The Druid's Garden

Spiritual Journeys in Tending the Land, Permaculture, Wildcrafting, and Regenerative Living

Druid Tree Workings: Establishing Deep Connections with Trees July 2, 2017

Imagine walking into a forest where you are greeted by many old tree friends, each members of different families that form a community.  You know their common names, their less common names, and the secret names that have taught you.  You know their medicine, how they can be used, even some of their stories and songs. They rustle their leaves in joy as you continue to walk.  The movement of their branches is music in your ears, the sound of the leaves a song, playing in your mind.  Their medicine and magic is open before you.  And yet, you realize how much more you have to learn, to know, and realize that this process –the process of reconnecting to the medicine and magic of the trees–will take more than one lifetime to complete.  This is the power of establishing deep connections with the trees.

 

Oak at Samhuinn

Oak at Samhuinn

Over the last two years, I’ve offered a series of posts on what I call “druid tree workings.”  A lot of people who get interested in nature spirituality want to work with trees, and there isn’t always a lot of detailed information out there about it.  Since the trees have sung to me since I was a small child, I have been trying to compile this information on some of the strategies that I used in order to learn their teachings and work with them.  Today, I’m going to explore another strategy that takes some of my earlier posts a bit further.  If you haven’t read my earlier work in the druid tree workings, I suggest you start there becuase this post (and one I have planned in the next week or so), draws upon those initial principles. Earlier posts in this series include: finding the face of the tree, druid tree workings on the outer planes, druid tree workings on the inner planes, helping tree spirits pass, winter tree blessings, and a seasonal approach and the breath of the earth. Today, I’m delving into a few other strategies for establishing deeper relationships with trees through finding a focal tree and working with it in various ways.

 

Relationship Building

I’ve mentioned this before on my blog, and I’ll mention it again here.  Reconnecting with nature, and doing any kind of nature-based spiritual practice, is just like building any other kind of relationship.  It takes time.  It takes both giving and taking.  It takes good listening skills and communication.  To establish relationships with plants, trees, nature spirits or anything else, this is the very beginning of where we start.  Nature isn’t there just to give, and give, and give (and when she is forced to do so, ecosystems eventually break down and we are left with the predicament we are currently facing).  Instead, we are meant to be in recriprocation.  Think about it this way: all of the “waste” products from your body (carbon from your lungs, nitrogen from your urine, and the nutrients in feces that breaks down into rich soil) are required by trees and plants for survival. And in turn, we need them for oxygen, food, shelter, shade,  and much more.  If we work with relationship as our basic premise, we can develop deep relationships.

 

Finding Your Tree

A simple way to begin to connect deeply with trees and prepare for deeper initiatic work (which I will discuss in my next post in this series) is to begin by finding a species, and an individual tree, that call to you. Different tree species work with different human energy patterns, and what works for someone else may not work for you. For example, one of my strongest tree allies is hawthorn, which is certainly not a species that is friendly to all! But over a period of time, hawthorn and I have developed a very deep bond and love each other well.  And so, it might be that as you are reading this, you already have a specific tree in mind. Or it might be that as you are reading this, you need a way to find one that will work with you. So let’s first explore how to find your tree.  Picking a single tree to begin this work is really important. You might think about this like the “central” or “keystone” tree in your larger sacred grove.  Your sacred grove, that is, the many tree species that will work with you, are added after you begin your work with this one tree.  Once you have developed a deep relationship with one tree, it is easier to communicate with others of that same species, and easier to connect to many other trees of different species.  The work spirals out from there.

 

There are two ways to go about finding your tree.

 

The Deductive Method: Having a tree (or tree species) in mind.  Do you have a specific tree speces or have a relationship that began with a tree species at an earlier point in your life?  This might be a tree species you’d like to seek out to establish a relationship with.  For example, when I was a child, I spent a lot of time climbing several trees–an old apple, an old maple, and an old cherry.  As I grew older and found druidry, these were the trees that first called me back and allowed me to reconnect.

 

The Inductive Method: Picking your spot and find your tree. The other way of going about this (and the one I’d suggest for a lot of folks) is to simply pick your spot and then pick your tree.  Before finding your specific tree, you need to scope out your general location. This is a very important consideration; you should be able to visit the tree regularly and do so with minimal disruption (e.g. a tree next to a busy highway might not be the best choice). So you’ll want to find a tree that you have very easy access to but also one where you can be undisturbed by passerby and other human behaviors. A lot of good trees can be found in local parks, forests, even your yard. Make sure your tree is somewhere that you can visit, at minimum, once or twice a week and that it is fairly easy for you to do so. If your tree is difficult to get to, you will be less likely to visit (especially if you are tired or busy).  Now, spread out in the area that you have selected. Use your intuition as well as your physical senses. Is there one particular tree that is calling to you? It doesn’t matter at first if you can identify it or not; the important thing is to feel a strong connection. Once you’ve found the tree, ask permission to sit with it for a time. Listen for inner and outer messages and simply be present with it.

 

Beautiful Walnut tree at Summer Solstice

Beautiful Walnut tree at Summer Solstice

Initial Tree Work

Now that you’ve got a tree, great!  The next thing is start to work with it on the inner and outer planes.  Here are some, of many, options (see other options in my earlier post):

 

Find the Face of the tree. I have a whole post detailing how to find the face of a tree as a way to begin to connect with it. I would strongly suggest that you do this work the first time you meet the tree. How many faces does the tree have? What do they look like? What do they tell you?

 

Communicate with the tree. See what the tree has to say, using strategies on the inner and outer planes. Spend time learning how this tree communicates and developing your own intuitive skills.

 

Tree Research. After you’ve picked the tree, learn a bit about it (which requires you to identify it). Tree identification books are common (and now, there are a whole series of apps, like Leafsnap, which help you identify trees based on their leaves). If you aren’t sure, either take a small bit of leaf/branch with you and/or take good photographs so that you can refer to them. Make sure to get photos or examples of the leaves (both sides), the bark, and how the leaves attach to the stem. Also get photos or examples of any buds/fruit/nuts on the tree. If it is winter, you will need to get a winter tree identification guide (there are good guides on winter botany and on tree bark for example).

 

After you’ve identified your tree, learn as much as you can about about the tree. What role does this tree play in your local ecosystem? (My favorite books for answering these questions in the Midwest/Northeast are the Book of Forest and Thicket, Book of Swamp and Bog, etc, by John Eastman). How was this tree used by humans in the past? Is it still used by humans in the present? What are the features of its wood? Is it under threat? How widespread is this species? Is it native, naturalized, or considered invasive? Does this tree have any medicinal properties? Knowing the answers to these questions can really help you understand how past humans have worked with these trees (or taken from them).

 

Another important question to ask is: What is the mythology and magic of this tree? (You might find that it was a tree that I covered in one of my sacred trees posts; if not, look for both mundane and magical information).   You might need to look to different cultural sources and references to understand the tree. Some trees (like apple) are present in both the old and new world and so you can study the mythology of both. Some trees, like sycamore, are actually different trees and different species in the old and new world, so be careful that you are learning about the right mythology. In the mythology, look at the role of the tree—is it magical? Helpful to humans? Active in the story? Passive? All of these will give you clues into the nature of the tree.

 

Identification: Work to identify the tree in its various seasons. Look at its buds/flowers, its leaves, the bark, the overall profile.  Look how its branches grow and what their growth habit is. Learn this tree, well, as much as you are able. When you have the chance, work to identify and visit other individuals of that spaces. Get so that you can identify the tree in multiple seasons and both close up and at a distance.

 

Roots of the Beech at the Winter Solstice

Roots of the Beech at the Winter Solstice

Visits over time.  Beyond the tree research, begin this deep tree work simply with one individual tree, whom you visit frequently. We have to rebuild relationships with these trees, and those relationships take time to establish (just like human relationships do).  Visiting the tree regularly over a period of a year is the best way to *really* know a tree, but that’s likely not possible unless the tree is very close to where you live.  But the more you can visit the better!

 

Tree Offerings

Regardless of the kinds of work you are doing with the tree, you should make an offering to the tree you are working with regularly—consider it like a gift you would give friends. As in any other relationship, we give and we take, and tree workings are no difference.  I would suggest that you make offerings before you take anything.  Nature is being used and abused by so many humans (direct and indireclty) at present.  You want to establish a different pattern, a relationship, not just a taking one.  So start here before doing anything else in terms of the rest of the post.

 

Here are some offerings that work well (and I use all of these, often in combination or at different times of the year):

 

  • One kind of very effective exchange is one where the tree gives of its body and so do you.  Humans and plants form a symbiotic relationship; we depend upon each other for survival. Trees take in our waste (carbon that we breathe and nitrogen that we pee) as some of their primary sources of nourishment and strength. Peeing at the base of a tree is a wonderful offering of available nitrogen to the tree (don’t pee directly on leaves, as they can’t handle such a strong dose of nitrogen). I am very serious here—this works and trees are thankful. Just ask them!
  • Music. If you can sing or play an instrument at all (even if its not very well), I would suggest singing or playing for the tree. It is often very well received (and the tree may have a song to give you in return!)
  • Spreading Seeds/Nuts: Trees need to propagate, and another meaningful offering is one where you are able to harvest the seeds/nuts from the tree and plant them elsewhere. This is especially important for hardwood nut trees, who often are slower to propagate (but don’t spread trees that are already spreading themselves too much, like those listed on noxious invasive species lists—do another kind of offering). Helping the tree establish its young is one of the absolute best things you can do.
  • Growing or making offerings. The one other thing I will mention is that I personally grow sacred tobacco for offerings, especially for wildharvesting. My tobacco is grown in my own garden from saved seeds. I harvest and dry it myself. I blend it with lavender flowers and rose petals. I was told by my own spirit guides to do so, and if you feel led, this might be another part of what you can offer.
  • A special offering.  Certain trees might like other kinds of offerings, and once you learn to communicate, you might get a sense of what these offerings are. They might sound strange or outlandish, but I’d suggest you try them.

 

You’ll notice above that none of my suggestions include buying something and offering it to the tree or burying coins at the roots, etc. Everything that we buy requires resources from nature (often at high cost); and nearly all of it today requires fossil fuel inputs which are severely threatening all life. Buying anything is not appropriate here, or is it with most nature magic—instead, offer something of value that doesn’t cost fossil fuels.

 

 

Carrying the Tree With You and Leaving a Part of You with It

The promise of connection

The promise of connection

In addition to taking the tree within, you can carry a small part of the tree with you and leave part of yourself with the tree. Usually, trees are happy to offer a dead branch or small piece of bark. In exchange, I like to offer them with one of my own hairs. That way, the tree has a piece of me, and I have a piece of it, and each day as I carry that with me, even if I can’t visit, that tree’s energy is present in my life. I usually will use simple carving and sanding tools to shape the piece of tree into a necklace pendant and then I can wear it on a string around my neck near my heart.   That’s just a personal preference—I’m a bit absent minded and have sent one to many nut or small piece of stick that I had in my pocket through the washing machine!

 

These strategies can help you continue to develop deeper relationships with trees. We’ll continue exploring deep tree workings in my next post, where we’ll look at tree initiations.

 

(PS: Please note that I am *still* camping and hiking in the wilds, and while this post is set to auto-post on July 2, I won’t be back till later this week to respond to comments.  I look forward to reading them!)

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28 Responses to “Druid Tree Workings: Establishing Deep Connections with Trees”

  1. Regina Says:

    Hi Dana,
    I am so delighted to read your blog upon waking this morning. Your gentle interactions and honoring of trees really touches my heart and is so inspiring. You may recall me responding to an earlier blog of yours in Jan. of 2017 when we lost a total of 9 fir and cedar trees in one night of heavy snow. Turns out they were sitting on top of french drains installed by previous dwellers and their roots broke the pipes which made the soil too wet to support them. The weight of the unprecedented snowfall made them softly fall in the night w/o a sound. Immediately after the trees were cut and given away as fire wood and mulch i hung Tibetan prayer flags to give my respect to their spirits. Interestingly, since that event we have decided to put our home up for sale, and the house we have a contingent offer on has a large, old cemetery beyond the backyard fence where there are many “ancient trees” according the current home dweller. While visiting i could see oak trees in the distance which is a nice feeling as a grove of oak trees were my companions throughout childhood.
    Many blessings to you and yours 🙂

    • Dana Says:

      Hi Regina, this is a beautiful story, and I certainly do recall our earlier conversation! It is amazing how the universe works. And now, you can speak with the ancient trees in the cemetery! I find cemetery trees wise and welcoming. They are treated with reverence and respect and generally are left alone. People who come to a cemetery view it as a sacred space, which allows a lot of possibility to exist for the trees there :). Keep me updated–and blessings!

  2. Always a pleasure to read ypu. You give me some inspiration.

  3. Reblogged this on Holistic Bros. Fitness and commented:
    I’ve been intrigued by lost knowledge of the ancients such as this. Of the few individuals I’ve met who possess this connection with nature, I am endlessly fascinated. I have gone as far as seeing faces in a tree here or there, but have not done any deliberate relationship building.

    This post offers some great tools and motivation!

    • Dana Says:

      Hello Nick, thanks for the reblog! Nature is waiting for us to re-establish the ancient bonds….we just have to be willing to take those steps and keep walking the path :).

  4. Reblogged this on Gentle Ignition and commented:
    I know you are away, but I don’t want to lose this wonderful post. Do you mind if I reblog it in my archive site Gentle Ignition. Thank you for writing this!

  5. laurabruno Says:

    Reblogged this on Laura Bruno's Blog and commented:
    This is a valuable and timely (even though auto-posted) article on establishing deep connections with trees. It’s timely for David and me since we spent most of yesterday attempting to save the weeping birch we love so much outside our new home. Berkano is the Rune of the Birch, and we’ve both had a special connection with birch trees throughout our entire relationship. This poor one had many dead branches that needed pruning, and she got some Smart Pot gardens and mulch to protect new roots from baking in the sun like those under the previously exposed black landscape cloth. She also got weeded, watered and welcomed into our lives.

    Our weeping cherries and purple maple trees also got some love and pruning to save them from untimely removal or disease. Dana’s post is mostly about trees in the wild, but please don’t forget the trees in your everyday midst. They appreciate extra love, honor and care, as well. Just like in our own lives, preventative care of trees offers the chance for longer, healthier and more fulfilling lives.

    • Dana Says:

      Thanks for the reblog, Laura! I’m returning on the train from my journey to the wilds of Maine :). I’m glad to mention the urban trees–I have a post I’ve been working on about some urban trees. In my area, the wise old oaks that went hollow used to get filled with concrete to protect them–I know of at least 3-4 oaks in town that have concrete cores and are growing strong and healthy! 🙂

      • laurabruno Says:

        You’re welcome, Dana. Good to hear you’re having an adventure! Oh, that’s a great idea about the concrete inside ailing trees. The silver maples I intervened for a couple years ago in Goshen appear to be ailing again. Maybe they can fill them with concrete instead of cutting them down. I’ll let our old landlord know of the possibility. Thanks for all you know and do and are! 🙂

  6. Moony Says:

    Such a lovely post! I’ve always wondered about connecting to trees, since for some reason I always felt myself drawn to smaller plants – in particular, the Epiphyllum orchid in my mum’s garden which I befriended somewhat. Trees just seemed really imposing and distant. Maybe I’ll try connecting with one more deeply in the future using the tips here.

    • Dana Says:

      Moony, thanks for your comment and for reading. The trees move more slowly, in general, and so you might find it harder to connect because to do so, you have to slow down to their own seasonal pace (where annuals and even smaller perennial plants seem to have a “faster” pace). But do give it a try 🙂

  7. angelicwords Says:

    Thank you kindly for sharing this post. I’m so happy to discover I seem to be on the right track regarding my relationship with my little fairytale forest. Our trees were dying 😥 they had a bad spider mite problem and my farmer husband and his family were going to spray with harmful pesticides. It’s taken me 4 seasons, but our little forest is just about all cleaned up of the diseased wood. New growth is springing forth and we now have all sorts of varieties of native forest plants and flowers. I got a little rebounder and workout underneath the sunlight filtered through healthy leaves and branches listening to fun and joyful workout music. I feel as if my trees are my own personal guardians. They line up like a powerful army and I feel very protected. Once again, thank you for sharing ❤

    • Dana Says:

      Congratulations on the work of rejuvenating the forest! Once you do this work, it makes sense that the forest will now protect and gaurd you! Thanks for reading and for the comment 🙂

      • angelicwords Says:

        Thank you for replying Dana ❤ Would you have some guidance for me? Our water here is very very hard, with rust bacteria. We have to soften the water somehow and have a salt water softener. This salt water may be what has been making our spruce trees sick 😦 What would you do for hard water, to soften it? ❤

        • Dana Says:

          Usually, an outside hose doesn’t run through the water softener. Do you have one that doesn’t? IF not, can you get it diverted? I had one at my homestead–it was very rusty/irony, but didn’t make plants sick. I hope this helps!

          • angelicwords Says:

            Hi Dana, yes we do and that’s what I use to water everything. It’s just that because of the way the septic system runs, it seems that the softened water flows into the soil the trees are in… I don’t know what to do. To think that my need for softened water is hurting the spruce trees makes me really sad and I feel like garbage about it. I’d sure like to figure out another way to soften the water…

            • Dana Says:

              So one option might be to plant some water purifying plants before the spruces. Something like a cat tail takes a lot of stuff out of the water, and that might help the trees. It would kind of be like a modified rain garden idea, but instead for the septic.

  8. SLClaire Says:

    Hi Dana,

    Is the age of the tree an important consideration? I ask because the trees I’ve planted in my yard are all still quite young, 13 to 15 years old. These would be the easiest trees to open up a relationship with (since I planted them and watered them when they were young I already have some relationship ongoing), but I don’t know how their youth might affect a relationship.

    Just to the other side of our property line are two large, mature pin oak trees, which sometimes drop large limbs onto our front yard and our house (the nearer of the two is planted too close). I have an uneasy relationship with these trees because of my fear that the closest one could do serious damage to us and/or the house. The property is vacant but we are on good terms with the owner, for as long as he keeps it. I admit I have sometimes held an adversarial thought toward the nearest tree, but at the same time it is beautiful and I have seen how it shelters birds and squirrels and how it shades our house. Is there a good way to ask its forgiveness for my occasional unkind thoughts – which at the worst have included the possibility of cutting it down? I’d like for it to have a healthy life for its own sake and because I would feel safer working and living underneath it.

    Claire

    • Dana Says:

      Hi Claire,
      It can be, but not always. Try connecting with the trees closest to you–the older trees hold more power, but the younger ones have much to teach us. I would suggest connecting with many.

      So here’s the thing about being a druid: trees don’t fall down on our houses or cars if we care for them :P. I had a spruce that was dying in my front yard and it was leaning towards the house. I just couldn’t bring myself to cut it down. I loved that tree so much, and we shard much together. And one evening, it blew down–in the OPPOSITE direction that it was leaning, out to the road, taking out a small part of my fence that cost about $20 to replace. Then the other two dying spruces told me I had better cut them down because they wouldn’t be able to not hit part of my house… Sooo…my suggestion is to be best friends with that tree. Love that tree, honor it, do rituals and offerings for its health and life, and ask it not to blow down on your house :).

  9. taliesin2 Says:

    Reblogged this on The Crane Book of Wisdom.


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