The Magic of Wish Trees

Wish Trees can feel like sanctuaries as they invite us to step out from the busyness of our everyday lives, and into a space where we intentionally connect with our inner knowing.


Picture of Emily Johnsson
Emily Johnsson
Nurturing changemakers for a whole world.

Wish Trees are SACRED places where people, throughout the ages, have come to voice their inner longings and made offerings to Nature, The Great Spirit, to the Universe, in the hope that their LONGING FOR GREATER THRIVING will come true.

Even if we don’t believe that an external force will grant us our wishes, the process of taking the time to articulate something that may previously only have lived (hidden) inside, may for some be the first step in saying yes to moving towards it.

Wish Trees are found in many different cultures around the world and although the specific rituals differ from one country to the next, what all Wish Trees have in common is that of being places where people reconnect with their inner truths- what truly matters to us. Modern Wish Trees often have paper tags with wishes and reflections written on them hanging from their branches.

Wish Trees can feel like special places, as they invite us to step out from the busyness of our daily lives and into a space where what matters are the whispers of our hearts.

Seeing the wishes of other people floating in the wind connect us to our common humanity: we will soon notice that we share very similar longings and hopes for our lives and the world.

Japanese artist and wife of John Lennon, Yoko Ono, have used Wish Trees in her art for over 30 years.

Her process is to plant a tree native to a site and people are then invited to tie a written wish to the tree. Yoko Ono’s installations have been found in many places around North & South America, Australia and Europe. The wishes are collected and buried at the base of the Imagine Peace Tower on Viðey Island in Kollafjörður Bay in Iceland. 

To date over 1 million wishes have been buried beneath the tower.

The Imagine Peace Tower is a beacon of light, symbolising the wish for world peace. It is there to give encouragement, inspiration and a sense of solidarity in a world filled with fear and confusion.  “Let us come together to realise a peaceful world” says Yoko Ono:

Love is our energy

Wisdom is our power

It’s time to shed light to all corners of the world

Enjoy the trip we make together

In Wish Tree, we work with Wish Trees both metaphorically and sometimes literally.

In order to flourish, like a tree, we must be nourished by a healthy foundation – our roots: what truly matters.

In order to spread our branches and expand forwards or upwards, we must say yes to sunshine: to be inspired by our dreams, longings, hopes.

And we need to learn to withstand the storms, chills and droughts of our lives by nurturing resilience.

Our journey towards a more peaceful and whole world starts with enabling ourselves to live and lead ourselves more authentically and mindfully: grounded and open to receiving life wholeheartedly and interdependently.

The Wish Tree has many gifts to offer us on this adventure.

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About Emily & White Supremacy

Emily is a space holder and self-leadership coach to changemakers. She has over 20 years experience in the field of human development, learning and growth, and leads the coaching and consultancy company Wish Tree since 2011. Her work centres around wholeness – whole humans, whole communities, whole organisations, whole ecosystems. A whole world. Her changemakership is therefore dedicated to clearing distortions and fragmentations that relate to our perceptions of separation.

Emily has been exposed to and ‘sat with’ systemic issues around race, racism, privilege and injustice her whole life. She was born in Camden, London, in the late 1970s to a Swedish immigrant single mum and spent her first formative years in a highly culturally and ethnically diverse setting. As a baby, Emily and her mum lived in a bedsit in a shared house with a Black British family. Her first memory of Father Christmas was of him as a Bangladeshi man. Emily’s mum worked with refugee families and in Children’s Homes in inner city London, and since she had no access to child care opportunities, Emily joined her at work. For a while, Emily had an older Black British foster sister called Debbie. She was very often the only white child in the community of children of which she was a part.

Emily moved to Sweden with her mum as a child and as a teenager became involved with, and led, antiracism youth work in her local town through her school and council-initiated networks in the 1990s.

Her mum, who was active in the peace-and- environmental movement and who had been involved as an ally in the civil rights movement in the US on her travels there, introduced her to Black feminist and activist writers such as Alice Walker, Toni Morrison and Audre Lord, and actively taught her about white privilege, white supremacy and the truth of colonialism. She was also taught about the importance of learning from Indigenous wisdom keepers in order to heal and evolve as humanity, and to (in those days) stop climate change.

In contrast, on her father’s side, Emily is of British Colonial descent. Emily’s grandmother was born in Zimbabwe to Scottish sheep-farmers. Her grandfather came from a poor English background but won a scholarship to Cambridge University to study law. As many young British men of his time who sought “adventure, a good job and travel”, Emily’s grandfather joined the colonial service in the final days of the British Empire, and served in several African countries as a high-ranking colonial officer. He spoke Zulu and Emily’s father spoke Swazi and Swahili before being sent to Britain as a child to attend boarding school, thousands of miles away from his parents.

Although Emily did not grow up with her father or his family, she eventually came to know them and have a relationship with them, which involved taking responsibility for understanding and healing her own familial and ancestral relationship to colonialism and white supremacy.

In this process, she came to see, feel and understand first hand and close up, the deeper psychological workings of the system of white supremacy, the colonial mind and its intimate links with narcissism, perfectionism, patriarchy and extractive economies and behaviours.

Between 2003-2015, Emily worked as a learning researcher and Access, Diversity and Inclusion enabler in the Arts & Cultural Sector, deeply rooted in the Convention of the Rights of the Child and the Human Rights Convention. She worked across the U.K and Scandinavia contributing to a number of large scale change projects, self-evaluation initiatives, conferences and trainings such as “Access for All”, “Inspiring Learning for All”, “Belonging – the Voices of London’s Refugees”, “The West Indian Front Room”, “Kultur och Fritid för Alla”, “Vidgat Deltagande”, “In this curriculum I don’t exist”, “In between two worlds – London teenagers’ ideas about Black History, Belonging and being British” to name a few. She worked with a wide range of marginalised communities as well as with leaders and directors holding white privilege, facilitating necessary and brave conversations challenging the status quo.

Emily has worked across many cultures and languages around the world from Sri Lanka to South Africa, Costa Rica and India to Romania and Denmark, continuously reflecting on and challenging white saviour tendencies. In this process has come to observe how white supremacy and racism works differently in different countries depending on context and history.

In 2020, in the wake of the murder of George Floyd, Emily became a loud voice in the Wellness industry by calling in leaders bypassing white supremacy through ‘love and light’ rhetoric, exceptionalism, colourblindness and virtue signalling. She closed down several online coaching circles because white participants were unwilling to dive deeper into their own internalised white supremacy, and rendered the spaces not only additionally unsafe, but traumatising for BIPOC clients. Her platform and large facebook community for coaches and wellbeing facilitators centred BIWOC-led anti-racism conversations as a response.

Emily is a skilled and fiercely loving coach and space-holder with many years experience of creating safe spaces for accountability, healing, integration and growth to take place.

She is dedicated to her own ongoing learning, healing and unlearning of covert white supremacy. Examples of this are continuous learning from a wide range of anti-racism educators, authors and activists from around the world.

This bio has not been written with the intention of centring Emily in the context of Me & White Supremacy, but to transparently share about her background, values, skills and experience in order for you to make a conscious decision to choose her as a space-holder, or not.

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