It was over. We rose to our feet, clapped, hard, our eyes brimming with joy. Spirit filled the Ballroom of Norwood Hills Country Club in North St. Louis County. Behind the podium stood an unassuming woman wearing a black and white overblouse and slacks; she crimsoned, then cupped her cheeks in small hands and lovingly gazed at us. It was Jean Shinoda Bolen, Jungian analyst, physician, and prolific author.

Like a Tree by Jean Shinoda Bolen

Her July 2011 visit coincided with the release of her latest book, Like a Tree – How Trees, Women, and Tree People can Save the Planet, the fruit of deep listening to her unconscious. From it emerged an imperative to stir women’s awareness to the deforestation of ailing Earth — a critical time, calling for action, emerging from the sacred ground beneath our feet.

Bolen supported her challenge with botanists’ and biologists’ studies of trees, with elucidations from archetypal psychology, mythology, and sacred texts, with stories of “tree-huggers,” and other activists she has known around the world. A major advocate for a United Nations 5th World Conference on Women since 2002, she demonstrated her activism. Beneath her remarks, a quiet passion stirred.

It later flared narrating Chretien de Troyes’s Perceval Story of the Grail. His quest for this numinous cup brought him to the Grail Castle and the Fisher King suffering from an incurable wound. During the lavish banquet in his honor, Perceval noticed the King’s disability and the processions of the Grail maiden holding the Grail, but failed to ask two critical questions: “What ails thee, King?” and “Whom does the Grail serve?” Both would have restored wholeness to the king and his impoverished lands. However, in Perceval’s training to become a knight of King Arthur, his mentor advised him not to ask questions lest others perceive him ignorant. Thus his reluctance to engage with the Holy, manifest in all creation–especially in trees—thrust him into the forest and more searching.

To pique our quest for the Sacred Feminine, Bolen raised these same questions: “What ails us?” and “Whom does the Grail (the Holy) serve?” By owning our obtuseness in face of the Divine’s initiative to thrive, by tending our wounds with help from the Grail, we become witnesses to the ailing world around us. Indeed, we must cultivate our own greening. Survival depends upon it.

Bolen then reminded us that Hecate of the crossroads and Hestia of the hearth, two Greek goddesses, can help in this arduous task.

The workshop concluded with small circles accessing the Sacred Feminine among us. Thus we became initiates of the sacred fire contained in the Grail, inspiring all of life, especially trees.