Mike the Psych's Blog

What if psychologists ruled the world? In real life?

The WoodWide Web

dscf1550rWhat do you think when you hear of (famous) people talking to trees – and I’m not talking about characters in Tolkien’s Middle Earth taking to Ents, a race of  beings who closely resemble trees?

According to Tony Kirkham, the head of the Arboretum at Kew Gardens trees are very much like us; they are intelligent social beings which talk to each other.

He supports the idea proposed by a German Forester Peter Wohlleben that trees communicate with each other underground through a “woodwide web“.

In a natural environment the adults protect and nurture the young ones. And when a tree is stressed the canopies are touching, there’s a lot of networking going on underground with root systems and fungal systems and they share resources.”

He believes there is intelligence among trees and care between communities. He saw a knot of albino redwoods which obviously didn’t process chlorophyll but managed to survive on their own. “They must have been receiving nutrients from other trees”.

He also thinks trees have different personalities. Willows and Poplars are unsociable and don’t like company so their method of spreading seeds ensures that they are scattered far away from the parent tree.

Oaks on the other hand drop their acorns close by and the parent tree likes to safeguard it and bring it up.

Kirkham admits that however appealing this theory is it’s hard to prove.


Ents, whose name is derived from the Anglo-Saxon word for giants, are similar to talking trees found in folklore around the world.

p1010237In Lithuania, the last european country to convert from paganism, I saw carved trees in museums with human features (the wood carving at the top of the page is from Lithuania also).

People also decorate trees with human features.

They also keep them warm with urban knitting, but that’s another story.



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A curse on the revenue

Witches in Romania are up in arms because they are going to be taxed.

The tax office says they earn a good living from casting spells and putting curses on people. The witches, led by “queen witch” Bratara Buzea,  are now planning to retaliate in the only way they know how – by putting a curse on the tax collectors.

The witches are thought to earn about €15,000 (£12,500), which is thirty times the national average gross wage, and are being asked, along with body embalmers and driving instructors, to register as self-employed when they will become liable to a 16 % tax rate and pension and social security contributions.

Now the practitioners of the dark arts, including tarot card readers, astrologers and mediums, will be required to give a receipt for every prophecy and curse they deliver which then has to be filed with the tax authorities.

Since the fall of communism witches have come out of the shadows;  a Hungarian Witches Association was formed in 1991 (and received tax exempt status in 1998) and a Bulgarian witch is said to have predicted the death of Princess Diana and the 9/11 attacks.

Given that Romania and Hungary have, at different times, included Transylvania – the ancestral home of the vampires – I suppose the tax collectors think it could be worse. But if I were them I think I’d carry a wooden stake in my laptop bag and eat lots of garlic to be on the safe side.

Meanwhile the catholic truth society has just published a guide on how to convert witches to Christianity. Written by a former witch Wicca and Witchcraft: Understanding the Dangers, says that young women – who make up 70% of its practitioners – are particularly attracted to the pagan religion because of the positive depiction of witches  in TV programmes such as Charmed and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. In the last census (2001) there were 31,000 neo-pagans in the UK of which just under a quarter were Wiccans.

The author says that there are grave psychological risks behind the glamour but that catholics should be aware that Wiccans are also on a spiritual quest. They are interested in nature and worshipping creation so that is the ideal starting point from which to convert them.

Wicca is also feminist in nature so its followers are unlikely to be impressed by what they see as a patriarchal cult which opposes women having any authority in the church. The Druids rightly point out that christianity appropriated many pagan festivals to persuade people to convert and the chairman of the Druid Network thinks the catholic should:  “talk less about ‘converting’ and ….. explain how they misled people in the past”.