Life, Death, Rebirth and the Banyan Tree

2023 the year we learn to listen to life

Week 33--in which we feel hope rising

Friends, soul writers, mystics, witches, and lovers of prayer,

When the fires on Maui broke out on August 8, the world was shocked. Transfixed. Lost in mourning. How is this possible? How can Hawaii, the land we think of as paradise, be on fire? For those of us who don’t live there, when we think of Hawaii, we visualize a verdant landscape, lush with green palms, beige sand beaches, and gorgeous shore lines. I certainly do.

Hawaii on fire? Impossible.

Only the impossible happened.

I’ve been in touch with my mystic sisters Emma Kupu Mitchell and Kahu Lahela Johnson. Both live on Oahu and are safe, but know many families who died in Lahaina. I spoke at length on Friday with Kahu Lāhela. If you’ve been reading these newsletters for a few years, you know Kahu Lāhela.

When prayer artist arrived in 2018, I knew I was called to offer prayer intensives. I turned to Kahu Lāhela. She led 7 prayer intensives with me on Ho‘oponopono, the ancient shamanic prayer practice of forgiveness. A prayer I love.

Then, last year, her guides requested that she merge the essence of that traditional prayer with other Hawaiian healing practices, and invite all of us to embrace and personalize this most sacred prayer. And use it. Use it to heal ourselves, our families, our situations. But also use it to heal the world’s wounds. We’ve held two Hana I Ka Pono intensives. (You can find them on my intensives page under OnDemand intensives.)

As we spoke, she began to talk about the famous Banyan Tree in Lahaina. It was 8 feet tall when it was planted in 1873. It now stands over 60 feet high and has 46 trunks and covers almost two acres. Amid the ashes and suffering, people wanted to know if the tree still stood. That tree is so much more than a tree. It is revered. It is the symbol, the soul of Lahaina.

Arborists studied the tree and determined that there were signs of life in the roots. They created a protection zone around the tree and began a daily watering program. Perhaps any city would do that for a precious large tree. But this is Hawaii. They also brought in a beloved kumu—teacher—to bless the tree and pray for its recovery.

As we spoke, I wondered about Banyan Trees.

I googled, “What is the symbolic meaning of a banyan tree?” A wealth of sites and articles popped up. They use slightly different language or have different emphasis, but the banyan tree around the world is seen as:

  1. sacred
  2. symbol of immortality
  3. represents eternal life
  4. represents the cycle of life, death, and rebirth
  5. protects spirits of the dead
  6. sacred to many spiritual traditions
  7. emits spiritual energy

So if this ancient banyan tree can return to life, despite being surrounded by a wasteland caused by colonialization and corporate greed, there is hope. Hope not just for everyone in Lahaina or on Maui or on any of the islands of Hawaii, but hope for everyone.

When I look at the pictures of the banyan tree, when I hear prayers rising from the hearts of Hawaiians, when I see the people of Lahaina taking care of one another, when I feel the devotion of the people of the land rising from the parched soil, I feel hope rising in me, too.

I have known for a while that the underlying purpose of my current and future intensives to become whole and holy witches, is at the deepest level about healing the wasteland. Patriarchy created the wasteland. And now we are called to undo the harm and demonstrate how to live in reverence, harmony, and love.

In Hawaiian terms, pono. Right relationship. All indigenous peoples who lived on and close to and in reverence for the land lived this way. And the Hawaiian earth holds this memory.

Spiritual work can no longer be focused on what we can get out of it.

Our witch powers are not for ourselves. They are the seven original sacramental gifts that identified us as witches. As leaders of the community.

The witches before patriarchy, and the witches after patriarchy, are called to heal the community. To restore reverence. To guide the dead home. To serve the mysteries of life, death, and rebirth.

There are many sacred witch trees, but for right now, in honor of, and solidarity with, the peoples of Hawaii, let us all embrace the whole and holy banyan tree.

May we feel hope rising from the ashes as we heed the call to heal the wasteland, 



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