Last year my colleagues at Agnostic Scotland and I discussed an idea to support a project run by Trees for Life, a conservation charity dedicated to rewilding the Caledonian Forest which is a rich habitat found in the Scottish Highlands. So on Christmas Eve 2019 we bought a digital grove and began to donate trees. The Agnostic Scotland digital grove has now been populated with 60 trees. You can have a look here & learn about the native species that are planted on our behalf.
Our plan is that our grove will be planted in honour of the communities and the families whose ceremonies we, as Agnostic Scotland Celebrants, conduct.
As Agnostic Scotland celebrants we are privileged to support people as they navigate important transitions in their lives and planting trees in support of this wonderful rewilding project is such a perfect way to show our appreciation to all the remarkable individuals, families and communities we are lucky enough to encounter through in our work. It is also an opportunity to express our respect, gratitude and hope for the natural world that sustains us all.
Therefore, from now on when communities come together to collaborate and celebrate through ceremony and ritual I will plant a tree in support. Every time I have the honour of working with a couple who are getting married, exchanging vows or expressing their life commitment to one another I will plant a tree to celebrate their union. When blessingways and naming ceremonies welcome new babies I will plant a tree to celebrate their arrival. When families gather to celebrate the life of a loved one who has died I will plant a tree in their memory.
For those of you who I have connected with recently or am working with currently I have donated trees to thank and honour you. I feel quite a buzz thinking of your native Scottish tree happily growing into mature trees that will transform hillsides into young woodland, then mature into wild forests for future generations to enjoy.
‘the clearest way into the universe is through a forest wilderness’
I’d like to share with you my script from our Agnostic Scotland launch ceremony which tells you a little about our apple tree, our Tree Dressing and more.
Hello everyone! It is so good to see you all here together in this wonderful space.
My name is Andrea Taylor and I, just like Onie and Linda, am thrilled to be a part of this new organisation and also very proud of what we have achieved so far, specifically the seeds we have planted in regards to our Community Connection Gatherings and Community Fund. Our commitment to nurturing human connection, inspiring collaboration and consistently investing in the community is already thoroughly rooted.
We are honoured that you have all come together this evening to spend some of your time with us, to find out more about Agnostic Scotland and to meet and connect with others. That step, that offering in itself, sends us a collective message of support and we thank you all so much for that.
Of course, as Celebrants, we felt it was very important to celebrate and mark this milestone through ceremony and ritual. To take a moment to recognise the potency of change and transition.
One of our intentions in holding this launch party, a ritual in itself, is to create a demarcation, a line, between the past and the future, the old and the new and to cultivate a true course for Agnostic Scotland.
Also, like many ceremonies, many rituals, this event is about holding a space to bring people together, to welcome you all, to create opportunity for everyone here to tap into commonalities which have the potential to unite and fortify, ourselves, our own communities and the wider community across Scotland.
Rituals can also offer a moment of reflection and time to consider someone or something that is meaningful to you and a time to tend your own wellbeing or send some positive thoughts to someone you love.
Therefore we would like to offer an opportunity for all of you to take part in a ritual this evening.
The chosen ritual is based on the long standing, rich tradition of fastening fabric and ribbons to trees that is widespread across the world. I have recently heard of this described as Tree Dressing. So this is what we have decided to call our version of this practice.
You may have heard about the ancient Scottish Clootie Tree, cloot is a Scots word for cloth, and also of the global practice of Prayer Trees or Wishing Trees.
Trees are wonderfully symbolic in their own right, representing long life and health, stability, shelter and security. Trees are a perfect example of how to live, grow, transition, change and even die with grace.
In Scotland, soaking a ‘cloot’ in spring water and tying onto a tree which was growing close to the revered well was associated with improving health and wellbeing of yourself and loved ones or often whole villages or clans.
In Canada there is reportedly an increase in Ribbon Trees appearing in remote areas placed by those who have historic ties to the land.
In Turkey and Cyprus people tie rags to low branches on ancient fig trees for good luck.
This evening, when our wee ceremony comes to an end, we invite you to do something similar to what many people have done before us over the years and are still doing across the globe.
For our ‘Agnostic Scotland Tree Dressing’ this evening we have brought, from my garden in Portobello, a tree that we felt was perfect for this ritual as apple trees are symbolic of nurturing energies. In Celtic mythology Apple trees are a symbol of good health, future happiness and of bringing a sense of wholeness, togetherness and connection with nature
• this tree has been grown from a pip that had sprouted in an apple my husband, Alex, was eating one day around 10 years ago.
• we also have some water collected from the North Sea (I swim in the sea regularly so collected the water that morning)
• strips of natural fabric
Choose a piece of fabric and soak your fragment of cloth, or cloot, in the seawater and then hold the fabric close, take a moment to ponder and reflect, think of a word, a dedication. Send love, gratitude, a merit or positive thoughts to someone that is known to you, to yourself, the wider community, the planet, to everyone here tonight …..
whatever inspires you
Hold your ‘cloot’ close and take a moment to let that word, that thought, that feeling register in your mind and in your heart. When you are ready tie your soaked fabric to the tree.
At the end of the evening Alex and I will take our tree back to our garden in Portobello and one day soon we will plant it with all your wishes, blessings, hopes and aspirations attached.
The cloots/cloth will stay in place until the elements wear them away, the fabric will disintegrate dispersing your thoughts, your words into the air, into the universe.