As Twelfth Night passes, some celebrate King’s Day, others Nollaig na mBan (Women’s Christmas in Irish), and others – still singing carols and drinking cider – go a Wassailing.
“Love and joy come to you and to you, your Wassail, too. And God Bless you and send you a Happy New Year. And God Send you a Happy New Year.”
The Wassail was a tree festivity. A night to play, possibly to drink the cider fermented from Samhain – the Celtic New Year – and to pour libations out upon the roots of trees to ask for blessings upon the orchards.
Trees were an important part of early European culture. They fed humans and animals alike with their nuts, fruits and seeds. Each kind of tree was seen as having its own character and wisdom. The first Irish language, Ogham, is often described as “the tree alphabet” because the letters were based on the unique qualities of significant tree varieties. Invaders to Celtic lands cut and burned down the forests to decrease defensive cover for the native people. Perhaps this history also inspires a deep longing to protect the trees that remains for present and future generations.
In a time when we have destroyed as much as 50% of our tropical forests globally, when we are learning that deforestation practices are significantly contributing to the increase of greenhouse gasses annually, that the absence of forests increases the devastation humans experience in the wake of drought / flood cycles – perhaps it is time to have an Epiphany as to the importance of trees.
Humans have a relationship with trees unlike any other part of nature. A simple refresher course on how humans breathe ought to remind us of this as human beings inhale oxygen which enters the blood and is circulated throughout the body by the heart which returns the blood to the lungs so we can exhale carbon dioxide bi-product. The trees then absorb the carbon dioxide and transform it back into oxygen with the help of the sun. The trees are our counterparts to maintain balance in our environment and to sustain life.
On the exchange of Gasses: “The exchange takes place in the millions of alveoli in the lungs and the capillaries that envelop them… inhaled oxygen moves from the alveoli to the blood in the capillaries, and carbon dioxide moves from the blood in the capillaries to the air in the alveoli.”
This January, take time to bless the trees – in your yard, in your neighborhood park, in your forests, in orchards, at your church or temple – anywhere and everywhere you interact with trees in your life. It is said the trees talk to one another through their complex roots systems underground and if you tend to an old tree, a Mother Tree, or Guardian Tree that old one will communicate to all the others. So send blessings to the trees for their flourishing and restoration. Let us apologize for forgetting just how important they are to our survival. Let us learn their names and attributes one more. And let us protect them from the real world threats which would clear them unnecessarily, and lead to our demise. In the spirit of a healthy New Year, to you and your Wassail too, let us go outside and bless the trees.
A Druid Blessing for the Trees
A nine-fold blessing of the sacred grove
Now be upon all forests of Earth:
For willow of the streams,
Hazel of the rocks,
Alder of the marshes,
Birch of the waterfalls,
Ash of the shade,
Yew of resilience,
Elm of the brae,
Oak of the sun,
And all trees that grow and live and breathe
On hill and brake and glen:
No axe, no saw, no fire shall harm you,
No mind of ownership shall seize you,
No hand of greed or profit claim you,
But grace of the stepping deer among you,
Strength of the running boar beneath you,
Power of the gliding hawk above you.
Deep peace of the running stream through your roots,
Deep peace of the flowering air through your boughs,
Deep peace of the shining stars on your leaves.
That the harp of the woods be heard once more
Throughout the green and living Earth.
– Mara Freeman, Honorary Chief Bard of the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids – Copyright 2001, The Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids
To learn more about Forests, Deforestation and how to help, here are some resources:
Get Involved: Stand4Forests Climate Plan from the Dogwood Alliance