A Spell in the Forest comes from two sources: the author's personal experiences of and musings on trees throughout their life, with a later focus on the forest and the series of workshops they lead to enable participants to connect, "... creatively, practically and empathically with the other-than-human on many levels simultaneously. (from the Introduction.) It is not meant to be a scholarly dissertation representing the author's UPG (Unverified Personal Gnosis).
Divided into three parts:
Part I -- how trees work, their history and mythological/symbolic significance.
Part II -- follows the 13 trees of the Celtic Ogham calendar, based on Robert Graves' system of tree-months
and corresponding letters found in his book The White Goddess.
Part III -- offers the reader creative nudges with which to approach their relationship with trees and practical direction to help save them from depredation.
All throughout the reader is offered creative writing in the form of descriptions and poems that enhance the author's rich, descriptive prose.
Aside from the focus on one particular area, A Spell in the Forest is a lovely guide to use in one's own exploration of a nearby forest. This was a difficult book for me to review simply because I am no where near a forest at this point in my life. I read much of A Spell using my imagination.
So I offer you a quote from the author:
What have I learned from trees? I’m still learning.
It’s something to do with learning to let go; to let be.
I’m learning to be wordless; at least, for the time I’m in the woods. ‘No one really enters a wood unless they are prepared to give up their language’, says poet Paul Matthews.
I’m learning how to hold still and let the world go by without fearing I’m missing something.
I’m learning to reach my crown to the sky, and my roots even deeper into the earth.
I’m learning just how slow tree-time is, and how very much goes on out of sight over many decades, or centuries.
I’m learning to remember that the natural exchanges of air, moisture, carbon and sugars, messages, happen without any effort, and will adapt as necessary without my having to drive it all.
I’m learning that I can survive. I’m learning how to host others; or rather, as I’ve always been quite good at hosting others, it’s more to do with hosting others without it draining me.
I’m learning how my deep nourishment comes from above and below, both; and that I can share it with others and yet not be depleted.
I’m learning about what it means to be both individual and community, family, without compromising either; though I already know how a parent, tree, animal, bird or human can also give up their own life for their offspring.
To be inextricably tied-in to a network; to be utterly interdependent with that network, even if much of its life goes on out of sight. (p.54)
And close by saying that this is a lovely, lyrical book that deserves a place on any Pagan's bookshelf, and in their backpack when they wander through the forest.
~review by Lisa McSherry
Author: Roselle Angwin
Moon Books, 2021
pp. 288, 20.95