Here is another excerpt from Traditional Witchcraft for Woods and Forests by Melusine Draco, which I've been given permission to share. The book is witch’s guide to the woodland with guided meditations and pathworkings. The first extract was on magical tree lore, this is on sacred places.
It is said that the forest knows all and is able to teach all; that the forest listens and holds the secret of every mystery.
Since ancient times, woods have been places of sacred groves and nemorous temples, including those of the Druids and Iceni. Sir James Frazer refers widely to sacred groves and tree worship in The Golden Bough, while Old Craft teacher, Mériém Clay-Egerton wrote extensively on the subject of trees and produced some highly evocative pieces relating to her experiences:
To me this was a place that had obviously been held as a sacred area for so very long now that it had in its turn breathed this very atmosphere itself and so projected this onto a mind which was prepared or conditioned to be both sympathetic and empathetic to various woodlands and their forms of existence … it resembled what I might envisage as a naturally constructed ‘cathedral’. Here lived and breathed holiness and beauty …
The Wild Wood, however, is the dark, untamed part of natural woodland where unearthly and potentially dangerous beings are still to be found. This is not everyone’s favourite place and many urban witches never get over an ‘atavistic fear of Nature uncontrolled’. Historically, the term ‘wildwood’ is the name given to the forests as they were some 5,000 years ago, before human interference, and the pollen records for that time confirm that elms made up a substantial component of the wildwood, along with the oak, birch and lime.
On a magical level, the Wild Wood refers to those strange, eerie places that remain the realm of Nature and untamed by man. Ancient gnarled oaks, festooned with ferns and draped with lichen, carry an air of solitude and remoteness that is deeply unnerving - here birdsong and the trickle of running water are the only sounds to break the stillness. It is the Otherworld of the ‘unearthly and potentially dangerous’. It is the realm of Pan and the Wild Hunt. In modern psychology, it refers to the dark inner recesses of the mind, the wild and tangled undergrowth of the unconscious. Here, among the trees, we are never sure that what we see is reality or illusion.
Mériém Clay-Egerton described the strange half-light that anyone who walks in the Wild Wood will immediately recognise.
‘I was always glad to go deeper into the apparent gloom because I would be beyond one of the woodland’s outer barriers'
Nevertheless, Traditional Witchcraft for the Woods and Forests takes us on journeys of discovery through Nature’s own woodland ‘calendar’ and, hopefully will reawaken the dormant senses that coursed through the veins of those witches who lived long ago in these ancient places. In a series of guided meditations and pathworkings, we will learn how to reconnect with the spirit of the landscape and learn to walk softly through the woodlands of both the physical and the astral realms. We will come to understand the gift of Nature’s bounty, and make use of the materials that will ultimately lead to an intimacy with wild things that can only come about through close contact and familiarity.
Throughout our long history, forests have been places of shelter, providing food for man and fodder for the animals; the wood for fuel (i.e. warmth and cooking) and for making weapons and other utensils. At the same time they have also been places of fear, where the temperamental Faere Folk, wood sprites and elementals lurked in the dappled shadows. Even today, few places can rival an English oak wood in early summer for peace and beauty with its carpet of primroses and bluebells. Or the cathedral-like majesty of the autumn beech wood with the sun’s light filtering through the leaves. Or the brooding quiet of the ancient holly wood. Perhaps it is not surprising that our remote ancestors performed their acts of worship in forest clearings and woodland glades, for this is where they came face to face with ‘Nature’ – however they chose to see it.
So come and walk with us awhile … take my hand, child, and I will take you safely through the Wild Wood
You can view Traditional Witchcraft for Woods and Forests on Amazon. It is is published by Moon Books Melusine Draco is also the author of Root and Branch: British Magical Tree Lore, published by Ignotus Books.