Tree of Life

Understanding our Co-Evolution with Trees and Forests

In the mythologies of most ancient cultures from around the world, a Sacred Tree sits at the centre of the Earth. Could understanding our co-evolution with trees, and forests, then be key to our human blueprint, to our survival, and to our thriving amidst and alongside the biodiversity that exists? Exploring this question from a mythological, cosmological and ecological framework, the Tree of Life is an eight-week online course curated by Imaginal: Isis Indriya, Nathalie Kelley, and Timo Granzotti. Honour your sacred connection to the trees, and step into your sacred role as tenders and guardians of the forest, from wherever you are.

This course is curated by Imaginal.

Course preview

Imaginal is a community inspiring evolution through connection, self-regulation and imagination. They believe in the power of imaginal consciousness, just like the imaginal cells within a caterpillar that holds the vision and the blue print of a butterfly. They hold the vision and imagination of a world where we remember that we are part of this earth, that there is no separation between the soil and our bodies, the rivers within and without, the trees and our lungs. When we see the world in this way, everything changes. Scroll down to find out more about the course.

Course modules

As our very breath of life is connected to the vast and diverse community of the trees, we offer this course to honour the Trees as Life Givers. In our introductory class, we will introduce the course framework of mythology, cosmology and ecology, and how these three are intertwined in envisioning trees as “Givers of Life”. Many different cultures centre a sacred tree as the source of life on Earth—we have always been connected to the trees. We will explore mystical approaches to the concept of the world tree or cosmic tree that connects all forms of creation. We will explore the Tree of Life symbol and some accompanying mystical teachings, and explore trees in relation to the four elementals of air, water, fire and earth. Deepening into this, we explore the Mesopotamian Tree of Knowledge, with ten leaves, ten concepts, expressing the mystery of life. To wrap this class, we pay homage to the cedar tree, grieving the destruction of the Sacred Cedar Forest described in the Epic of Gilgamesh, a story which acts as a pertinent metaphor and warning for our current course as a civilisation. How may a reverence for trees as the givers of life change the course of civilisation?

In this second class, our cosmological teaching pertains to the Kin-dom: the entire earthly plane of existence. We will attune to how the cosmos—the realm of the Divine—is expressed in this terrestrial environment: the idea of “Heaven on Earth.” By opening our perceptions and recognising the intelligence of the natural world, we then become more aware of the communication occurring between the realms, which strengthens our understanding of the interdependent nature of the ecosystems on this precious planet, and our part in it. The mythological teaching will focus on the Norse myth of the Yggdrasil; the tree at the centre of the cosmos, bridging the many worlds. For the ecological portion of the class, we will honour the birch, a tree highly revered by the Norse and Indigenous people of the east coast of Turtle island. Here we will also introduce the Indigenous technology of Terra preta, and briefly describe Indigenous forest systems, like those in the Amazon rainforest and the milpa systems of Mesoamerica. While these topics will be explored in greater detail throughout the course, we will present these Indigenous technologies as pathways for humanity to return to be people of the forest once more. We will contrast this alternative blueprint with the warnings for humanity embedded in the Epic of Gilgamesh from our opening class.

Our cosmological teaching for this class attunes us to the depth of our channel, the birthing canal of consciousness. We will engage aspects of the mystical teachings of water, which we came from, are made of, and return to. The mythological teaching will focus on the mythology of the cedar tree, sacred to Pacific Northwest American cultures and the Tsalagi (Cherokee) people of Turtle Island. For the ecological portion of the class, we will explore the hydrological cycle and the relationship between the biomes of the Amazon and the Andes through the formation of the Flying Rivers that provide rainfall for most of the east coast of Brazil and Argentina. We will introduce the concept of temperate and tropical rainforests and discuss the impact of the lunar cycle on trees, informing harvesting practices in many Indigenous cultures. Keeping the hydrological cycle in mind, we will pay special attention to the redwood species, being one of the most important trees in California because of their role as fog catchers. Lastly, we will pay homage to hydrological tree technologies such as the Archemedian Screw, built by the Egyptians using the palm tree to pump water.

Our cosmological teaching for this class pertains to guardianship and adoration. Through attuning to the technologies of Sacred Trees and how they are the guardians of the Earth, we open our individual consciousness into the collective awareness of communion and adoration for the community and unifying teachings of the network of trees. What are the trees teaching us? Here we pay attention to the art and expression of the natural world. The mythological teaching will focus on the Maya myth of Ya’ax’che, a sacred ceiba tree that holds the sky with its branches and weaves the underworld with its roots. For the ecological portion of the class, we will explore the forms of communication between trees, via the root system and mycelium web. How does communication occur between trees and other species, including humans? What role do pheromones play between trees and the outside environment. We also explore the benefits of forest bathing. Our tree for this class is the aspen, the perfect case study for the relationship between individual and collective consciousness. In this species, an entire forest is considered to be a singular tree and organism. We will introduce the ways humans have tuned their consciousness to the collective consciousness of trees, through silvo-pastoralism, agroforestry, forest management (in Mediterranean climates). We will return to the milpa system of Mesoamerica: a human-evolved concept of growth and harvest. Traditional cultures like the Maya had a social and cultural daily practice of tending to forests, which contrasted with modern extraction focused only on endgame yield. In milpa, it’s about your relationship to the cycle itself: how you tend is who you are, and who you are is how you tend.

Our cosmological teaching for this class is focused on strengthening ourselves as pillars connected to what is below and above simultaneously, through and centred in our hearts. We explore the heart of the Tree of Life that is the mediating intelligence between all realms. We explore the trees as pillars connecting many worlds, and us mirroring them as pillars. The mythological teaching will focus on the banyan tree, a central tree in Hinduism and Buddhism, widely believed to be the tree that Gautama Buddha sat under for seven days before gaining enlightenment. Being in the heart of the tree, we focus the ecological portion of class on the role of Mother Trees, guided by the work of Suzanne Simard. Our tree for this class is the palm tree, a symbol of peace, fertility and immortality, connected to the Phoenicians, and important in the ancient cultures of the Near East, Mediterranean and Fertile Crescent. We will also pay homage to the women-led movements around the world to protect our trees: the Chipko movement, Julia Butterfly, Alessandra Korap Munduruku in Brazil, and the ongoing forest conservation movement in the USA. We will welcome guest teacher and Kichwa forest defender Nina Gualinga as she guides us through the Kichwa concept of the Kawsak Sacha, the Living Forest, and how her role as a mother is shaped by the Living Forest.

Our cosmological teaching for this class pertains to the balancing of two aspects of the self and two sides of—standing strong versus humbling ourselves to the majesty of creation. We turn to our warrior-leader nature to help us become stewards of the forest and trees, in service of the healing of the forests in this time of ecological destruction; we see how warriors can be healers too. The mythological teaching will focus on the story of the Muurrbay tree, from the Gumbaynggir First Nations people of Australia. The ecological teaching for this class focuses on photosynthesis, the transmutation of sunlight into chlorophyll and food through the foliage of trees: truly an alchemical process! We will explore the healing properties of entheogenic trees and vines like the acacia and ayahuasca, also covering the ethics of consuming these sacred medicines, alongside the history and modern use of cacao—a cautionary tale about what happens when we lose our sacred connection with trees. You will be offered the opportunity to participate in a ritual to enter into a sacred agreement to become Guardians of the Forest. Trees have offered humans so much healing, now what is the warrior work we must do to assist in the healing of the trees, and our broken relationship to them?

Our cosmological teaching for this class focuses on the archetype of the the Mother, as many communities attune to specific trees as Mother Trees. In this way, we build a relationship and understanding with the interdependent nature of the ecosystem. The mythological teaching will focus on the African baobab tree, and the Holy Mother belief surrounding its creation. We will explore it from an ecological perspective, and how it functions as a Great Mother Tree. Both predator and prey live off the tree, and the Hadza Tribe in Tanzania even go inside the trunk of the baobab to give birth. Building on this, we touch on the role of trees in creating oxygen, the carbon cycle and (the function of) old growth forests—versus monocrop forests—and why we need to protect them. We will also look at the ancient bristlecone pine, considered to be one of oldest living trees on Earth. To close this penultimate class, we will be guided through a ritual using the essential oils of certain trees, combined with an auditory experience of a forest soundscape.

Our cosmological teaching for this class pertains to the Great Mystery of Life. We will dive into the code “as above so below” to observe how the entire cosmos is reflected in the entire embodiment of the tree; the interdependent nature of these realms tells us about our human selves and our relations with trees, and why it is our duty to learn and serve. The mythological teaching for the final class focuses on the Chinese Tree of Immortality and the symbolical significance of the phoenix and the dragon, at a time when humanity so urgently needs a rebirth. The ecological portion of class explores, from a historical perspective, the pattern of deforestation among all European civilisations, from the Mesopotamians, Greeks, Romans, etc., to today, and our current global deforestation crises, which we will connect to civilisational collapse. What is the answer to these ecological and spiritual crises? Reforestation presents one, and can act as an antidote to desertification too. We will look at inspiring reforestation and agroforestry projects. Closing the course, we will pay attention to the importance of grief and the lamentation rites, mourning for the trees that have been lost. And to end, you will be offered the opportunity to participate in a ritual to open communication between you and the Standing Ones. After this, a creative exercise to pen a letter to a special tree or trees in our lives, past or present. You will be invited to share, and be given a ritual to perform in your own time, to cement your sacred bond to the trees in this lifetime.

Course information

About the course

Tree of Life is an eight-week offering dreamed up and put together by a diverse trio of teachers from varying backgrounds and life experiences: Isis Indriya, Nathalie Kelley, and Timo Granzotti. At the heart of this course is an aim to restore our (human’s) sacred connection to the trees, and invite participants to come into our sacred role as Tenders and Guardians of the forest once more, whether or not one is of Indigenous descent. Humans are all indigenous to this Earth, and it is our calling to find our way back to the standing ones.

Threading the connections between Indigenous cultures, their relationship to trees, and many ancient and contemporary cultures from around the world who have cosmologies, mythologies and stories around sacred trees, and the rich, omnipresent symbol of the tree of life, this course will help you realise this—the universality of the human/nature connection.

The course aims to awaken something that is deeply rooted within all of us: that we are irrevocably bonded to the trees. Come to spark curiosity, inquiry, reverence for and enchantment with and for forests, through the ecological teachings of the course. How can learning about the interdependent workings of the forest, the ecosystems that trees are part of, not stir inspiration in our hearts to be warriors and guardians in this time? Let us chart a path for civilisation and humanity together, with the blueprints of creation given to us, towards regeneration restoration and re-enchantment with the forests, like many cultures ancient and living. Let us listen, together, to the majestic trees as life givers, receive, and act.

The cosmological teachings in the course reflect archetypal cosmological approaches. Through various archetypes explored each week, supported by the respective mythological and ecological teaching, we will be inspired by the trees to move through the terrestrial realm as a reflection of the heavenly realm. "As Within So Without, That Which is Above is that Which is Below." We will engage in how to commune with a Sacred Way of Life by way of the teachings of Trees, Sacred World Trees, and the Cosmological stories of creation principles. These are the teachings from Trees of Life across cultures and communities world over. Mythologies explored in the course involve Tree of Life myths from around the world, through which we glean the wisdom, lessons and warnings from each of these, recognising where they have shaped different cultures and our relationship to the trees around us. Finally, we will dive into a sound ecological frameworks for the ecological portion of the course, covering basic concepts like the mycelium network or “Wood Wide Web,” the role of pheromones in tree communication and the role of the hydrological cycle in temperate and tropical rainforests.

The course will also additionally explore the different relationships that various cultures around the world have had with their forests. Contrasting the ways in which some have tended to and built forests (using examples such as Terra Preta, Agroforestry and the Milpa system) with cultures and civilisations that have destroyed these ecosystems, we will explore how humanity can course-correct at this present time in history.

Overall, the aim of this course is to share advocacy and inspiration on behalf of and with the trees. To bring about examples of myths, ecology and cosmology to spark curiosity and inquiry. To unite and reignite as sacred guardians for the trees, as we always have been, and to show solutions for extractivism and ecological destruction in these times—solutions that have been grounded in cultures and community world over, which can be traced back to ancient stories passed down generations.

This course starts live 10 October, Tuesdays weekly from 7–9pm UK.

We aim to make our courses accessible to all, so if you cannot afford the course, we have a limited number of bursaries. Bursary applications close 2 weeks before the course begins, please ensure you have sent your application in by then. Apply for the bursary here.

Course Includes

8 Modules
4 Teachers
Curated readings, resources, rituals and embodied practices
Community discussion area
Video and audio available


Isis Indriya

Born in Mesa, Arizona, Indigenous to and raised on the island of Guam, Isis Indriya dedicates her life in service to prayer, education, and community activism.

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Nathalie Kelley

Nathalie Kelley is an actress of Indigenous Quechua descent.

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Timo Granzotti

Timo Granzotti is a multifaceted specialist who bridges ecology, art and craft.

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Nina Gualinga

Nina Gualinga is an Indigenous woman defender of the Amazon from the Kichwa community of Sarayaku.

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Key learning outcomes

  • Open the door to communing with a Sacred Way of Life by way of the teachings of Trees, becoming a student of the Sacred World Trees
  • Expand their mythological repertoire to include at least seven Tree of Life myths from around the world
  • Gain insight into the workings of forests as whole and interconnected ecosystems
  • Develop a historical understanding of different past human relationships with forests, and how the nature of those relationships can cause either civilisational collapse or increased abundance
  • Deepen in awareness and gratitude for the life giving nature of trees, learning to be in right relationship with them and each other
  • Learn to reclaim our rightful human nature as peoples, stewards and guardians of the forest