Proper offering when cutting down a tree

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BrannaLaurelin
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Proper offering when cutting down a tree

Postby BrannaLaurelin » 08 Dec 2012, 22:08

Hello,

I am new to Druidry (have been following the Bardic course since this summer, but because of my busy life I am only on Gwers 9). I was just wondering, is there an offering or a proper ceremony one can do to make amends for cutting down a tree? My husband and I are going to cut our Yule tree tomorrow, and I must admit I don't like the idea of just cutting down a tree without so much as a by-your-leave. But my husband wants a real tree (and I admit it makes a difference - the plastic ones don't really give the right atmosphere).

Any suggestions for things I could do as an offering or something? I would really appreciate it.
~*Branna*~

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Re: Proper offering when cutting down a tree

Postby BlazeLeeDragon » 08 Dec 2012, 22:48

I don't know if there is a "proper" way. However not speaking from anything I've read in the gwersi but from personal views, I would say to begin with if your going to be doing the cutting ask the tree. I would give this same advice for cutting of herbs, ask and then open your heart and listen from within. Pick a tree that just feels "right" after you ask. It's hard to put into words, but you'll just know it's ok.

Perhaps some form of offer onto the stump after you finish or even something as simple as burying a penny at the base of the tree, copper seems to go well with tree offerings. As well as words of prayer and thanking.
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Re: Proper offering when cutting down a tree

Postby Heddwen » 08 Dec 2012, 23:26

I intend to cut some staves and will be cutting them on the winter solstice {the 21st December} in order to make them extra special. Firstly I will ask the trees permission then secondly I will leave an offering in order to thank the tree afterwards. :seasons:

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Re: Proper offering when cutting down a tree

Postby skydove » 09 Dec 2012, 10:21

If you cut one plant three.
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Re: Proper offering when cutting down a tree

Postby ShadowCat » 09 Dec 2012, 11:27

Try to find a tree with roots so you can either keep it as a companion for years or bring it back to the woods (make sure it's a native tree).

Just a little personal story:
I've grown up with the custom of having live trees with roots for serveral years in a row. We would take them in to the shed in november, water them as needed, and then take them up into the house mid-december. After the holidays we would take them out to the shed again, and then put them outside in a relatively warm period. Trees would stay with us anywhere from 3 to 6 years, and then they would either be permanently planted outside or used for our woodstove. When I went out to live on my own with my s.o., we had a small house and couldn't keep the trees around all year. Two years, I put them out after the holidays (here they are collected and used to make compost) but the third year, I found the most beautiful, blue firtree, so cute, so perfect, it broke my heart knowing that I would be killing it after a few weeks. I got emotional at the gardencentre and we decided to buy a rediculously expensive fake tree. It's really beautiful more than ten years later (it's also a hell of a job to assemble, more than 78 branches to manually put in) but living at a bigger house now, I wanted to put down roots again. I send out a wish that I would like to find a Nordmannfir with roots (almost non-available). A few weeks later I called the local farmersmarket, they had just gotten 3 (!!) potted Nordmanns along with a truckload of cut ones. Me happy, tree is currently in the house...

If you can't keep a potted tree, consider renting one (some plantations take out the trees with roots and replant them after the season). If you must cut: connect, thank, compensate (on an energetic level by making an offering as well as by replanting, donating, recycling etc). I find that a lock of hair left at a place where I take something from nature feels as a equal exchange.
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Re: Proper offering when cutting down a tree

Postby elementalheart » 09 Dec 2012, 12:05

Rather than cutting a tree just for a few weeks of decorating a house, why not plant one in the garden and decorate it OUTSIDE every year - the tree will be healthier for not being dug up and brought indoors, even with roots. And from experience in the UK, most "Christmas" trees sold in pots have been dug up with just enough root to fit the pot size, which leaves the vast majority of the structure underground and most of them won't survive even if watered, though some do and goodwill offerings (prayer, reiki, gratitude, whatever your experience can offer) may help them keep going beyond what they might in a less supportive place.

Trees indoors are a Victorian custom brought from Germany to England by Prince Albert - I can't see the benefit of them, however pretty for the kids. Trees should be outside or on the fire as deadwood I reckon, but then I don't like cut flowers in the house either :roll:

In answer to your question however, if going to the woods or a commercial plantation to get a tree, take time to ask for a volunteer and look for the signs of permission/selection, double check with the individual tree, and use whatever herbs or offerings are traditional to the culture of that land.

Here in Scotland I'd use oatmeal for ritual offerings as a preference, or as someone else suggested, my own hairs - a lock cut if cutting, pulled by the root if uprooting but that's what works for me, here. I've also used native growing herbs, tobacco, sugar, even an odd mint sweet if that was all I had to hand when I wanted an offering, tho for cutting a tree I tend to have more preparation than for the more spontaneous outdoor rituals - it is the intention and acceptance that count as far as I'm concerned..
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Re: Proper offering when cutting down a tree

Postby ShadowCat » 09 Dec 2012, 13:12

(...)even with roots. And from experience in the UK, most "Christmas" trees sold in pots have been dug up with just enough root to fit the pot size, which leaves the vast majority of the structure underground and most of them won't survive even if watered (...)
Yes, I forgot to ad that, you have to look for a tree grown in a pot, not just uprooted and potted for sales (Although my dad could even get those going 9 times out of 10). Those are more rare, often found at organic nurseries and also smaller. You just can't grow a 8 foot tree in a transportable pot. Mine is 5 feet and that's about as big as they come. I payed 30 euro's for her. She's not really happy I felt, so I'll be misting her needles a bit later today to keep her moist. I put her in a bigger pot in a mix of sand and cocopeat, so that the structure resembles the natural forestfloor.

Back to the topic of offerings:
I also used tobacco but remember that nicotine is a pesticide. If put in the ground, the water gets contaminated. This can be used, for instance to help a tree hurt by insects, but I use it very sparingly as an offering nowadays. Sweetgrass is a nice alternative. When harvesting mosses, I always put small chrystals in the remaining moss. It just looks and feels right.
I sometimes leave something for animal-friends too: (native) birdseed, bread, a few apples or carrots.
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Re: Proper offering when cutting down a tree

Postby katie bridgewater » 09 Dec 2012, 22:28

I understand from Graham Harvey, that in some tribes there are elaborate rituals to apologise at great length to the tree you are about to cut down, explaining why you have to do it and how respectful you will be, before very swiftly chopping down the tree next to it and making a dash for it. You could try this approach, it just might work and you can say it's 'tribal'... :duck:

I don't think 'asking permission' is a particularly helpful concept (although a lot of people think this is the way to remove and prune trees), since it relies more on the human imagination than it does on actually knowing anything useful about how to remove parts of a tree in such a way as to cause minimal damage. It's more useful IMO to learn about forestry and correct tool use than to rely on intuition without knowledge. Also, I am not sure that trees can communicate telepathically with humans, and if they did, whether humans are on the whole very good at understanding 'tree'. I have met many humans who claim to be, but they are often the people with the least knowledge of forestry, how to use tools correctly or safely, or how trees grow and respond to environmental pressures. Trees can actually take quite a bit of hacking (in fact some rely on it to stay alive), so you could consider taking a branch rather than a whole tree.

If you must take a whole living tree, then I would look for one that is unlikely to make it to maturity anyway, like one growing in thick shade at the forest floor, or by a roadside where it will most likely be taken out when it gets too big. Most baby trees don't make it to adulthood; with a bit of common sense you can see who's got the best chance and leave them alone, and take one of the ones that won't live much longer anyway.

I'm with the idea of decorating a tree alive where if stands anyhow. Much less effort, and very cool indeed. We hang little lanterns in the trees above our little home some years. Besides, we don't have room inside for a tree, and to be honest, we tread in enough pine needles from outside that it seems like making a rod for your own back to encourage them.... :wink: Or, you could simply wassail a fruit tree outside if you have one, it's just as Christmassey as cutting down a pine tree, and more likely to be an ancient British custom (no proof the Druids did it, but you never know) than the conventional modern indoor Christmas tree ever was.

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Re: Proper offering when cutting down a tree

Postby Dathi » 09 Dec 2012, 23:15

Yup, I'm with Kate on this one. I fell a lot of trees (albeit mainly in plantations) and am relatively unsentimental about this. My "offering" is to plant many more native trees than the spruce that are felled, and to run a forestry school teaching young blokes the skills of sustainable woodland management. Ultimately this "offering" does more for the spirits of the land than some other offerings.

Which gets me on to an only vaguely related hobby horse. Mixing metophors, it really "gets my goat" to find "spiritual" junk littering sacred sites; coins and crystals wedged into trees and ancient monuments, candle, fire and incense remnants, and even bottles and plastic detritus left scattered after special days.

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Re: Proper offering when cutting down a tree

Postby katie bridgewater » 10 Dec 2012, 00:51

Which gets me on to an only vaguely related hobby horse. Mixing metophors, it really "gets my goat" to find "spiritual" junk littering sacred sites; coins and crystals wedged into trees and ancient monuments, candle, fire and incense remnants, and even bottles and plastic detritus left scattered after special days.
Ye Gods, Dathi, don't get me started! When oh when oh when will Pagans come to understand that acrylic wool (common on cloutie trees) is 100% plastic, candles (unless 100% beeswax) are made either from petroleum or cash crops such as palm and soya, most ribbon (unless it is pure silk - another issue altogether) is also plastic, and crystals are mostly ripped from the earth using explosives and chemicals, aarrgghh. My local 'sacred site', a Bronze Age circular ring thought to have once been home to a stone circle similar to Stonehenge, is regularly littered with Pagan Crap. I despair sometimes, when even folks following earth-based spiritual paths appear to have no idea how the material world functions!

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Re: Proper offering when cutting down a tree

Postby ShadowCat » 10 Dec 2012, 10:52

Which gets me on to an only vaguely related hobby horse. Mixing metophors, it really "gets my goat" to find "spiritual" junk littering sacred sites...
Yeah... one should always consider all environmental impacts. That said, as a child I once found a crystal in a hollow tree and I felt it was really magical, like it was a gateway to other worlds. Now I know that probably someone put it there. I often try to recreate that: crystals (with are most often chemically inert and just pretty rocks) I often leave out on branches, between roots, where observant people (most often kids) can find them. It's also a way of passing gemstones on. I consider it a way of putting a bit of magic back into the woods.

But tossing tobacco in water (killing aquatic life) or using synthetics of all kind, speaks of a disconnectedness between spiritual seekers and the natural world.
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Re: Proper offering when cutting down a tree

Postby DaRC » 10 Dec 2012, 13:24

So I guess, reading through this, the best 'offering' you could do is to consider the impact that cutting the tree causes.
I too am relatively hard-hearted when it comes to young trees - most will not survive and good land management involves ensuring the habitat is balanced.

If you're cutting it yourself then this suggests it's locally sourced from a sustainable woodland. So the impact is minor and in this respect it's part of the harvest of the land. The final harvest of the year.
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Re: Proper offering when cutting down a tree

Postby BrannaLaurelin » 13 Dec 2012, 12:04

Thank you so much, everyone, for all your answers and advice!
For my part I could buy a fake tree (though it would have to look real) and have that year after year, but it is very important for my husband to have a real tree... I love the idea of a potted tree, though I'm not sure if the dry indoor air would be good for the tree - I have heard that they do not often survive being brought in and then taken out again. I also live in Norway, and the winters are very cold - so I'm afraid the sudden change of temperature will also be hurtful for the tree.

But what we ended up doing this year was this: We went to a cut-your-own-tree farm and found a beautiful little pine tree. I laid my hands on it and closed my eyes, explaining silently what we wanted to do, trying to project images of how we would decorate it, how it would brighten up our house and warm our hearts, and asked it if it was ok if we did this. It was weird, because I haven't really been able to sense these things well before, but I felt a sense of calm, of acceptance, and the thought that popped into my head was that maybe it was grateful that we at least asked first, and didn't just chop it down unceremoniously like all the other trees had to endure. It may have been my imagination, but I really felt much better for this. We also cut it very swiftly, so as the actual cutting would be as swift as possible.

I wasn't able to leave an offering then and there, because it was a cut-your-own-tree farm and there were other people about, but today I will go into the forest and leave an offering to Nature (maybe a lock of hair, or some nuts and bread for the wildlife), and then in the spring I think I'll plant a new pine tree in the forest.
~*Branna*~

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Re: Proper offering when cutting down a tree

Postby ShadowCat » 13 Dec 2012, 12:28

That sounds nice BrannaLaurelin.

If the tree is still "fresh" you could consider trying to grow a sew sapplings from it.
Here's some info on it I just googled.

If the tree still feels "alive" now it's been cut, you could also continue to nurture the tree, and collect the needles of it later to use for incense or scenting your heardfire or barbecue later in the year. If you like such a thing, you could save some branches to use for crafting too. I'm thinking things like making runes or amulets, wooden coasters made from the trunk, maybe even livewoodwands if that feels apropriate to you.
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the whisper of the wind through the leaves
the songs of one's heart
the callings of the universe

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Re: Proper offering when cutting down a tree

Postby BlazeLeeDragon » 13 Dec 2012, 16:01

Thank you so much, everyone, for all your answers and advice!
For my part I could buy a fake tree (though it would have to look real) and have that year after year, but it is very important for my husband to have a real tree... I love the idea of a potted tree, though I'm not sure if the dry indoor air would be good for the tree - I have heard that they do not often survive being brought in and then taken out again. I also live in Norway, and the winters are very cold - so I'm afraid the sudden change of temperature will also be hurtful for the tree.

But what we ended up doing this year was this: We went to a cut-your-own-tree farm and found a beautiful little pine tree. I laid my hands on it and closed my eyes, explaining silently what we wanted to do, trying to project images of how we would decorate it, how it would brighten up our house and warm our hearts, and asked it if it was ok if we did this. It was weird, because I haven't really been able to sense these things well before, but I felt a sense of calm, of acceptance, and the thought that popped into my head was that maybe it was grateful that we at least asked first, and didn't just chop it down unceremoniously like all the other trees had to endure. It may have been my imagination, but I really felt much better for this. We also cut it very swiftly, so as the actual cutting would be as swift as possible.

I wasn't able to leave an offering then and there, because it was a cut-your-own-tree farm and there were other people about, but today I will go into the forest and leave an offering to Nature (maybe a lock of hair, or some nuts and bread for the wildlife), and then in the spring I think I'll plant a new pine tree in the forest.

Personally I'm bold enough to say it's my faith I'll do as I please ;) I figure everyone runs around saying Merry Christmas but I don't celebrate Christmas, they put up city decorations. So if I was in your shoes and wanted to do an offering I would walk up to the tree and at least put my hand on it and say a few words :) also nothing wrong with natural or handcrafted offerings dropped at the base of the tree, maybe even an herbal mixtures that is steeped fluid you can pour. something that is charge with your love and attention :)

We do a tree for Alban Arthan too, and after words we burn the tree, earth to fire and then scatter the ashes, I wish you luck in what ever you decide :)
May the peace of the season find you,
Blaze Dragon


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Re: Proper offering when cutting down a tree

Postby BrannaLaurelin » 16 Dec 2012, 21:28

Thank you for your ideas :)
~*Branna*~

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Re: Proper offering when cutting down a tree

Postby Rickey » 13 Oct 2015, 05:59

If you cut one plant three.
I second that. :D You can also make your own ritual for the harvesting of the tree and the planting of the new. :D
Always remember to grind the stumps before planting a new tree.

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Re: Proper offering when cutting down a tree

Postby Green Raven » 13 Oct 2015, 08:21

Or why not make a sacrifice of time and labour by using a tirfor winch, pinch bars, picks and bow saw? :) :anx: :gulp:

Hi, ex-treeworker myself :shake: - good to see another outdoorsman here, your practical reverence for the natural world is most welcome. And there's nothing like being 'out in it' for feeling the Wheel of the Year.

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Re: Proper offering when cutting down a tree

Postby Amory » 26 Jan 2016, 13:09

If you cut one plant three.
Having to cut down a tree is the worst, I hate doing it. When planting more does it matter where I plant them?

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Re: Proper offering when cutting down a tree

Postby Heddwen » 26 Jan 2016, 13:36

If you cut one plant three.
Having to cut down a tree is the worst, I hate doing it. When planting more does it matter where I plant them?
Welcome to the OBOD board , Amory. I'm no tree planting expert, but I think that it depends on the tree eg willow is better planted away from a house. Planting three is a good idea, but not too close to each other I should think :thinking:


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