From Palaeolithic to modern day, this weeks tree teaching is about celebrating humans timeless connection with the life that runs through trees, land and nature. In Winter we wait for the sap to rise....
Below is the audio version of the blog article along with an audio forest bathing meditation.
I was sat in the waiting room for yet another round of blood tests, when it came to me what this weeks' #treeteaching from my latest walk was really about.
It was one of those days when the air itself seem polished clean and everything seemed to glow from within. I had gone out for a short slow walk and was really drawn to the tree trunks.
#January is traditionally #Wassailing month when in deep #Winter they wake up trees. In hunter gatherer times it was the time for the hunt for life and a call to the heavens for Spring. To find the warm blood and heartbeat of life’s essence.
In silence listen for the steady beat of the drum. Ride that horse, it will take you far.
If you stand long enough you can feel the life force of the land like a drum beat. Have you ever felt that? If you stand long enough and quiet enough the pulse will sway through up through your body.
The Wassailers sing and drum and carry lit torches and knock on wood. Then they leave offerings. And why? Because when the #trees start to wake up the sap rises and heralds the first tentative touch of spring.
"They give it (the earth) healing and energy and hold the secret to our ancestral ways "AST member Angela Miles.
Once we were wanderers, time travellers through the seasons. We walked with the lands’ heartbeat and we had an intimate understanding of the length and breadth of each day, each month, each season. We would dig under the snow for the first shoots of Spring. We would trail the tracks of animals who wanted to survive the winter just like us.
Plant or animal, all of life wants to live!
Going to ground come Winter, Bear digs a hollow and makes its hut over the top from branches, building a place to sleep. When snow falls the only sign she is there is a thin plume of steam spiralling up from her breath. To the #Palaeolithic people she was an extraordinary creature who could survive without eating and yet emerge as strong as ever out from the ground come spring.
Bears and trees lie dormant waiting. The wise wanderers walking would wake up bear and trees to ensue life would continue. When Springs Maiden emerges, she carries the promise of Summers Mother.
Did you know that Bear looks like a human when skinned? She can walk on two legs and she eats what humans eat. Unlike her we cannot sleep without eating for months. #bear can go to ground in her hut built of tree branches and emerge months later bringing new life out of the earth. She goes to ground with the darkness and emerges into the #light with her babies.
Our ancient wanderers knew as the stars spun on their axis that bear would bring new life and the sap would rise once more. For them the Bear was the Keeper of The Seasons.
Bear still lives across the world but although sadly extinct in Britain its' spirit still lives on if you know where to look.
When the hunters came and Bear was slain they would sing and drum and carry torches. They knew that the life force flows through every plant and every animal. In their honouring of #life and death their hunt for Bear was a prayer to the world.
It was a hymn to their existence and their knowing that in order to live that something else must die. So, they sent Bear off to the Great Bear in the sky. They placed the skull up in a tree and when the leaves grew through it they knew the Bear spirit had reached heaven.
A tree is active long before its leaves start to sprout in the spring. Sap circulates in its vessels as the tree prepares to feed the cells, that will produce leaves, branches, and wood. The sap nourishes cells like the blood in humans.
"They're beautiful, majestic, spiritual, living part of our environment; and a link between our history and our present. :)" AST member Katheryn Lucas
Very early spring is the best time of the year to listen to a tree, when it's practically gurgling with #sap. But not all trees are good subjects. Avoid softwoods like pine and pick a hardwood tree at least 15 centimetres in diameter, with smooth, thin bark. Birch, beech, and cherry trees are good choices. If you use a stethoscope place it against the trunk of your chosen tree and listen closely. You may need to move it around a bit to find a good spot for listening.
Like Bears humans have a sweet tooth for sap, syrup, honey and fruit. Only with the returning light does sweetness come.
"I've always loved trees, they are beautiful and more complex than we imagine." AST member Nate Lielasus
Anyone who has tapped a maple tree will know that the best flow occurs before the buds have even begun to swell, as in February, with freezing nights. Sap does not freeze in the wintertime in the tree as it has a natural anti-freeze. Listen to the tree gurgling, crackling, and bubbling.
From life comes death. From death comes life. Now we wake up the trees and wait for the sap to rise.
Now we wait for the leaves of spring to grow through the skull of winter. That bears, humans, and trees might jump up and live again once more.
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PS Jack In The Green is an Ethical Gift Shop raising money for trees. Check it out. :-)