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Book Review
The Ancient Magick of Trees: Identify & Use Trees in Your Spiritual & Magickal Practice
by Gregory Michael Brewer, Llewellyn Publications (2019); review by Owen Williams

Front Cover: The Ancient Magick of TreesSynopsis: This unique illustrated resource helps you identify more than one hundred common trees across North America and Europe and discover their medicinal and magickal properties. Gregory Michael Brewer provides detailed information about the mythology and symbolism of trees from around the world along with an abundance of exercises and meditations suitable for Pagans of all skill levels and traditions.

Featuring over two hundred illustrations, this book is the only one you'll need while studying trees. Whether you're seeking the scientific characteristics of a particular species or the folk traditions and remedies associated with it, this is a must-have guide for those who want to enhance their magickal practice and their understanding of our relationship with trees.

I am not what you would call a “spiritual person”. However, even without a natural predisposition to feel a mystical connection with nature, I found The Ancient Magick of Trees to be an entertaining and eye-opening read. The book’s goal is to show how important trees have been across human existence, and to teach us how we can form a better relationship with trees today. It serves as a great guide for those who want to get back in touch with nature and wish to harness some of the “magick of the forest” in their own lives!

Though the book does not delve deeply into any one culture or religion, author Gregory Brewer clearly shows that seeing trees as divine beings is a common, nearly universal view shared across time and civilizations. From the ancient Egyptian culture in which Ra the Sun God rose between two Sycamore trees each morning, to two prominent modern religions—Christianity and Buddhism—whose origins are intertwined with the simple existence of trees, the pattern is clear. Brewer draws on and exposes the reader to many examples of the importance of trees in the foundational stories of culture, myth, and religion throughout the book, though further reading would be needed for an in-depth understanding of these examples, as he does exclusively present abridged summaries of these stories.

I was pleasantly surprised to find a childhood favorite of mine included among the tales: The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. The story was something that always stuck with me, and Brewer does a great job of breaking down how it illustrates the give-and-take relationship we have with nature. As mentioned I am not a “spiritual” person, but it is nearly impossible to deny a spiritual element in the abusive way we treat trees, and how they seemingly give back to us so selflessly, almost in a forgiving way. We are the boy who takes everything from nature, and while thankful, we often fail to give back anything in return, while the tree is simply happy to just give. I found this to be such a beautiful reminder of how we can get so far apart from nature spiritually, although we may be near it physically.

This led into the later sections of the book, which are involved with practical tree identification as well as advice on how to get more in touch with the “magick” of trees. I for one am convinced: I plan on using this book to develop a better relationship with the trees around me at Ecology Action and, if they so allow, to channel some of the "magick" and wisdom they provide so generously. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who has experienced the undeniable mystique that an abundance of trees provides. If you have a deeper interest in trees than simply enjoying them from afar, and want to integrate a more balanced connection with them into your life, The Ancient Magick of Trees is a good place to start.

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