The Ancient Forest

by Melissa Saayman


The southern coastline of Africa has special meaning for all humanity. Many thousands of years ago, it is held, that an ice age laid waste to much of the Earth and brought our newly evolved species Homo sapiens to the brink of extinction. Incredibly, a handful managed to survive this catastrophe. Current archaeological findings – from rock art dating back some 70 000 years, to stone artifacts estimated to be over 120 000 years old – suggest that the southern coast of Africa is the ancient homeland of all humans alive today. Platbos, an old-growth forest with existing trees of well over 1000 years of age, grows within this archaeological treasure-chest that holds the clues to our cultural and spiritual origins.

No matter where in the world you find yourself, it is said that you can trace your genetic ancestry back to the southern coastline of Africa.

Platbos: Africa’s Southernmost Forest

Platbos is a mystery forest. Growing upon an ancient sand dune with neither a river nor spring to sustain it, the forest survives the hot, dry summer months by drawing moisture from the morning mists that bathe its thirsty canopy. On a still day, the distant roar of the ocean can be heard as it echoes off the sand dunes of Walker Bay and resounds down the Baviaanspoort Hill to Platbos.

To enter the forest is to enter a world of enchantment. Draped in wispy old man’s beard, the wizened and baobab-like trees of Platbos grow in a most unusual way: here the divergent trees grow together, not apart. Harmoniously sharing the same space, the trees of the forest intertwine and embrace each other.

The Call of the Forest

Shortly after the birth of my daughter in 1999, I wrote down my heartfelt intention for the future. I wrote it in the present tense having learnt that this was the best way to manifest desires into reality:

”..We live a few hours’ drive from Cape Town, there are mountains in the distance and forests of indigenous trees. We live in an ecological house and it is an example of how to live harmoniously with nature. Here, children learn about plants and nature and of working with them, not against them… there is beauty all around us and what we plant and create grows strong and true and abundantly. It inspires others and aids them in realizing their own dreams…”

I then set my journal aside, and in the hustle and bustle of being a young mother to my daughter and a few years later my son, forgot all about it.

In 2004, a chain of synchronistic events brought us from Cape Town to Platbos. In due course – after many trials and tribulations – we became the legal guardians of the forest and are fortunate and blessed to call it home since 2005. Visit the Platbos website by clicking here

Walking alone in the golden light and earthy smells of the forest was a source of comfort in those early days of adjusting to our new home amongst the trees. Yet quickly I realized that I was anything but alone. Over and above the birdsong and soft rustle of the trees, I sensed another presence: like a fleeting light in the shadows, yet remarkably vital and electric. So vivid was the presence, I kept turning around to see if a person was walking behind me on the forest path. The over-riding feeling that I sensed from this energy was that it was very masculine and that “he” required something of me – what this was exactly, was not clear at the time, but looking back, this was the beginning of the African Tree Essences. By chance, a short while later, I came upon a description of “Sacha Runa” – the Forest Spirit of the Amazonian forests. It was uncanny how it described my own experience here at Platbos:

His name literally means the “forest being.” He protects the forest’s animals, and may protect people in the forest, too, provided that their intentions are good. He serves as the intermediary between humans and plant spirits. Every true vegetalista (specialist who learns directly through the plants) has to meet Sacha Runa, The Forest Person, face to face, in the jungle. The thick and deep jungle, is where these entities inhabit, and will appear. It is said, that through Sacha Runa, is where we are introduced to our own power and plants that heal. The majority of time, it is said that this Master Spirit appears when we are alone, and when we least expect it. Sometimes Sacha Runa will come out from behind a crib tree and say hello to a person who wasn’t even looking for him. But not usually. Usually one has to fast, purify oneself and maintain a strict diet of no salt or domestic meat, and go out into the forest and wait for him, sometimes a very long time. I said him, but more likely the forest person will be her, unless you are female yourself. Sacha Runa is a male spirit. In general, he greets and guides women. He will sometimes enter relationships with men, too, but they are more likely to encounter his female counterpart – Sacha Huarmi. He appears when he is ready and when he deems you ready; people have been known to wait a very long time” (source

It was shortly after this time that I began receiving messages from the forest trees. By attuning to the forest, I learnt how to discern the different properties of the trees

It was around this time that I was told by a trusted Clairvoyant, “Your discovery of the forest’s healing potential is the trees’ gift to you: your gift in return will be to share their healing with others”.

How the African Tree Essences are made at Platbos

When the forest trees are at their height of bloom, I dowse to see which particular tree wishes to participate in the essence making. I include the leaves in the essence as they are such an integral part of the tree

Another consideration is that the essence should be made on a clear and sunny day.  Once the flowers and leaves have been picked, they are placed immediately in a clear glass bowl of fresh spring water. The bowl is then placed as close as possible to the parent tree, and in full sun light. During this process, I fill my mind with reverence for the tree from which I am making the essence:  its leaves, the smell of the flowers, their shape and colour. I offer thanks and love to the particular tree Deva, to Sacha Runa, and to Mother Earth and Father Sun, to the Air and to the Blessed Waters. Bird song, the soft sounds of the wind passing through the trees, all of these become part of the essence. If there is an auspicious happening in the heavens or if it is an important time of year: solstice, a lunar eclipse or full moon, I will try to make the essence over this time too so that these special energies are also included.

Following the traditions of the Bach Flower Remedies, I use pure, local spring water to hold the vibrational blue print of the leaves and flowers of the forest trees. The age-old roots of the forest, its wilderness and seclusion, make the tree essences of Platbos entirely unique. Indeed, Geomancer Dean Liprini found that the auras of the trees at Platbos are three times larger than normal. The African Tree Essences carry this vital and ancient energy; they hold the vibratory perfection of the tree flowers and leaves: their scent, colour and form. The low canopy of the forest also makes the tree flowers accessible for essence-making– as a result, I believe the African Tree Essences are quite unique in their character as truly wild and natural forest essences.

The essences hold not only the energy of the trees, but the ancient memory of the land itself.

I know that it is not by chance that this ancient forest – that was in existence when our collective ancestors took their major evolutionary leap in consciousness – has miraculously endured to this point in time. To survive the coming changes, our species will again be required to make another leap in consciousness: from our “love of power” to a more heart-centered consciousness that is fueled by the “power of love”. The tree essences of Platbos are here to assist us with this shift.

* The flowers of the forest trees are very tiny: Artist and photographer Kali van der Merwe was commissioned to take their portraits. They are exquisite. *