In her beautiful book American Spirits, author Judith Robbins recounts the legendary history of a giant sycamore called the “teepee tree” that spread exposed roots on the edge of a creek in Indiana, creating a cavelike structure beneath the trunk. This tree was sacred to a Lenape tribe who chose to settle nearby after Europeans had displaced them. Robbins writes, “Inside the tree, which was lighted by fox fire and fireflies, the children often sat on ermine skins and listened to the tales of an ethereal, old white owl whose name, they learned, was Watcher.”
Please note that this section discusses the various sycamore species native to North America (of the Platanus genus), which are distinct from the sycamore fig of Egypt and the Middle East (Ficus sycomorus), as well as the European variety of maple (Acer pseudoplatanus) often referred to by the same name.
Ancestral and Earth Wisdom
The owl that lived in the teepee tree was a sacred keeper of ancestral and earth wisdom. Similarly, the sycamore can help us align with the knowledge that we are one with all that lives, and all that has come before. This gives our lives richness and meaning, and fortifies us with support from our spiritual and genetic ancestors, as well as the entire natural world. Spend time in quiet contemplation with a sycamore to receive these benefits, or try the following:
DRINK DEEPLY OF WISDOM AND ALE
Choose or brew a fine organic ale and place two bottles in a small basket, along with a bottle opener. Visit a sycamore in the late spring, summer, or early fall. Connect with the tree with love, silently communing your wish to align with ancient earth wisdom and the wisdom of your spiritual ancestry. Open the ale and lovingly pour an entire bottle as a libation around the roots. As the ale sinks into the earth, enjoy your bottle, feeling as if you are having a drink with an old friend—which, in truth, you are.
Just as the teepee tree served as a sign to the tribe in American Spirits to settle, and as it served as a spiritual and social hub for their community, sycamore can help us feel aligned with the land on which we live, even if—and perhaps particularly if—it isn’t the land from which we originally hail. Indeed, the tall sycamore in the corner of our backyard welcomed my partner and I when we moved to Missouri from California, and his shade, majestic beauty, and whispering leaves faithfully provided us with grounding comfort as we acclimated to our new environment. This is mirrored by the way that the sycamore makes himself at home so swiftly, spreading his roots and branches expansively even before he’s been in the neighborhood for a decade.