Wednesday, September 22, 2010


Let the trees be consulted before you take any action
every time you breathe in thank a tree
let tree roots crack parking lots at the world bank headquarters
let loggers be druids specially trained and rewarded
to sacrifice trees at auspicious times
let carpenters be master artisans
let lumber be treasured like gold
let chainsaws be played like saxophones
let soldiers on maneuvers plant trees give police and criminals a shovel
and a thousand seedlings
let businessmen carry pocketfuls of acorns
let newlyweds honeymoon in the woods
walk don't drive
stop reading newspapers
stop writing poetry
squat under a tree and tell stories.

- John Wright.

Yesterday, I had an amazing experience; I was privileged to visit Muir Woods, just outside of San Francisco. What I imagine a devout Muslim experiences when visiting Mecca, or a Christian feels standing at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem must be somewhat similar to what I felt the moment that I began to come into contact with these ancient trees, many between 500 and 800 years old. Maybe I would feel the same feeling at Stonehenge or Crete or the Caves at Lascaux, but I don't think so because, although I am the Witch of a tiny place all the way across the continent, a place with a different watershed and soil and trees, this forest is much more my native place than anywhere in Europe and, for me, as a Witch, communication with "place" is a very important component of my spiritual practice. This place felt to me like one of the strongest living expressions of the meaning of North America.

I've found that there are certain places with deep and old magic that simply will not photograph or video well and Muir Woods, from the pictures that I've seen and from the video and pictures that I took, is one of those. (Have you ever had this experience? I find that it's also true of my beloved Potomac River.) You really can't communicate the scale and presence of, not just the trees, but of the overall entity that is "The Forest" with cameras.

I've been in larger forests before, but never one that began communicating via scent quite some time before you even arrive at the edge of the forest. The scent of the redwoods, which drifted up the valley and onto the sun-warmed air of Mount Tamalpais was like nothing else that I've ever experienced and, oddly, the entire time that I was there, I was aware of it, even though olfactory fatigue often leaves me unable to detect scents after only a few seconds. If sanctity and the holiness of Earth have a scent, this was it, although my strong feeling was that it is also a form of communication and a deep act of daily blessing.

While I was sitting on a bench, sobbing and in love, the branch of a redwood waved back and forth against my neck, almost as if the Tree and breeze wanted to say, "Oh, lighten up, Little Sister. You're here for such a short, short time; you should laugh more, like the ephemeral thing that we know you to be." I twisted and reached out my hand to a few inches away from the branch and began to do reiki. The forest smiled and took it in, and then I became aware that some one(s) have been coming to the forest regularly to do reiki. And I had to wonder how there are not several temples full of priestesses and priests devoted just to this practice, and to hope that, some day, there will be. What a deep and sacred calling. What a holy and magical life that would be.

Later in the day, I noted to my delight that Sia's back and blogging, and she reminded me, in that new magic that seems to have been waiting since the world's beginning for the internet to come along, of one of her earlier posts in which she explained that:

The central question in my tradition is this: "What are Witches for?

And, you know, on this day that is all about balance, that seems to me to be an excellent question to ponder and upon which to meditate, especially as we head towards Samhein when, for many of us, it is traditional to set new goals. It's a good question for circles and covens and it's a good question for individuals. What are Witches for? What are we Witches, in particular, in this circle or coven or group, for? What am I, as a Witch, for?

I'm going to be doing a lot of work with these questions over the coming weeks, myself. I'd love to hear your answers to them, as well!

Photo by the author; if you copy, please link back.


Level Best said...

What a beautiful, evocative description of a wondrous place! I would love to go there some day.

Anonymous said...

I'll never forget my visit to Muir Woods. There are no words to describe how sacred a place it is. It surrounded and transported me. 'Twas magical. And the scent! For years after, I tried to recapture that scent with incense and oils, etc., but I never could. Maybe that's just as well.

nanoboy said...

You should check out the book _The Wild Trees_ by Richard Preston. It's about the researchers of giant redwoods. You won't be disappointed.

Anne Johnson said...

Beautiful post.

Green said...

Truly there are spirits living there. Just look at that incredibly gorgeous tree. To be able to sit under it and simply be would be perfect worship.

David Salisbury said...

I adore your blog, Hecate!

Anonymous said...

Muir Woods really is beyond words. I couldn't walk through there without going so, so slowly, more slowly than I can bear to walk in normal situations, stopping, taking it in...

... making people wait for me in a place where cell phone service doesn't reach.

Anonymous said...

Good pic, and writing. it gets the reader close to being there. and as someone who spends a fair amount of time working in the woods, I really appreciate the poem.

I have a question for you, but don't see a contact button...

nick carraway (from eschaton)

Hecate said...


Thanks for all the lovely comments. It's true; I do have the nicest commenters on the internet!


I'm at hecatedemetersdatter at hot mail dot com.

Persephone said...

Welcome to my neighborhood. If I ever get to retire, I will have to live in the trees near the ocean. I don't need a beach, just a cliff with trees, to sit and watch the waves breaking, feeling the life of our mother rising through everything. It is one of the places where I can feel unbearable joy just by standing there.

susane said...

My best congratulations for your beautiful site! Perfect !!!

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