A note about this post
This was a difficult post to write, and not just because it is one of the longest I have ever written. It has also taken the longest time to publish! It is the final post in my Nottinghamshire tales [see also: The Hobgoblin of Creswell Crags and The Beech of Clumber Park] , and was the most unexpected of all of the encounters. I say “unexpected”. Perhaps “unbelievable” is more the word. You will see why soon. Some people I have spoken to about it said that I shouldn’t post this information – that it was “just for me” perhaps. I understand why they said this, and I think it was out of concern for me. I appreciate their concern. Rest assured that within this forum I have nothing to protect any longer – those barriers have been down for a while now!
Nevertheless, when good people offer you warnings it is sensible to pay attention. Therefore I have been pondering how to write this post for more than a week and have decided to relate it just as it happened because my subsequent dowsing corroborated the events of the day. That’s good enough for me. If I am being deceived then everything I do must be a lie. I will leave the decision to your good selves on this one. Undoubtedly there is a psychological explanation that might explain things more fully, but that is for someone else to contribute. Here is the story, in its fullness, and without any euphemistic terminology. It’s long. Prepare yourself!
The Wasted Land
As I made my way from Nottingham towards Sherwood Forest I began to see signs that I was entering the land of lore and legend. The number of references to Robin Hood was startling. Every other pub seemed to be called “The Robin Hood”. Every other sign was pointing to something relating to him. “Robin Hood Concrete”, “The Robin Hood Stables”, “Robin Hood’s Knackers Yard”. I slightly exaggerate, but not by much. The commercial potential of the figure is ‘well utilised” shall we say?
Yet, the landscape did not match my expectations. On either side of the straight roads around Sherwood are just clumps of woodland punctuating gently inclining fields of agricultural land that are devoid of hedges or other living boundaries. It was all a bit….open, and…dull! Where were the vast forests that once covered the whole of this county and beyond it? Were these tiny clumps of scattered trees the only remaining bits? Surely not? The farther I drove the more I realised that they were the only remaining survivors of a once mighty landscape. Now the landscape was denuded, dulled and deadened.
As I got closer to the legendary forest I felt an increasing sense of unease coupled with a sense of collective guilt. The sadness coming from the land mingled with the sense of loss I felt while driving through these claimed spaces was heart-breaking. I vowed to apologise for the greed and stupidity of my species first thing once I met some spirit of the trees. I knew instinctively that it would not be enough to make any kind of a difference, but it felt like a necessary first step to redemption.
Now I pulled into the car park at the forest. It felt exciting! A boyhood dream was about to be realised…
As I walked through from the visitor centre and facilities I was aware that I was entering the domain of the legend of Robin Hood. A slight shiver of anticipation went through me.
Sherwood Forest evokes such memories and associations from every era of my existence. As a small boy I watched the Disney cartoon film. As an youth I re-enacted scenes in local woods, shooting arrows from a home-made bow, hunting imaginary game and foes. Then there have been the Hollywood re-makes. My encounter with the lone tree at Sycamore Gap by Hadrian’s Wall that featured in the “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves” film. There are memories of the haunting beauty of the Clannad theme music that accompanied the TV series that I always tried to watch but was rarely allowed to.
Of course, I have also re-read the stories since I have been studying druidry, and have come across many mentions of Robin as The Green Man of ancient celebrity too (“Robin Hood” meaning “The Shining Crown” or “Bright Hood” – a reference to the corona around the head associated with enlightened beings). With all this confusion going on, it was a tough task to wipe the slate clean before I entered the forest and begin my stroll through this legendary place with a clear head and no preconceived idea of what to expect. Was that possible, or would there always be a cultural reference lurking somewhere in my mind? One of the disciplines of Druidry is to clear and still the mind with a walking meditation, and no place is better for that than a forest on a quiet day. Such was this day – still and quiet. I walked mindfully.
Once I entered the forest I was overawed by the size and age of the remaining oaks. A smile mixed with a sense of awe began to form across my face. Was this going to fulfill every dream I had of the most magical of forests? As I walked on the smile slowly faded. I was completely crest-fallen at the state of the arboreal giants. An information sign made a pitiful stab at an explanation of the mangled forms that reared like frozen and frightened stags before me. The oaks were what was called “stag head” or “blasted” oaks, in that their crowns were bared and whitened stumps of branches in painfully silhouetted awkward shapes, projecting rude and ugly shapes into the sky.
Where I had expected canopies of fractal beauty, instead I was met with pale and lacking forms. It shocked me. Sometimes I would find what looked like an intact oak, only to see that its heart was rotten. The information signs attempted to appease me again: “Only the finest timber has been harvested from the forest, and what you see left behind are those trees that didn’t achieve that quality standard” is my paraphrase of their information. As I gazed across the blasted landscape I felt like the heart of the forest was similarly rotting away. Where was the magic? Where was the touch of the Green Man? What had happened to Robin Goodfellow? I headed to the focal point of the forest – the Major Oak – in search of Sherwood’s splendour and her protector.
On my travels I came across one oak whose energies I could feel and whose bearing impressed me. I stopped to pay homage to the tree’s greatness, and to bask in its aura for a moment. Sensing me there the tree delivered a waves of unmitigated euphoria towards me and I responded with a laugh and a grin to display the feeling of the euphoric energy wave that swept through my own energy field and into the heart of my body, making me shiver with excitement and the thrill of the sparking magickal pulse. I paid my respects and nodded my staff to the tree in acknowledgement.
I was still laughing two or three minutes later as I followed the occasional sign directing me towards The Major Oak. Then it appeared in view.
Stand to attention – it’s the Major Oak!
The first time you see this immense giant of an oak you cannot help but be impressed. It has been given a wooden (thankfully, wooden) barrier to prevent the people who have been driven insane with arboreal lust from racing up to the tree and hacking it to death with a spoon. Or some such stupid excuse. “Health and safety” is not doubt at the ‘root’ of this ‘helpful’ and ‘protective’ barrier. I ignored it, of course. Barriers are for people who don’t understand boundaries and need them defining by others. There was no chance on earth that I would harm the tree even unintentionally, and so I gave myself the right, as a druid, to walk up to it and introduce myself – one energy field communicating with another. I settled with my staff at the base of the tree, nestled in its colossal roots, and began to commune with the giant….
…and nothing happened! There was no response. I tried again. No response. A flood of questions began : Was I in the correct state of mind? Was it permissible for me to talk to this tree? So on and so forth. Only the dowsing rods would be able to answer these questions, and so I jumped up and began to question.
- Did this tree have any spirit presence inside or around it? NO.
No?! But… I was puzzled. That hardly seemed possible considering its presence and reputation. I asked the same question about three different ways. NO, NO and NO. I sat back down. This was unbelievable. What had happened to this tree for it to have no spirit presence at all? Even some of the lowliest, tiniest, spindliest trees I have ever met have had some form of internal or external spirit that could be contacted. Here was a huge ancient oak, renowned throughout the land, that was empty, devoid of all spirit. It defied belief. I must be wrong. I checked again. Same answers.
The tree definitely had an aura, and it was definitely living, but there was simply no other spiritual presence linked to it.
I sat back down and once again pushed my aura out around the tree’s roots and branches, searching for glimmers of some form of energy that was sentient and responsive. Nothing was found. However, as my mind began to explore the inner boundaries of the tree I did find something. I found a swirling hole that was like a vortex drawing in energy from the people who stopped to admire the tree. With each passing person I could feel that the tree would take their attention, their feelings of awe, and it would funnel these energies down into the roots. The roots would then disperse the energy outwards into the rest of the forest. I couldn’t follow the energy beyond the tree itself, so I don’t really know where it was going, but the vortex felt real.
When I investigated the top branches of the tree I found another vortex of energy spiralling in the opposite direction. This vortex was also dispersing energy out into the forest, like some kind of gigantic spinning top. I hitched a mental ride on the energy spiral and found myself being flung out over the treetops in my mind. I brought myself back to my body and assimilated the experience, trying to work out what was happening with this tree. It seemed to me that the tree was now being used by the forest to collect and disperse the human attention that the rest of the forest may have been lacking. This is not something I have encountered anywhere else.
If the Spirit of the Forest could not be found in this tree, then I would have to go in search of it. I mean, surely such a forest of lore and legend must have a Spirit of Place, mustn’t it? I quickly checked the dowsing rods – YES. Well, thank whoever for that!
His Name is Five Letters
I followed the dowsing rod as it pointed in a straight line towards the Spirit of the Forest. Usually the rods go in a wavy line towards a target. Today they pointed straight at it. You should try walking in a straight line through a forest… it’s not a simple task! But nothing about this spiritual quest is as simple as we would like it. I endured the straight direction, being astonished that somehow I never encountered a tree on this straight path. I walked for a good ten minutes, crossing paths, hurdling fences, up hill and down dale. At a seemingly innocuous point in the forest the rods swung to a stop, circling around a shallow pit.
The pit looked like a large tree had once been rooted there, had maybe toppled over, and then the wood of the tree had been cleared away. That was my impression. Yet the space was not how I would have imagined a Spirit of Place would choose a home. Quiet, it certainly was. Beautiful? In terms of earth energies it has a combination of male and female, which is about as good as it gets, so in that respect it was a beneficial place to be. I began some dowsing concerning the spirit itself…
- Was the Spirit of Place resident here? YES.
- Had the spirit previously resided elsewhere? YES.
- Did the spirit once live in the Major Oak? YES.
- How long had the spirit been at this place? 350 years (approx.)
I stopped dowsing. I felt there was another way to get the information I was seeking. I put the rods away and settled alongside the edge of the pit to commune with the spirit. Within a few minutes of silent approach an internal dialogue began….
This spirit had moved away from the Major Oak in the late 17th Century. This was due to the change in attitudes of the forest users. Humans had begun to claim the wood of the forest as a resource without asking permission. Many trees had been plundered from this time onwards. This change in attitude, this loss of respect, caused the spirit to move deeper into the forest and to hide away in a tree that still had a strong aura. Now that tree was gone, the spirit was mourning the loss but had not moved on to another tree. I felt like it couldn’t find one! but it would never find one if it didn’t go looking!
I had a feeling that I could help. I had already encountered a tree who’s aura was strong and that I felt would make a suitable home for the Spirit of the Forest. I asked if this would be agreeable and the spirit kind of… shrugged. It was a pathetic feeling from a brow-beaten energy form! I felt really sorry for the spirit. It felt as beaten and battered as the forest itself.
After some more dowsing to check my ideas, and confirm that my intention would not have any unforeseen consequences, I prepared the spirit for a transfer to another part of the forest. I laid out some crystals to assist with the move, and asked the spirit to enter into one specific stone that I had with me (how come I always have a stone hanging around n my pockets when I need one?). This done I lit some incense to clear the old space, and headed off to the tree that I would offer the spirit as its new home. On the other side of the forest, at the magickal tree, I placed the stone into the bark and stepped away. Did it feel right? It did, but again I resorted to the dowsing rods for confirmation. They indicated that although there would be some time required for the spirit to get used to its new home, the transfer was promising, if not an overwhelming or roaring success straight away. So be it. At least it was a start.
I had one or two remaining questions. Top of the list was – did this spirit have a name? I thought it would be interesting to discover the name of the Spirit of Sherwood Forest, especially as we had had an interaction. It seemed sort of polite to ask! I began to ask the dowsing rods:-
- How many letters in the name of this spirit? FIVE. Good – at least it wasn’t 25!
- First latter….’R', then ‘O’…’B'…..
I stopped. The conclusion was obvious. ROBIN! The result was so mind-blowingly obvious, so stunningly obvious that my mind initially rejected it. Was this a joke? Was this whole episode a big joke being played on me by the forest? I got a little bit angry. All that work and I was being tricked into playing a silly game? I had one final question, and this time it wouldn’t be with the dowsing rods, because I couldn’t be sure I trusted them any more.
Q. If this episode with the Spirit of the Forest was true, then show me an obvious sign straight away!
I stood in the silent, still afternoon air and waited to see what would happen. Within a few seconds of finishing the question (almost the demand!) a small breeze blew up out of nowhere, and a dust devil – a swirl of dust – blew around me (and only around ME, not anywhere else) spitting dirt into my face. I spluttered. Where had that come from? There wasn’t even any patch of dust nearby, not to mention no wind at all!! There was no way I could ignore THAT sign! I had my answer. It was real. This was not a joke, or a cruel deception. All this had happened.
The Green Man is the symbol of the re-infusion of the earth energies that the tree’s roots come into contact with. It is the spark that ignites the movement of the fluids around the trees, gets the sap rising, so to speak. The movement of the Robin The Green Man had stopped, and the energy of the trees had become increasingly just a biological function of the cycle of the seasons in modern times, I felt. The magical element of the forest has been missing for some time. Moving Robin – the spirit of the forest – to a more magical location, a more energetic location, was an attempt to re-position that magic into the heart of Sherwood, and thereby re-invigorate the forest and its fortunes. It was an act of hope and longing performed with care and love. What more could a druid do?
So, have I now got an answer for the question “Who is Robin of Sherwood“? As you may have seen from the links at the top of this post this name has been associated with many concepts – Robin Goodfellow, The Green Man, Robin Hoode, and others. My own thoughts on this are that “Robin” is the name for a thought form that has been created over time and which is now the Spirit of Place for Sherwood Forest.
I don’t know whether this was a process I needed to go through, a ritual I was being invited to enact, a coincidence, a fabrication, a deception or something that really happened. My dowsing after the event, my repeated dowsing which has included pleas to be as objective and real as possible, has corroborated every aspect of these events and refuses to accept that I was in any way deceived. I am left with the tale of an amazing and incredible day that has been one of the hardest posts to lay before you all. I know how this appears. It appears the same way to me too, and it may be a reflection of ego, or some other horrific human trait that feels the need to concoct such a story in the midst of this once great forest. All I know is that I lived that tale, and being there it felt real. I am now interested to see what happens as a result, but I make no predictions. The spirit needs to work its own magic now that it is back in place.
Long live Robin of Sherwood – the Green Man.