Fertility Cycles of the Forest

The United Kingdom has, just under, thirteen percent of its land surface covered with woods. The trees of Britain are famous throughout the world. Their names are known and they have featured in the great literature of the English language. The Ash, the many Oaks, the Beech, the Elm and Yew are just some of the names of trees preserved forever in posterity by the poets and writers of the last two millennias. Mighty trees and magical forests are part of the folklore of the British Isles; J. R. R. Tolkien even included ancient trees that walked the planet in his massively influential Lord of the Rings.

The fertility cycles of the forest are seasonal, of course, and here in the northern hemisphere, spring is when buds reappear on the trees and blossom. Summer follows and this is the fruiting and harvesting season; the days of summer wine. This is followed by autumn and the trees begin to colour and lose their leaves, before winter and the cold sees skeletal trees bare of foliage and dipped in snow. Everything slows down during the winter frosts and nature goes into stasis; asleep until spring’s warmth begins to thaw things out and the cycle of the forest is repeated again.

The ancient Greeks told the story of Persephone, Demeter’s daughter, being lured by Hades into the underworld to describe what happens when autumn gives way to spring. And, because she consumes some Pomegranate seeds, Persephone is condemned to spend a third of the year underground; the winter months when nothing will grow. Fertility was extremely important to agrarian communities from yesteryear and understanding the life cycles of plants was vital to their survival. The ancient world would reap and sow in the warmer seasons and store away enough food for their animals and themselves to, hopefully, last out the winter months.

We have lost touch with the seasons, somewhat, in modern times; as we have supermarkets chock full of produce all year round. Our providores source food from around the globe to keep us in victuals twenty four seven. Not having to worry about going hungry is a wonderful thing, but losing contact with the cycles of the earth is not a healthy thing for human beings. Spending some time in a forest contemplating how things grow can be a profound source of healing for a damaged soul in the twenty first century. The fecundity of nature is a beautiful thing to behold.