Spirits of the Trees – Druids working together for our trees, woods & forests

OakThe 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.

AshMost 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. SilverBirch+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)

8 thoughts on “Spirits of the Trees – Druids working together for our trees, woods & forests

  • by Erin Rose Conner

    This is an amazing idea! It’s indeed, a “no brainer” for Druids worldwide to support. I’m in California, as a matter of fact, but I will be coming to the UK in September to go to a couple of Druid camps. I would love to be involved in any way I can in that time, and from a distance if that is possible. I’d also like to offer you this song: https://soundcloud.com/bartstationbard/forest-for-the-trees
    written for the urban forest I live in. There are other tree-focused tracks on my soundcloud. I busk on a regular basis–that’s how I’m getting the money to make the trips–and can definitely do it for the trees as well. I’m also part of a group that runs a public Druid gathering twice a year in a wooded public park, around Samhain and Beltane. The gatherings are small, but there has been interest in adding a ritual to them and this would be a good one. Our forests are in trouble too, and after the centennial year, it would be prudent for all of us to remember that both continents share the northern boreal forest and that we need to take better care of it.

    • by Philip Shallcrass This is post author

      That’s wonderful, Erin, and thank you for your kind words and gift of music. We’re still very much in the process of putting all this together, but the idea of our branches reaching out across the ocean has a strong appeal. Check back on the site from time to time as we’ll be posting regular updates on what’s happening as it all takes shape 🙂
      Many blessings,
      Greywolf /|\

    • by Philip Shallcrass This is post author

      Hello Erin,
      Just been listening to ‘Forest for the Trees.’ Excellent track and lyrics very relevant to our cause. I also love your own words on the track, “What if a tree had, in human law, the same right to exist that a human being does? According to the inexorable force of natural law, perhaps it already does…” Very much in tune with the Tree Charter ideal 🙂
      I hope we can set up a page on this site where we can gather together favourite tree-related tracks. I’ll consult with Adam, our web-drude 🙂
      Again, many thanks,
      Greywolf /|\

  • by L. Mudie (Elfwind)

    Hi I would like to offer my track “We Are The Wood” in rock version here:


    and as a druid chant here:


    and a recorder ensemble composition called Wymondley Wood:


    All of these are part of my work as a druid, maintaining a spiritual connection with the land and woodlands near my home.

    Bright blessings!

    • by Philip Shallcrass This is post author

      Thank you, Elfwind,
      Much appreciated. I’ll have to check out the tracks shortly (at the moment I’m sitting with my laptop as my companions watch a tv quiz show), but I love the idea of producing rock and chant versions of the same song … I’ve gotta try that myself!
      Blessings and music,
      Greywolf /|\

    • by Philip Shallcrass This is post author

      Hello Elfwind,
      It’s Thursday morning and I’ve just been listening to all three tracks. My clear favourite is Wymondley Wood, but then I’ve always been a sucker for recorder ensembles – such a beautiful, woody sound 🙂
      When our web-guy has a few moments, I hope we can create a page on the site where we can host a group of our favourite tree-themed tracks. We’re also exploring the possibility of putting together a CD as a fund-raiser for the Tree Charter cause 🙂
      Blessings of a bright, sunny morning,
      Greywolf /|\

  • by Neal Pepperell

    Hi everyone, I have a small poem to offer.

    To feel and see what I feel and see,
    it isn’t nessecary to become Me.
    To feel and see what I feel and see,
    just sit beside an old Oak Tree,
    and simply Be.

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