The idea for Spirits of the Trees emerged out of a meeting hosted by the Woodland Trust in March 2016. The Canopy Gathering brought together a diverse group of conservationists, craftspeople, artists, poets, web designers, musicians, film-makers, land-owners and others to discuss the Trust’s call for a new Charter for Trees, Woods and People. Elaine Gregory and I were invited to create a Druid ceremony for the event that everyone could take part in. This was put together on the day and was a great success. You can find photos and information about it here.
After the Gathering, we spoke to Philip Carr-Gomm, Chosen Chief of the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids, who agreed that for Druids to support the call for a Charter for Trees was ‘a no-brainer.’ Phil and Lynda Ryder of The Druid Network had much the same response. So, together with my own British Druid Order, we came up with the idea to work together on Charter-based projects, pooling our resources and utilising the skills of the Druid community as represented in our combined membership. As groups, we share much in common in our approach to Druidry, being different but complementary (and, coincidentally, all run or co-run by Philips!). Thus was born Spirits of the Trees.
The idea for the new Charter for Trees was inspired by the fact that 2017 is the 800th anniversary of the Forest Charter, an addition to Magna Carta that allowed freemen access to the royal forests. With several native tree species currently under threat from disease, ancient woodlands threatened by development schemes, government plans to sell off publicly owned woodland into private ownership, and a steady decline in the amount of Britain’s land area that supports woodland, now seems like a perfect time to raise awareness of just how important trees are to us as humans.
Most fundamental is the fact that trees absorb carbon dioxide and give out oxygen. Tree roots stabilise soil, preventing erosion. Trees absorb moisture through their roots, reducing risk of flooding. Trees provide timber for everything from making pencils to building houses. Trees provide a source of fuel that is sustainable and has very low carbon impact. Numerous studies have shown that trees have huge benefits for human health. Even being able to see trees from hospital windows has been shown to speed recovery after illness. Walking among trees has huge psychological as well as physical benefits.
In short, trees give us a huge amount. Now trees need us to give more back in terms of protection, disease prevention and cure, planting and replanting, and just plain caring.
As Druids, we work with the Spirits of Trees, hence the name of this group. One way in which we do this is ceremonially. We will soon be posting a ceremony for the Spirits of the Trees on this site which will form the basis of the first strand of activities we’re encouraging Druids to engage in throughout 2017 in support of the Charter for Trees. The ceremony is designed to be performed by a minimum of two experienced ritualists. It’s also designed to be short, focused and very interactive. We anticipate that ceremonies will be open to all and that the public will be invited to join them. To this end, we suggest inviting parish councils, local authorities, trade bodies, faith groups, arts groups, schools, colleges, etc. The idea is to reach out to as many people as possible, sharing the message that trees are living, inspirited beings who both need and deserve our respect, care and commitment.
The second strand of activities will be cultural. As Druids, we value and promote the bardic arts, from traditional story-telling, poetry and music through to film-making and computer programming. To this end, we will be encouraging you to set up arts events in your own area. These can be anything from a lone busker, through lunchtime poetry readings and back-room music sessions in pubs, through to multi-media shows and involvement in major annual arts events and festivals.
At present, we’re still in the set-up stage but things are progressing rapidly and we will be bringing you more news as plans come together.
Meanwhile, if you are a poet, story-teller, musician, artist, web or app designer, film-maker, photographer, dancer, juggler, stilt-walker or any other kind of artist or performer, and you would like to be a part of the Spirits of the Trees project, we’d love to hear from you, especially, of course, if your work uses, refers to, or is focused on Trees. Please post your links and contact details below.
We look forward to working together over the coming months for the benefit of the Spirits of the Trees.
I’ll leave you with this short video I put together of a chant the came to me for use in our Spirits of the Trees ceremony. It names the five tree species that feature in the ceremony at the four quarters and the centre of the circle, Oak, Ash, Alder, Silver Birch and Yew, three of which, Oak, Ash and Birch, are currently threatened by disease and so in extra need of good energy. The chorus is based on the old folk song rigmarole, “hey down, derry down.” This is believed to derive from the Celtic languages of the British Isles and to mean something like “dance around the oak grove,” which seems appropriate for Druids! So, sing along and I’ll see you in the sacred groves 🙂
Blessings to all,
Greywolf (BDO & OBOD)