Like a tree our growth depends upon our ability to soften, loosen, and shed boundaries and defenses we no longer need. Trees grow up through their branches and down through their roots into the earth. They also grow wider with each passing year. As they do, they shed the bark that served to protect them but now is no longer big enough to contain them. In the same way, we create boundaries and develop defenses to protect ourselves and then, at a certain point, we outgrow them. If we don’t allow ourselves to shed our protective layer, we can’t expand to our full potential.
Trees need their protective bark to enable the delicate process of growth and renewal to unfold without threat. Likewise, we need our boundaries and defenses so that the more vulnerable parts of ourselves can safely heal and unfold. But our growth also depends upon our ability to soften, loosen, and shed boundaries and defenses we no longer need. It is often the case in life that structures we put in place to help us grow eventually become constricting.
Unlike a tree, we must consciously decide when it’s time to shed our bark and expand our boundaries, so we can move into our next ring of growth. Many spiritual teachers have suggested that our egos don’t disappear so much as they become large enough to hold more than just our small sense of self—the boundary of self widens to contain people and beings other than just “me.” Each time we shed a layer of defensiveness or ease up on a boundary that we no longer need, we metaphorically become bigger people. With this in mind, it is important that we take time to question our boundaries and defenses. While it is essential to set and honor the protective barriers we have put in place, it is equally important that we soften and release them when the time comes. In doing so, we create the space for our next phase of growth.
Source: Daily Om
I have two baby oaks growing in my garden – what a sweet blessing! Have no idea how they got there but I have my suspicions. About three years ago I cast a handful of acorns around my garden as part of a ritual I was doing. Well I did forget I’d done this until now. Or maybe they are the children of the oaks that stand behind the boundary fence at the very back of the garden. Who knows but for the fact they are here. One is much small than the other and I’m not sure if they will both survive but I’m going to try to keep them safe. I’ve already cut away the tall grasses and thistle plants surrounding them so they both get access to sunlight.
So what is the meaning for me? Well the oak tree has been a symbol of strength, power and sacredness in a great many cultures and indigenous tribes across Europe. The Celts especially, and the Teutonic tribes, venerated oaks and considered them chieftain amongst trees. Oaks were associated with a great number of deities – Zeus, Jupiter, The Dagda and Thor amongst others. The Green Man is always most often seen surrounded by a partial mask of oak leaves. Because they live a long time (it takes an oak a very long time to grow so I won’t see these at their full glory during my present incarnation) they embody endurance too. And of course wisdom from the Gods.
The oak also stands for great protection, justice, honesty and bravery. Apparently its associated stone is Aventurine so I will lay one of these at each stone as a blessing for it – a gift! It’s position on the Wheel of the Year is at the Summer Solstice, when once again the Oak King will battle with his brother the Holly King. But this time it’s the Holly King that will win the bout and the waning year begins once more.
The medicinal park of the Oak is its bark, because of the strong astringent properties. Internally as a tea it helps fight diarrhoea and dysentery. Externally it can be used to treat haemorrhoids, inflamed gums, wounds, and eczema. The tannin found in oak can help reduce minor blistering by boiling a piece of the bark in a small amount of water until a strong solution is reached, and applying to the affected area.
It is tradition for the Litha fire to be oak wood representing the God, since this is the time of year when oak reaches its Zenith power.
The Oak trees essence helps boost energy levels and the ability to manifest our goals. The tree’s roots mirror its branches and stretch as far below ground as the branches do above – this reminds me of the saying ‘As Above So Below’, which usually refers to the astral plane and the physical but I think it can also refer to the physical and the underground realms, the land of the dead.
Oak twigs bound together with red thread into a solar cross or a pentagram will make a greatly protective talisman for the home, car, or in your desk or at work.
LESSON OF THE Oak from The Wisdom of Trees by Jane Gifford
The oak represents courage and endurance and the protective power of faith. The tree’s noble presence and nurturing habit reassured ancient people that, with the good will of their gods, their leader, and their warriors, they could prevail against all odds. As the Tree of the Dagda, the oak offers protection and hospitality without question, although its true rewards are only apparent to the honest and brave. The ancient Celts deplored lies and cowardice. To be judged mean-spirited could result in exclusion from the clan, which was one of the most shameful and most feared of all possible punishments. Like the oak, we would do well to receive without prejudice all those who seek our help, sharing what we have without resentment or reservation. The oak reminds us all that the strength to prevail, come what may, lies in an open mind and a generous spirit. Inflexibility, however, is the oak’s one weakness and the tree is prone to lose limbs in storms. The oak therefore carries the warning that stubborn strength that resists will not endure and may break under strain.
I honour the energy of oak, the doorway to the mysteries. I will call upon the strength of the Horned One when I feel in need of protection. So mote it be
This is my second post for The Pagan Blog Project ‘G’ week but also a journal post too. I think it’s high time I just meandered my thoughts down on paper…well on the screen. It’s a funny old world isn’t it, you have ideas and dreams and suddenly, if you’re working in line with them to cause their fruition, then something blossoms. I’ve been thinking a lot recently about how we grow spiritually, and I guess I should really say evolve but it’s growing too. You’ll all know by now that my speciality is herbalism – I love plants in all their wonderful glory; from the tiny daisy to the fantastic tropical trees. I never thought I’d be a herbalist though. Over the years I’ve nurtured a great interest in plants and this interest kind of grew without me even really doing anything about it but I guess it is my deep love of nature. Then my wanting to help others in some way. How could I do this? I had a deep urge to be a healer but of what kind? I am a master in Celtic Reiki and also a crystal healer but plants urged me on from tiny seedling thoughts of being a plant healer to actually doing something about it via certification.
Of course it is my belief that plants offer us insights that require no paper certificates but in this world I’m afraid some kind of professional standing is valued. But I’m really a down to earth woman of wort cunning even though I’ve done professional courses (and am still doing this actually as I’m taking a Masters in Phytotherapy). However, it’s really nothing extraordinary – anyone can do this…all you have to do is spend time with plants and trees and truly get to know them and they will impart their wisdom and knowledge to you. Of course getting to know other like-minded herbalists is important too.
Anyway, I digress because this post is really about how we evolve on our spiritual path if we are open-hearted and open-minded enough. When I look back at who I was at the very beginning of my pagan path I was really an entirely different person to who I am today. I had fixed ideas about who I should be; what kind of pagan I was or wanted to be, called myself a Wiccan and followed quite a strict Wiccan protocol. But over the years this has changed quite dramatically – yes I am an initiated Priestess in a Wiccan Coven and I don’t regret this decision and being part of this group is very important to me. But my path has diverged into many different branches since then. I feel I’ve truly become a tree!
I guess my spirituality is very eclectic with old ways witchcraft roots, shamanism, Daoism as well as Wicca. Some would call this a mish-mash and probably berate me but I just think this is what my Spirit wants – this is the human experience my Spirit incarnated to have. After all, when I pass over all this will be gone…only Spirit remains and the material will not matter. So I’m passed worrying about whether or not I have a particular religion or set of protocols to follow. I just do what Spirit and the Universe encourage me to do.
How do I know? Well, actually I think synchronicity plays a huge part in knowing if I’m on the right track or not. The more open I am the more meaningful synchronicity happens. Then there are those things that happen to warm me off a course of action. Of course, being human I don’t always see, or even if I do see I don’t always pay attention, or choose to ignore and then I pay the consequences. But even these are lessons to learn. Each choice we make is an opportunity for our Spirits to learn. Even choice and actions that don’t work out the way we want are important for our growth. When we think of ourselves within the tree metaphor we can see how many branches and twigs there are on a tree and each one of these can be choices and actions, some working out and producing new growth and some not. But it’s all ok because they’re all part of the overall beauty of the tree, which is each one of us as individuals.
This week’s post for The Pagan Blog Project is about Green Witchcraft, or what I see it as. Green Witchcraft is actually many things to many people but there are some things in common – a deep love of nature and in particular plants and trees, a deep interest in the old ways (i.e. the myths and legends pre-christianity), and a yearning to live ones life in synchrony with the seasons and the cycles of the moon. Of course many would also add the environmentalist and eco-witch aspect in there too.
Much has been written about Green Witchcraft, there are many really lovely authors out there who have written some very informative books on this aspect of witchcraft. One in particular is Ann Moura whose many books on the subject are well worth reading. Some people see green witchcraft as synonymous with hedge witchery or being a kitchen witch and I guess this is true, at least for the hedge witch. For me green witchcraft is everything I’ve mentioned in the first paragraph but I don’t think there are really any hard and fast definitions with this, like life itself, the Craft evolves and definitions have to be fluid rather than rigid.
My life as a Green Witch largely revolves around what used to be called wort cunning; the knowledge and use of plants for healing and magical purposes – I guess I’m a 21st Century cunning woman! Although I live on the edge of a small town in Kent, England, I immerse myself as much as possible in nature. Even nature can be found in back gardens and suburban places. However, I’m lucky in that I don’t live too far from the country and indeed my back garden backs on to a small woodland area and beyond that fields. Environmentalism and concern for the ecosystems of the world do concern me but I wouldn’t call myself an activist by any means. I just go about my business fairly quietly with not too much obviousness. I leave the activism for others and I’m sure they do a very good job of it too but that’s not to say I don’t care. I just do my part in other quieter ways.
For me, Green Witchcraft touches my soul and it feels like finally coming home to the place I’m meant to be. It’s different for everyone though – we each find this ‘coming come’ in different aspects of the Craft, or for many too even in different religions, although the Craft isn’t a religion. I don’t think it really matters what religion one is, or what aspect of the Craft one follows as long as it truly speaks to your soul and you are balanced. As long as balance and harmony is there then it is the true path for you; fundamentalism in any form is just not good for the spirit and is a sign of ego thinking, which doesn’t come from spirit but from the human mind.
The ironic thing is, I never expected to be a Green Witch, not at all, it just crept up on me slowly over the years although I’ve always had a love of nature and green things and have never been happier in green fields and woodlands. But I truly believe that if you just open your mind and heart, and are patient, your true path will appear. It might take many years, as it did for me, or might come in a few months. It doesn’t matter – when you’re on it you will know, not in your head but in your heart. That’s not to say you won’t have doubts because I certainly did. However, my true path kept pulling me back like a song you just cannot get out of your mind. Although I’m sure there are some who never have such doubts about their path.
I love this path – the greening of the land; the changing of the seasons; the waxing and waning of the moon and the effect this has on things; the plants and trees and the secrets they hold for the betterment of all. It’s not always an easy path but it’s the one my spirit has chosen for me at this time.
For the second post for ‘B’ for the Pagan Blog Project I thought I’d write a bit about Berkano (or Birch). Mind you, I’m not an officionado of the Runes, and don’t use them very often in my spiritual path as I prefer to use the Ogham. However, there are times when I’m drawn to them at certain times of year; and Spring is one of them. The rune Berkano literally means ‘birch twig or branch’ and is associated with the Goddess or Great Mother. Pronounced *bear-kawn-oh* its phonetic value is the letter B. It is the rune of continued growth and continual rebirth or renewal in all things; the rune of becoming. This is so fitting for this time of year don’t you think? Even now, where I live, though the ground is still hard, and frosts and snow are still our guests, new life can be seen – tiny buds on the trees, snowdrops poking their fresh green spears through the earth and the dawn chorus starting to greet us each morning. Yes indeed, new growth is around us and also within us – all our aspirations and hopes are rekindled ready to fire up and get going.
The energy of Berkano is that of containing and releasing, female fertility, trees and plant life. Symbolically it stands for motherhood, childbirth and child raising, the womb, gardening and healing. It governs the rebirth of the spirit, liberation, sanctuary, the realization of stillness, the Now-ness of all things and the bringing ideas to fruition in the creative process. It also symbolises the birch grove – the hidden sanctuary in times of need. The birch is among one of the first trees to awaken in the spring time, and so Berkano is about the cycle of birth, death and rebirth. Healing of all sorts is strongest through this rune, particularly recuperation, rejuvenation, purification, detoxification and regeneration. Birch trees have long been associated with fertility and the protection of children and women. In Scandinavia and early American colonies, birches were planted in front of a home to protect those within it.
Berkano is the rune of the Great Mother, the goddess worshipped as Nerthus by the early Germanic people, who became Holda on the continent and was split into Hel and Freya in the Norse countries. The Earth Goddess is the mother of manifestation and of birth and rebirth.
Working with Berkano
1. Research the Northern Goddesses. Make notes on those you find interesting, or who draw you.
2. Arrange a rite of passage for a family member or a friend. These have now been secularised as birthday parties, baby showers etc. However, they are also ways you can bring the influence of Berkano into your family or circle of friends.
3. Plant seeds.
4. Visit a birch grove or anywhere where birches grow. Spend some time there with the trees, either in meditation or just enjoying their company.
The Runes Workbook by Leon D. Wild.
Stand tall and proud
Sink your roots deeply into the earth
Reflect the light of your true nature
Think long term
Go out on a limb
Remember your place among all living beings
Embrace with joy the changing seasons
For each yields its own abundance
The energy and birth of spring
The growth and contentment of summer
The wisdom to let go the leaves in the fall
The rest and quiet renewal of winter
Feel the wind and the sun
And delight in their presence
Look up at the moon that shines down upon you
And the mystery of the stars at night
Seek nourishment from the good things in life
Earth, fresh air, light
Be content with your natural beauty
Drink plenty of water
Let your limbs sway and dance in the breezes
Remember your roots
Enjoy the view!
~ Ilan Shamir ~