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Tree Spirits

By Aimee Langevin
(Written for Ecclasia)


In today's societies the value of trees is little more than their market value in landscaping, food production, building, construction, and so on. Our ancestors though knew a great deal about the world they lived in, and they applied that knowledge accordingly. With our growing awareness and scientific investigations, some of that ancient knowledge has again come to light.

We all know that trees are alive and that they are a very vital part to the Earth and all of its inhabitants, but not everybody realizes that trees have spirits. There are differing theories about these spirits. Trees may just be a home for wandering entities. Or, as I believe, the trees have their own spirit. A spirit that keeps on growing until it is time to move on.

There are many old laws and legends about trees and their spirits. Practically everywhere in the world there has been one form of tree-worship or another. In pre-Christian Europe, trees and forests were widely worshipped. The early Celtic and Nordic people of western and northern Europe especially. Druids would select sacred tree groves as the best sites for their rituals. Robert Graves, author of the famous book The White Goddess, observes that trees were widely associated with arcane wisdom and ritual magic among early European peoples. He suggests that the Celtic term druid may be traceable to the Sanskrit taru-vid which means "tree-knowing."

Celtic people valued every kind of tree and plant. They would associate the trees and plants with a particular character or properties. Here is a list of the most popular properties:

Alder ~ The spirit of the alder tree is very protective, and it has great knowledge about prophetic scrying with the use of water and mirrors. When it leaves the tree, it will often take the form of a raven.

Apple ~ The apple tree is the home to one of the fantastic creatures found within the faerie realm - the unicorn. Traditionally, the unicorn lives beneath the apple tree. The apple blossoms draw out great numbers of flower faeries in the spring who promote feelings of happiness in those who are near. The spirit of this tree holds the knowledge of eternal youth and beauty.

Ash ~ The ash tree has great mysticism and power associated with it. In Norse tradition, it was called Yggdrasil, the great tree of life. It is a doorway to many dimensions of the faerie realm. Its spirit is strong and holds the knowledge of how events and people are linked together. It can teach the magick of poetry and how to weave words into powerful effects.

Cedar ~ This tree and its spirit are both protective and healing. It also has ties to the unicorn of the faerie realm - as the unicorn keeps its treasures in boxes made of cedar. This spirit brings calm and balance to emotions and can stimulate inspiring dream activity.

Cherry ~ Just as the apple tree is the home of the unicorn, the cherry tree is home to yet another of those fantastic creatures of the faerie realm - the pheonix. The spirit of this tree is often fiery in appearance. It has the ability to bring individuals to the threshold of a new awakening.

Elder ~ The elder tree is sacred to the Druid and Celtic traditions. It was the tree of birth and death, beginning and ending. Its spirit is that of transaction. It teaches how to awaken opportunity to cast out the old and bring in the new. The tree's spirit has knowledge of great magick. She can provide protection and add power to even the slightest of wishes.

Hawthorne ~ The Hawthorne is sacred to the faeries and elves. They hold great love for this tree and its spirit. This is the tree of magick. This tree can stimulate growth and fertility in all areas of your life, making it seem enchanted to others.

Oak ~ The oak tree is also sacred to the Celts and the Druids. It is home to a very powerful spirit, which has great strength and endurance. It holds the ancient knowledge of the continuity of life, and just being near it is strengthening to the entire auric field. It is a natural doorway to the faerie realms and their mysteries. Every acorn has its own little faerie and bringing an acorn into your home is a way of inviting more intimate contact with the faeries for brief periods. The oak tree is always home to great populations of elves and faeries.

Pine ~ The pine tree has an ancient spirit. It has ties to the Dionysian mysteries and it was the sacred tree of Mithra. It is also sacred to Poseidon. Pine trees found along shorelines are often gathering spots for water spirits and sprites. This tree spirit is healing and balancing, especially to emotions. It can show how to express our creative energies without feelings of guilt. It is protective against all forms of negativity.

Rowan ~ The rowan is another ancient and magical tree. Its spirit holds the knowledge of the omens of nature and how to read them without becoming superstitious. This spirit is protective and visionary, and it can be used to connect with all goddesses. The wisdom of this spirit is so strong that when linked with, it can teach you to call up magick spirits, guides and elementals. It is tree spirit who helps prevent intrusions bt outside forces. It is grounding and prevents becoming lost in the faerie realms.

Sycamore ~ The sycamore was sacred to the Egyptians and is still a doorway into those realms where beings and forces associated with Egypt can still be connected. It can teach how to receive from the universe - be it in the form of assistance, compliments, or any other form. It holds the knowledge of the laws of abundance and supply and how to utilize them to your greatest benefit. It also has knowledge of hidden treasures. Attuning to the sycamore will augment all connections to nature.

Willow ~ The willow is a magickal tree with great mysticism and life to it. It was associated with Orpheus in the Greek traditions and the goddess Brigid in the Celtic traditions. It has a long association with the faerie realm. its spirit and the elves that live under it are keepers of the knowledge of herbology. The willow tree can speak audibly to us if we learn to quiet ourselves and listen. It is the most discernible at night. The willow spirit often leaves the tree at night and follows travelers muttering and speaking to them. Not understanding, most travelers were frightened by this. The willow spirit has the knowledge of how to make and use magick wands. The willow tree opens vision, communication and stimulates dream activity. The best time to attune to it and its energies and spirit is at night.

Trees and their spirits were revered. So highly revered that in most cultures felling a tree that still had its spirit meant losing your life. For instance, the old German laws had ferocious penalties for anyone who so much as dared peel the bark of a standing tree. The culprit's navel was to be cut out and nailed to the part of three which he had peeled, and he was to be driven round and round the tree until his guts were wound about its trunk. The intention of the punishment clearly was to replace the dead bark by a living substitute taken from the culprit. A life for a life. The Lithuanians prominently worshipped trees until their conversion to Christianity towards the close of the fourteenth century. Some maintained holy groves about their villages or houses, where even to break a twig would have been a sin. They thought that he who cut a bough in such a grove either died suddenly or was crippled in one of his limbs. The prevalence of tree-worship in ancient Greece and Italy are abundant. In the sanctuary of Aesculapius at Cos, for example, it was forbidden to cut down the cypress trees under a penalty of one thousand drachms. Nowhere in the ancient world was this antique form of religion better preserved than in the heart of the great metropolis itself. In the Forum, the busy center of Roman life, the sacred fig tree of Romulus was worshipped down to the days of the empire, and the withering of its trunk was enough to spread panic and concern throughout the city. On the slope of the Palatine Hill grew a cornel tree which was esteemed one of the most sacred objects in Rome. Whenever the tree appeared to be drooping, a cry was echoed through the town and soon a crowd was seen running in from all directions with buckets of water, as if they were trying to put out a fire. In Moluccas, when the clove trees are in blossom, they are treated like pregnant women. No noise may be made near them; no light or fire may be carried past them at night; no one may approach them with his hat on, all must uncover in their presence. These precautions are observed lest the tree should be alarmed and bear no fruit, or should drop its fruit too soon, like the untimely delivery of a woman who has been frightened in her pregnancy.

Sometimes it is the souls of the dead which are believed to animate trees. The Dieri tribe of Central Australia regard as very sacred certain trees which are supposed to be their fathers transformed; hence they speak with reverence of these trees, and are careful that they shall not be cut down or burned. Some of the Philippine Islanders believe that the souls of their ancestors are in certain trees, which they therefore spare. If they are obliged to fell one of these trees, they excuse themselves to it by saying that it was the priest who made them do it. The spirits take up their abode, by preference, in tall stately trees with great spreading branches. When the wind rustles the leaves, the natives fancy it is the voice of the spirit; and they never pass near one of these trees without bowing respectfully, and asking pardon of the spirit for disturbing its repose.

Trees and their spirits are believed to give rain and sunshine. The make the crops grow. They make the herds multiply and bless women with offspring. We are connected to trees in more ways than we know.



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This page last updated March 18, 2005