Truly, if any single thing should be sacred to humans it’s trees. Even today trees form the framework of our very lives. Just as our fellow primates often literally dwell in and nutritionally rely on trees, we live in homes built and furnished with wood, and many of the tools that we use every day are made from wood. Wood furnishes us from birth to death: our cradles are wood and our caskets are wood. We read and write our ideas on paper. We nourish ourselves with tree fruits and nuts (and many of us could actually live on them if we needed to). Much of our medicine, both holistic and mainstream, is made or derived from trees. Not to mention that the warmth and energy that we so rely on to keep our homes habitable and our food palatable was once (and for many is still) solely reliant on wood-burning fires.
Modern studies demonstrate that simply spending time near or gazing at trees can relieve stress, lower our heart rate, help us heal faster, and improve our mental and emotional health. As if all that weren’t more than enough, the delicate atmosphere of our precious planet—which includes the very air we breathe—heavily relies on the abundant presence of living trees. Clearly, we as a species would never have evolved and the planet as we know it could not survive, without trees.
What’s more, humans are a philosophical and spiritual species. Dwelling between the realms of earth and sky, we are beings of both worlds, and our very life is a balance and synthesis of form and spirit, below and above. What more appropriate symbol for this could there be than a tree rooted in the earth and stretching its branches and leaves upward into the light?
Indeed, ancient cultures across the globe employ this symbolism. In countless cosmologies some variation of the Tree of Life or the World Tree appears as a central spiritual image. In fact, a tree with spreading branches mirrored below by spreading roots is one of the most apt visual representations of Hermes Trismegistus’s classic spiritual and magical precept “As above, so below.” The world of form (below) mirrors the world of spirit (above), just as the stars and planets can be read to discern messages about what takes place on earth.
Speaking of which (as implied by the title), this book focuses primarily on the magic of trees: their deep wisdom and power, as well as how we can work with them—both physically and spiritually—in order to create positive change in our bodies, minds, spirits, and lives. Trees, after all, are symbols and actual representations of the interconnectedness of all life: the interwoven web of everything from which magic itself draws its power.
As poets, shamans, and other wise people have seen clearly for millennia, trees are not just pretty backdrops or landscape additions. They are wise, conscious beings, and they have been here on earth for an unthinkably longer time than we have. As we as a species have come to value frenetic movement and activity (a primary reason that stress has become such a challenge for so many of us), simply tuning in to the calm presence of a deeply rooted tree is a precious medicine. So is the practice of incorporating trees into your ritual work and other spiritual/magical practices. These are things that everyone can do! With just a bit of focused intention, you’ll find that the trees in your yard and neighborhood parks and nature areas can be beloved friends, teachers, and magical partners.
Methods of Tree Magic
Before we get into the specific magic of individual trees, which composes the vast majority of the text, let me introduce the main ways this book will guide you to spiritually and magically work with trees.
Quite possibly the best way to receive wisdom, guidance, and healing from a tree is to sit or stand in quiet contemplation with it. Think of quiet contemplation as spending time with a wise friend or guru from whom you receive guidance that is so profound that it transcends human language. Just as avatars in India (humans who are believed to be incarnations of a particular divinity or who are simply aware of their true infinite nature) are said to confer spiritual wisdom or even enlightenment by their very presence, consciously tuning in to and being present with a tree can bring similar benefits.
Here’s how you might begin: go outside to an area with one or more trees. Slow your breath and consciously relax your body. Notice the feeling of your feet on the earth. Notice your breath as it goes in and out. (Slowing your inner tempo is especially important in order to become receptive to the wisdom of trees.) Continue to relax as you set the intention to receive spiritual wisdom and healing energy from a tree. If you have a specific need, question, or request, gently bring this to mind with the confident inner knowing that you will receive precisely what you desire.
When you feel sufficiently relaxed, gaze at the trees and see which one you feel most drawn to. You might be drawn because one tree looks more beautiful or illuminated to you than the others at this time, or the wind may catch a particular tree more than the others. Or one may just “feel right.” Or maybe there’s a certain tree in your yard that you’d like to spend some quality time with. Don’t worry, you can’t make a wrong choice. The tree you choose can’t possibly be anything other than precisely the right one for you at this time. When you’ve chosen, slowly and reverently approach.
Begin by gazing at the tree and just being present with the majestic being before you. Just as you would a beloved friend or partner, appreciate the tree’s beauty. Inhale the fresh air and listen to the wind in the leaves. Synchronize your breath and thought with the slow, steady, patient pace of the tree. Continue this tuning-in process until you naturally begin to receive healing and wisdom from the tree.
Because everyone has a different way of metaphysically receiving information and energy, you might hear actual words in your mind, you might see pictures, or you might get feelings. Perhaps you’ll have a cathartic release as you let emotions out that have been bottled up, and this will heal you and bring you into greater harmony with yourself and the natural world. Or you might just feel a deep sense of calm that goes beyond words. Later, as you go back to your everyday life, you may find that the answers or shifts that you were seeking just sort of naturally arise.
The main thing to keep in mind is that you are simply making friends with the tree, and simply spending time with and appreciating that tree as you would a friend.
Similarly, merely being in the same area as a tree—or even branches, leaves, flowers, or other offerings from the tree (such as an indoor bouquet or artful altar arrangement)—brings healing benefits. Not just in the obvious ways of providing physical beauty, healing scent, oxygen, humidity, and/or shade but also by emanating a conscious, grounding presence and unique spiritual wisdom. That’s why you can use the guidance in this book to choose what trees to plant or what trimmings to bring into your home at various times of the year.
Offerings (and Hugs)
Just as putting time and attention into a healthy relationship with a human causes that human to naturally want to put time and attention into the relationship with you, it helps us receive positive energy from a tree when we first offer positive energy to the tree. We can do this by placing our hand on the trunk and visualizing sending bright white light from our heart into the tree, by pouring some water or ale around the roots, or even by lovingly placing a small crystal or shiny coin at the base of the tree.
You can also just go ahead and hug that tree, and send love and light straight from your heart to the heart of the tree. You will receive it right back in a cycle of positive, nourishing, instant karma. (It might be a cliché, but it has caught on for a reason!)
In addition to honoring their profoundly sacred relationships with trees, ancient cultures of all varieties believed that they could effect positive change with ritual. This was not because they were primitive or misguided or crazy, but rather because they were observant. Indeed, as quantum physics is now conclusively demonstrating, our thoughts, feelings, and expectations literally change outcomes and encourage probabilities. That’s why you’ll also find a variety of tree-related rituals throughout the book that you can employ to help bring about various types of positive change.
Aromatherapy and Incense
It’s no secret that some of the most treasured aromatherapeutic oils and incenses—such as cedar, eucalyptus, frankincense, sandalwood, and myrrh—come from trees. In this book, you’ll learn about how you can effectively employ many of these natural scents for healing on all levels.
Medicine and Food
Aspirin comes from willow bark. Eucalyptus helps clear congestion and respiratory infections. Cedar oil is an antifungal. These and many other remedies will be mentioned in this book, for both historical and practical purposes as well as to provide insight into a tree’s holistic wisdom and energetic dynamic.
Additionally, plenty of trees provide delicious and nutritious sustenance in the form of fruit and nuts. Consuming these foods with reverence and an awareness of the tree’s metaphysical wisdom has the added benefit of filling us with magic.
Visualization and Invocation
Whether or not a particular tree resides near your hometown, you can magically commune with any species you choose by familiarizing yourself with the tree’s appearance and magical qualities, and then incorporating the tree into invocations and visualizations. For instance, many of us in the United States may not have access to an actual baobab tree, but if you read the section on baobabs and you feel so inspired, you can seek out images of the tree and then bring the tree to mind during a meditation, asking the tree for guidance and support. Additionally, you can adapt the rituals in this book to be done on an energetic level rather than a physical one (i.e., by visualizing and calling on the tree’s spiritual presence, rather than actually being close to it in the concrete world). Indeed, if you feel comfortable with visualization, any ritual or ingredient can be conjured through visualization and therefore adapted to be performed or utilized on an energetic level. (And if you don’t feel comfortable with visualization, practice makes perfect!)
Finally, trees (and their respective blossoms) possess a vibrational wisdom that can be employed for physical, spiritual, and emotional healing, as well as for various magical intentions. As those familiar with homeopathic remedies know, this vibration can be preserved in water with the help of an ingredient such as glycerin or alcohol, put in a dropper bottle, and then taken under the tongue or in water (or used in other ways such as by adding to bathwater or food). These can be created responsibly or purchased from reputable sources. Many health food stores, for example, offer the Bach Flower Remedies oak, elm, or white chestnut. Additionally, some essence makers (such as Planetary Essences) offer medicines that employ tree vibrations such as apple, ginkgo, or willow.
A Note on Gathering
Only a fraction of the rituals in this book actually require gathering materials from a living tree. And when they do, they usually only recommend gathering a tiny portion. In certain cases, such as for dowsing, removing branches is recommended. In these cases, it’s gravely important to be careful not to harm the tree. Only remove a single branch, only do so if the tree’s in robust health, and make absolutely sure it’s an ideal time of year for trimming that particular type of tree in your region. (If you’re not sure, consult a local gardening guide, expert, or website.)
Of course, anytime you’re gathering magical materials from living beings such as trees, it’s important to honor your connection with them and to gather gently and mindfully, with great love and respect. For example, you might gather a pair of scissors or shears (thinking ahead and having the proper tools with you is important), and then take a few moments with a tree before snipping. Place your hands on the trunk and greet her, sending her your love and letting her know that you respect her. Let her know that you’d like a leaf (or whatever you’re gathering), and then notice when you feel an inner nudge to go ahead and snip. This might just be a positive feeling or, at the very least, a neutral feeling. (If for some reason you receive a message not to snip—which might manifest as a feeling of reticence on your part to do so—it will be wise for you to thank the tree anyway and move on.) Follow your intuition about which part of the tree to snip, and then thank the tree heartily. It’s also a really good idea to offer the tree a token of your gratitude, such as a bit of water or ale, a shiny coin, or a small crystal. This shows—to yourself and the tree—that you are aware of, and honor, the interconnection of all life.
A Note on Correspondences
At the end of each entry, you’ll notice an element, gender, and planet that correspond with each tree. Universally, I have gathered this information through dowsing with a pendulum. This method provided me with a number of surprises, most of which fell under two main categories.
My first overarching surprise was this: I expected each element to be one of four, as usually appears in magical botanical literature—earth, air, fire, or water. However, I quickly learned that many trees preferred to be classified under the fifth element: spirit. Upon reflection, this makes sense, as trees are featured so prominently in spiritual traditions of all cultures and are collectively seen as direct links between earth and sky, form and spirit, the everyday and the sacred.
Secondly, I expected each tree’s corresponding planet to be one of the main astrological planets (i.e., the planets in our solar system as well as the sun and moon). But when some trees did not seem to align with any of these traditional planetary correspondences, I got creative and looked further. I looked to moons of Saturn, for example, as well as large asteroids and even planets in our neighboring solar system of Alpha Centauri. Indeed, I discovered many of the formerly elusive correspondences once I did. Naturally, these unexpected alignments shed a lot of light on the vibrational wisdom and metaphysical properties of the corresponding trees.
As magical literature is traditionally grounded in history and folklore, this is admittedly unconventional. But when you think about it, it’s also rational for a modern metaphysician to take into account all of the scientific information to which we now have access. For readers of an astrological bent, it’s my hope that these findings will help spark further insights into these more recently discovered planets, moons, asteroids, and solar systems, as well as their roles in our destiny and the destiny of our world.