The term 'phyllomancy' stems from the Greek words 'phyllon' (leaf) and 'manteia' (prophecy). As such, it's not too surprising that this method of divination uses leaves to predict the future. There are many ways to practice phyllomancy (watching the way they burn, the way they fall, the way they float, etc.) but one method is very important in terms of the ancient Hellenic practice: divinition in which the voices of the Theoi are made appearant through the rustling of the leaves of an oak (or birch) tree.

[The oak tree oracle at Dodona]

Anyone who has ever sat at the foot of a tree and has listened to the wind play through the leaves knows there is no toher sound like it. It's unique and ever changing. To the ancient Hellenes the sound could also be prophetic. This was the case, for example, with the sacred oak(s) of Zeus at the sactuary of Dodona.

Dodona in Epirus, north-west Greece, lies in a valley on the eastern slopes of Mt. Tomaros and was famed throughout the ancient Hellenic world as the site of a great oracle of Zeus. The site was expanded in the Hellenistic period.

The oracle at Dodona was considered the oldest in Hellas, even if it was later replaced in importance by the oracle of Apollon at Delphi. According to Herodotos, in his Histories, the oracle was founded when two black doves flew from Thebes in Egypt; one dove settled in Libya to found the sanctuary of Zeus Ammon, and the other settled in an oak tree at Dodona, proclaiming a sanctuary to Zeus be built there.

"That, then, I heard from the Theban priests; and what follows, the prophetesses of Dodona say: that two black doves had come flying from Thebes in Egypt, one to Libya and one to Dodona; the latter settled on an oak tree, and there uttered human speech, declaring that a place of divination from Zeus must be made there; the people of Dodona understood that the message was divine, and therefore established the oracular shrine. The dove which came to Libya told the Libyans (they say) to make an oracle of Ammon; this also is sacred to Zeus. Such was the story told by the Dodonaean priestesses, the eldest of whom was Promeneia and the next Timarete and the youngest Nicandra; and the rest of the servants of the temple at Dodona similarly held it true." [2.55]

In Hellenic mythology the oracle was visited by notable heroes, such as Jason, who was told by Hera to place a protective branch from the sacred oak tree on the prow of his ship the Argo before he set off on his search for the Golden Fleece. In Homeros’ Iliad Achilles, too, called on the help of Zeus Dodonean during the Trojan War in order to protect Patroclus in his fight against Hektor. In the Odysseia the hero Odysseus also consults the oracle to discover if he should return to Ithaca as himself or in disguise.

Pelgrims came to the site and would write down their question on lead tablets, which were placed at the root of one of the many trees in the grove. The priestess would then go into a trance and listen to the wind as it played through the trees to distil the words of Zeus. They would then pass on this answer.

Although the ancient Hellenes believed strongly that the trees through which the Gods spoke had been chosen by Them specifically and thus had been made sacred, we can still direct our questions to the Theoi during sacrifice and then listen to the wind as it plays through the leaves of tall and majestic oaks to see if you can find meaning in the rustling. Who knows what you might pick up!