‘A picture is worth a thousand words’ is the old saying that describes the power of an image. So many of the stories from ancient times are bound to an image. Few understand that particular aspects of the sacred knowledge of the Waitaha Nation, which I was called to bring into our world, were held in a particular place. The elders would only bring out that lore in that place. We had to be at a certain rock, lake, river, bay, mountain, tree, waterfall or valley to bring out the story that was anchored in the land. Nothing was disconnected; all was one.

So I have returned to the old ways to share stories evoked by an image that is of a place and time.

Saturday, 18 February 2012

The Tree People

             Woody Woodward

This morning, a tree feller came to cut down a tall cedar on the land we tend. It was a sad occasion, but necessary, because some thirty years ago it’s seed had been blown into the centre of our beech forest. Now it was seeding its own kind, creating its own generation, which would smother this last remnant of native beech.

So the howl of a chainsaw was going to impinge on the beauty and silence of the day. I decided to handle this in the old way, in the way of those who tended the forests long ago. Remembering the elders’ teachings that they brought to the felling of a tree, I broke off a small branch and approached it and told the tree, and the forest around it, what was about to happen. Then I gently struck the place of the impending cut several times with the little branch and explained a deeper blow would follow and its life would end. All that it was would still be honoured for it would heat a home in the time of the winter snows and keep a new baby warm. Its leafy branches would be shredded to mulch the family garden and its wonderful scent would fill the air with the memory of what had been.

The chainsaw screeched. Silence. No shudder ran through the forest even when the tree fell. Did what was offered and the karakia help? I can’t say but it was done and I hope done in a good way. Now, in keeping with the old ways, fifteen little trees of the beech kind will be planted to honour the passing of a tall tree.

You may be of the Tree People. We are the sum of all that’s ever been of our line. We are the ancestors. If after a wretched day all you want to do is get into your garden to dig and sow, weed and harvest and find you have gained more energy than you put in, you are of the Tree People. You connect with the spirit of your ancestors when you are sustained and excited by what you do. We carry wonderful abilities passed down through time. Some may also be Stone People or Fire People, Water People or Bird People or of many other ancient lines.

The elder’s once told me the beech trees carry messages. For a long time I’d not understood the depths of what that might mean. However when they encouraged me to write, Wisdom of the Four Winds, to bring the kaitiaki or spirit guardians back into our lives, I saw a little deeper. If wisdom is simply growing into greater awareness, then everything around us, the mountains and forests, the rivers and oceans, the birds and fish, the thunder and lightning, the Sun and the Moon have things to tell us.


  1. All trees are carrying messages.....Be quiet.... sit.... observe and listen..... Frank

    1. kia ora Frank. Man of the trees. Great to hear from you. Arohanui

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