The Talking Forest Runes
The Tree as Genius Loci
Fieldnotes for September – October 2022
by 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.
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
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.
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
The generous fecundity of Apple
The columnar elegance of Cedar
You can learn more about the Talking Forest runes by purchasing my book, available internationally in print or ebook on Amazon and other vendors.