Tuesday, March 1, 2016

The Many Sacred Woods

The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing that stands in the way.
Some see Nature all ridicule and deformity,
and some scarce see Nature at all.
But to the eyes of the man of imagination,
Nature is Imagination itself.
(“The Letters” William Blake, 1799)

Within contemporary Paganism many sacred trees can be found.  Within Wicca, for examples, there are nine such sacred trees mentioned in the “Rede of the Wiccae”[1] whose wood is deemed appropriate for burning in ritual fires.  These trees are:

“ … Birch in the fire goes to represent what the Lady knows.
Oak in the forest towers with might, in the fire it brings the God's insight.
Rowan is a tree of power, causing life and magic to flower.
Willow at the waterside stand ready to help us to the Summerland.
Hawthorn is burned to purify and to draw faerie to your eye.
Hazel - the tree of wisdom and learning adds its strength to the bright fire burning.
White are the flowers of apple tree that brings us fruits of fertility.
Grapes grow upon the vine giving us both joy and wine.
Fir does mark the evergreen to represent immortality seen.”

A tenth tree, that of the elder, is also mentioned in this rhyme but with a caution that as this tree is considered to be sacred to “the Lady”, the Goddess, if burnt, a person risks feeling the anger of the Goddess upon them.

One inspiration for this reverence of trees may have been the Celtic tradition of creating “need fires” at the four solar festivals, that being Samhain, Imbolc, Bealtaine and Lughnasadh.  According to modern interpretation, such communal fires contained wood from various trees of which the Celts considered to hold specific meaning and where lit themselves by an oak bow and rod. 
The rest of this article about the sacred woods found within contemporary Paganism can be found within the "Woods" edition of Alternative Spirit Magazine that is now available.

[1] The “Rede of the Wiccae” was published by Gwen Thompson who alleged that it was handed down by her grandmother, Adriana Porter

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