The Wisdom of Trees


When we first ask our youngest children the simple question “Which tree does an acorn come from?” it is usually met with the simple reply “An acorn tree!”. We strive during our Forest School sessions to reconnect children with nature, to share a passion for the outdoors and encourage them to learn about nature. My mum, who is now in her mid 70s, can still easily recognise trees and flowers, but this is a skill that has not always been passed down to the younger generation. How can you inspire a generation to learn to recognise and name trees?

In Mr Ollivander’s Wand Shop, Harry Potter waits patiently for a wand to chose him (Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone). It is said that J.K. Rowling based the wood used in each of her character’s wands on the Celtic Tree Calendar. Each wood has particular attributes and qualities and these attributes help match it to a particular wizard or witch.

I was first introduced to the Celtic Tree Calendar when I attended a Level 1 Forest School training course in Sheffield many years ago. During the three day course we had to identify five trees and it soon became apparent that this was going to be quite a challenge. It was November and the trees had long since lost their leaves, leaving only the bark, twigs and tree shape as a clue to their identity. I simply hadn’t a clue which tree was which! Our tutor introduced us a to small book called “A Tree in Your Pocket” by Jacqueline Memory Patterson. The book explores the world of trees and reveals the myths and legends that surround them. During our course our tutor read extracts from the book and slowly each tree began to develop a personality of its own.

Carving a wizard's staff

Carving a wizard’s staff

Many of the myths and legends in the book came from our Celtic ancestors and were based around The Celtic Tree Calendar or The Ogham. Our ancient ancestors had a excellent knowledge of the cycles of the earth and believed that trees were the vessels of wisdom. The Ogham is part alphabet and part calendar/zodiac, a way of marking the passing of time long before the invention of watches and clocks. Each lunar month is represented by a tree, an alphabetical symbol and associated folklore, magic and symbolic meaning. The trees are as follows:-
• Birch December 24 to January 20
• Rowan January 21 to February 17
• Ash February 18 to March 17
• Alder March 18 to April 14
• Willow April 15 to May 12
• Hawthorn May 13 to June 9
• Oak June 10 to July 7
• Holly July 8 to August 4
• Hazel August 5 to September 1
• Vine September 2 to September 29
• Ivy September 30 to October 27
• Reed October 28 to November 24
• Elder November 25 to December 22

Keeping the tree spirits away!

Keeping the tree spirits away!

Over the years we have found that this combination of folklore, stories, magic and of course Harry Potter stories are a perfect way to introduce trees to children. Each tree in our wood has stories to tell and this brings them to life. Which tree is called ‘The Lady of the Woods’ and which tree you should never sleep under and why? Visit our blog regularly to find out more about each tree in The Celtic Alphabet and how you can inspire your children to learn more about trees through stories and activities.