Whispers from the Woods: The Lore & Magic of Trees

Whispers from the Woods: The Lore & Magic of Trees

by Sandra Kynes


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Whispers from the Woods: The Lore & Magic of Trees by Sandra Kynes

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

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780738707815
Publisher: Llewellyn Worldwide, LTD.
Publication date: 02/01/2006
Pages: 288
Sales rank: 815,344
Product dimensions: 7.50(w) x 9.13(h) x 0.80(d)

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), andSea Magic (2008).

Read an Excerpt


Modern Pagans have continually sought ways to honor the natural world and live more closely with the rhythms and spirit of the land. Many find that drawing close to nature allows them to access different levels of energy and awareness, which can bring deeper meaning and spiritual satisfaction. Trees can function as a gateway to these different levels of being as they provide us with a better understanding of ourselves and our ancestors. A walk in the woods makes it easy to understand the awe and reverence our ancestors had for trees. However, the human-tree relationship had its beginnings long before people trod upon the earth.

Millions of years ago, trees evolved into giants of the planet, and became the most successful form of plant life in the competition for sunlight and other resources. While they created advantages for themselves, they were also steadfast providers for certain members of the animal kingdom. Small creatures sought protection from predators in the aerial arms of trees, and finding a convenient bounty of food aloft, they stayed and made their homes among the welcoming branches.

Establishing a symbiotic association with the trees, these creatures provided additional means for dispersing pollen and seeds. Some of these animals, classified as prosimians, developed their distinctive characteristics, such as both eyes in the front of the head, and evolved into the simians that eventually came down from the trees. Darwin explained the rest.

With these prosimians in mind, it could be said that if it were not for the trees we would not be here. Biologically speaking, it can also be said that we could not remain here if it weren't for the trees, as they are largely responsible for creating and maintaining Earth's atmosphere.

It was the "big blue marble" view of Earth and its atmosphere that sparked scientist James Lovelock's Gaia theory (Earth as a living, self-regulating entity). Lovelock said that when he saw pictures of Earth taken from outer space, he had an epiphany of the atmosphere burning like a blue flame.1 He realized how crucial the cycles of the elements were for life, and how humans are part of the environment, not separate from it. As we breathe, we take oxygen into our bodies and it becomes part of us. Trees produce the oxygen we take in. We breathe out carbon dioxide and trees take that in. Because of this basic biology, we still have a symbiotic association with the trees. However, a great deal has transpired in this relationship since the time of the prosimians.

Biology aside, our civilization could not have developed without trees. After humans first attached sharpened stones to the ends of sticks to extend their reach as hunters, and kindled fires for warmth and cooking, there was no going back, because trees had taken on a new importance in human life. Providing the basics was just the beginning. The more we learned to use our brains and make plans, the more we relied on trees for shelter, furniture, and tools for almost everything. Wood for wagons, ships, and bridges to get us from here to there allowed people to spread out and travel farther. We humans also developed the peculiar activities of writing and music, which relied on wood-and the forests continued to fall under the axe.

Long before this great rush to consume wood, people viewed trees as something more than a source of food, shelter, and raw material. Perhaps it was the biological connection through breathing that allowed people to sense the spark of life that we hold in common with the trees. Trees became part of human spiritual and cultural traditions as well as one of the most powerful symbols that embody life. Trees served as vivid reminders of the cycle of life, death, and rebirth, and they seemed imbued with magic because they simultaneously dwelled in the three realms of heaven, earth, and underworld. Ancestors, other spirits, and even the Divine could be found amongst the trees of the woods. The forest was a place of beautiful mystery and deep transformation. People could sense the subtle energy that moved through the trees because it also moved through them. The connection between humans and the green world was real and central to everyday life, but somewhere along the way we lost this sense of connection.

We lost our way through the woods and forgot that we, too, are part of the natural world. We continued to use more that the trees had to offer, such as gums, oils, rubber, turpentine, pitch, cork, as well as charcoal for smelting ore. Without trees, metal crafts could not have been developed. We continued to use more of everything, and the forests dwindled.

Then came the so-called age of reason. Since the time of Newton, scientists viewed the world as a machine instead of a living system-trees were just fuel for man's engine. In the excitement of scientific discovery, reverence for nature was trampled. Religious leaders of the time were also caught up in the stampede to place humans above everything else. According to the church fathers, nature represented chaos and the wild, Pagan, female side of things that were classified as evil and beneath the dignity of "man." In their minds, nature had to be subdued and controlled. As technologies advanced, a false sense of power expanded, and the momentum that moved us farther from the natural world increased. Now, "virtual reality" separates us even more from the world that was once revered as sacred.

While it seems that we have traded material wealth for spiritual poverty, quite possibly the pendulum has swung to its full extent and is now circling back. Greater numbers of people are openly turning to Paganism for spiritual fulfillment, and are consciously making everyday choices that are in line with their beliefs. Even the scientific community is beginning to acknowledge how incredibly complex and beautiful life on earth is, and some are bold enough to say that we humans are amateurs-even though we know a lot, we actually know very little.2 The gap between science and spirituality is not the chasm it once was. There is an acknowledgement of the wisdom that comes from within-within ourselves and within nature.

As part of this change, Pagan and non-Pagan people are rediscovering the majesty of trees and are appreciating with wonder these magnificent giants. In the woods, you can't help but feel part of the natural world. With that feeling comes the self-realization of returning to Source, to the Divine. Canadian environmentalist David Suzuki noted that the forest is helping people to realize that nature is not "out there" and separate. He said, "How you see the world is how you live in it."3 For Pagans this translates to intention and manifestation. We know that the integrity of our spiritual lives is intimately bound to the integrity of the natural world.

Trees provide a gateway into a wider world of spirit and magic. This book is intended to help you explore your place in the "web of life"4 and its timeless mysteries. Trees provide multiple pathways to tap into this web for magical and spiritual purposes, as well as to simply embrace and enhance life. Like music, trees speak to something deep and primal within us. They can help us open our souls to the power and spirit of Earth's rhythms. They can help us harvest the fruit of our spiritual journey and find the seeds of our future.

1 David Suzuki, The Sacred Balance. A four-part video series. (Toronto: Kensington Communications, 2003).
2 Ibid.
3 Ibid.
4 Ibid. I find it wonderful that scientists use this phrase now, too.

Table of Contents

Introduction xi
Part One

One—Living Entities; Living History 3

Tree Rings 5
Impact on Human Consciousness 6
Creation Myths and Beyond 8
Sacred Trees and Holy Springs 10
The Green Man 12

Two—Up Close and Personal 15

Tuning In 18
Tree Meditation 23
Keeping in Touch 25

Three—The Tree Calendar 27

Tracking Time 29
Candles to Focus Energy 33
Tree Calendar Meditation 33
Creating Your Own Calendar 35

Four—The Ogham 39

A History of the Ogham 39
The Ogham and Poets 43
The Ogham Characters 46
Using Staves, Fews, and Cards 48
Cultivating Traits 52

Five—Exploring the Range of Oghams 55

The Ballymote Scales 56
Creating Your Own Ogham 66

Six—Trees in Ritual and Spellwork 71

Ritual 72
Magic 72
Timing and Preparation 74
Spellwork 75

Seven—Wood as an Element of Change 83

Adapting Feng Shui Tools 83
Working with the Directions 84
Energy Groups 91

Eight—The Shamanic Journey 97

Reaching Other Realms 98
Journey 101
After the Journey 104
An Alternative Journey Method 106
In Summary 109

Part Two

Ivy 175
Juniper 178
Laurel 180
Linden 182
Locust 184
Magnolia 186
Maple 188
Mesquite 190
Mimosa 192
Mistletoe 194
Myrtle 197
Oak 199
Olive 203
Palm 205
Pine 207
Reed 209
Rowan 212
Spindle Tree 214
Spruce 216
Sycamore 218
Vine/Bramble 220
Walnut 223
Willow 225
Witch Hazel 227
Yew 229

Appendix A—Trees by Date 235
Appendix B—Tools 243
Appendix C—Associated Goddesses, Gods, and Others 253
Bibliography 263
Index 269

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