“To be one with the trees is to know Life within your own spirit”
– Chief Sequoia
In lush valleys and forests, where majestic Guardians stand tall, their awesome beauty a reminder of ancient settlements, the mystical realm of “Standing People” communicate a language and await our arrival. Perhaps because of their constant presence we take them for granted. Trees, however, are a vital and nurturing force representing the fabric of all communities providing us with nourishment, a constant source of medicine, and the very air we breathe is improved by their presence.
Trees hold a special significance as both practical providers and powerful spiritual presences and have witnessed life on earth over large expanses of time. Spirit breathes aliveness into their mystical individuality. These magnificent “Guardians,” belong to the Earth Element and are ruled by Gabriel. In many cultures a tree symbolizes the world center, where heaven and earth touch, where all times and places converge. For this reason trees are considered sacred and provide a focal point for meditation, enlightenment, guidance and prayer and if we are open to their energy, will converse with us.
Jeffrey Goelitz writes:
”The purest essence comes from the oldest trees who have peaked developmentally in their being-ness. Older trees communicate to younger trees a vibrancy that supports and encourages their growth. There is an intelligence on the other side from which life springs. The force of gravity helps us to live. Through gravity we receive light from the sky. Gravity is the bridge to the other world where earth connects to the sky. Trees act like magnetic funnels. Through their centers they draw heavily on the light. [The Mother of the Forest and I] have a deep resonance of peace. Our ages, sizes, and electromagnetic fields are very much alike. Together, along with other elder redwoods, we watch over the forest with our etheric radiation. Our rays interlace together in a way distinct from other trees because of our similarities.”
Alder: Tree of Resurrection
Symbolic of Protection and Oracular Powers
Alders are members of the Birch family found along lowland rivers, growing with Aspens, Poplars, and Willows. The Alder is a most unusual tree, loving water yet extremely flammable making the Alder, a revered tree, as it combines the elements of water and fire. In folklore the Alder is known as the “King of the Water” with the “Willow” tree as its Queen. This association is due to their natural habitat near lakes, rivers and streams. The Alder is the bridge between water and fire, sea and land, winter and spring.
The wood of the Alder has many uses. When young it is brittle and pliable, easily worked but as the tree ages, its wood becomes tinted and veined. Due to the Alders resistance to water, in times gone by it was used in the construction of bridges and though it may surprise you, bridges erected centuries ago remain standing and continue to be a means of transportation today.
In Celtic folklore it was believed that doorways to the fairy realm were concealed within the Alder’s trunk. The Alder was sacred to the god “Bran” who is said to have created a bridge to span the dangerous waters from this world to the other … the chosen wood, “ALDER.” An old Celtic legend speaks of “Bran” carrying a branch from the Alder tree during the “Battle of the Trees.” Bran’s totem animal was the Raven who also became associated with the Alder. Ritual pipes and whistles were often made from Alder wood, many in the shape of the Raven.
Folklore also tells us, cutting down an Alder invited trouble as it invoked the anger of the tree spirit who would use fire to burn down the lumberjack’s house and his village would be cursed.
“I am guarded by very protective Faeries who surround and shelter me and when they leave take the form of a Raven. From the time of “Theophrastus,” the Greek philosopher, the bark of young Alder shoots have been used for dyeing and tanning leather. The next time you see an Alder overhanging some stream or a bed of flowers, look beneath its thrusting boughs of rustling leaves. You may get a glimpse of the “Faeries,” hiding in the wedge-shaped bark structure. Ponder the possibilities and consider what nature can teach you about life … let Spirit guide you.
Almond: Tree of Clairvoyance
Symbolic of an “Awakening,” a stirring of Spirit
Almond trees were growing in Israel, (Canaan), 2000 years ago and were mentioned in ancient Hebrew scripture, (Genesis 43-11, etc.). Moses crafted oil lamps in the image of an almond, and Van Gogh thought that blooming Almond trees were so beautiful that he created more than a dozen paintings of almonds in full flower.
In ancient societies, the Almond tree was valued for its supposed virtue in preventing intoxication and in Shakespearean times decorated many London gardens and orchards. The Almond grows freely in Syria and Palestine and is mentioned in the Scriptures as one of the best fruit trees of the land of Canaan. The Hebrew name, “SHAKAD,” is very expressive for it signifies “hasty awakening,”’ or “to watch for,” hence, to make haste, a fitting name for a tree, whose beautiful flowers appearing in Palestine in January, herald the wakening of Creation.
Come celebrate your life. Let the Spirit of the Almond tree be a conduit to put you in a reflective mood. Remember you are the one who holds the power, the key … to unlock the door. Discover within yourself the answers to what you seek. Nature is simply providing a place of pilgrimage.
Apple: Tree of Custodian Wisdom
Symbolic of the East, spring, the dawn and new beginnings
The profusion of perfumed blossoms occurs in spring and a feast for arousing the sensual sense of smell. If you peek beyond the delicately blushing, rosy and white-streaked, buds of the Apple tree don’t be surprised to find Unicorns playing hide-and-seek.
Over centuries, many apple myths have come to light, from the apple Adam and Eve ate to the Norsemen who use to bury their dead with an apple serving as a resurrection charm. But perhaps what lingers most in our minds is the ripe apple falling to the ground, a story we have all heard, reminding us in its fall of Newton and the discovery of gravitation.
Sit beneath the shade of an Apple tree’s splendor and let it speak to you. Allow yourself to move into a highly elevated state of being, visualizing the untapped force around you. You can use it to restore yourself. Be aware of thoughts and feelings dispersing and of the energy and light cursing through each part of your body. Hold this point of balance, the point between two world … experience the mystery … the gate is open wide.
Arbutus: Tree of Depth and Integrity
Symbolic of protection and safety
Canada’s only native broadleaf evergreen tree (known as Madrone in the US) is a wonderful metaphor for the spirit. In early morning or evening sunlight, this magnificent tree emits ancient energy, as it’s auburn boughs reach toward the dappled light filtering through the tight canopy of thick, leathery foliage.
I am an Evergreen without needles, the only deciduous tree that does not lose its leaves in winter! In the early spring bountiful white blossoms make me even more spectacular. During summer months, my reddish brown bark sheds its skin and underneath the younger yellowish green wood will turn a deep mahogany red during the winter months. In the fall my beautiful clusters of orange red berries feed the birds and deer. The energy surrounding me is powerful. Be still and attune to me, I can help you decipher the meaning of it all.
Aboriginal people revere the Arbutus. According to a Salish legend, the survivors of a great flood tied their canoe to an Arbutus atop Mount Newton near Sidney. B.C. To this day, as a mark of gratitude, the Salish won’t use Arbutus as firewood. Poet Richard Olafson shares another Native legend, writing, “The tree’s webbed roots hold the splintered earth together.” If the Arbutus should disappear, the myth warns-whether from fungal infection, habitat loss or some other cause, manmade or otherwise, the planet would fly apart and be utterly destroyed.
When you sit beside me, dirt beneath you and the wind blowing in your face, you are keeping company with an “Old One,” and I can help open many spiritual doors for you. If you are feeling somewhat barren, immerse yourself in the flow of Spirit, letting love soulfully touch your heart. Receive easily and graciously believing you are a channel of grace.
Ash: Tree of Humankind and Ancestors
Symbolic of the “Bridge” connecting the Spiritual and Physical realm
From my roots flow two limpid streams, that of the knowledge of things past and that of the knowledge of things to come. In Norse mythology, Yggdrasil (“The Terrible One’s Horse”), also called the “World Tree,” is the giant ash tree that links and shelters all the worlds. Beneath the three roots the realms of Asgard, Jotunheim and Niflheim are located where three wells lie at its base, the “Well of Wisdom,” the “Well of Fate” and the “Source of Many Rivers.”
Four deer run across the branches of the tree and eat the buds; they represent the Four Winds. There are other inhabitants of the tree, a golden cock rests on the summit observing all that passes in the Universe, a squirrel named Ratatosk, (Swift Teeth) a notorious gossip constantly ascends and descends carrying messages between the golden cock that perches on the topmost bough and “Nidhogg,” the serpent. Legend says, on the day of Ragnarok, “Doom of the Gods,” the Fire Giant, Surt, will set the tree on fire, never to be seen again.
In the midst of the Ash tree’s splendor recall your tender nature, and make peace with unresolved issues. If you can see the beauty of the world, in harmony and with deep appreciation, you will notice a warm feeling that is hard to put into words. Rejoice in this new perspective. Be attentive, open and reverent allowing yourself to be re-enchanted with the world.
Aspen: Tree of Loyalty and Harmony
Symbolic of the “Voice of Spirit”
The Aspen, considered part of the poplar family, has a habit of shimmering or quivering in the breeze making a distinctive rustling, whispering sound. In several Native languages, the name “Trembling Aspen” translates as “woman’s tongue” or “noisy leaf.”
The Aspen’s root is rarely killed during a fire, and Aspens are generally the first trees to grow in a burned out area. Aspen wood is very lightweight when dried, becoming very buoyant and was therefore a popular choice for oars and paddles also was used to make arrows in medieval times.
In many cultures and religions the wind is associated with the “Voice of Spirit,” and in the boughs and leaves of the Aspen, the wind finds a distinctive voice to inspire those who would listen with patience and sensitivity. The movement of the wind through the canopy and the sun dappling through the leaves can have a mesmerizing effect, encouraging a contemplative and meditative frame of mind. Like the hero and shaman who stand apart from the crowd, the Aspen’s sparse distribution often away from other trees, and its magical connotations has “done much over the years to facilitate legends of people disappearing from under it into the land of Faerie.” (“Tree Wisdom” by Jacqueline Paterson 1996)
Bring your drum, flute or your favorite musical instrument and sit under the Aspen’s canopy. Plunge deep into your soul letting your mind drift into nothingness. Open wide your arms, let the music shower you with pulsating radiance. Focus on the sounds, and listen to the rhythm of nature calling. Become one with the melody as it fills you. When you are ready, open your eyes and play your Spirit Song. There is always light in the darkness. Value your creativity and your connection with the Universe.
Birch: Tree of Fertility & Protection
Symbolic of renewal, and purification
The word birch is thought to have derived from the Sanskrit word “bhurga” meaning a “tree whose bark is used to write upon”. When the poet S.T. Coleridge called the birch, “Lady of the Woods,” he was possibly drawing on an existing folk term for the tree. Its birch twigs were used to bestow fertility on newlyweds and cattle. Nearly every part of it is edible, and its sap was an important source of sugar to Native Tribes and early settlers.
Ojibway Legend: Winabojo and the Birch Tree.
Once there lived a spirit-boy named Winabojo who taught the Objibwa how to live in the natural world. One day he went searching for feathers to adorn his arrows. Climbing to the highest cliff, he discovered a nest of Thunderbird babies. Winabojo turned into a rabbit so the Thunderbirds would bring him to their nest for their babies to play with. Winnabojo stayed in the nest for a long time; the babies were cruel to him and tossed him around. Eventually Thunderbirds went away to hunt for food to feed their babies.
Winabojo turned back to a boy; he clubbed the baby Thunderbirds and pulled out their feathers. Before the parents could return, Winabojo jumped from the high nest with the bundle of feathers and was knocked out, but not killed because he was a “manido.”
When they returned to their nest, the angered Thunderbirds flew after Winabojo!! Thunder rolled from their beaks and lightning flashed from their eyes. Winabojo ran for his life clutching his bundle of feathers, but soon grew so tired he began to fear he would be caught. As the Thunderbirds reached for him with their claws, Winabojo saw an old fallen birch that was hollow inside. He crept into the hollow in the nick of time. The Thunderbirds ended their attack because they knew they could not reach Winabojo through the birch bark. Winabojo was safe. After the Thunderbirds left, Winabojo came out and proclaimed that the birch tree would forever protect and benefit the human race.
You can still see the short marks on the birch tree made by Winabojo to commemorate the sharp claws of the Thunderbirds who almost killed him. The Thunderbird parents put “pictures” of their baby birds with out-stretched wings into the birch bark so the sacrifice of their children would always be remembered. Winabojo fixed his arrows and went home. With these arrows he was able to kill the great fish that lived under the rock ledge.
Winabojo has blessed the birch tree for the good of the human race. And this is why lightning never strikes the birch tree, and why anything wrapped in the bark will not decay. Birch bark is useful for house coverings, canoes, containers, utensils, and in many other ways.
[adapted from “The Legend of Winabojo and the Birch Tree ~ How Indians Use Wild Plants for Food, Medicine and Crafts”]
Author ~ Frances Densmore
Walk your path with truth and honor remembering talk is cheap. It is actions and behaviors that determine integrity. The Source by whatever “Name” you call it longs to flow through you. Be receptive! Gently close your eyes for a minute. Leisurely wander through some of your blissful moments creating a strand of each memory. Weave the strand together, taking into your heart. Carry it with you throughout each day that you may add new memories to the strand.
Blackthorn: Tree of Destiny
Symbolic of “fate” and the influences it has on destiny
In ancient times, the Blackthorn was commonly used in healing remedies and magical potions. The “Blackthorn” tree grows in dense thickets and is barked with vicious thorns, the very thorns believed to have adorned the crown Jesus wore. Thought to be a tree of fidelity and independence, in Irish folklore the Blackthorn was both a source of fear and good fortune. Guarded by “Lunatasidhe” a small hairless faerie resembling a balding old man, the “little people” are said to haunt Blackthorn groves in groups.
Though I am barked with fierce prickles, you are welcome to rest a spell. Slow down and look around. Notice the colors and light playing with the shadows. Walk around and savor the fragrance of wild flowers, slowly and deeply. Still the busy-ness of your mind and listen to twigs cracking under your feet, the leaves rustling in the breeze, the birds singing, and the soft beating of your heart. Let yourself be tuned to nature’s call. Let this be a place of return, a safe haven, your quiet abode to nurture your spirit
whenever the need arises.
Bodhi-Tree: Tree of Wisdom
The symbolism of the Bodhi Tree comes from the story of the Buddha, who during the first week after Enlightenment, sat under the bodhi tree experiencing the happiness of freedom and peace. He was free from disturbing thoughts, calm and blissful.
Sometime during the sixth century BC a solitary, wandering ascetic sat to meditate beneath a shady tree, resolving not to rise until he had attained the ultimate knowledge of spiritual enlightenment, he was born Prince Gautama Siddhartha.
Gautama was the son of King Suddhodana raised in great luxury. Following the ancient traditions of Hinduism, Gautama sought out spiritual teachers, or gurus. Inquiring of their knowledge, he diligently practiced various yogas and meditations. Seven years passed, the last three in extreme asceticism, yet still he had not achieved his goal of enlightenment. He was inspired to leave his princely lifestyle behind and devote himself to penetrating the mystery of human suffering. For several years, he traveled through India as a mendicant holy man, but ended in disillusion.
Finally recognizing that such practices had served him well but were no longer appropriate, he journeyed toward the ancient sacred forests of Uruvela in north India with the intention of completely realizing the infinite. Guided by visionary dreams and following in the footsteps of Krakucchanda, Kanakamuni, and Kasyapa, the Buddhas of three previous ages, Siddhartha sat beneath the Bodhi Tree making a pact to stay there until he had realized his quest. Touching the earth, thereby calling it to witness the countless lifetimes of virtue that had led him to this place of enlightenment, he entered into a state of deep meditation. Three days and nights passed and his intention was realized.
Gautama spent the next seven weeks in meditation near the Bodhi Tree. When he emerged from under the tree, he believed he had found the secret of enlightenment (Buddha means “enlightened” or “awakened” in Pali), and he gave over the rest of his life to teaching all who would listen. Then, at the request of the god Indra, he began to speak of the great truth he had realized. His first sermon was given at Isipatana (modern Sarnath near Banaras). This first discourse, often called “Setting in Motion of the Wheel of Truth” presented the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path for which Buddhism is so famous.
Within itself, the mind is timeless, peaceful, unmoving. Rest in this natural state. If the changing sense impressions cause the mind to forget itself, to be deceived and entangled, your practice is to see this whole process and simply return to the original mind. © Jack Kornfield
Broom: Tree of Astral Travel
Symbolic of lucid dreams and flight
Also known as Scotch Broom or Irish Broom, grows in open spaces. According to the Celtic Zodiac, the reed or the broom is the tree sacred to the twelfth moon of the year starting on October 28th and ending on November 24th. This tree is useful in “cleaning up” spiritual or mental messes and was used to sweep outside ritual areas for purification and protection. The Irish called “Broom” the “Physician’s power” because of its diuretic shoots. Burning the blooms and shoots calms the wind. In the Language of Flowers, Broom signifies neatness or humility. The neatness is obvious for a broom-plant.
Today, the twigs and branches are serviceable not only for making brooms, but are also used in basket weaving especially in the island of Madeira.