If you’re interested in Witchcraft, there is a good chance that you’re totally in love with trees.
Their wonderfully gnarled branches, their twisting roots that sprawl over moss covered forest floors, their leaves shifting in tune to the seasons… there is something so magical, so awe-inspiring about them.
Even people who have little to no interest in the magical world around them acknowledge how wonderful trees are!
When you learn about the history of Druidry, it comes as little surprise that special ceremonies were conducted in sacred groves. So unique and powerful were these groves that they made their way into the Roman Empires’ documentation of foreigners.
Such a threat were the Druids and their Sacred meeting spots that the destruction of them is recorded by Tacitus in his Annals XIV: “The next step was to install a garrison among the conquered population, and to demolish the groves consecrated to their savage cults…” – Citation
Celtic Witchcraft and Druidry have a great deal in common, and trees being sacred beings and connected to all realms of existence is certainly one of those.
Why Speak to Trees?
Another thing Celtic Witchcraft and Druidism have is a core belief in animism. Put simply, that is the belief that everything in our world has a spirit.
Trees certainly have spirits.
You can seek their faces in the pattern on their bark, and feel their energy by placing your hands on the trunk and just listening with all of your senses open.
And speaking to trees is therapy for the soul.
When life has been really difficult, I have always sought out trees.
When it felt like there was no solution and life was crashing down around me – I sat and cried at the base of a tree with my back to it.
Grounding into the Earth, and being supported by a spirit who knew with certainty that this too, would pass.
The worries of humankind are fleeting when it comes to a tree spirits’ life time.
Most trees are willing to commune with humans, although some are not.
If you get the sense that a tree is angry – that its environment has been harmed so badly by humans that you can sense anger from the very roots – then leave that tree alone.
You might try to make amends, but understand that trees have a long memory – and just because they don’t communicate the same way humans’ do – doesn’t mean they aren’t expressing themselves.
Some will accept you trying to clean the environment, plant new life, and reinvigorate the land. Some will not. Trust what your first instinct says when in an environment.
If your hairs stand on the back of your neck in a bad way – then leave.
How to speak to Trees?
If you are willing and open-minded, then you’ve already made the first steps towards spirit communication, and trees in general are benevolent so they make a wonderful spirit to connect with if you’re a beginner.
I tend to find that most pagans have a favourite tree (or maybe a couple) already.
Perhaps you have fond childhood memories of a certain tree, or you’ve just always been fascinated by a certain one.
It might even be that you just always seem to end up living near a certain kind of tree. This is what is referred to as synchronicity – the wonderful and weird (wyrd) way in which the Universe delivers us a message.
As humans are quite stubborn and refuse to listen, we often have to have the message several times before we listen.
So if a tree has been leaping out of the pages of storybooks at you, or the annals of history, or appearing in your dreams, or you just keep finding a particular tree nearby… that’s a sign!
The tree spirit acknowledges you.
For myself, it began with Rowan trees.
I was absolutely in love with the name Rowan from more than one of the childhood stories I grew up with. I wanted to change my name to Rowan, although I never got around to it. When I found out the magical correspondences of Rowan as I began to learn about Witchcraft, it all made sense. A Witches’ tree.
So if you know which tree you might start communing with then great! If not, I will suggest Silver Birch, Beech, or Oak to you. They all have the energy of the teacher and are adaptable or deep-rooted. Or you can just have a bit of an adventure near to where you live, and see which tree stands out.
Build a relationship
Spirits of all kinds appreciate energy and effort. Everything else comes down to this really. You can speak to a tree, sit with it, see what energy you can feel and sense.
In Celtic Witchcraft there is a focus on breath and voice work, as the expression of the soul is thought to be divinely inspired.
Trees have a language all of their own, in gentle movements in the wind, and messages passed under the soil through the roots. But every tree I have engaged with has enjoyed words, particularly stories or poetry. It’s a universal language.
You can also meditate beneath a tree. It’s an incredible experience of becoming attuned to every part of nature around you, becoming aware and focused of every breath of wind, the birds that sing, the way the air moves – and as you slip into the rhythm of nature all around you, your psychic senses begin to shift naturally.
As with all things, consistency is key.
The more effort you put into a relationship with any spirit, the more you will get in return. If you bring gifts I recommend biodegradable ones, a gift of water, or some seeds for the birds. I would stay away from anything that would hurt the environment – avoid things with salt in, plastics, or even crystals (especially if you don’t know how they were mined.)
How to know if a Tree is Speaking
When you meditate against a tree, or when you sit in its presence, you will be aware of its physical presence, but how do you know if a tree is responding to you in spirit?
Working with trees is actually a wonderful exercise in tuning in and learning to trust your intuition and expand your psychic senses. The best way I can think to describe spirit communion (as it happens to me,) is like when a memory comes flooding through your mind, except it’s not one of your own. People experience this differently, getting the impression of shapes, sounds, colours, or just a feeling. You might even sense a message, although this can take practice. Sometimes it’s a sense of being comforted, being held, or even amusement!
If this doesn’t happen straight away, don’t panic – it can take practice.
Once you have mastered this, you can start exploring the spirit messages of the Ogham and your inner sacred grove… but that is a path for another day!