Beltane Musings: The Beauty of Trees
Trees are such beautiful creatures, are they not? And wise too. If you listen with a wild ear, if you watch them with wild eyes, they will share their lessons with you. This seems particularly true tonight as I write this, for it is May Eve, or Beltane (many Celtic celebrations began the night before and lasted until sundown the next day. Of course, I’m all up for extending any celebration!).
Sounds awfully romantic, doesn’t it? As lovely as it sounds, it is also true.
Take a moment to consider trees. Beings anchored to this earth, yet reaching skyward. They sustain us, sucking up the carbon dioxide, and giving us oxygen. They provide shade, shelter, food, homes. They provide us with so much.
I should have liked to have seen the world before man, the world dominated by ancient woodland, the wild woods.
I am an animist, and trees most definitely have spirits. If you spend time outside, you’d do well to spend at least some of it beneath a tree. Feel the roughness of the bark. Look closely and you’ll see markings and grooves that all allude to the tale of that particular tree. Watch as it changes throughout the year. Watch how the early summer sun makes the leaves shine a green gold, or how the wind rushes through the boughs. See the artistry of colour as the trees prepare to shed their leaves, hues of red, brown, green and orange. Notice the beauty and shape of the bare branches in winter.
If it is safe to do so, spend some time alone in meditation beneath a tree. Feel yourself reaching down into the ground and stretching up into the sky. Talk to the tree, sit in silence beneath it. These simple pleasures will not only enhance your magic, your connection to this earth, but will also go a long way in getting to know the spirit of the tree. My genius loci include tree spirits, perhaps yours will too.
Spend some time on discovering the trees that are native to where you live. What other species have been introduced? Read about the folklore of the trees, for this is some of my favourite. All of this adds to the connection between you and the tree spirit.
Trees in Legend
If you’re not familiar with the tree of life, then I’m sure you have seen its image, of a tree with its branches reaching skyward, and the roots, spreading out below. This image is a symbol of the inter-connectedness of life, is symbolic of the hermetic law ‘as above, so below’.
The axis mundi is the universal world tree according to hermeticists. For the Vikings,Yggdrasil was the tree that linked this realm to the upper and lower ones, a theme echoed throughout history. In Vodou it is the poteau mitan by which the lwa and spirit travel between realms. The point is that trees transcend the boundaries of man.
The elder tree is a favourite of mine. The elder truly is the witches tree. The spirit of this tree is the elder mother, a figure known throughout Europe, and in Lincolnshire, close to my own home town, she is still referred to as ‘the Old Lady’. The Elder Mother is seen as something of a witch figure, and is said to bring bad luck should anyone cut the tree down.
Elder flowers in the spring, produce beautiful cascades of tiny white flowers. They smell divine, and make the best wine. I like to use the wine for ecstatic ritual, not to get drunk, but a little merry perhaps. I also like to leave it in offering, and of course, enjoy it for its beautifully floral taste. I’ll include the recipe at the end, and if you like wine, it’s definitely worth a try.
The silver birch is another tree that is linked to the witch. The ‘Silver Lady or ‘the White Lady of the Woods’ as it is known owing to its silver white bark is a tree steeped in esoteric significance. It is linked to the moon and also linked to the tarot card The Star, perhaps because of her silver colour. In ancient times, brooms would be fashioned from twigs of birch and used at the new year to beat out the spirits of the past year and welcome the new, especially now, at this time.
The oak too is steeped in folklore, and of course, as a Nottinghamshire lass, we all know the importance of the oak, it was after all home to the world’s most famous outlaw, Robin Hood. The oak is of particular importance in Druidry, whose rites were traditionally held in groves of oak. The tree symbolises strength and steadfastness.
Every tree will have its own stories, myths and legends, and these tales can tell us about the uses of such trees. Discover what grows where you live and learn of its stories, of its lore, for to do so is to learn of the land, which in turn leads to a deeper connection to the land.
My name is Emma Kathryn, an eclectic witch, my path is a mixture of traditional European witchcraft, voodoo and obeah, a mixture representing my heritage. I live in the middle of England in a little town in Nottinghamshire, with my partner, two teenage sons and two crazy dogs, Boo and Dexter. When not working in a bookshop full time, I like to spend time with my family outdoors, with the dogs. And weaving magic, of course!
You can follow Emma on Facebook.