Readers, please enjoy this guest blog post by Alferian Gwydion MacLir, author of Wandlore: The Art of Crafting the Ultimate Magical Tool.
Lately, we have had so many tornadoes, violent storms, tsunamis, floods, and other disasters. As these events unfolded, we all mourned the dead and looked on with shocked sadness at the houses and buildings that were smashed to smithereens. The news media reports disasters in terms of millions of dollars in damage, or in terms of loss of human life. Now, I am as sorry for the human losses as the next human, but as a druid, there is another sort of loss that breaks my heart: the trees. Reporting on the recent storm in Michigan, the news broadcast said there were hundreds of trees uprooted, but no deaths. The statement struck me. No deaths? Uprooted trees are pretty well dead trees. Yet, as so often, the human eye focuses only on human deaths, as if that was all that mattered.
As a druid, and especially as a wandmaker, I work very closely with trees. In my new book, Wandlore: The Art of Crafting the Ultimate Magical Tool, I start out with a discussion of the druid attitude. It is an attitude that I believe all pagans should share, and indeed all humans of any religious persuasion. This attitude can be summed up as paying attention to Nature, but it deals most especially with trees. Many of us are aware of animals, insects, birds, and the flowers in our gardens. We may be aware of forests if we live in the country or visit there to refresh an urban spirit. However, knowing the trees is a sort of knowing that is sadly lacking. To go up to a tree, touch it, know its name and its spiritual character, to be able to identify its species, to speak with it and love it—this is the druid way of knowing.
When I see a tree die, I mourn for it. When I hear of hundreds of uprooted trees after a storm, my heart grows sad; the trees are such noble creatures, and those that fall are often the oldest. Were it not for their patient mode of life, human civilization might not even exist. Wood for fuel, wood for building materials, and forests to provide the habitat of wild pigs, goats, sheep, cows, and many other animals that humans later domesticated—the trees have provided humans with the most basic building blocks of their cultures and ways of life. Nay, more! The trees made the oxygen that gave animals an atmosphere to breathe. Without oxygen, the gift of the trees, we would not exist at all.
It a sense we humans can call ourselves children of the trees. The dryad spirits of trees, so important in wandmaking, are our partners, our elders. The Oak, the Elm, the Birch—these great families of trees have been our nursemaids and keepers. And how have we repaid the trees? By treating them as nothing more than “natural resources.” Hardly anyone except druids and those of Talent, believe that trees can communicate or feel. We treat them as disposable units—alive, but not at all in the same level as our own species. This kind of indifference, the attitude of “resources” that exist only so we can build things out of them, becomes a bad habit of mind. So much so that our corporate minds think of our fellow human beings as “human resources.”
The dehumanization of humans is part of the dis-enchantment of nature; they are attitudes that stem from cultural premises. The attitudes of modern pagans hearkens back to a time before the love of machines and making overcame the love of living things and the natural world. Today, one look at a television will show that we worship artifice. Not nature—that which is simply born into the world—but artifice, that which the hand of humanity creates. We have much to be proud of and to respect in human creations, to be sure. But that does not mean that we have to forget the love of nature, for we ourselves are born of nature and if we stop loving it, we stop loving ourselves. We start imagining how much cooler it would be to be a cyborg or robot or some other artificial machine, a living machine, but one that can be designed, corrected, perfected, and that gives us “superhuman” powers. The Man-Machine has become our myth, merged in a confused way with the God-Man myths of past ages. A myth is great as a good story or a cautionary tale. But it is insidious evil when the myth is taken for reality and becomes a real goal. To become perfected via machinery! To become gods!
It would be wiser to look around us at the trees and humbly thank them for their sacrifices on our behalf. Trees not only give us the air we breathe; they are great moral exemplars, models of patience, humility, strength, temperance, determination, charity, and joy. The trees are already superhuman is so many ways. They should be our superheroes. Admittedly, they do not fly, they are not capable of the super-speed of machines, nor of a machine’s strength, and they don’t wear capes. They are more like parents than toys. And we humans will remain most interested in toys until we grow up into our species adulthood. For me, the tree as source of a magic wand, and as itself, a person, is my superhero.
Our thanks to Alferian for his guest post! For more from Alferian Gwydion MacLir, read his article “Magic Wands: The Ultimate Magical Tool.”