The Talking Forest Runes

The Tree as Genius Loci

Harvestide 2022

by Kay Broome

Ash tree, 2021, Kay Broome

Do an experiment the next time you are out and about with time on your hands. Take a walk down a street that has few large or only very small trees. Many newer suburban streets are like this – they have not had time to build up, and any trees on the properties are still saplings. Then walk down a street with with large, older, well established trees. Invariably, most of us will find the street with trees to be more welcoming, more like “home”. As well as making neighbourhoods more livable, trees regulate the climate, making winter less cold and dreary and the dog days of summer more bearable. Neighbourhoods with abundant trees have in fact been found to have lower crime rates.

Hostpapa web photo

Perhaps it is the tree’s sense of haven that has always appealed to me, knowing that no matter where I am in the great outdoors, even when far away from home – any tree, even a small bush, is domicile to some small creature, some other fellow traveller on this earth. For what tree does not have a multitude of animals dwelling within?

In fact, trees are home to many lifeforms – birds, insects, smaller mammals – all make their dwellings in the shady old oak, the lofty elm and even the densely-needled spruce. A quick inspection will often reveal a squirrel’s untidy shelter made of of dead leaves, or various types of insect eggs on branch or leaf. One might even discover an owl or raccoon abode within the trunk; a labyrinthine palace of wax or paper ruled over by an actual queen – a hive of bees or wasps. No doubt there will be a profusion of bird's nests of various types and styles.

Northern Oriole Nest in Weeping Willow Tree

Oriole's nest in willow, 2021, Kay Broome

Trees also call up our mythic past: the grim and stoic spruces recall the Leshi, guardians of the vast forests of Russia and Eastern Europe; the stately ash hearkens back to the strange myth of Odin lashed to the mighty world tree Yggdrasil; oak and beech woods echo the Nemeton, the sacred grove of the Druids; heavily fruiting orchard trees pay heed to Roman deities such as Pomona and Sylvanus. Even the humble reed recalls the Greek god Pan who created the first flute from this riverside plant.

Beech Tree

Beech tree, 2020, Kay Broome

Trees are whole communities and ecosystems within themselves. As central figures in many of our myths, they too stand as ancestors of a sort. It was mainly for these reasons cited above that I felt a compelling need to create a runic system based on these mighty organisms. As I have outlined in my book, The Talking Forest: Tree Runes for a New Millennium, it was crucial that each rune designed should mirror the physical appearance of the tree, its use in human history, its character and in some cases, its very environment.

Hence the lanky resilience of Locust

Talking Forest Locust © 2009, Kay Broome

The generous fecundity of Apple

Talking Forest Apple © 2009, Kay Broome

The columnar elegance of Cedar

Talking Forest Cedar © 2009, Kay Broome

You can learn more about the Talking Forest runes by purchasing my book, available internationally in print or ebook on Amazon and other vendors.

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