I first saw this oak tree four years ago, perhaps from an angle similar to this. It has a striking symmetry and skyward lift to all its branches. It is positioned right at the top of the wood, and within a small circle of clear ground, next to which and of a similar size is a round crater (presumably from a WW2 bomb, there are many around). I keep coming back to this oak. My first rubbing of a live tree was a circle of brown paper around its generous girth, in 2013.
When I did an introductory course to shamanism at the Sacred Trust in May this year, I took this tree as my ‘axis mundi’. The axis mundi is the world center, or the connection between heaven and earth / upper and lower worlds in certain cosmologies. As the celestial and geographic pole, it expresses a point of connection between sky and earth, where the four compass directions meet. At this point shamanic travel and correspondence can be made between higher and lower realms.
As the drum beat a heady rhythm, I caught the train back to Knockholt and slid through the woods to this tree. I slithered down its roots and met a somewhat disparaging earthworm and then a friendly badger. I climbed up its branches into the clouds, and then got stuck (I am not, perhaps, a natural shaman, too rationalist?). But the next time I saw this tree, I had a spontaneous surge of powerful connection and emotion. The oak, in the fullness of its physical self, and the oak I met in my imaginative journeying from a London church hall seemed to know each other… and know me.