First and foremost, forests and woodland have played a mystical role in all cultures where trees have dominated the landscape. Trees bring Nature right up close and personal and, as a result, the whole of the natural world becomes a ‘tangled web of enchantment’ to a true witch’s eyes. Most of us are familiar with what we call ‘broad leaved’ woodland … that is to say, forest made up predominantly of trees whose leaves are basically flat, as opposed to being needle-shaped like those of the conifers of the evergreen world. These trees are mostly deciduous (with the exception of the holly, box and strawberry tree), and shed their leaves when winter approaches, lying dormant until the warmth of spring stimulates new growth.
The trees in Hunter’s Wood are natives and form part of the great broad-leaved forest that once stretched over the whole of northern Europe. Nevertheless, not all remaining woodland is ancient; nor are all woods that are not ancient, man-made. Left alone, Nature has a tendency to re-colonise almost any land that is allowed to remain idle. Trees such as sycamore, birch and oak, which readily colonise new territory, quickly invade open land and very often relatively new, dense woodland can be found only an hour’s drive from the city centre.
In the beginning … Britain’s original trees disappeared during the last Ice Age, 10,000 years ago, but by the time the land had separated from continental Europe some 2000 year later, 35 species had returned by natural means — brought in by the wind
and birds — as the climate gradually grew warmer. Until man began clearing the forests 5000 years ago, the natural vegetation of much of the British Isles was a blanket of broad-leaved deciduous trees — alder, birch, oak and lime. The myths and
legends that grew out of this forest haunted his imagination.
Before we begin to practice the Craft of the wood-witch, however, we must learn to look at trees with different eyes, because there is still a sense of mystery and enchantment in the woodland world.
This is an excerpt from the opening to Melusine Draco's Traditional witchcraft for the woods and forests.
One of the things I particularly admire about Melusine is her earthed and practical approach to all subjects. For her, unsurprisingly 'the wood' is not a simple concept - she writes extensively about different tree types, about the myths and magic of woodland, and the ways in which we can work magically with trees. If Paganism is earth-centred spirituality, then we need to know the earth, and we need to know, as species, and as living individuals, the trees that we deal with.
There's a wealth of tree lore in this book such that it would also be highly suitable for students of Druidry as well as for those interested in witchcraft.