Whispers from the Woods: The Lore & Magic of Trees

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9780738707815: Whispers from the Woods: The Lore & Magic of Trees

A walk in the woods makes it easy to understand the awe and reverence our ancestors had for trees. It speaks to something deep and primal within us-something we don't hear as often as we should.

By exploring a variety of mysteries and traditions of trees, Whispers from the Woods helps readers get reacquainted with the natural world and find their place in the earth's rhythm. Covering more than just Celtic Ogham and tree calendars, this book includes meditation, shamanic journeys, feng shui, spellcraft, and ritual. In addition, it has a reference section with detailed information on fifty trees, which includes seasonal information, lore, powers, attributes, and more.

Finalist for the Coalition of Visionary Resources Award for Best Wiccan/Pagan Book

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About the Author:

Sandra Kynes is a member of the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids. Sandra is a yoga instructor and Reiki practitioner and loves connecting with the natural world through gardening, hiking, and ocean kayaking. Her work has been featured in various Llewellyn publications, Utne Reader, The Portal, Circle Magazine, and The Magical Buffet website. Her books include: Star Magic (2015), Llewellyn's Complete Book of Correspondences (2013), Mixing Essential Oils for Magic (2013), and Sea Magic (2008).

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

part
one
part 1 of this book contains a brief overview of trees and their biological importance as well as a survey of various beliefs from a range of cultures. It also provides an introduction to several methods of working with tree energy to help you bring the wisdom of trees into your everyday world and spiritual life.
;
Threefold wisdom of the tree:
Leaf wisdom-of change, ever releasing; Branch wisdom-of growth, ever reaching; Root wisdom-of endurance, ever deepening.
Jen Delyth
A Celtic Journal

one
Living Entities; Living History
If we take an environmental look at trees, we find that they help to moderate the climate. They give off water and oxygen, they cool their surrounding area during the day, and the soil around them radiates heat at night. Trees protect rivers and streams and conserve water by reducing run-off, securing the ground from erosion. They offer protection from the sun, rain, snow, hail, and wind for animals and human homes.

For city dwellers, trees are especially important because they act as filters, absorbing pollutants from the air, including carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, and ozone. In a study on urban trees in 1994, the U.S. Forest Service estimated that the trees in New York City removed approximately 1,821 metric tons of pollutants from the air annually.1 It is estimated that a large tree can produce five pounds of oxygen a day and provide the cooling equivalent of ten room air conditioners.2 You can experience this cooling effect as soon as you enter a forest on a hot summer day.

While some trees are impressive in size, all trees are remarkable because they seem to defy gravity. A tree trunk can seem rather precarious to hold such a heavy load of branches and leaves. For this reason alone it is no wonder that ancient people considered them with great awe.

A tree trunk consists of three separate concentric sections. At the center of the trunk is the heartwood, which is not living wood. Its purpose is to give the tree support. However, it is not unusual to find an old tree that is hollow. This does not affect the tree because the heartwood that is gone was not part of the living system. Older trees that have become hollow have generally developed enough girth and heavy bark to assume the load-bearing role.

The heartwood is surrounded by sapwood through which water and nutrients flow up to the branches and leaves. This area of sapwood consists of the most recent annual rings.

The third section of trunk is the bark, which functions like a protective skin. As the tree grows, the bark stretches. In older trees, it is common for the bark to crack and form fissures when it can no longer stretch. The bark provides insulation against heat and cold. In addition to protection from the climate, some trees, such as blackthorn and honey locust, have prickly spines to keep animals from climbing them. Others contain their own insect repellent to guard against destructive pests.

While we tend to associate trees such as willows and birches with flexibility, all trees have enough "give" to move with the wind and not be blown down under normal weather conditions. The leaves also shift in such a way to present as little surface area to the wind as possible. The next time you have an opportunity to watch a tree during a storm, observe how it moves.

We think of spring and summer as times of growth, and they are for a tree's trunk, branches, flowers, leaves-everything above ground. When all this activity subsides in the autumn, the roots have their turn until the hard frosts arrive. There are exceptions, such as blackthorn and gorse. Of course, in climates that do not have a wide range in temperatures, tree cycles differ, but generally above and below ground growth occurs at different times.

Trees seem to hold some kind of mystery and fascination for everyone, mathematicians and numerologists included. In order to take in as much sunlight as possible, some trees have limbs that grow in spirals around the trunk to maximize positioning. In addition, many types of trees have leaves that spiral around the branches. Pine needle bundles also spiral, as do pinecone scales around the seeds.

Scientists have studied the spiral effect of branches and have found some interesting patterns. Spiral characteristics differ according to the type of tree. For example, beech trees have a 1/3 spiral, which means that if you placed a string at the base of a branch you would have to wind it around the trunk once and pass over the base of three other branches before you get to one directly above the starting branch. Oaks have 2/5 spirals, which means you would pass the string two times around the trunk and pass five branches until you get to one that is directly in line with the branch where you started the string.3

Spiral types are 1/2, 1/3, 2/5, 3/8, 5/13, 8/21, 13/34 and so on. As the numbers increase, the spirals get tighter. Nature loves mathematics: if you add two consecutive numbers (numerators and denominators separately), you will get the next spiral number.

Tree Rings
The ancient Greeks discovered that tree rings correspond to annual growth. Over the two millennia since then, dendrochronology has become an important scientific tool that has aided other disciplines by helping to correct flaws in radiocarbon dating, which proved to be off by as much as a thousand years in some cases.

Tree ring "signatures" are shared by all trees living at the same time, no matter what type of tree or their location. Matching and overlapping these signatures has allowed dendrochronologists to compile an unbroken record of approximately 7,500 years. In this way, trees provide a time capsule that preserves "snapshots" of the environment.

For archaeologists and historians, this record has provided insight into understanding the human historical record. For example, beginning in 1159 BCE disastrous climatic conditions affected most of the world. For eighteen years, trees experienced little or no growth during a drought that lasted almost one hundred years. In the human record, at around 1200 BCE there was a major shift to a warrior society model of civilization, with an increase in weaponry and massive hilltop forts. During times of food shortages, the strongest or most well-armed people survive.

Similarly, there were catastrophic conditions in the sixth century CE that made the tree rings go haywire worldwide. From 536 to 541, trees exhibited drastically reduced summer growth due to the cold. In Ireland and elsewhere there is evidence of increased fortification of cities and towns.

Dendrochronology has also helped scientists map sunspot cycles (11.5 and 500-year cycles) as well as predict some long-term climatic changes.

One cannot discuss tree rings without mentioning the bristlecone pines. These “immortals made of wood” grow in one of the harshest climates on earth, at ten thousand feet or more above sea level where the air is thin, the wind incessant, and the growing season only about forty-five days, most notably in the Inyo National Forest in the highest part of the White Mountains between the Sierra Nevada mountain range and Death Valley. In addition to being incredible symbols of perseverance, these trees were major contributors to extending the record back in time. They have been described as looking more dead than alive because as the trunk dies, side branches take over to support the weight. When a tree is completely dead it may continue to stand for a thousand years.

Carrying on the research that University of Arizona scientist Edmund Schulman began in the 1950s, one of his students was horrified when he had counted over 4,600 rings in a tree trunk and realized that he had probably killed the oldest living thing on the planet in order to study it. Schulman's assistants have found an older bristlecone that has become known as Methuselah. Its location is being kept secret in order to protect it.

Impact on Human Consciousness
Many types of trees live five hundred years or more. One of the nearest rivals in age to the bristlecones is the yew, which can live over two thousand years. It is no wonder that early people perceived trees as immortal.

Like mythological heroes, trees are larger than life. Their beauty evokes wonder, and so it is no surprise that they have had a central place in folklore, myth, and religion. Their grandeur serves as a symbol of life, hope, and perseverance. It is common to see new branches sprouting from the remains of an old tree, providing a vivid illustration of the cycle of life, death, and rebirth.

In early civilizations, the tree symbolized a two-fold identity: the World Tree, which connected the realms of existence, and the Tree of Life, which represented the source of life and abundance. In many instances these were aspects of the same sacred tree.

One of the best known of World Trees is the ash of Norse mythology called Yggdrasil. It was upon this tree that Odin suspended himself and from which he was able to perceive the runes. (More on this later.) While many cultures believed in the existence of three realms (heaven, earth, and the underworld), Norse legend tells of nine realms existing on three levels.4 These realms were said to be connected by the nine roots of Yggdrasil.

In Finland, the Tree of Life also served as the cosmic sky pole that held the heavens aloft. It was believed to extend from the North/Pole Star through the center of the earth. Some sources define this tree as an oak, others as a pine.

Germanic tribes had a practice of erecting pillars, which were made from whole tree trunks, on hilltops to represent their tree of the universe. Known as Irmensul, some of these pillars were said to have existed into the eighth century.

Similarly, the Tree of Life in ancient Egypt was usually portrayed atop a sacred mound. As the Axis Munde, its branches reached to the stars and its roots extended deep into the netherworld. Osiris, the god of the dead, was sometimes represented as this World Tree. In legend, he was imprisoned in a wooden chest around which a tamarisk tree (Tamarix africana) grew. A great pillar containing Osiris was fashioned from the tree's trunk. He was eventually rescued and resurrected by his wife, Isis.

The Mesopotamian Tree of Life was associated with the supreme god Enlil. This tree was a symbol of cosmic order and was thought to have been either a date palm (Phoenix dactylifera) or a pomegranate (Punica granatum). In India, the sal or salwa tree (Shorea robusta) represented the cosmic World Tree. It was sacred to Shiva who is part of the triad of major Hindu gods. In some legends, four of these great trees supported the world and represented the cardinal directions.

The lote tree (Ziziphus spina-christi) was believed to exist between the realms of people and the Divine. It was both a connection and a boundary. Ancient Arabs sometimes planted lote trees to mark the end of a road. In the story of Muhammad's ascent, a lote tree marked the point beyond which no one but Allah knew what existed. The lote tree was used to represent the manifestation of Allah, as well as to symbolize the spiritual aspect of the human self.

In the spirit landscape of the shaman, it is the symbol of the Axis Munde that provides the means to traverse the realms. Tree roots provide access to the otherworld. Stretching deep into the underworld where many traditions believe departed spirits dwell, roots draw up the wisdom of those who have gone before on the earthly plane. When the gods need to be consulted, it is the branches reaching to the heavens that provide access to their airy realm. Odin is portrayed as a shaman using Yggdrasil to access knowledge.

Creation Myths and Beyond
Trees are central in the creation stories of diverse cultures including the Celts, Greeks, Indonesians, Scandinavians, Siberians, and Japanese. Peter Berresford Ellis provides a beautiful interpretation of a Celtic creation myth in which an oak tree represents Bíle, the consort of the Great Mother Goddess Danu.5 Her divine water as rain and his seed produce the Dagda and the other De Danann gods and goddesses. In Japan, the sakaki tree (Cleyera japonica) is featured in creation myths as an evergreen. It also fulfills the role of World Tree and is represented in Shinto shrines as a central post. The sakaki trees near a shrine symbolize the power of the shrine's goddess.

Archaeologists in England have found numerous Neolithic sites that have come to be known as woodhenges. These structures consisted of circles of posts surrounded by a ditch with a break in the northeast sector-similar to the layout at Stonehenge. A type of woodhenge may have existed at Tara in Ireland where there is evidence of approximately three hundred postholes under the sacred mound. There is some speculation that these structures may also have been roofed. One, located on the Salisbury Plain not far from Stonehenge, consisted of 168 huge poles in six concentric oval rings. If it had a roof, walking through the dimly lit interior with all its columns may have been evocative of strolling through a thick forest. It has been theorized that cathedrals, such as Chartres in Paris, were designed to elicit the same feeling with rows of trunk-like columns and leaf and branch motifs in the stonework.

Druids are perhaps best known for worshipping in sacred groves, but they were not the only people to do so. The earliest sanctuaries of the Germanic tribes were also in forests. These tribes became known as Teutonic tribes, from the word Teutons, the name that the Celts applied to them which meant 'the people."

Lithuanians designated certain areas as holy groves where they sought information from tree oracles. This is similar to the ancient Greek practice in the sacred groves at Dodona, which were dedicated to Zeus. Priests would interpret signs divined from the rustling of oak and plane tree leaves. A sacred grove also existed at Epidaurus around the sanctuary of Aesculapius, the god of healing. Ash groves were dedicated to Apollo, and myrtle trees were believed to be sacred to Aphrodite. In addition, several Greek myths feature people transforming into trees as a means of escape.

In ancient Rome, holy groves occupied the hills around the city and the sacred fig tree (Ficus carica) of Romulus, founder of Rome, was located within the forum. Diana's temples were located in sacred woods-appropriate for the goddess of wild beasts and hunting. In the temple of Vesta, the eternal flame was fuelled exclusively with oak wood.

Twin sycamores flanked the gates of the Egyptian heaven where the sun god, Ra, appeared each morning. Isis, Hathor, and Nut were believed to manifest in sycamores. The sycamore of Egypt (Ficus sycomorus) is a type of fig and not related to the American sycamore (Platanus occidentalia) or the London plane tree (Platanus acerifolic). Another type of fig, the pipal tree (Ficus religiosa), which is also called a bo or bodhi tree, is sacred to Buddhists. Siddhartha Gautama is said to have meditated under this type of tree until he achieved enlightenment, at which time he became Buddha. The fourth direct descendant of this historic tree stands beside the Mahabodhi temple in Bodhgaya, India.

Canaanites revered their mother goddess Asherah who was represented in temples with a wooden pillar. Some believe that at one time her name may have meant "grove of trees." Trees also serve as religious symbols for Christians and are mentioned throughout the Bible. A discussion of them could fill an entire volu...

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Book Description Llewellyn Publications. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Paperback. 288 pages. Dimensions: 9.0in. x 7.4in. x 0.8in.A walk in the woods makes it easy to understand the awe and reverence our ancestors had for trees. It speaks to something deep and primal within us-something we dont hear as often as we should. By exploring a variety of mysteries and traditions of trees, Whispers from the Woods helps readers get reacquainted with the natural world and find their place in the earths rhythm. Covering more than just Celtic Ogham and tree calendars, this book includes meditation, shamanic journeys, feng shui, spellcraft, and ritual. In addition, it has a reference section with detailed information on fifty trees, which includes seasonal information, lore, powers, attributes, and more. Finalist for the Coalition of Visionary Resources Award for Best WiccanPagan Book This item ships from multiple locations. Your book may arrive from Roseburg,OR, La Vergne,TN. Paperback. Bookseller Inventory # 9780738707815

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