Arbor Day celebrates the beauty and importance of trees. It usually falls, on the last Friday in April. It is also time to appreciate trees as they become green, welcoming the Spring. Arbor is the Latin word for tree, and planting a tree, especially as a community, is a way of observing this, as well as partying. Let trees bring you joyfulness, reminding you that everything in life is continually renewing itself.
Trees evoke art, music and poetry. They also inspire wonder and create peace. They connect us with the passage of the seasons and the mysteries of life. As well as being woven into myth and spirituality, trees have always been essential to life. They provide wood for fires, furniture, boats, beams and doors, so trees are in many ways the ‘backbone’ of our lives.
In addition trees are the ‘lungs’ of our planet, as they breathe out oxygen into the atmosphere. They yield medicine, give homes to wildlife and provide shade and shelter. As their branches spread in layers, from close to ground-level to high in the embrace of the winds, so trees are an intrinsic part of our lives at all levels, from basic practicality to deep mysticism.
There are countless folk customs connected with trees. Our simple habit of ‘touching wood’ for luck is a reminder that trees are considered important guardians of good fortune.
In many places there are processions that feature some form of the Green Man. The face of the Green Man is made from foliage and he is found in countless churches up and down the country and across Europe and Asia. No one really knows where this image originated. However, it is obvious he represents the ever-renewing spirit of nature. He is also enacted in many village spring celebrations, carnivals etc. by people dressed up in twigs and leaves. He isn’t always called the ‘Green Man’, but he represents the same being – the Spirit of the Wild.
Other customs involve fire, such as the Yule Log, which must be salvaged each year to kindle the following year. Ritual, cleansing bonfires were lit at the festival of Beltane at the end of April each year. People used to believe that fire lay dormant within the wood, only waiting to be awakened.
The Maypole is one of the best-known customs linked to the tree. This is a wooden pole to which are tied ribbons. Dancers hold the ends of the ribbons and caper around the pole, celebrating the return of light and life to the land. The Maypole is phallic of course, so there are echoes of fertility rituals. It’s fun and lively, in the vibrant spirit of the season, and the burgeoning trees.
A likely meaning of ‘Druid’ is ‘wise man of oak’ although the true origin of ‘Druid’ is unclear. Modern Druids are peace-loving pagans who are particularly close to trees. They worship nature in sacred groves. Trees may be considered gateways to shamanic knowledge – a shaman being a ‘magical priest’ who journeys into the Otherworld for knowledge and power.
Druids may carve wands and staves from wood and also cut runic symbols into pieces of wood, for divination. Although they do not specifically worship trees, part of the Druid, and indeed general pagan faith is a great reverence for trees in all their forms.
‘Dryad’ is the name for a tree-spirit. When you are walking in the woods you may get the feeling that you aren’t alone – even that you are being watched. Some people believe that there are special nature spirits that protect trees and their habitat. These ‘spirits’ may not necessarily be totally friendly to humans, who do not always treat trees well.
Trees have so many healing powers – just by being close to them you can feel calmed and soothed. To ensure that you have the dryads ‘on side’ bring a small offering to the tree of your choice, on or around Arbor Day. This could be a gift of spring water for the roots, flower seeds to scatter around or food for the birds, to which trees are friends. This can strengthen your connection with the tree, helping you to feel part of the cycle of Nature.
There are many things you can do to celebrate Arbor Day and trees. One of the best is to plant a tree. In the UK this is usually fine up until the end of April, but check the particular needs of your chosen sapling. Family and friends can gather for the celebration and you can have a picnic to mark the beginning of life of your special tree.
If you are dong this as a community it’s a good idea for each person to bring some earth from their garden, to put round the roots. Sing and dance around your tree – you don’t have to take this seriously, and if some people see it as a giggle, fine.
Take an interest in your local woodland. How protected is it? Can you help it in any way? Make sure you walk in woodland and appreciate it, seeing how it changes over time and feeling part of the cycle of life.
If you have troubles, take them to a tree. If you need healing tie a scrap of fabric or thread around a tree you really like, to connect you to the therapeutic powers of the tree. (N.B. Needless to say, never pollute, deface or in any way spoil the tree and its habitat with litter)
Finally, that old cliché of hugging a tree works. Try it when you’re stressed. Pour all that tension and worry into the strength of the bark and let your friendly tree console you.
If you feel stressed or anxious, spending time in nature can be very calming, but you may also need a sympathetic ear. Contact one of our highly skilled Readers who can help guide you through any emotional difficulties you may have. Click here to book a reading https://www.thecircle.com/uk/find-reader/
PUBLISHED: 27 April 2016