Finding The Heart Tree
The first time I found a heart tree, I was walking in a patch of preserved ancient woodland near to my home, on the edge of London. I had come across this particular place while out wandering and was surprised that I could have lived in a place for so long without realising this spot of natural beauty was hiding just around the corner.
Once I had found it I kept being drawn back to it. On any day when the weather was favourable and I had some free time, I found myself wandering off to go back to this woodland, and just explore or sit quietly on a log and listen to the birdsong around me.
On one of these excursions, I was wandering aimlessly when I came across a pathway that seemed to be bordered by trees arching over, like a passageway, or portal. As I stepped through the portal I saw a huge tree, bigger than the others, with a good amount of clearing around it. I was immediately struck by the presence of this tree–I wanted to sit at its base and just be near it, I wanted to press my ear to its trunk and wait for the sap thud heartbeat. I felt a kind of awe also. I knew, without a doubt, that this tree was sovereign in this woodland. Its roots probably ranged further than any other. Everything told me that this tree was the centre, the king and guardian of the woods. From the way the others seemed to grow at a respectful distance, the portal like formation leading up to it, the way the trails all seem to lead up to it and away from it. I just knew.
I sat for a long time by this tree and felt a sensation of acceptance. I had greeted the King, and now was welcome in the forest. I knew I would be protected here henceforth.
And indeed, in my excursions after this event, I seemed to come across more secrets. I found hidden patches of wild garlic, saw deer, foxes, rare birds.
I never seemed to trip or lose my footing. As dusk approached, I would know exactly when I needed to head for home before I risked losing the light and becoming lost.
I started having deeper experiences in this woodland.
One day, while walking, I realised something I had never realised before. I had fallen in love with this place. Further, I had only felt this way about a place once before- the woodland near the home I grew up in, a rural town far from London, which I had to leave suddenly. I realised I had never really grieved for that woodland I loved and lost, and that I had resisted becoming rooted in my new environment, because of the hurt of that loss. I realised this woodland was teaching me gently–allowing me to begin to love it as slowly as I needed, and reawakening my woodland witch nature. My heart felt so much more open all of the sudden. It was in this place that I experienced the Spontaneous Soul Retrieval I have written about previously.
After this experience, I began to be able to identify the heart trees in other stretches of woods. I realised all woodlands have a unique, individual feel to them, and they all seem to have a sovereign, guardian, heart tree. In one, I even found a tree which I sensed to be a ‘new’ heart tree. Shortly afterwards I found the tree which the new tree had succeeded. Ancient, massive, impressive, but no longer vital. This is the tree pictured in this article.
When I enter a new woodland, I quietly introduce myself. I share where I have come from, my home territory woodland. If I should come across the heart tree, I greet it respectfully, and often I will find the woodland a friendlier place afterwards. I will have a better sense of direction, I will find and spot more wildlife.
If you should find yourself walking in a woodland, I suggest you keep your senses open to the heart tree–making a connection will offer you guidance and protection as you travel through the woods. Perhaps the woodland will even offer up some of its secrets to you. Identifying a heart tree is partly a matter of sensing it, but some clues might be in its positioning–look for a large tree, with some space around it, which paths seem to naturally lead to. Look at the position of the trees around it–do they seem to form pathways, or surround it in a protective ring like soldiers or courtiers? The heart tree will be connected to the whole of the forest and is well worth paying your respects to, even if this isn’t your ‘home turf’.
If you are a woodland witch by nature, I would love to hear if you have experienced meeting a heart tree. If you are a witch more connected to a different type of terrain, sea or desert, lake or field, city or town, I would love to hear if there is a similar, equivalent guardian or sovereign plant or structure you look for in your territory? Let me know in the comments!
This article first appeared on Strophalos Rising, The Author’s own blog on Hekatean Witchcraft in a modern and urban context. For more writing by Jade Alcestis, you can visit her blog at http://hekateswheel.home.blog. To support the author and pick yourself up some witchy wares, including Pagan prayer beads and hand pyrographed pendulum boards, visit her Etsy Shop at https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/BathBookandCandle