The first time I ever had a vision was when I received my first reiki attunement. Several images flashed through my mind during the attunement, but after all the brief pictures I felt the presence of two towering guardian spirits, one on either side of me. They seemed to be an identical pair, or at least to share the same consciousness. They felt ancient, but born from the soil on this continent. They were silent, and I sensed they were watching intently.
Many years passed before I moved into the home of a lover on property in rural Oregon. Outside my bedroom window, two tall trees rose high above the house, and I recognized the spirits who had appeared to me in my vision.
Research revealed them to be Douglas firs–Pseudotsuga menziesii–an evergreen native to the Northwest United States. It thrives all across the region in a number of different climates. The tree is not a true fir, and the genus Pseudotsuga (which means false hemlock) has only a handful of species in North America and eastern Asia. Our species has distinct pine cones with three-forked bracts, deeply-furrowed, cork-like bark, and short, soft needles. According to Northwest Trees, the thick bark is fire-resistant, helping the tree to survive when many other trees are destroyed.
Over the decade I lived on the land with the Douglas Firs, I often felt watched over and comforted by their presence. The two guardian trees overlooked the fire circle where I held many ceremonies, and enjoyed many long evenings of feeding the flames while watching bats appear and chase insects against a darkening sky.
In addition to the two watchers, there was also a Douglas fir I thought of as a mother tree, beneath whom I often sat in times of emotional distress. I would lean against her broad trunk, close my eyes, and let my tears flow. And soon I’d feel comforted, and ready to get back on my feet and carry on.
A fourth Douglas Fir grew at the edge of the front garden, providing a deep green backdrop for my herbs and flowers. This tree often gave branches and needles for magic.
I find the metaphysical characteristics of Douglas Fir to be grounding, protective, and clearing. My neighborhood park is often busy with people and dogs and noise, but somehow the Douglas firs there are always still, radiating calm into the air beneath them. This energy is easy to soak up simply by leaning against the trunk of one of these mighty spirits. Sitting with Douglas fir makes me feel more centered and calm almost immediately.
I think Douglas fir is an especially good ally for empaths like myself. Consider how the sensitive individual is often referred to as “thin skinned”, and you can understand how this thick-barked tree could be a fine protector. For this purpose, carry a bit of the bark. Always collect bark from an already fallen tree or branch, rather than from the trunk of the tree. Cutting bark away from the trunk can leave a tree susceptible to pests and disease, and can even kill a tree if too much is taken.
The cones, too, are protective, with all those little three-pronged bracts and their tough scales. If you can’t find easily accessible bark, you could carry a cone for protection. I like to place the cones on altars around the house for this purpose, and as a reminder to breathe and connect with the earth.
A few times I’ve found sweet resin oozing down the trunk of a Douglas fir. While one should never remove the resin that clings to the trunk because it’s there to heal the tree, I’ve been lucky enough to occasionally find a clear, round droplet suspended from a protruding bit of bark. Sometimes the cones will have resin deposits, as you can see in the image above. Rubbing the resin between my wrists and breathing in the sweet fragrance, I found it immediately sharpened my mind and helped me release the tensions and frustrations of the day. The fragrance usually lingers until the resin is washed away, and I find it irresistible. I’ve never found enough resin to gather for making incense, but I imagine burning it on charcoal would have the same clearing and refreshing power. The needles of the tree could be collected and dried for incense as well, and would be lovely to purify the home.
The branches of Douglas fir often find their way into my nature spirit assemblages and protective talismans.
But my favorite use of Douglas fir is infused oil. The fragrance of this oil is sweet and clean, warm and sensual. The oil feels especially silky, and has a gentle warming affect on the skin–making it perfect to use in the cold, damp winters of the Northwest. The oil carries all of the trees grounding, soothing and protective energies.
Add sea salt to the infused oil until you achieve a texture like a warm slushy, and you have a purifying scrub, perfect for clearing away negative energies or to prepare yourself for ritual or magic.
Include some bark and cones in the infused oil, then thicken the strained oil with beeswax, and you have a salve you can apply to your solar plexus and heart for magical protection.
If you’re new to working with herbs, Susun Weed has an easy to follow article on making infused oils and salves.
A final note of interest: John Michael Greer suggests Douglas fir as an alternative to Oak/Duir in his Pacific Northwest Ogham.
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