blog description

Old women talk about old things: history, myth, magic and their
checkered pasts, about what changes and what does not.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Listen to the Trees

The concept of a divine World Tree or Tree of Life, the mythic bridge between the worlds of god and human, is entwined with the veneration of trees. As an embodiment of the universe, the roots of the World tree inhabit the underground, the deep knowledge of earth. The trunk unites the roots with the upper celestial canopy. The products given by each tree were considered a physical manifestation of divine providence.                                       C. Austin ,Footprints, Web.

A few weeks ago a television show,  on National Geographic or Nature or some channel like that,  revealed research into plant communication.  Most of it was about the scents and colors that plants use to signal pollinators or hide from enemies. But one plant actually kills a rival plant by chemistry and root aggression. It is being planted in western states to combat an invasive non-native species.

More interesting to me was the proof that trees communicate  and use the same tools to nurture their offspring.  Yes, they send extra nutrients to their baby trees. Astounding, amazing, exciting; it is like finding long-lost sisters and brothers all around me. There is a fungus that grows symbiotically with the tree’s root system. This is a pathway for transmitting energy or signals of some kind to neighboring trees. I have added tree roots to the catalog of things I love - the WHOLE tree and every part.

This makes sense to me. In grade school we learned that trees draw some of their nutrition but particularly their water from underground. What  makes even greater sense to me comes from my experiences  with “energy work.”  In classes on metaphysical practices, invariably we ground ourselves deep in the earth first. We feel ourselves pushing roots deep into the soil, the rock, the core of planet Earth. Then we lift our arms to the sky and push our hands into a sea of oxygen, vapor, star-power, so we become a conduit, a connection to the entirety of life force.

If this sounds ridiculous, laugh – please! Laughing is very good for you. If you sneer or judge, you hurt only yourself. Instead, I invite you to stand very still and see if you feel  a very subtle tingling in your hands and feet. Or take a yoga class. Do a sun salutation. You will definitely feel something amazing in the balance at your core. Or join me in sometimes hugging trees, but certainly sitting on their roots and having a conversation -- with the trees.

I have been thinking about trees a lot. Druids knew trees as holy, so I started poking around for information about them on the internet. It seems every author knows of trees that were sacred and held specific properties in the early Celtic religion. The different sites just can’t agree on all the important trees, except for three: the Oak, the Ash, and the Hawthorn. Then there is the Alder, the Elder, Apple trees, Rowan trees!  I could spend days reading websites that have zodiacs, symbolic meanings, fairy lore and spells associated with trees. One time of the year bring Holly in, but get it out of the house before Candlemas! Planting a hawthorn by your door will protect your house from evil – but don’t let its nasty little fairies inside. One site gives symbolic information for 20 species of trees or shrubs. Stones actually replaced particularly sacred trees according to one source. All of them discuss the Ogham alphabet, which is attributed to symbols for specific trees. An entire history of Celtic civilization is written in trees!  

Finally, there is Yggdrasil. The World Tree. So far I have found three individuals willing to admit the name is Norse, but there is one legend of a comparable tree in Celtic belief. It is the symbol of the unity around us, a bridge between the worlds, or the sun salutation of these other living beings, our companions – the trees. 

 I was unable to find information about the artist who created this. I apologize to him or her and welcome a correction.


  1. Thanks so much, Lari. As the trees reawaken and shower us with their germ and pollen--well, your timing is perfect! Trees have been with the planet for such a long time. Maybe they are elder brothers and sisters to our Johnny-come-lately mammalian tribe.