BOOK REVIEW: TREES OF THE GODDESS
Highly recommended. ‘Trees of the Goddess’ is the latest in a series of books written by Elen Sentier for Shaman Pathways. It is both deeply traditional and highly innovative – very much this author’s note. It goes with her championship of the way of the awenyddion, standing for the ever-renewing indigenous seership of Britain.
The innovation is simple yet profound. This book directly concerns our relationship with the trees, rather than letters or divination. That relationship, like everything on the planet, has a context of cycles and seasons. Our life-world, and that of the trees, is defined by the dance of earth, moon and sun. We have this in common with our ancestors, attested by their lore and stories, and it establishes our continuity with them. The book is a reflective celebration of these simple truths and their archetypal resonance. The framework of the ogham tree alphabet provides a strong and focused conceptual foundation, in service to direct experience. The suggested activities at the end – in sections on ways to work with the trees, moon bath, allies, making your ogham staves and spirit keeping, are an invitation to experiential exploration.
The book is traditional in its use of the ogham tree alphabet and largely faithful to Robert Graves’ ‘The White Goddess’. The author endorses his linking of 13 of the trees to Ogham consonants as they move through the 13 months of the lunar year from the winter solstice; and the linking of the 5 Ogham vowels to 5 stations of the solar year (the solstices, equinoxes and Samhain). She largely follows Graves’ trees, in his order, though there are some exceptions – the vine is banished, leaving bramble to take the full weight of Muinn; and there are some changes of terminology, like guelder rose instead of ‘dwarf elder’. I realise that many people today are highly sceptical of Graves’ work, but its problems are for me not relevant to this book. For ‘Trees of the Goddess’ is not much concerned with the history of ogham, its specific cultural origin, or its use as an alphabet. It is about here-and-now relationship with the trees, honouring the Goddess and aware that our ancestors had some such relationship too.