An ancient relationship that is flourishing again
Since before the Ancient Egyptians, before the Celts and their Tree of Life, trees were embraced by tribes, peoples and religions around the world as a central part of their ceremonies. In the last decade there has been a revival of interest in woodland and forest ceremonies in the west, largely influenced by Asia and India.
I am lucky enough to live in a small woodland in Mydddfai, Llandovery. We wake up to the trees every day and watch the tree ceremony that plays out between the setting sun and the woods each evening. Watching how the changing light impacts the mood of the woodland still catches me by surprise, almost seven years after moving here.
Forest Bathing helps lower stress levels, improves concentration, lowers blood pressure and increases your ability to heal from surgery
I start most days with some Shinrin Yoku or Forest Bathing. This practice from Japan, made popular in the 1980s is nothing new really. The history of tree meditations or silent ritual of woodland walking go back to South America and the people of the Amazon. The great tribes of the rain forest would spend many days in silence among the trees at key times of their lives.
Tree Ceremonies in the modern world
There is no question that we are all seeking more peace. More time with the trees, as they say here in Wales ‘to return to a balanced state of mind, return to your trees.’ People are choosing not only to practice activities in the woods, but also to mark important occasions with woodland ceremonies again.
Woodland wedding blessings – although a Celebrant in Wales or England may not perform a legal wedding at this time, they will create and carry out bespoke wedding blessings and celebrations in a woodland. These can be magical affairs and the mood will change depending on the season.
Tree planting ceremonies – if you’ve overcome a key obstacle in your life-path, then taking the time to celebrate that is actually good for you. Recent studies have shown that when we take the time to acknowledge our successes, before we move on to the next challenge, we are more likely to succeed with that next goal. Celebrating by planting a new tree, creating a legacy of hope, is a powerful way to mark something of importance to you and your family.
Memorials for those we loved and lost – when we think of funerals, we often don’t know that we can choose to celebrate and honour our loved ones with a separate ceremony. Indeed, the service times allowed for most funerals can make you feel rushed and unable to say a proper farewell. A memorial in a woodland can include time for everyone to say something, stories to be shared (perhaps even over a firepit) and can include a tree blessing and planting.
Woodland vow renewals – I love helping couples acknowledge their commitment and love. After any period of time together, you can choose to renew the vows you made at your wedding, or create new ones that represent how far you’ve come in your journey together. Among the trees, we can hang messages of love and promises you make for the future. Safe among the trees, they will stay until the wind takes them away. (I use seed paper for these ceremonies, so we can leave your vows in the woods and they will turn to wildflowers).
What ever the ceremony you are planning, consider how trees might be a part of it. I promise, you will be amazed at the impact it will have on your day.