Thursday, December 20, 2012


Meaning: divination by fig leaf, or the right kind of sycamore. You can write options on a number of leaves, throw them to the wind and see which ones you find; or write something on a leaf and see how long it takes to dry (longer is good, so don't use this one if you're in a hurry); or make the leaves into tea and then interpret them as per your regular tea-leaf.

Usefulness: 2 (may depend on your proximity to fig trees, or need for a rhyme for sycophancy)

Logofascination: 1 (The syco- is from the Greek for fig, and is also in sycamore, as the Biblical sycamore was a fig tree. It looked a bit like a mulberry tree, so this fig-mulberry - sykon and moron in Greek - in turn gave its name to trees that looked a bit like it; its American cousin, a type of plane tree, and the European sycamore, which is actually a maple and not related at all. The fig-mulberry's species name is ficus sycomorus, or the figgy fig-mulberryish tree.  Syco- also turns up in sycophant, for slightly rude reasons explained over at etymonline.)

In the wild: Not really.

Degrees: 1

Connections: n/a

Which is used in: the -mancy chapter, obviously: "By sicomancy; O divine art in fig-tree leaves!" Interestingly, Rabelais describes sycomancy by sycamore in an earlier chapter - G&P, Book the Third, XVII: How Panurge spoke to the Sibyl of Panzoust.  Panurge (seeking advice on his future marriage, you might recall, with a view to allaying his fears of cuckoldry) visits the sibyl and outlines his problem. He is spooked by her chants, but as he and his companion attempt to flee
she flung out to a back-yard close by her lodge, where, after she had peeled off the barks of an old sycamore three several times, she very summarily, upon eight leaves which dropped from thence, wrote with the spindle-point some curt and briefly-couched verses, which she threw into the air, then said unto them, Search after them if you will; find them if you can; the fatal destinies of your marriage are written in them.
They find the verses, and spend several chapters debating their meaning - these are an entertaining insight into the various ways we can find meaning in the smallest of things, and usually the meaning we seek, at that.

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