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A Spell in the Forest, by Roselle Angwin

A Spell in the Forest: Book 1 – Tongues in Trees, by Roselle Angwin
Moon Books, 1789046300, 288 pages, July 2021

Through and through I believe in awakening our connection to nature through intentional relationship, creativity, and mindfulness. A Spell in the Forest: Book 1 – Tongues in Trees by Roselle Angwin is a beautiful synthesis of all those things, drawing the reader into an ethos of tree wisdom and healing. Angwin also teaches the reader about the Ogham alphabet calendar and how to track the year through the wisdom of trees. Reading this book was a true pleasure that made me excited for my next trip to the forest, as well as interested in how my initiation into working with the Ogham calendar this month will go.

Even though I do not get to indulge in forest time daily, being out in nature is a very important part of my lifestyle. I even went on to get a master’s degree in environmental humanities, intending to further educate myself on the relationship between humans and nature. Trees have always been an ally to me, watching their branches sway, feeling their mighty presence, noticing the many animals that depend on them for sustenance and shelter.

I was delighted to see that Angwin shared my passion for nature, along with philosophy on the need for people to reconnect with the wisdom of trees (albeit remorseful about the calling stemming from horrendous ecological destruction currently occurring). In the introduction, Angwin acknowledges the current crisis that has stemmed from viewing trees as a resource, fostered by the modern Western consciousness that is greatly disconnected from the natural world. She praises the trees, acknowledging their gifts to the environment, healing powers, and spiritual attributes.

“In the moment when we pay attention to the being of the tree, we are also opening a channel for a reciprocal relationship between human and tree. Our job is to be awake to all this: to practise the art of tuning-in to these general and specific qualities; to try and be aware of the exchange of prana and the interrelationship of consciousness.”1

I feel like I experience this interconnection every time I step outside, and I know exactly what she’s describing. And to be honest, never have I felt so transported when reading a book. I truly felt like I was walking through the woods of Britain as I read Angwin’s vivid description of her experiences.

Part I Forest is a brilliant reflection on what she’s learned from trees, mixed in with creative musings that have sprung from her time in the forest.  Blending her memories of times in the woods with her current yearning to connect and heal through her relationship with the trees, her poetry brings to life both mythic and mystic sensations.

“But there are always two forests. And I don’t mean ‘Paimpont’ and ‘Huelgoat’. One is the physical wood and forest we encounter — or don’t, but know they exist — ‘out there’. The other is the abiding forest of our imagination: a pristine (because unaltered – and unalterable – by humans) wildwood; the one we encounter in myths, legends, fairy stories.”2

Angwin describes how much of human’s learning has come through trees. She notes the many mythologies that feature the Tree of Life in cultures around the world, where trees are entry points into different realms of consciousness. Some examples are the Buddha who attained enlightenment by sitting under the Bodi tree or the World Tree in Norse mythology.

My favorite part of the book is near the end of Part I where Angwin discusses the Ogham alphabet, which supposedly was a method for initiating Druids to memorize wisdom teaching and the sun-god Ogma created it by watching the flight of cranes. The crane was a sacred bird to the Druids and “the letters were ‘written upon the sky’ not only by the birds’ wings and legs, but also from their flight patterns and the way they changed when the tired lead bird swapped with another.”3 Like how cool is that?

However, not only is the Ogham an alphabet, it is also a calendar, which marks the different times of the year. Angwin continues to provide more information on the Ogham from the standpoint of it as a calendar. She details the possible connection to a moon-goddess, linking the Ogham to lunar time.

Then Angwin delves into why she chose the thirteen Ogham that she did for this book, based primarily on the work of Robert Graves, although she makes substitutions that resonate based on her personal experience. I really appreciate the way Angwin thoroughly details her choices and thought process throughout the book, making it easy to understand her perception, while also acknowledging it is a multi-faceted topic that has spanned centuries so obviously there’s different points of view.

Part II Tongues in Trees: The Tree Months moves into exploring the thirteen sacred Celtic trees month by month. To begin, Angwin explains “The Song of Amergin,” which is a “spell-like sacred incantation with profound ecological, shamanic and shapeshifting resonances.”4 She created her own version, providing a poetic line for each month, describing an aspect of the tree’s wisdom or its mythological significance.

I was quite delighted to find I was reading the book just as the season transitioned from Hawthorn (May 13th- June 9th) to Oak (June 10th-July 7th). This gave me the opportunity to start my explorations with Oak and then proceed with the rest of the year.

For every tree month, Angwin first provides the genus/species, dates, key words, and line of poetry. Then she delves into very thorough descriptions of the trees’ history, habits, gifts it provides, mythology, symbolism, associations of the tree (ex. Oak Tree has an association with a story in Genesis), Celtic mysteries of the tree, and honestly, so much more!

As far as books about the Oghams go, this one provides the  most background information, well-researched and thoroughly woven together by poetic creativity and detailed historical information. I appreciate this approach immensely because it blends the history, science, mythology, and spirituality of each tree to provide a holistic perspective. It’s a multi-layered approach that is really impactful in creating a connection with the trees.

The final section, Part III Practical, has been a great resource for beginning my journey of connecting with the Oak tree during this month. Angwin offers ideas on how to establish these relationships and begin to map the year through the Ogham calendar. From finding the tree in your own ecosystem (if possible) to sitting with it and meditating, a template for establishing these relationships is created.

Angwin also puts out a call to save the trees, which are rapidly being depleted through foresting, impacting global climate temperatures, by becoming stewards for the trees. Options such as replanting trees, growing your own food, and lobbying are all suggestions she makes to be an active agent on behalf of the trees’ well-being, along with many other useful suggestions. I immensely appreciate her dedication to preserving the natural woodlands, and it made me realize there’s more I could be doing within my own community.

All in all, A Spell in the Forest, is a true gem filled with the essence of trees. This is almost embarrassing to admit, but even just holding the book seems to create an opening with  my heart to the trees. I have hardly wanted to put the book down because it’s so grounding and packed with information. I will certainly be reading it time and time again, as I make my way through the year in accordance with the Ogham alphabet calendar.

I highly recommend this book to those who are seeking more information on the Celtic tradition, particularly the Ogham, or those who simply value the wisdom and sacred nature of trees. I truly believe that by reuniting with nature, on all levels, as this book helps one to do, healing will begin to occur. In the meanwhile, I agree with Angwin that it is essential for us to protect the wildness of the forest, both physical and symbolically. A Spell in the Forest is a wonderful place to begin. I very much am looking forward to the next book in this series!

The Tree Angel Oracle, by Fred Hageneder

The Tree Angel Oracle: The Ancient Path into the Sacred Grove, by Fred Hageneder and illustrated by Anne Heng
Earthdancer Books, 1644110386, 1144 pages, 2nd Edition 2020

The Tree Angel Oracle by Fred Hageneder is a truly beautiful deck, illustrated by Anne Heng. The cards are illustrated with fairy-like figures ethereally interwoven with an image of a tree, creating a magical, endearing effect.  Printed on heavy, shiny cardstock, the cards felt special and charged from the moment I took them out of the box.  I delighted in selecting the cards that match trees that grow in my yard and around my neighborhood, such as Oak, Holly, Cherry, and Apple. I quickly choose all the cards matching the species of trees I have on my property and had a fun time envisioning these angels living in my trees.  The Tree Angels in these cards are drawn with such delicacy and care that I can truly get a feel for the character of the tree angels and also how they connect to that particular species of tree.

The book opens with an endearing introduction where Hageneder writes about a visionary experience he had while attending a Kundalini Yoga Retreat.  In his vision, he was invited into a sacred grove of trees and encouraged by the Tree Angels themselves to develop this oracle deck based on his experiences connecting deeply to trees.

However, unfortunately for me, the fantasy ended there.  In the first chapter of the book, Hageneder presents sort of a “woven tapestry” per se of world religions, their symbolism and mythologies, and how they each hold trees in high esteem.  He presents a particular interpretation on some ubiquitous religious stories, in particular the Garden of Eden story from the Book of Genesis. Here, he very matter-of-factly presents a remarkably modern and “New Age” summation of what that symbology means. Being somewhat of a nerd about classical Theology, I was miffed not seeing appropriate academic citations to back up his interpretative claims, and by the time I got past this, I was far from thinking about trees. Though his religious world-view is interesting — I probably agree with more of it than I disagree — I think it is problematic to present interpretations on religious symbolism as fact without contextualizing the scholarship that gave rise to those interpretations.  But we’ve strayed from the topic of trees, so let’s get back to that.

Obviously, there are hundreds of species of tree in the world and there are only 36 cards in this deck.  Hageneder has based his selection of trees on the “Ancient Irish Tree Alphabet” called the “ogham.” (p. 25) However because this particular catalogue of trees (and he doesn’t describe the “ogham” any further) all originate in a particular geographical area occupied by the Celts, he has omitted some of those trees in favor of wider diversity. For example, he included Ginkgo and Sycamore, which are native to other regions.

Hageneder offers several simple spreads to read the cards, though he emphasizes that choosing one card at a time is a great method for this deck.  I like the “Silent Guardians” spread which is a two-card spread where each card is part of a message relating to a transition in your life – passing from one phase to another.  The three-card spread suggested is called “The Primeval Doorway,” and in this spread the Tree Angels invite you to meet your guide on a journey into the Underworld.

The messages The Tree Angel Oracle cards offer are rich and long, with multiple meanings embedded.  Oak is one of my favorite cards because Oak trees are often associated with magic.

“The source of the life force nourishes your deepest roots with vitality, will, and power.  Make the world your own! But take care, hear the secrets of success, care for those in need, bring tenderness where emptiness once ruled.” (p. 57)

Oak is about being strong and enjoying vitality, but also about having integrity and being compassionate.

Sometimes the descriptions surprised me.  For example, the Ivy Tree Angel signifies humility, though in other sources I’ve known, ivy represents a protector and in other sources, an opportunist. So it seems to me that Hageneder is developing his meanings and interpretations from his own inspiration instead of drawing on ideas about tree spiritual energies that others have written about.

I am grateful for this deck, grateful for the window into deeper communion with trees that The Tree Angel Oracle offers. The cards are so beautifully illustrated by Anne Heng. The messages about the spiritual consciousness that is alive in trees is also beautiful – for this is something I very much believe in.  While Hageneder’s descriptions of the Tree Angel Oracle do not always resonate with me, I believe there is something profoundly magical and alive in these cards and there is a story to tell about discovering the consciousness in trees.

Deva, by Jacquelyn E. Lane

Deva: Our Relationship with the Subtle World, by Jacquelyn E. Lane
Findhorn Press, 978-1644110741, 320 pages, June 2020

Deva: Our Relationship with the Subtle World by Jacquelyn E. Lane is a title that anyone who is serious about the undertaking of engaging and communicating with the natural world should read. Lane is an educator by profession and this is quite apparent in the organization of the book. She has also been involved in the study of metaphysics for 50+ years, and this experience is the underpinning of this particular title and its teachings regarding the work of collaboration with the laws and spirits of nature through the development of a relationship of mutual respect, stewardship, and care.

…. Life is a great song. From the rocks that seem to be still to the bubbling water of a stream that flows over them. From the uncurling leaves of small plants to giant trees. From the quiet hamlets to the teeming cities. It’s all singing-notes within tunes, tunes within themes, themes within symphonies.1

These words flow from the pages and are the first lines of the Introduction. Simply reading them draws the reader in for a closer look and the journey that is about to unfold in the voluminous content that follows, if truly heard and appreciated, becomes a timeless and timely composition of nature. 

Deva is a fitting publication for the Findhorn Press and the mission of the Findhorn Community. To fully appreciate the need for this book a little history of The Findhorn Community will offer some background. The Findhorn Community developed from the resettlement of Peter and Eileen Caddy, their children, and Dorothy Maclean to the Findhorn Bay Caravan Park in 1962. The three had dedicated their lives to the pursuit of esoteric studies and applications and the barren soil of the caravan park provided the setting of opening to the land spirits and guidance in how to “live” in harmony on the land. All that was planted in accord with the aid of the Devas, elementals, and other nature spirits grew beyond expectation, and the garden became a marvel within the horticultural world.2

This book will please both the scientist and the esotericist in its content. Science and the esoteric philosophies are fast becoming great friends and supports to one another as we learn more about quantum physics and the nature of matter and energy. There is still quite a bit of ways to go in the overlap, but more books such as this will help in creating that bridge of cross-pollination. In reading the biography of the author we learn that Deva, was shortlisted for the 2019 Ashton Wylie Unpublished Manuscript Awards: an affirmation of the need for this material to be given the proper consideration it is due. 

The Introduction holds the keys to everything that the reader needs to know regarding what to expect from this book and what is required from the reader by way of open mind and willingness to become “involved” in the world that surrounds us in a more authentic way. So, for some this book will definitely be one of those slow and steady reads that leaves you with questions and wanting to know more-and do more-with each paragraph. And, for others it will affirm everything they have known and are currently working towards. 

Lane gives a clear and simple (ironically, for a very complex subject) introduction to who/what the deva are and the use of that term in the content that follows…

…. Deva is an ancient Sanskrit word from India meaning “Being of Light”… They sing ideas into form. It is the deva that cause us to exclaim, “Wow, this is a special place. It feels so alive!”…. they are within every atom. Deva are the faeries in the grass. They are the vast energy of sea, wind  and mountains….To really (understand) deva, we need to realize that deva is a kingdom of substance and form-the world of matter both solid and subtle.3

Deva is separated into three parts comprising a total of eighteen chapters. In some cases more is more, but this is one case in which it feels after reading that there were too few chapters — meant in the most complimentary of ways. There is a strong infusion of Theosophical principles throughout the book, but these are incorporated in such a way that the reader does not have to be a student of Theosophy to understand what is being said. The Bibliography is filled with resources of books, articles and recordings sourced from some of the most prominent and respected presenters of physics, botanists, metaphysicians, theosophists and more. I would consider this work as a required text for a course in how to become a participant in the worlds shared by humanity and nature. 

Part One: Elemental Tunes dives right in to exploring the inhabitants of our greater etheric planes of Earth that are the pure expression of energy from densest to the more rarified. Each chapter contained within this section opens the reader to a new experience of the devic kingdom and provides the basis upon which the individual can extrapolate and come to their own conclusions regarding how the energy of what is unseen is often more powerful than that seen as we become more aware of what is within and surrounds us…

… The deva kingdom is everywhere, say the ancients-an Intelligence infused into matter at every level of density.4

Part Two: Who’s Singing Your Song encompasses the aspects of emotion, thought  and those forms of deva that we create. I particularly enjoyed chapter eight “Emotion” and Lane’s attention to the power of our emotions as fueling many of the components of the spiritual evolution of devas, humanity and all of the sea of matter, formed and formless. This chapter really calls to the reader to examine their emotional baggage and presumptions that create patterns of illusion that are in contradiction to the organic nature of the deva and humanity. As I moved through the information in Part Two, I was reminded of the deep connection we have in mind and heart and the impact, not only upon ourselves, but everything from the densest of matter to the most subtle. These also inherently include the discordant relationships and often-resultant ill effects that communication with the deva kingdom may have if the individual is not aligned within him/herself.

Part Three: Symphonies could be compared to the final movement of a stirring orchestral composition. All of the instruments have a role that is both profound and subtle in their impact. The climax reaches its peak and we are left in the after-glow of a symphonic masterpiece that is inspiring and has reached deeply into the fibers of all of our being. These final chapters of Deva speak to active participation in the natural world and those aspects of the deva kingdom we are more familiar with as iconic representations of nature. Trees, plant life, geographic regions, climate change and planetary deva are some of the topics discussed. 

The final two chapters, “Deva, Religion and Pan” and “Consciousness,” were appropriately placed in the organic flow of this writing. These are topics that are usually captured at the beginning of a discourse such as this, and in doing so, feel like the perfunctory ‘getting that out of the way” manner in which they are often treated. In this case, this very important material punctuates the final notes of this symphony, and it is always those last notes that are remembered, even if the rest is forgotten. 

Lane offers these thoughts as conclusion and calls us to re-member our true state of being…

…The Great Song dances out of the One from the highest to the lowest. We can see its effects all around using every kingdom (animal, deva, mineral, etc..) beside us. We can hear it directly when we cease to place our individuality before that One Life. Yet, from the beginning it has called on our inner ear relentlessly until we have learnt to listen and, in listening, we hear the song of our own Light as well.5

Deva: Our Relationship with the Subtle World has been an immensely satisfying book to read. and I am looking forward to the many re-reads I will give as my own journey in connecting more deeply to the Deva continues. We are at a crossroads of choice and the next steps we take collectively, but most importantly individually, will determine so much more than what we see of the physical world. The more reminders we have about our place in this “symphony of life,” and the more books that are brought forward that will speak to all levels of engagement and practice will be steps in the right direction.  Open your eyes with new wonder and call out from your highest intention and you may just be surprised at who/what calls back in reply.