominent with the Greeks. The temple of Apollo at Delphi, his holiest of sites, contained a grove of sacred laurels. The temple roof was said to be covered with bay leaves, and the Oracles of Delphi and the Pythia (chosen seer at Delphi) were known to either wear on their person or wave laurel branches during proceedings. Daphnophagi were diviners who spoke wisdom after eating and consuming the leaves themselves. The actual hallucinogen for the oracle readings themselves came from the ethylene in the crack in the ground above the moving combining riverways, not the burning or consumption of bay leaves, however. Thanks to science we now know large amounts of bay leaf (Laurus nobilis) is known to be a sedative narcotic, but also has astringent, anti-fungal, antiseptic, anti-cancer, stimulative and digestive properties in terms of proven scientific health benefits.
Those who had received oracles were often crowned with laurel leaves as a sign of Apollo’s favor. In Rome, laurels later became a symbol of victory worn by emperors and athletes and was used to make garlands for brides and grooms, as well as crucial to health and medicine.
Bay laurel is still used in many cultures today as a divination tool, medicinal herb, and ornamental plant. Whether you are a deity believer or not, there’s no denying that burning bay leaves is an ancient practice with a rich history and remains a powerful tool for manifesting intentions today.
Burning Bay Leaf Benefits
From a metaphysical perspective, burning bay leaves are a great way to smoke cleanse your space to invite in clearer insight and prophetic visions, cleansing of any lingering negative energy. You can also use it to manifest your intentions, write down what you’d like help with and set the leaf on fire while focusing on the smoke. Using bay laurel as a divination tool to sharpen your intuition and help you open to guidance from the spiritual realm.
The scent of bay leaves is said to be balancing and calming, making it popular for aromatherapy and mindfulness.
Additionally, the bay laurel’s benefits for health and well-being make it a key ingredient for radical healing – lowering blood sugar, reducing inflammation, and providing antioxidants, as well as being a nervine that can manage stress. It would be beneficial to limit the amount of bay leaf in your diet if you are taking sedatives or if you are diabetic, according to Healthline and WebMD.
What Burning Bay Leaves Means
The essential symbolism of a bay laurel is protection, purification, and wisdom. Burning bay leaves is a way to release energy and manifest your desires while honoring the ancients who have used this sacred herb for centuries. The smoke from the leaves carries your intention to the universe and other-realms, allowing it to manifest in a powerful way. It’s an ancient ritual that can still be utilized today.
The laurel wreath meaning, especially for the “crown of leaves” you often see in ancient history, means success and victory. It’s a sign of honor, achievement, and success in the face of adversity – this could be interpreted as a message that you are on the right path and will come out victorious in the end. If you ever see the imagery of a burning bay leaf, it usually means that something powerful is happening.
Whether you burn bay leaf as part of a ceremony, ritual, or just to set an intention in motion, it is a powerful way to invoke the power of the divine.
Daphnomancy Reading Suggestions and Burning Bay Leaf Meanings
For those who are drawn to the practice of daphnomancy, the shape and pattern of bay leaf smoke can be interpreted as a sign from Apollo or other deities. When practicing any fire divination, please ensure to follow fire safety, ventilate well and be responsible (plus tweezers are always useful!)
The interpretation of these signs will depend on individual experience so whilst this is a starting point you may find through your own practice that but I’ll explore a few ideas with you below to start:
- If the bay leaf crackles fiercely, then you need to listen/focus immediately and read the leaf for any symbolism you see in the embers.
- If the bay leaf lights up strongly, so will your manifestation.
- If the bay leaf produces too little smoke, then it’s a sign to remain patient and that a change is coming.
- If the bay leaf produces lots of smoke, it may be an indicator of distractions or too much noise in your manifestation. Add clarity, conciseness and limit opportunity for going in the wrong direction from your goal.
- If the bay leaf burns slowly, then it’s a sign of you needing patience as things work in the background for you.
- If the bay leaf refuses to light, then maybe at this time what you’re working on isn’t what is best for you.
Burning Bay Leaf Manifestation
Modern witches love to use bay leaves in their spellwork, especially when it comes to manifestation, luck and money. For this type of working you could use a full leaf, or shred it into small pieces to create more surface level for the smoke. Once lit, direct the smoke in a clockwise circle around yourself (or other people, items of importance) to set the intention of protection. If you’ve used the bay leaf for torn up incense, ensure the dish you have it in won’t cause harm or damage. To invite in luck, draw the sign of the pentagram in the smoke. Once you are done, open a window or door to release your intention out into the universe. This is a great practice to combine with the blowing ground cinnamon through your door on the first of the month.
With all forms of divination, it’s important to trust your intuition and read between the smoke. Use burning bay leaves to protect and purify, manifest success, clarity and balance. Whether you’re using it for medicinal purposes or to invite in clarity, the bay laurel is a powerful herb with protective, stimulative and digestive properties in terms of proven scientific health benefits, so make it a great herb to use for healing magick.
Empower yourself to manifest your goals with burning bay leaves and may you be blessed on your journey.
Burning Bay Leaves for Money
To attract wealth and abundance, burning bay leaves is a powerful way to manifest your intentions. Start by writing your goal on the leaf in detail, and try not to be excessive with your monetary request, but be realistic and fair in what could be available without harm to others. Set the leaf on fire in a safe place and watch as the smoke ascends to the universe.
Visualize your goal being fulfilled while the smoke is rising, as if you already have it, and be sure to thank the divine for assisting with your manifestation. Money is an energy, and burning bay leaves for money can help to break through any additional blocks and obstacles in your way. Trust that the universe is working in your favor and be patient. Until next time xox
I love curating divination experiences for those invested in spiritual growth with secular honest vibes. I am that witch you come to for these honest, interesting and beneficial divination experiences!
I’d like to discuss with you Hydatoscopy (which I’m pronouncing hi-dat-toe-skop-pee); the divination of rainwater, its patterns and its uses, which is a form of Hydromancy.