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By Simon and Sue Lilly, published by Capall Bann at £15.95. 370pp. ISBN: 186163084-0

This substantial and thorough book is one of Capall Bann's most interesting recent offerings. The authors run a small business producing and selling a range of tree essences similar to Edward Bach's flower essences and this book is largely based on their work in that field.

As well as describing how to make tree essences yourself if you wish to, the book discusses in considerable depth such matters as sacred and traditional views of landscape and the places in it; meditation and mind-clearing and focusing techniques; folklore and tradition relating to trees, groves, and the non-corporeal beings commonly believed to inhabit them; shamanic world views and approaches to the natural world; and more in-depth magickal discussions of a selection of trees such as oak, hazel, yew, ivy and holly. The journey progresses via faery lore, the green man and using woods magickally and in ritual.

In discussing these topics, the authors stand back from the uncritical and dogmatic gullibility which characterises the writings of many other writers in this field. They speak of and discuss "the traditional view" or "traditional belief" in respect of nature spirits, faeries and so on without ever treating these matters as proven and unquestionable scientific fact of the "look, we have the photographs" variety so common in other books. What is refreshing in their discussion of the topic is their tacit acknowledgement that much of what they write deals with the subjective and experiential and that they are comfortable with this without feeling the need to bring the mystical into the concrete, or to "prove" these experiences as absolutes.

Even better, they are not afraid to openly voice scepticism about some sacred cows of neo-pagan belief, such as when they discuss the "dubious scholasticism" of Graves' The White Goddess or describe the so-called "celtic tree calendar" as almost certainly "entirely spurious", or cite the comments of Peter Berresford Ellis on the subject of the ancientness (or not) of the "celtic tree alphabet". Full marks on this score for maintaining a healthy doubt in the face of the wave of fundamentalist gullibility which seems to be sweeping through so many other "pagan" writers.

This is not to say they don't have their moments of near-madness. The section entitled "Attunements" is the worst offender by far, encouraging the reader to "attune" themselves to a particular tree by adopting a yoga-like "trance position" which in some cases would give you cramp rather than enlightenment, and/or lying on the floor with crystals in strategic positions which they term an "energy net". For yew (are you ready for this?) you should do something I can't fathom with a magenta cloth, place a red garnet below and between your feet, purple fluourite by your left knee, moonstone on your second chakra, green jade by your right elbow and a piece of clear selenite in or taped to (!) your right ear. However I don't suppose British readers will have much use for attuning themselves to the sequoia (place a piece of turquoise on the right instep, obsidian on the right hip and use a red cloth). <whine> If sitting under a tree was good enough for my granny .... </whine>

Leaving aside the brain fart of the attunements section, this is otherwise a strongly recommended single volume introduction to working magickally with trees and their attendant spirits, especially for beginners and newcomers to paganism. If you have any book tokens left over from Yule, you could do a lot worse than invest them here.