Saturday, February 29, 2020

The Mysticism of Trees

He looked up among
the knotted branches and green leaves,
and into the mysterious heart
of the old tree.

I continue reading Frank MacEowen's book, The Mist-Filled Path: Celtic Wisdom for Exiles, Wanderers, and Seekers. I've shared two excerpts from this insightful book previously at The Wild Reed (see here and here) and share today a third, one that resonates deeply with me because of its focus on trees.

Like MacEowen, I was drawn to and felt connected to trees as a child. I have happy memories, for instance, of hours spent in the branches of the jacaranda tree that grew in the backyard of my childhood home in Gunnedah, Australia.

More recently, there is the Prayer Tree (left) with which I've developed a very special bond.

I also resonate with the writings of MacEowen as I'm discovering that they are reminding me of – and connecting me to – the spirituality of my Celtic ancestors, in particular those on my father's side of the family who hailed from the county of Staffordshire in England.

With all this in heart and mind, here is that part of The Mist-Filled Path in which MacEowen shares his thoughts and experience of “the mysticism of trees.”


During my time of walking [in nature] as a child, I was always filled with a blend of awe and the jitters. A sense of expectancy pulsed with each heartbeat, with each moving shadow in the shaded wood, as if at any moment a door might open up beside me. This amazing energy had an uncanny presence. When I look back on those times, with the eyes I have now, I see that the holiness of my childhood in nature was inseparably linked to the trees. I loved them, I love them now, and through them ancient unseen doors open.

We Celts are lovers of trees. In fact, the religion of our primal ancestors is one truly rooted in the mysticism of trees. From old Celtic tales that speak of First Man being an alder tree, and First Woman being a rowan tree, to the ancient Roman accounts of the druids in the groves of old Gaul, trees play a central role in the ancient Celtic way of seeing.

. . . On one day in particular when I was out in the trees, something happened. I had a sudden and shocking remembrance of the trees as guardians, allies, and as conduits for activating memory. Images flashed in my mind. The images were hauntingly familiar, achingly so. Like in Carl Jung's formative childhood mystical experience of merging with a stone he was sitting on, in a moment the trees suddenly told me that they were my ancient home, that I had known them intimately before, and that one day I would live among them again.

I was deeply stirred, and in the midst of this experience I realized that the spirit of the mist did not retreat from my presence that day. It moved in and around me, encompassing me like a cool blanket. Slowly I began to feel at one with the forest, at one with the mist, and at one with myself in a way I never had before. I was suddenly self-aware, profoundly conscious that life is a path that we walk from the time of birth to the time of death. It was an old memory returned.

I wept with an emotion I can only describe as a feeling of being accepted by the sacred world. Woven within this moment of reawakening was a familiarity with something extremely old that stood just on the periphery of my awareness. Though it felt like a person, I saw no one. I imagined the face of an old man. I did not have words to put to this flow of experience, but as a good Scots brother of mine says in one of his poems, “I felt watched and watching.”

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Holy Encounters Where Two Worlds Meet
The Prayer Tree
The Prayer Tree . . . Aflame!
Photo of the Day – July 25, 2019
Photo of the Day – February 24, 2019
Photo of the Day – November 29, 2017
Mystics Full of Grace
Trees on Summit Avenue
Thomas Moore on the Circling of Nature as the Best Way to Find Our Substance
“Radical Returnings” – Mayday 2016
Balancing the Fire
“I Caught a Glimpse of a God”
At Hallowtide, Pagan Thoughts on Restoring Our World and Our Souls
Magician Among the Spirits

Opening image: Jason and the Talking Oak (1910) by Maxfield Parrish (1870-1966).

No comments: