Witnessing tree spirits

Three Sisters
Three Sisters

By Steve Staniek

The forest has always been my spiritual home where I could feel safe and free. Perhaps it was my exposure to nature from an early age that raised my sensitivity to the energies around me, until I grew `into an environmental empath, that’s someone who can feel the presence of different kinds of natural energies.  

As an autistic child, I would find refuge in the woods near our house whenever the tension, or unexpressed energy at home, school, ot church became unbearable. In a quiet spot beside a creek I built a fort out of branches, ropes, and boxes, and it became my Robinson Crusoe island of sanity. Away from all eyes, I could strip down to my underwear on warm days, and finally breath through my bare skin as a way of feeling free.  I yearned to discover the secrets of the forest, but mostly I just explored my own thoughts and feelings, and made friends with any forest creatures who didn’t run away.  I felt more at home in the community of trees than the community of people. My mother prayed that I would not turn feral.  

While sitting in class, my wandering eyes and mind would travel out the window to watch the tall poplar trees outside.  Observing patterns fascinated me, and I enjoyed watching the energy of the wind move through the passive leaves and animating them by twisting them from green to silver. I was more interested in what they seemed to saying than the person at the front of the room. I often paid the price for my lack of scholarly self discipline, and I struggled to keep up in school.  But my relationship to trees survived into adulthood, and they were always in the back of my mind, figuratively and literally. I was thrilled to discover later in life that the white matter in our hind brain, the cerebellum, forms branches of communication within itself, and it’s called the Tree of Life.   

When retirement approached we decided to leave the big city where we had spent most of our lives, to live in the country.  One bright sunny day, as I was driving along Highway 401 to a conference in Kingston, I felt a sudden urge to pull off the busy highway and explore Prince Edward County. My mind was on auto pilot as I drove along quiet stretches of highway that wound through villages, vineyards, and farmlands. Like a hound following a favourite scent, I followed my feelings and noticed that my mood began to improve as I circled the bucolic island. I felt lighter and more together as I cruised the county roads.

After a couple of years of searching we eventually found just the right place nestled among trees, and overlooking the water. Here, the branches, boxes, and ropes of my childhood gave way to a comfortable bungalow suitable for our retirement years.

Steve's House

Our home sits firmly on the knee of a limestone escarpment, about 125 feet above the water, and provides us wonderful vistas of the Bay of Quinte below. After living on the property for about a year we began to do some landscaping in a low-lying clearing surrounded by trees, which we named the glen.  

On a warm and blustery day, I found myself raking and leveling ground in the glen. The air was so full of moving energy that it became palpable.  I’ve found that energy in motion often engages and influences other sources of energy.  I used to love to visit the shore of Lake Ontario on stormy days, just to feel the powerful energy released by swirling wind swells, and great white and dark waves tumbling and crashing on the rocky shoreline.

Now, as I raked the dry ground in the glen I found the work hard and boring. Soon my eyes began to wander to the edge of the glen to a gnarly looking cedar growing there. My idle mind was drawn repeatedly to this strange looking tree as though I was responding subliminally to a subtle call from that direction that whispered: “Hey, look at me”.  It was very much like being in a room alone with your own thoughts, and then another person walks in which triggers a sudden change in the focus of your awareness. Your consciousness immediately expands to engage the new consciousness nearby, and its presence seems to summon you from your thoughts.  Out of curiosity, I dropped my rake and walked over to check out the source of my distraction.

The strange tree was the largest, and probably the oldest of three trees that formed a triangle on that side of the glen. I learned that they were eastern red cedars, a native species that survives dry conditions by going dormant. Closer examination revealed that these native trees have some quirky characteristics. Instead of a single solid trunk, it has a trunk comprised of multiple smaller trunks that come together to form a single trunk.  In crowded conditions, it will send out a rogue branch that defies the normal branching pattern as it wanders great distances to seek out better sunlight.  These trees often grow in areas unsuitable for other species. They’re related to eastern white cedars, the tree thought to be the tree of life, or arbour vitae, used by First Nations to treat scurvy, and which saved the lives of Jacques Cartier’s crew. The largest of the three trees appeared to be the mother tree with several rogue branches that twisted downwards. Unlike the other cedars in the area, its trunk was twisted in a clockwise direction, as though some force had shaped its growth.  

Three Sisters
Three Sisters

As I stood in the triangle formed by the cedars, I felt soft tingling on my skin, combined with a sense of mental calming. When I conducted a dowsing survey of the area months later, my dowsing rods found several lines of energy traversing the land, and converging at the cedar triangle.  I chose this nexus as my meditation spot in order to exploit the environmental energy available here.  The glen also became my lab in other ways.

In a far corner of the glen a group of ash trees had become infected with the Ash Borer Beetle. Over a period of three to four years we watched helplessly as the trees slowly lost their battles against insects. Beetles had bored pencil holes into the thick bark, and tunneled under it, robbing the trees of vital sap. The second assault came in the form of tent caterpillars that decimated the ash leaves, and forced the trees to leaf out twice in the same season, draining their reserves.

The first tree to come down was a 60 foot specimen that was still mostly alive when we cut it down. It fell with a heavy thud that shook the little glen, and sent my son and me running for cover. We bucked the branches and left the trunk for another day.

Ash Down

Three nights later I awoke around 4:30 AM for a bathroom visit, and became wide awake afterwards. Since it was a mild October night, I put on my bathrobe and slippers, and decided to walk down to the glen to make a rare, early morning meditation. As I descended into the glen I hit something. I had forgotten about the felled tree laying in the middle of the glen, and though my eyes were dark adapted, I did not see the branches lying on the ground until I walked into them.  As I peered into the darkness before me, my eyes took in a faint ribbon of light stretching away from me for many feet into the night’s darkness. I had to take a few steps back to catch my breath and regain my balance.

Puzzled, I walked back up to the rim of the glen from where I could see that there were no patches of low lying fog forming anywhere. The night sky above was clear and starlit. There were no clouds overhead to produce a skyshine effect, ie: reflecting light from nearby ground sources. I gave the long sliver of glowing light a wide berth so as not to disturb it, as I walked around to approach it from another angle to see if I could discover its source and extent.  This time as I got closer to a wider part of the trunk, I could make out a soft grey-blue glow hovering over the full length of the carcass of the tree. As my mind took in the significance of the scene my head dropped intuitively out of respect for what I knew in my heart was a lifeforce leaving the dying tree. I said some words of regret, and my body started to shake with excitement or cold as I sat in quiet wonder.   

The glow disappeared as the morning light entered the glen. I rushed to the house to investigate the strange light on-line.  My cursory research suggested that the grey-blue glow fit the pattern for bioluminescence from decaying organic matter. The common name is Foxfire or Will ‘o the Wisp, and it was documented long ago. The usual sources are decaying matter and fungi, and the glow is so faint that it can only be observed if your eyes have been dark adapted. Apparently, the light is produced by a pair of special enzymes found in some types of decaying matter, and they combine to release biophotons of soft light. After discussing the tree’s eerie glow with an experienced woodsman and chemist, I chose the simple explanation that the light I had observed that morning came from rotting sawdust created under the ash bark by destructive beetle activity.

A few days later I started to dissect the trunk for firewood, and I noticed how thick the bark was, and how little sawdust had been produced by the beetle invaders. The amount of sawdust under the bark was trivial, and it just didn’t seem possible that it was enough to decay and produce all the light that I had observed. The bark was so thick that it would surely absorb the light photons completely.  More compelling, was the sudden realization that the rest of the ash trees were equally infected, and still standing, but they did not give off any visible light emissions on that night. As the realization that the eerie glow over the dying ash tree was most likely its life force or spirit leaving the dying carcass sank in, it sent a chill up my spine.

Since the unusual phenomenon could not be explained satisfactorily by natural processes, I assigned it to non-ordinary reality. This compelling visual evidence has proven to my scientific mind that spirits live  in trees.  Why is there no documentation of this anywhere? Can only autistic eyes discern spirits and things that glow in the night? Now I see trees differently. They’re live fasteners that connect the sky with the earth. Because they live in both worlds, they act as a living conduit of communication between them.  

FMRI studies reveal that consciousness is still measurably present after the brain/body has died, telling us that consciousness is not the result of biological processes. Science supports the theory that trees have intelligence, because trees have been observed to mount organized defences against a deadly threat. Planning and strategizing require creative thought.

When the rest of the ash group is felled this spring, they will hopefully provide more opportunities to study this undocumented phenomenon, perhaps with a night vision camera.

Shamanic and other spiritual cultures around the world honour and use sacred trees as: portals or gateways to hidden worlds, sources of wisdom, and even wish fulfillment. To name just a few, the Mohawks of Canada honour the cedar as the sacred tree of life. The Caribe natives honour the ceiba tree, and West African’s have spiritual relationships with the iroko tree.

The visible light emissions coming from the ash tree trunk 3 days after it was cut down, proved to me with high confidence that trees have a spiritual nature that gives them life, and it can be observed under the right conditions.


Steve StaniekSteve is a lifelong community activist, who’s main interests are human rights and public safety. He found the shamanic path to be a natural fit, and believes that discovering our spiritual sovereignty and growing it, will heal and liberate us.

14 replies on “Witnessing tree spirits”
  1. Steve:


    Between beetles and light and sawdust…

    and beyond …

    These Ontario glens … I have also read about them in Lucy Maud Montgomery’s work. [in the later Anne books].

    The trees and their power!

  2. says: Steve Staniek


    I don’t think that glens in Ontario, or the rest of Canada are anything special. I think the key is how we manage our relationship with the local environment, and the level of caring and trust we’re able to bring to that relationship. Here’s the ironic part….Aspies generally have trouble managing relationships with our fellow humans, but I believe we learn quickly, and do much better when we connect with the right things, ideas, or processes.

    The glen became my lab about 9 years ago, and since then I’ve built a physical and spiritual relationship of trust with all the denizens in my glen: trees, mammals, birds, rocks, and all their associated spirits in the unseen realms.

    We see the glen as a community that has daily struggles, like any other community. We’ve worked as caring custodians of the glen by: trimming and grooming trees only when necessary, helping them fight their battles by clearing as many tent caterpillar nests as we could reach, giving pep talks before a wind or ice storm, expressing compassion during long droughts, bringing offerings of seeds and tobacco, and spending time in mindful meditation among them. When we’re forced to cut down infected trees that have no hope of surviving, we do it compassionately, and we use guide ropes to drop it carefully so it will not harm neighbouring trees as it falls. We speak and sing words of praise to the glen to raise its energy and strengthen the natural harmony of the landscape.

    I subscribe to the ancient narrative that our humanity was born out of a spark of the great creator of all that is, and when we combine our spiritual or divine love with nature, we create sacred places of spiritual power.

    Aspies know it takes trust to open our personal doors, and the same principle works in forest communities. In time, the glen became a great teacher as it revealed its wonderous secrets.

  3. says: Steve Staniek

    Q – Ever wonder who’s in charge of the planet spiritually?

    Do humans have a spiritual monopoly on this planet, or are we really a tiny spiritual minority, blind to the presence of fellow spirits, and lost in the bigger scheme of life on Earth?

    As our spiritual awareness grows and opens to recognize other planetary sources, we’re discovering that the physical world is much more spiritual than we humans like to admit, but where do these other spirits exist physically?

    A recent global inventory of trees put their numbers at just over 3 trillion, vs 7 billion humans, or 428 trees for every human on the planet. If every tree has a spiritual nature, as suggested by my recent experience with tree spirits in my glen, then human spirits represent a tiny minority, less than 1% of the total spirit population on this planet.

    There is a growing body of evidence that suggests that trees regulate/control this planet. They’ve been creating the conditions for ecosystems to emerge and survive since the planet cooled enough to support life.

    – control water levels in the ground by how much they drink, (100 gal/tree/day).
    – control the wind, by diffusing it to regulate, temp and humidity on the forest floor for optimum growth.
    – provide leaves that create a living humus (soil) that supports thousands of essential lifeforms.
    – act as lightning rods (organic electrodes) to discharge excess electrical energy from our atmosphere. – dispose of our waste gases, and give us back gases we absolutely need to live.
    – transform barren deserts into living communities… where there are trees, there is abundant life.
    – they’re even known to sing and dance under the right conditions….

  4. says: Craig Briscoe

    steve I am a pendulum dowser who has Asperger syndrome and pdd-nos and I would like to ask you what prayers, protocals etc do you use to make sure that you get correct information when you dowse? and do you know of any other dowsers on the autistic spectrum ?

  5. says: Steve Staniek

    I’m not really good at it, but when I do a survey to locate a specific thing I give my higher self simple, but clear instructions to locate exactly what I’m looking for. So far so good.
    When I dowsed the glen in my article, I knew there were streams of water running through porous limestone underground, creating an electromagnetic field. That subtle energy would emerge on the landscape and engage other energies including mine as I walked around with my L-rods.I walked a small grid, 4 x 4 feet, traversing an area about 100 ft by 200 ft. When ever I encountered a reaction point I planted a small orange flag. After covering the entire glen, the rows of orange flags mark the energy lines, and show where they converge or diverge. I suppose you do something similar on
    a sheet of paper with your map inscribed when you dose with a small pendulum?
    But I suppose one could work with spirit helpers too, I just haven’t tried yet. Edgar Cayce used spirit helpers to find all kinds of stuff, even diseases and cures.
    In the movie “The Water Diviners”, Russel Crowe plays a New Zealand sheep rancher who dowses for water. Bad things happen, and he ends up dowsing for 3 bodies buried among hundreds of thousands. I bet that would be spiritually assisted or magical dowsing.
    Good luck.

  6. says: Jennifer L

    Such a beautiful write up…
    There were times when I felt totally connected to the trees like these… and would love to love among them like this some day. Perhaps like you, in my retirement.

    Such a nourishing piece to inspire my own journey. Wish you all the best…

  7. says: Steve Staniek

    Thank you for your lovely thoughts, and words. The tree story grew into a larger experience for me, and I was finally able to divine the true operator behind the event…my etheric double [Can be discovered in A.E. Powell’s “The Etheric Double”.
    Nevertheless, I believe that trees are transformational beings that bring great changes. Trees work slowly to transform great barren deserts into living landscapes fit for human habitation. Fig trees like the famous Bodhi tree, are reported to have transformed humans like Gautama Siddharta seeking spiritual enlightenment, into an awakened Buddha.
    My autistic insights suggest that trees were the first forms of life, beginning as a tiny dot of life called a monad. When the dot got bored with sitting in nothingness, it moved, and as it did it stretched itself in one direction forming a line. The dot moved again and the line grew in the opposite direction. Then each end of the line grew restless and bored, and it moved against itself until it split into two. The split ends split again into two, forming a pattern we call branches. The splits became branches at each end of the line, and one end connected with the higher energies in the cosmos called heaven, as the other end moved into the low energy levels. This formation we call “a tree”, connects the upper and lower realms, or worlds. Anyone who understands how trees really work, can use trees to travel into other worlds….Namaste.

  8. says: Craig l Briscoe

    Steve, could you tell me what instructions do you give to your higher self before you start to dowse in order to locate specific things when you are dowsing?

  9. says: Steve Staniek

    Hi Craig,

    Dowsing seems to operate from our belief systems, and our belief systems can get pretty messy, so I try to keep my dowsing very simple to avoid becoming distracted and entangled by wandering thoughtforms that can interfere with, and block my working energy. I feel my way, energetically, across a piece of landscape using a couple of L shaped rods as detectors, the way a blind person can use a white cane. I believe that there’s a part of me [my higher self] that is a vast storehouse of knowledge, and it will show me what I need to see if I ask the right questions.
    First I cleanse my mind quickly of mental debris with a minute of calm centering. Then I can say to my higher self: “Show me the energy vortex that will help me meditate more deeply”, or “Show me the lines of EM energy on this landscape”. If I were searching for a specific item buried in the ground, eg: ancient foundations, I would ask: “Show me the parts of buildings remaining in the ground”.
    I believe, and belief is central to the process, that our spiritual essence is a package of fantastic spiritual energies which can be “tuned to operate as an instrument” that reacts to other energies it encounters on the landscape. Every reaction location is a data point which combines with other points to form the pattern, or item I’m looking for.

  10. says: Kaia

    This was beautiful to read. I meditate with trees by putting my hands on the trunk of trees. They all seem to have different spirits – old/young, feminine/masculine, some warmer than others. I like to “exchange energies” with them and it seems to make my intuition stronger (or they are coming straight from the trees – I don’t know. We are all connected after all). Very interesting to know that you have first-hand witnessed the spirit! It further confirms what I have been experiencing… Thank you for the post 🙂

  11. says: Steve Staniek

    Tree lovers have a spiritual affinity for trees, and esp for their healing energy. I believe that trees are spiritual entities who hold many secrets…which can be heard under the right conditions, ie: when our hearts open to their wisdom.
    The human bodies that our spirits occupy and operate, are constructed with four bodies: physical, etheric, mental, and astral, and they’re nested together like Russian dolls. The physical body produces an electromagnetic field [EMF] when blood cells containing magnetite flow through our heart, creating electrical charges, and EMF that can be detected a few meters away. Our other bodies also have electrical properties, where more EMF is generated.
    With practice, we can tune up the sensitivity in our bodies, until we can detect the presence of EMF and other energies as sources of information in the environment. If we consciously pursue and develop this mode of subtle communication, I believe we’ll eventually develop a language that allows us to share the life of trees more intimately.
    Trees are fantastic creatures that kick started life on this planet after it cooled sufficiently. Trees colonized the barren surface, and turned deserts into forests. Their leaves created soils. Their trunks became fasteners holding earth and sky together. Tree roots pulled energy and water up from the ground, through the trunk, and released it into the air in a toroidal pattern [like a fountain], to create cycles of life energy [orgone] and moisture. Trees are sources of healing energy, our best allies, and deserve our protection.
    An ancient fig tree [bodhi tree] was instrumental in creating the first Buddha, because its spiritual energy heals and raises our spirituality.

  12. says: Steve Staniek

    Sorry, I forgot to mention that there is a wonderful goddess of trees, that is to say: “a spiritual energy”, that streams through trees, and we can focus on it as a way of communicating with the tree world. This benevolent energy is very ancient, and it dates back to the first civilizations that colonized this planet. Her name is Asherah…..[think of ash trees!].
    The mother goddess of this planet is a source of feminine energy, which has become known under many names, by many societies since antiquity. Some of her best known names are: Ki, Isis, Hathor, and most recently, Asherah. She was worshipped in ancient times as the goddess of the land, who nurtures and protects humanity.
    Darlene Kostnik’s book, “Asherah, the Vanishing Goddess”, reveals how an abundance of Asherah’s artifacts unearthed in sacred sites in Palestine inform us that she was the most popular deity during biblical times. Hebrew mothers prayed to her for support during planting, droughts, and birthing. They memorialized Asherah in the seven-branched menorah, which represents her tree of life. She was worshipped in the form of sacred trees or poles, and her temples were not of cold stone, but in nature, as groves of trees on hilltops where people came for inspiration, dancing, and healing.

    Q – How can we encourage humanity to communicate more with the tree world?
    A – Put faces on trees in backyards, parks, and along roadways, and people will stop, look, and become engaged.

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