archetypes / Eco-Intelligence / Japan / memoir / Mythology / Paganism / Shamanism / Visionary Art

Photo Essay: Conversations With the Tree People of Hangetsutouge



Related: Vision Quest: Forrest Spirit Messages

Related: Japan’s Ghostly Subways: A Shamanic Encounter


As I round the Eastern tip of Nikko’s lake Chuzenji, wary Macaque monkeys among the rocks scatter, heralding our arrival. A bone upon the path… a moment of contemplation. A souvenir? An addition to my walking staff? What am I, a tourist or something?  No, a visitor to sacred lands. I return the deer bone thoughtfully upon a flattened grey stone. An altar, a moment of prayer…



“Dwelling of the Hangetsutouge Dryad Chieftan”  © Leeby Geeby 2016


A naked tree, exquisite in its elementally sculpted meanderings, stands singular in a large clearing.

I request permission to approach, and it agrees. I bow, before placing my hands gently upon it. I take a deep breath, savouring the delicious thrum of Earth-blood within my meridians. Momentarily, the tree and I are as one, then I have passed deeper.

This tree is a gate opening into an antechamber, and I have been granted audience with the Dryadic Chieftan of this mountain’s forest. I fold down to my knees and prostrate. After a prolonged pause, he speaks.

“You may rise. Let it be known that I bid those primate guardians lay that bone upon the path to test you.” The chieftan intoned stoicly. “You chose wisely. You have the eyes to see, the hands to feel and you have a well of compassion in your heart. Seer, healer and scribe, you are worthy of passage through these lands upon the inner planes. Their secrets shall be revealed to you. Share this knowledge with your people, for such things must be made known. The sacred choruses of the high forests both near and far must be sung again in the hearts of humans, in this age of great revealing.”

I prostrated once more and backed respectfully out of the antechamber, hoisted up my backpack and started upon the trail.

A short while into my meditative stroll, I came across a tree elder of the lower foothills in the midst of instruction. A cross-section of earth-layers reveals to young saplings a case in point; the gentle art of gathering and holding rocks: “We the keepers of the foothills. Gather quick and gather strong, these foothills ere may last yet long.”



“Gather Strong” © Leeby Geeby 2016


Upon the crest of the second foothill of the Eastern Hangetsutouge trail, a lone dryad stands scowling. Her tree has been burnt beyond recognition on account of a lightning  strike. In some places it has been cauterised right down to the core. Such tragedy in the midst of early adolescence has befallen her. The shock had stripped her of memory and she has lamented long in her nameless despair. In empathy, I reach out toward her, yet momentarily recoil on account of her bristling aura.

After a brief pause in reflection, I stepped towards her again. “Nameless one. I dub you Bathory, and smother the nooks of your branches with gifts of dried fruit, that you may find your self readily in the company of Bats. Sharing your appearance, they shall not recoil, and will happily share their much-travelled wisdom with you as they rest. What’s more, they will lay nourishment upon your roots with their Guano and henceforth, you shall be surrounded by a protective ring of medicinal fungi, the envy of every tree for miles around. In departure, I pray that you will never long for companionship. Let this curse of fire now become your blessing. Mote so it be.”



“Bathory”  © Leeby Geeby 2016


Later, resting in a boulder strewn clearing, I spy upon a far embankment a Satyr half emerging. His eyes grown long, weary with wood energy, blind to all but the objects of his lust. Driven by the spell-binding Heqet atop his phallus, unified in fecund masculine-feminine harmony, their purpose is the primal force of self-regeneration, and lusty fertilization. Together they are the latent sensuality of dormant spring, its hunger for expression in colours and sensations gathering their momentum in the dreaming mind of Mother Earth. As the potential of spring, they begin the frivolity with periodic bursts of pollen and the smell of freshly steaming soils and lichens, which stirs hibernating animals and insects deep in their subterranean dens.



“Satyr with Heqet”  © Leeby Geeby 2016


Another dryad appears further along the hiking trail keen to relate his tale of a slain Samurai that had lain here temporarily upon the roots of his tree, tens of thousands of moons ago. The Samurai’s blood seeped downward into the dry ground upon which he fell, and became as one with the Earth. The spirit memory of that Samurai still rests heavy in this place, through the layers of craggy splintered shale and fine networks of roots, the essence of his struggle echoes still to this day. The image of the wrathful demon who drew the Samurai to this life ending battle remains also, holding him steadfastly by the feet.



“Samurai and Demon”  © Leeby Geeby 2016


As the hiking trail draws to its close, it is marked by the stump of what was clearly once a mighty tree. I paused for brief meditation, before placing my gratitude upon this altar: A bottle of water held momentarily in the hand for a Reiki purification, then poured upon the deeply fissured surface of the tree-stump, a banana, an assortment of nuts and half a sandwich.

“Oh dear Forrest People of Hangetsutouge. I thank you all for the chance to receive your sacred inspiration in this life. May I do justice to the sacred memories which you have, in all graciousness, seen fit to bestow upon me.”



“Memories of the Tree People” © Leeby Geeby


As I turned and made my way up the trail past the mighty old stump, I heard the skittering of two Macaque Monkeys among fallen branches nearby. Apparently they had been quietly shadowing me from a distance along the rim of the embankment which overlooked the trail, and were now watching and waiting to make their move upon the freshly-laid food bounty.

I continued along the trail, making my way up toward a set of steep wooden stairs. A series of short, sharp combative screeches soon signaled that indeed my curious Macaque friends had leapt upon the altar, and were now excitedly squabbling over the spoils of their stalking.

I turned around, smiled and bowed deeply toward my furry companions, turned back and resumed walking toward the stairs. As I closed the last few meters, I couldn’t help but notice something pale and white, half-hidden among the brittle leaf litter beside the bottom step. It was the deer bone.


“Sacred Gift” © Leeby Geeby 2016






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14 thoughts on “Photo Essay: Conversations With the Tree People of Hangetsutouge

  1. Fascinating post, stunning photographs. It was quite chilling to feel so submerged in an alien mythology dating back tens of thousands of years. It is another world. Thank you

    Liked by 1 person

      • I like your analogy about going into the rabbit hole when you write a piece. It does seem like that when you are doing something you are excited by…it’s almost like you don’t know where it will lead. And when you get there you are as surprised as every other reader. Great imagery

        Liked by 1 person

        • Thank you. Yes, that’s an accurate way of describing it. Yeah where all on that trip together. Like Willy Wonka’s glass elevator. Push a button, pull a lever see which way it goes. One elevator many buttons!

          Liked by 1 person

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