OK, I know I am not supposed to use the term shaman outside of a Tlingit context, however– no other word in my native or ancestral languages readily comes to mind to describe the impressions and I experiences I want to share, so I humbly beg their pardon for borrowing their term to better express myself. I hope they won’t mind overmuch as I struggle to wordify my momentary engagement with the numinous, and I hope, dear readers, that you are all willing to bear with me.
Oak is the only deciduous tree I am aware of that holds onto its dead leaves through the winter, and does not actively release them until the growth of the new season’s spring leaves push them out. Unless they are blown away, they are present throughout the fall, winter, and early spring. Among the deciduous trees, this tree has a voice all through the year as the winds rustle its leaves. These are the shaman tree’s rattle. This rattle can call back disassociated, disconnected parts of oneself, and realign them. This is how I engage with the power that is Oak as the shaman tree.
Today on my morning walk I encountered two oak trees whose leaves had not yet been blown completely off, being semi-protected in a corner built around them by houses, fences, and a schoolyard. As the wind is blowing today, I heard their rattle hiss in the breeze, and felt invited by this sound, as I so often do, to stand beneath the tree, my back to its trunk, hands behind me resting gently upon it, with eyes closed. Breathing deeply, I listened to the voice of the oak, and let its sound shake apart my corporeal boundaries until they dissolved, and my essence melted into the tree itself.
Immediately I felt the land give out from under me as my consciousness slid down into its dark, damp roots in the land, where I rested awhile. Gradually, I felt the damp wear off as I became conscious of a great heat emanating from the deep earth– its fiery core. I felt the tree gaining sustenance and vital energy from this heat, and as it warmed, my consciousness began to rise up in the tree with its sap. I felt energized and buoyant, rising like a balloon.
In the heart of the tree, in its center trunk, I felt its solid presence in its ecosystem, and its expansiveness as it gave to its community what it had to offer, sharing its energy with its neighbors in the myriad ways in which it does. I felt myself full of energy, and began to spin, feeling this energy radiating from me to nourish the life all around. In this I sensed a giving and a caring, what moves from the heart, and the many unique ways in which we might all use our energies to give to, and care for those around us.
As I spun, I began to rise again, and found myself in the treetop, kissing the sky, and being kissed by the shining sun. Here, I felt very distanced from both my earthly body which I’d strongly felt in the roots, and my personality which I felt strongly in the trunk/heart of the tree. Here, I felt these elements of me fall away, and felt like pure spirit, eating light as the tree’s leaves do. I basked in this light, drank it, ate it, communed with it, breathing it in, breathing it out. This is the light that made all the other experiences possible, my very life possible, as tree and/or human. The power of this light filled me as I marveled at its generosity and ability, its love and hospitality. I floated in wonderment and tranquility, becoming light itself.
Then, as a human might suddenly feel full from enjoying a good meal, I suddenly felt instead like a container of light, full in the belly from this bright feast. I was not able to continue, as I could not eat another bite; there was no more room to take any more in. With this sudden return of corporeality, and this feeling of satiated fullness, I sank slowly back into the tree trunk, feeling my feet under me, and the resonant pulse of the tree echoing within me. Though I had been here in the trunk before, I was changed now– illuminated, enlightened– transformed. With a new perspective I had a new sense of identity and what I had to offer, an enlarged sense of what being-ness suggests and demontrates, what belonging-ness denotes and implies, and what giving-ness and caring-ness inspire and encompass.
Sitting with and eating light can show us all, tree person, human person, and perhaps animal peoples, how we are in constant relationship with each other in layering ecosystems of region, planet, and spirit, whether or not we recognize and nourish these relationships. But when we understand this interweaving of being-ness, personhood, and neighborhood into conscious community, we will have gifts to offer all life, both personally and collectively, through our own, and cooperative destinies, and that the offering of these gifts to nourish life is also our destiny, as well as our hospitality, generosity, and ultimately, maturity. It is the realization of what it is to be an earthling in community with other earthlings, where we each are planted.
In this way, the shaman that is Oak tree heals me, aligns me, reminds me, and inspires me. I engage with her as Brìde, the tree of her church, and the tree of her father an Daghda’s druidic wisdom. All three of my inner cauldrons were tipped and filled, and I was renewed through my multiple momentary experiences of Brìde as oak, fiery core of the earth, giving and caring heart, greening of land and leaves, ever-giving sun, brightness of light, alignment and healing, illumination and wisdom, connection and relationship, inspiration and guidance.
As St. Columba once proclaimed Jesus his druid, so I proclaim Brìde my shaman, as well as my druid, my foster-mother, my constant companion, and my maker of song.
This is how I engaged with Oak today, shaman tree with her shaman’s rattle, as healer, light-eater, and illuminatress.