Last summer when I was stuck at an airport and whiled away the time with my nose in a magazine, one article in particular made me sit up and take notice. It said that anthropologists studying cross-cultural patterns found that all the world's civilizations fall into tree or treeless groups. This difference apparently has a major influence on the core mindset of a culture. The article went on to mention how biodiversity was accompanied by cultural and linguistic diversity. Tree people tended to be polytheistic, less militaristic, and supportive of partnership (equality between genders) societies.
This wasn't a surprise to me, because I have found that drawing close to the green world opens doors to new yet ancient forms of energy and awareness. Trees can function as gateways to different levels of being and can provide us with a better understanding of ourselves and others. A walk in the woods makes it easy to understand the awe and reverence our ancestors had for trees.
Civilization as we know it could not have developed without trees. After humans first attached sharpened stones to the ends of sticks to extend their reach as hunters, and kindled fires for warmth and cooking, they were on their way to creating a more comfortable life. Eventually trees were viewed as something more than a source of food, shelter, and raw material. They became part of our spiritual and cultural traditions as well as powerful symbols that embody life and the cycle of time. Trees serve as vivid reminders of life, death, and rebirth, and they seem imbued with magic because they simultaneously dwell in the three realms of heaven, earth, and underworld. Trees are central in the creation stories of diverse cultures such as the Celts, Greeks, Indonesians, Scandinavians, Siberians, and Japanese. Druids are perhaps the most well-known group that worshiped in sacred groves but they were not the only people to do so. The earliest sanctuaries of the Germanic tribes were also in forests. In Lithuania, certain areas were designated as holy groves where information was sought from tree oracles. Similarly, the ancient Greeks consulted tree oracles in their sacred groves dedicated to Zeus.
Nowadays, people are rediscovering the majesty of trees and are appreciating with wonder these magnificent giants because in the woods you can't help but feel part of something huge and magical. Honoring nature and living more closely with the rhythms of the green world brings us deeper meaning and spiritual satisfaction. With this comes the self-realization of returning to Source—to the Divine.
As a Druid, I feel a special affinity with trees and I am blessed to experience the energy exchange that can take place with them. Through the years I sought ways to make this energy part of my everyday consciousness because it helped me find and express who I am as well as how I want to live on this earth. The good news about working with tree energy is that you don’t have to run off and live in a secluded cottage deep in the forest (as attractive as that may seem on certain days).
The result of my sylvan exploration is the book, Whispers from the Woods, which is a guide that takes you through initial energy exercises and meditations to begin your work with trees. A range of various Celtic Oghams and the tree calendar are explored with suggestions for personalizing them to provide a link with the natural world that is uniquely yours. An approach adapted from feng shui offers a method to invite tree energy into your home for a healthy environment as well as to affect change in your life. Bringing tree energy into your rituals and spellcraft is also covered to help you tap into the subtle magic of the green world. Finally, shamanic journeying is presented as a tool for deeper exploration—it is the world tree, axis mundi, that shamans from many cultures use to access other realms. Through these varied methods, trees serve as companions and guides as we explore the balance of our inner and outer worlds. After all, trees embody the spirit of balance as they extend in two directions—one towards the dark and the other towards the light.
Whispers from the Woods is intended to open our hearts and minds to the subtleties of the green world as we explore our place in the web of life. Trees provide many pathways to tap into this web and to help us live in harmony with the power and spirit of earth's rhythms. Like music, they speak to something deep and primal within us. With the aid of tree energy we can harvest the fruits of our spiritual journey and find the seeds of our souls.
Sandra Kynes (Portland, ME) is a member of the Order of Bards, Ovates & Druids and the author of seventeen books, including Star Magic, Llewellyn's Complete Book of Correspondences, Mixing Essential Oils for Magic, ...