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The Unknown (Or Perhaps Forgotten) Magic of the Trees
Memories of Magical Trees
As a child, did you climb trees? Did you build tree forts? Did you play hide and seek, cleverly using the nearest, large pine in which to hide? Trees possess a magical quality for children, as well as for adults...most of us just tend to forget the woods' whispered secrets.
I grew up in a rural town in southern Maryland, in a two-story house with my grandparents. To this day, I have dreams about that house, more specifically about the yard and the magical trees within that yard. I remember hiding in a gigantic pine on the corner of the front yard, playing under a dogwood tree's limbs once they had blossomed with white blooms, and gazing down at a gorgeous holly tree from my second-story bedroom's window during Christmas-time. There was something more than special about the trees in that yard...something purely magical. When I played in these magical trees as a child, when I imagined fairy tales underneath of those trees...I felt a connection to the earth...a connection to the spirits of the trees. Now, as a child, I was strictly taught the Christian beliefs, so a belief that a tree could have its own spirit was unheard of in our household. However, I had a huge imagination as a child that I now believe was not just an imagination but a connection to Mother Earth that was merely brushed away and labeled as "my imagination."
My favorite thing to do at Christmas was to lay down with my head underneath of the tree and peer up inside of the tree. I would see the lights glistening but I wasn't necessarily paying attention to the Christmas lights and decorations so much as I was paying attention to the beautiful spruce itself. The branches and the foliage seemed enchanting to me...I felt like I wanted to live in that tree. My family had a difficult time pulling me out from underneath of the tree...even for present-time! I guess you could say that I felt comforted by trees and their magic...every different type. Many children have a connection to the trees and to nature that they don't even realize and unfortunately, once we grow up, we forget the magic...the knowledge and magic that trees hold, and are willing to give to us if we would only open our minds and listen.
A Charm to Form an Alliance With the Trees:
Go out on a full moon night, cut one branch from an oak tree (with leaves and acorns both).
Go to the edge of a dense, dark forest and shake the bough and say:
With oak I lead
That ash may follow
Elm and Willow
Cedar and Locust
Beech and Maple
Fir and pine
All these powers
So be mine.
Then hang the oak bough above the door, take one acorn to be sewn up in a chamois skin, safe to keep.
(Note: I did not write this, this was a charm recorded in one of my books, though I cannot find who the original author is now.)
Threefold Wisdom of the Tree:
- leaf wisdom - of change, ever releasing
- branch wisdom - of growth, ever reaching
- root wisdom - of endurance, ever deepening
Trees & Magical Associations:
- Alder - evolving spirit, foundation, protection, and rebirth
- Apple - happiness, faithfulness, harmony, love and strength
- Beech - manifest intentions, stability
- Birch - beginnings, blessings, change, growth and renewal
- Elm - compassion, empathy, intuition, and love
- Hazel - inspiration, introspection and wisdom
- Holly - courage, divinity, luck and unity
- Honeysuckle - fidelity, love, psychic abilities
- Maple - abundance, balance, communiation and creativity
- Oak - fertility, health, loyalty, self-confidence, success and wisdom
- Palm - fertility and protection
- Pine - good fortune, health, prosperity
- Rowan - dedication, expression, imagination, insight and healing
- Spruce - intuition, versatility, well-being
- Vine - fertility, happiness, intellect and wealth
- Willow - flexibility, connections, knowledge and relationships
- Yew - change, divinity, longevity and strength
The Druids & The Trees
The belief that trees were magical and had their own spirits goes back to the time of the Celtic Druids. Who were the Celtic Druids? The Celtic Druids were the religious holy-men and women of sorts for the Celtic tribes occupying much of Europe and Great Britain before and after Christ. Celtic Druids were thought to have acquired their name from tree spirits, also known as "dryads". The dryads were said to have shared their knowledge of the Gods and Goddesses with certain deserving and worthy people within the Celtic tribes. I believe that these were the folks that tended to have a deep connection with the earth...people that could be found roaming the forests at any given moment...talking to the magical trees and the animals of the wood.
Certain types of magical trees were especially sacred to the Druids. Whether these were the types that the Dryads were said to congregate, we do not know for certain but can assume that the answer to that question is - Yes! The oak being the most highly sacred tree to the Druids, it was considered to be the strongest, magical tree and constantly sought for protection and luck. As mentioned in my previous hub about Midsummer's Magic, the Oak King is a well-known and revered figure in modern day Paganism...could the Oak King be directly related or maybe passed down to us from the Celtic Druids? Possibly so.
Who were these magical tree spirits that so willingly instilled their earthly and spiritual knowledge with the Celtic tribes? For starters, the word "dryad" is actually an ancient Greek word for tree nymphs...and being that some of our only documentation about the Celtic Druids comes from Greece, it is easy to say that the name Druid also came from the Greeks. So what did the Celts call their holy men and women? We do not know. Unfortunately, most of the practices and beliefs of the Celtic Druids has been lost through time because the Druids did most of their teaching and spiritual rites through the spoken word...not the written. Because trees were so precious to the Druids (and also to the ancient Greeks), one must not cut down a tree without first asking for permission from the Dryads. Bad luck or ill fate would fall upon one who did not ask permission for use of the tree's gifts. (Sadly, today we feel no need to ask permission from the earth, nor do we feel we should thank her for her gifts to us.)
The Druids knew the inner-workings of magic and healing and would use it for those of the Celtic tribes who were in need. Both women and men made up the order of the Celtic Druids, though women were said to have more of a connection with the Dryads, simply because the tree nymphs were believed to be female.
Whether the Druids did receive their knowledge of the spiritual realm from the magical trees will never be known for sure; however, we can use their beliefs and reverence towards trees as a guide for how we should treat the trees in modern times.
Magic To Atone for Cutting Down a Tree:
Whether fear or foolish thought
Or mere necessity has brought
The haughty elm or poplar down,
for its expense you must atone:
Face the mourning field or wood or barren space where once it stood,
And offer penance to the tree, lest blight and sorrow fall on thee:
Poor spirit hurled from proud estate, I rue the deed I did of late:
Forgive me my axe that thee did vex,
And spare my life thy grievous fate.
The Ogham's Magic
The Ogham is one of the first known Irish alphabets in existence. It consisted of twenty specific line-and-slash markings corresponding to certain types of magical trees. "It consisted of angular markings, signed out using the different joints of the fingers, and incorporated a complex grammar for transmitting secret wisdom and lore." (Eason, The Giant Book of Magic). The Ogham's origins is not known but there are theories as to when it was invented. One of these theories is engrained in Irish folklore and tells the story of the Ogham coming into existence upon the fall of the Tower of Babel. Another tale attributes the Ogham to the intelligent poet (or bard) named Ogma mac Elathon. Still others believe that the Ogham comes only from the warrior God Ogma, who created and offered the Ogham alphabet to the people in the fourth century AD.
My hub, http://hubpages.com/hub/Scrying-Ancient-Forms-of-Divination, goes into much more detail on the magical Ogham, but here is a breakdown of the mystical symbols posted here to the right.
The Ogham Markings in sequential order, as pictured to the upper right:
Birch: Sunday; The Birch is the symbol rebirth and purification.
Willow: Monday; represents intuition, listening to your inner voice and wisdom.
Holly: Tuesday; the Holly tree was regarded as sacred because it symbolized the Waning year in Celtic culture; the holly symbolizes domestic security and concerns.
Hazel: Wednesday; the Hazel tree symbolizes official wisdom and justice, following the law.
Oak: Thursday; The Oak in Celtic culture symbolized the King of the Waxing year - from winter to summer solstice.
Apple: Friday; The apple symbolizes fertility and immortality.
Alder: Saturday; The alder tree was used to build bridges and foundations to buildings. The Saturday tree symbolizes security, firm foundations and a bridge between two lives.
Celtic Ogham sticks are available for purchase on amazon (link below). I have a set in my possession and have to admit that they have been quite accurate in every reading. Also, they are not a frightening form of divination and tend to be very gentle and wise during use.
A Few of My Sources
It truly saddens me to know that we, the human race, have almost totally lost our connection to the earth's magnificent trees and their undying magic. Many of us have magical trees in our own yards that we have never taken the time to connect with, much less even study. This summer, make a goal to connect with one of the magical trees in your backyard. If you don't have a backyard or yard at all, go to the nearest park to find one. Park yourself underneath of the tree and just relax. Open yourself up to experiencing the beauty of that tree...maybe you will even hear it whisper to you...
Written and copyright ©Kitty the Dreamer (May Canfield), 2012. All Rights Reserved.
More on Magical Trees:
- Haunted Trees in the United States
Places and people can be haunted...but can actual parts of nature be haunted? How about trees? Here are the spookiest stories of some of America's most haunted trees...
- Fairy Trees: Trees and Plants Inhabited by the Fay
The belief that fairies are guardians of Mother Earth is one that permeates both modern day paganism and Celtic history. The fay are seen as residents and valiant protectors of trees, plants, animals, and nature in general. If you are curious as to w
- Plant and Tree Totems, Familiars, and Spirit Guides
You may have one or two animal totems or spirit guides, but have you heard of plant totems, familiars & guides? Learn about plant and tree totems, familiars, and spirit guides and how they can aid you
© 2011 Nicole Canfield