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Posted Under Paganism & Witchcraft

Finding Your Magical Teacher

Majestic Tree at the Beach

Magic is abroad in the world!

What connects the Witch, Druid, Heathen, Shaman, Pagan…? A yearning for magic. We long for mystery. We need a deep connection to join magical to mundane in our lives. And so, we become followers of the nature religions. Intuitively, we know that the path to enchantment is through nature.

Most of us long for a teacher. As we weave our way with spell craft, study, divination, weather work, and meditation, we remember the old saying: "When the student is ready, the teacher will come."

Maybe you have been waiting many years. I believe a slight change in perspective will reveal at least one teacher waiting, just as patiently, for you to learn the esoteric rule—you must go to the teacher, not wait for them to come to you.

In fact, a whole forest awaits. Our teachers, quite literally, are the trees.

Maybe that seems so simple that you feel a little let down. But bear with me, for the portals to enchanted living really are standing in plain sight.

Using the simplest form of your usual practice—no incense, no robes, no equipment, just breath and awareness—let's share a quick exercise. You can even read it as you do it.

  • Set your intent, to be nourished by the strength and wisdom of the trees
  • Send your awareness down as you breathe with the earth; then high up, to breathe the sky
  • Feel earth and sky meeting within you and spreading through every cell
  • Sense yourself rooted and standing tall, arms wide, bridging the two worlds, like a tree
  • Feel intensely that you are in the right place: your heart exudes love

Then…

  • Imagine standing in a clearing, with a circle of trees around you
  • Stretch your pointing finger, and slowly spin round, connecting to the tree-circle
  • "See" a green/golden globe—the ancient forest—surrounding you
  • The circle is a safe containment within which you can grow and relate to magic. Rest here for a few breaths.
  • Allow this energy to descend like a cloak of forest green onto your shoulders.

For many students, this is a real stress-buster. It allows them to step back from the immediacy of mundane problems. Bringing the forest scene to mind and imagining the cloak of deep green wisdom brings space and perspective. It lets us view problems in a more measured way. This is not wish-craft, withdrawing from reality, but real magic, which is relevant to every area of our lives.

If imaginal contact with ancient trees can do this for us in just a few minutes, just imagine how we might benefit from visiting them throughout the year. Like all good pupils, we can literally sit at their feet! So, let's start—at whatever season—by making a connection. Let's go into a park, a wood, the tree in our backyard. If you can't get out, look to the tree outside your window.

Remember, we are reaching to the spirit in the tree, through observance of its physicality. Just as with making friends with humans, we notice, feel the vibes, introduce ourselves. Just go on a thoughtful walk. Notice that trees are large and long-lived, they look at home, they are happy in their diversity, and each claims its own space. Remember always they are essential to our lives: as you breathe in the oxygen they produce, sit on wooden furniture, warm yourself with fires, and eat the nuts and fruits they gift.

There are many courtesies involved in making relationship, and I go through a suggested staged process in Nine Ways to Charm a Dryad. On your introductory walk, activate and rely on your intuition to sense welcoming trees. Spend some time with them, until one becomes more open. You sense a more intimate connection—not as you would with another human, but unmistakable to your inner senses. It may come as a feeling of welcome, of rightness, of joy as you come near it. Being with your tree should leave you optimistic and grateful.

So, you have found a tree that feels friendly. Now start regarding it as a teacher. It's an odd way of thinking, maybe, but, "What can you teach me? How can I learn?" are good questions to whisper when you next visit.

All learning starts with observing and imitation. Imitation? Why not? Nature spirituality is embodied: we celebrate our mobility and grace, no matter what our physical limitations. So, in your home, feel your feet strong-rooted, sway with the winds, imagine your deepest longings as beautiful fruit hanging from your fingertips, falling to nourish the world. And then get back outside to your actual tree.

If the feeling from your tree changes from "welcome," to "go away now," and if your response changes to anxiety, notice and stop—always with a thank you. After all, sometimes we all feel antisocial. Perhaps another tree will be more ready to communicate. The good news is that you can start right away! We can enter the Wheel of the Year at any time, whenever is right for us. Always, the continuity of the seasons is there, and we can learn to attune to it: something that our tree does naturally. Here are some pointers to start you off.

Winter—Spring (Winter Solstice to Imbolc)
Message from the Trees: dormancy, hibernation, dreaming
Appearance: silhouettes: stripped down to the bones; strong and enduring. Sap runs slowly; activity is minimal.

Walk to a sleeping tree; stand with it; feel its strength and how it resonates within you.

Questions for the Season:
Do you feel a quietness growing within you?
Can you endure with grace, as the tree withstands the winter weather?
How will you make quiet, connected ceremony to embrace the season?
How will you respond to the first intimations of spring whilst all is still cold?

Lessons from the Trees:
"I incubate my dreams during the dark times; do likewise!"
"Switch off your lights and stand with me under the stars and moon"
"Stripped of my leaves, I know my essence. Do you?"
"Can you learn to stand in an enchanted state, as I do?"

Spring—Summer (Imbolc to Beltane)
Message from the Trees: Awakening, sowing seeds (pollen), sap rising.
Appearance: Budding tips of green; hanging flowers and catkins, pollen spraying; greening and opening, leaves unfurling

Walk to a budding tree. Stand under it, feeling its awakening and how it also flows through you.

Questions for the Season:
Can you tune into the springing buds to awaken your youthful, spring energy?
How many shapes and sizes of buds can you find? Be amazed!
How many species of insects and birds do the trees support?

Lessons from the Trees:
"See the differences in our budding twigs as the forest begins to spring into life."
"Your aims are like buds: are they sharp and focussed or rounded and full of potential?"
"Imagine my catkin-pollen whirling on the breeze; feel the seeds of regrowth within."
"My increasing energy will become leaves, flowers and fruit. How will you use yours? (Scribbling and doodling or dancing to the radio wakes you up to life. Do something!)
"Focus your intent as I focus my running sap: reach for your aims as I reach my growing tips to the sky."

Summer – Autumn (Beltane to Samhain)
Message from the Trees: splendour, fruiting, magnificent burgeoning
Appearance: Glorious: myriad changing coloured leaves, heavy with fruits and seeds. A time of change, from splendour to overblown, fading and first-falling

Walk to a glorious tree; gaze at its colours and shape: fill your senses with every breath with its stored sunlight.

Questions for the Season:
Does the splendour of nature encourage you to be proud of your own achievements?
Does the activity of late summer in nature speak to your soul?
What ceremony will you make to celebrate them?
How will you adapt your ceremony and practice to the year's progression?

Lessons from the Trees:
"I wear my achievements in the sight of the world but yours may be hidden. Review and see what progress you've made."
"I respond to the changing light and the weather's effects. How do you feel?"
"Revel in the successes—of kindness, compassion and love—that clothe you like leaves."
"I have absorbed the feeling of this year's mellow harvest deep inside: how will you sustain that feeling?"

Autumn – Winter (Samhain to Imbolc)
Message from the Trees: slowing, sorting, going within, sloughing off
Appearance: every gale leaves more trees bare, and the evergreens step forward in the forest. The trees discard all that is no longer needed. The last fruits fall to ensure new life.

Walk to a shedding tree and stand on the crisp multicoloured leaves it has discarded. Lean against the trunk and relax into quiet acceptance of the season.

Questions for the Season:
Do you feel the urge to slow down?
Which parts of you, like the evergreens, will stay verdant and bright through the winter?
What ritual of thanks might you make for the essence of your connection?
How simple and sustainable can you make your magic?

Lessons from the Trees:
"I stand and feel my place in the great scheme of things. Are you as comfortable?"
"Accepting all, absorbing spirit, is the basis of my magic. What is the basis of your relationships with deities?"
"I am invigorated by the frost which breaks open the seed husks."
"I need space and quietness, a fallow time to recharge my batteries. Why not give yourself the same, as a gift?"

And now you've reached the end of another year of natural magic. You've attuned yourself to it by noticing, gratitude, and response. You've experienced the fascination of trees and have discovered that we must go out to magic, not wait for it to come to us! And when we go to the trees, they show us how our lives can be more connected: they introduce us to the spiritual current of the sentient earth.

I love the phrase "living in enchantment:" this is what we are all yearning for. And enchantment comes through the senses.

My book Nine Ways to Charm a Dryad is designed to help you enter the green world: to create a relationship with the spirit of a tree. The nine stages take you on a journey. Experiencing nature through all the senses, what gradually emerges is an understanding of yourself as a magical being.

One chapter explores Arcady, ancient place of wildness and magic. It's the home of Pan and his nymphs, where the lost are saved and nurtured by star-nurses; where shape-shifting heroes and mythic beings people the land. We can all "live in Arcady." We are on the way when we begin to explore the magic that is active in our world. It is the journey we make with the trees, through the year, to align ourselves with enchantment, here and now.

In the book I invite you to help to co-create the enchanted world, step by step; to experience the Charm of Arcadian dreaming. Your passport to Arcady is ready for you—is it time to get it stamped?

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About Penny Billington

Penny Billington is a Druid teacher, speaker and author. She is an active member of the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids and has edited the Order's magazine, Touchstone, for nineteen years. She regularly facilitates ...

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