Posts Tagged ‘Oak’

The Ent

 

 

 

Ents, also known as talking trees, are rarely encountered and its a great privilege to actually see or talk with one.

Oracular Trees are attributed with the ability to speak to individuals, especially those gifted in divination. In particular, Druids were said to be able to consult Oak trees for divinatory purposes, as were the Streghe with Rowan trees.

 

The word “Ent” was taken from the Anglo-Saxon (Old English) word ent, meaning “giant”. Ents are probably the most ubiquitous of all creatures in fantasy and folklore, perhaps second only to dragons, most famously known now as the Ents in J. R. R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth stories.

 

Perhaps not quite Ents, but the Cad Goddeu (The Battle of the Trees) medieval Welsh poem preserved in the 14th-century manuscript known as the Book of Taliesin refers to a traditional story in which the legendary enchanter Gwydion animates the trees of the forest to fight as his army. The poem is especially notable for its striking and enigmatic symbolism and the wide variety of interpretations this has occasioned particulalry by Robert Graves in his book The White Goddess.

 

I made a short animation based on the Cad Goddeu –

Taliesins Battle Of The Trees;

 

In Ireland a tree may help a person look for a leprechaun’s gold, although it normally does not know where the gold is.

According to Greek mythology, all the trees in the Dodona (northwestern Greece, Epirus) grove (the forest beside the sanctuary of Zeus) became endowed with the gift of prophecy, and the oaks not only spoke and delivered oracles while in a living state, when built into the ship Argo the wood spoke and warned of approaching calamities.

The rustling of the leaves on an Oak tree was regarded as the voice of Zeus.

 

The Greek Talking Elm: Philostratus spoke about two philosophers arguing beneath an elm tree in Ethiopia which spoke up to add to the conversation.

 

The Indian Tree of the Sun and the Moon: Told the future. Two parts of the tree trunk spoke depending on the time of day; in the daytime the tree spoke as a male and at night it spoke as a female. Alexander the Great and Marco Polo are said to have visited this tree.

 

In Hugh Lofting’s 1928 novel Doctor Dolittle in the Moon, the lunar flowers and trees are intelligent and capable of communication by using scents, the sounds of wind through branches, etc.

 

Imbued with Earth wisdom gathered over their very long life spans, the Ent is a friend to consult on all serious matters, but dont expect a hasty answer for as J.R.R.Tolkien explains of the Ent “My name is growing all the time, and I’ve lived a very long, long time; so my name is like a story. Real names tell you the story of the things they belong to in my language, in the Old Entish as you might say. It is a lovely language, but it takes a very long time to say anything in it, because we do not say anything in it, unless it is worth taking a long time to say, and to listen to.”

 

 

 

Blessed Be the Ent and Ent Friends xx ~

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Taliesin’s Battle Of The Trees

I have set Taliesin’s Battle Of The Trees within two other pieces, firstly Tacitus’ report of the Roman invasion of the Druid island of Angelsey, followed by another poem from those by Taliesin which had been mixed in with The Battle of The Trees in a method of concealment to hide the poems meaning from those without understanding.

The Battle Of The Trees / Cad Goddeu ;

The tops of the beech tree have sprouted of late,
are changed and renewed from their withered state.

When the beech prospers, through spells and litanies,
the oak tops entangle, there is hope for the trees.

I have plundered the fern, through all secrets I spy.
Old Math ap Mathonwy knew no more than I.

For with nine sorts of faculty God has gifted me,
I am fruit of fruits gathered from nine sorts of tree–

Plum, quince, whortle, mulberry, raspberry, pear,
Black cherry and white, with the sorb in me share.

From my seat at Caer Fefynedd (Kire Fev-Un-eThh), a city that is strong,
I watched the trees and green things hastening along.

Retreating from happiness they would fein be set
In forms of the chief letters of the alphabet.

Wayfarers wander, warriors are dismayed,
at the renewal of conflicts such as Gwydion made.

Under the root of the tongue, a fight most dread,
and another raging, behind, in the head.

The alders in the front line began the affray.
Will and rowan tree were tardy in array.

The holly, dark green, made a resolute stand;
He is armed with many spear points wounding the hand.

With foot beat of the swift oak heaven and earth rung;
“Stout Guardian of the Door”, his name in every tongue.

Great was the gorse in battle, and the ivy at his prime;
The hazel was arbiter at this charmed time.

Uncouth and savage was the fir, cruel the ash tree–
Turns not aside a foot breadth, straight at the heart runs he.

The birch, though very noble, armed himself but late;
A sign not of cowardice but of high estate.

The heath gave consolation to the tail spent folk
The long enduring poplars in battle much broke.

Some of them were cast away on the field of fright
Because of holes torn in them by the enemy’s might.

Very wrathful was the vine whose henchmen are the elms;
I exalt him mightily to rulers of realms.

Strong chieftains were the blackthorn with his ill fruit,
The unbeloved whitethorn who wears the same suit.

The swift pursuing reed, the broom with his broad,
And the furse but ill-behaved until he is subdued.

The dower scattering yew stood glum at the fight’s fringe,
With the elder slow to burn amid fires that singe.

And the blessed wild apple laughing in pride
And the Borchan of Maeldrew, by the rock slide.

In shelter linger privet and woodbine,
Inexperienced in warfare, and the courtly pine.

But I, although slighted because I was not big,
Fought, trees, in your array on the field of Goddeu Brig.

translation from Robert Graves book The White Goddess;

The Book of Taliesin dates from the 14th C. and collected 56 of the oldest poems in Welsh, those attributed to the 6th C. poet Taliesin would have been composed in the Cumbric dialect of the north. The manuscript preserves a few hymns, a small collection of elegies and also enigmatic poems such as The Battle of Trees and The Spoils of Annwfn, in which the poet claims to have sailed to another world with King Arthur and his warriors.

The Battle of the Trees poem itself, whilst currently “pied” with approximately four other poems, is set during a war between Arawn King of Annwfn or the Underworld, and Amaethon a ploughman. This war is prompted by the latter’s theft of three magical creatures from the underworld, a dog who was the guardian of the secret, a white roebuck who hides the secret, and a lapwing who disguises the secret.
Regarding the secret powers possessed by these otherwordly creatures, it is said in the Triads:
there are three primary essentials of genius;
an eye that can see nature, a heart that can feel nature, and a boldness that dares follow it.

Druids taught in Triads or groups of three, which embodied the traditional Laws, Customs, and Wisdoms, of the ancient Celtic people, such as “Truth in heart, strength in arm, honesty in speech.” or “Three things not easily restrained, the flow of a torrent, the flight of an arrow, and the tongue of a fool.”

The poem famously details the legendary Gwydion‘s account of the trees of the forest which he enchanted to fight as his army against Arawan.
Within the ranks of Arawn’s forces were a number of mighty warriors, and one of these was invincible as long as his name remained a secret.
Gwydion the enchanter rightly guessed the secret name and won the battle saying these words:

Sure-hoofed my spurred horse,
On your shield Alder sprigs,
Bran is your name, Bran of the branches.

Sure-hoofed my horse of war,
On your hand are sprigs of Alder,
Bran you are, by the branch you bear.

However as Robert Graves explores in his book ‘The White Goddess’ the poem is particularly notable for its striking and enigmatic symbolism and the wide variety of interpretations this has occasioned.
Graves suggests that the trees in this poem correspond to the ancient Ogham alphabet, in which each alphabetic character represents a specific musical note, seasonal cycle, mythological tale and deity.
This method of association was a teaching aid in the letters and the trees associated with each, and its use in this poem was a poetic plea for the continuance of the use and teaching of this alphabet;
”This alphabet utilized thirteen consantants and five vowels. The consantants form the thirteen months of the annual cycle, while the vowels set forth the five year cycle of this Celtic calender. The letters/trees within the poem are not set in their proper order, I believe, in a further attempt to “encode” the information given in the poem so that only a person versed in this alphabet could utilize it.” Robert Graves.
Each tree had a meaning and significance of its own, and Gwydion guessed Bran’s name by the Alder branch Bran carried, the Alder being one of Bran’s prime symbols.

Graves thus argued that the original poet had concealed Druidic secrets about an older matriarchal Celtic religion for fear of censure from Christian authorities, that Arawn and Bran were names for the same underworld god and that the battle was probably not physical but rather a struggle of wits and scholarship: Gwydion’s forces could only be defeated if the name of his companion, Lady Achren (“Trees”), was guessed, and Arawn’s host only if Bran’s name was guessed.


Blessed Be /|\ ~

Beltane Blessing (Beannachadh Bealtain) 30 April-1 May

It is established and steadfast and bright and true,
That from Beltaine eve, Summerland magic leaps through,
And as a cup full of the fullness of natures invocation,
Generous as three times thrice the incantations wisdom to view.

Before the Sky and the Earth and the Sea, they have all called together,
Before the Sun and the Moon and the Stars, they have spoken as one,
By the breath of the Taliesin and of the Ganna Bandruich,
Upon the height of the hill of the many feathered winds,
Of the Eight Lesser Winds and Four Major Winds and a Wind Above all the winds as yet still not hewn,
From the Druids tongue of flames, a roaring fire will be declared here, twice in the runes,
It is a Blaze that will go all around them to the left and to the right,
To purify the night, turning aside adversity and transformed in its shape,
To burst forth the day of flowers, which is certain.

Star light shining bright empowers the Queen of the Faeries this night,
Be also empowered O people of the world lest you melt in her powerful sight,
Be not a ghost all spindled in Wonder exceeding Wonder,
But see the Fairy Host dancing within forest field and river, chanting and singing petitions of hope in the heart,
Each of a hundred-fold Sidhe will go around you and around you,
And they will come upon Him as it is always arranged,
And they will Vanish in the morning light, interwoven with the cool dew and the soft light,
And they will yield away completely, melt into forever the home of the fey.

I do bestow a fishfull sea and fertile lands soon prolific with prosperous harvests,
And green and fruited trees drooping down with the heavy growth of the fruits upon them,
And waxing fleshfull fleeced and round of sheep, goats and cattle amongst the fresh filled pastures roaming,
And delight as the Maidens sweet as wild honey each, and as fair as the lily after spring has spoken.

Joy/As May Queen manifest and with her the Green Man to the Great Rite eternal today,
A Sacred Marriage shall arise among them as in precious Chalice they set Earth’s Athame..
Opening here the secret gates behind the departed darkness of night,
And outside of the brilliance of the brightness of day,
And our flowering ones will lead us in to the Summerlands, the excellent lands, in the most beautiful way.

Be celebrated each and all then in this dance of the May,
As maids skip a ring, A’ conjuring the new Summer in,
Weaving lives, love and laughter, beside and before you, weaving bright welcome gladness all around.

And By the essence of the Oak, of Rowan and of Hawthorn in hedgerow,
By the magical energy within which I turn,
Peace Joy and Abundance to the Sky and to the Earth beneath Sky,
And to all of the peoples upon the Earth on this day
And of the binding of this blessing, I do myself bind it,
To the heart be it binded, a deep blessing from today.

It is established.

c. Celestial Elf 2011.

…………………………………………………………………..

On the tradition of Druid Rhetoric and Poetry;
Whilst Druid’s occasionally carried magic wands and stones, in the majority of cases the Druids’ only magic ‘tool’ was their voice and their words…
They were sage advisers and most often called upon to counsel Kings and other social leaders.
Above all else, they were exemplary poets and in Ancient Ireland this position was honored with status and rights surpassing even that of the Kings whom they advised.
The Rosc that such Druid’s wrote(pl Roscanna)is a rhetorical, usually magical, chant, more than just a poem, these are poems that can invoke or topple the Gods and conjure whole nations from thin air.
Intended to be obscure, full of puns, and often set in deliberately ‘pseudo-archaic’ forms intermixed with more modern idioms, these poems were not public proclamations but ‘magic’ spells and prophecy, conceived to draw mystic power from having multiple meanings and ancient obscure diction.
This multi-faceted aspect of the language of Roscanna has the same insistence on ambiguity which one finds in ancient Celtic and Irish art wherein a given figure is not merely a spiral or a face or an animal or a leaf, but is all of them at once in an exquisite gestalt.

So it has been said ~

Of Taliesin;
Taliesin is probably the most famous of the Cynfeirdd, the early Bards.
As such he has assumed an almost mythic status to the extent that two distinct Taliesin’s have emerged: the historic figure of the late sixth century and an entirely mythological figure whose legends were chronicled into the Ystoria Taliesin (Tale of Taliesin) by Elis Gruffydd in the mid sixteenth century.
His name is derived from the proto-Celtic elements talo(forehead) and jes-t-īn-o(bright) and has been interpreted as ‘radiant brow’ possibly referring to his blonde hair, but equally possibly representing the radiance of his gift of poetry, his awen.

Of Ganna Bandruich, the Female Druid;
Whilst most Roman records referred mainly to male Druids, the existence of female Druids is confirmed by the written sources from the Greek and Roman who were fascinated by the role of women in Celtic society.
The Celtic culture as a whole was known to accord equal status and high regard to their women folk in contrast to Roman world where women had no political rights and very limited civil rights, Roman women could not for example own property or inherit land, were kept in seclusion and considered ‘chattel’.

Because the rights of Celtic women were many times better than the rest of Europe, we can make an educated guess that a persons gender mattered little when one wished to study the Druid ways.
All that would be needed is a strong memory and intellect and the desire to learn.
In addition there are references to bandrui in the medieval Irish tales, ban signifiying female and drui for Druid.
Conchobor Mac Nessa’s mother Nessa was a druid, Finn was raised by a female druid and Scathach is explicitly called both a flaith or ‘prophetess’ and a druid and she prophesies about Cú Chulainn.

Of the name Ganna, Dio Cassius mentions that a Druidess named Ganna went on an embassy to Rome and was received by Domitian, younger son of the Roman Emperor Vespasian, this serves as precedent for the name here used..

………………………………………………………..

On the Beltane Festivals;
Beltane or Beltane is the Gaelic name for the festival that rightly begins on April the 30th or Beltane’s eve and continues on 1st May and is a celebration of purification and fertility.
The name originates from the Celtic god, Bel – the ‘bright one’, and the Gaelic word ‘teine’ meaning fire, giving the name ‘bealttainn’, meaning ‘bright fire’.
Marking the beginning of the Summer season with the lighting of two great bon-fires on Beltane’s eve signifies a time of purification and transition, these fires may be made of the nine sacred woods, Alder, Ash, Birch, Hawthorn, Hazel, Holly, Oak, Rowan and Willow.
Heralding in the season in the hope of a good harvest later in the year, Beltane festivals were accompanied with ritual acts to protect the people from any harm by Otherworldly spirits.

Significantly, as the Goddess (Brigid) moves through her various phases, Beltane sees the womanly aspect of the Summer Goddess banish the Old Crone aspect of the Winter Goddess in readiness for the maternal time and the fruits of nature to follow.

As this is one of the magic turning points of the Sacred Seasons, the veil between worlds is thought to be especially thin, and as a result many of the Fairy Host, the Sidhe and the Tuatha De Danann may be seen crossing between the worlds.
Particularly, the Faery Queen is thought to travel about on this night and if you gaze too long on her enchanted beauty she may whisk you away to live in her Other realms outside of time for an eternity.
The Faery Queen also represents the May Queen, although in practice the honor is usually carried out by young women who are soon to be married.

The May Queen’s role in the Beltane proceedings, along with her May King, mythically a Jack in The Green, the Green Man or Horned God, is to take part in the Great Rite.
This is the Sacred Marriage of the God and Goddess, often reenacted by a symbolic union during which the Athame (magical knife symbolizing male energy) is placed by the King of May into the Chalice (Sacred Cup symbolizing female energy) held by the Queen of the May.
For a more detailed account of how this ritual was enacted in earlier time,
I refer the reader to Marrion Zimmer Bradley’s moving account in her fiction The Mists of Avalon.

Following this union which serves to Open the way to the Summer Lands,
festivities ensue, particularly that of dancing around the May Pole.
The May Pole itself is a symbol of the union of the God and the Goddess, as the red ribbons represent the fertility of the Goddess, the white represent the fertility of the God.
Men begin the weaving by dancing under the upheld ribbon of the first women facing them, accompanied by music, drums beating or chanting. The dancers move forward, stepping alternately over and under each person who’s dancing toward them.
The dance continues until the Maypole is completely wrapped, then the ribbons are tied off and the wreath from the top is tossed to the earth to bring its gathered power into the ground.

Whilst such public festivals are not as widespread as they once were, famously at Padstow in Cornwall there still is held an annual ‘Obby-Oss‘ day, which is believed to be one of the oldest survivng fertility rites in the United Kingdom.
St. Ives and Penzance in Cornwall are now also seeing a revival of similar public festivities.

Other Beltane Lore;
During Medieval times, a man might also propose marriage by leaving a hawthorn branch at the door of his beloved on the first day of May.
If the branch was allowed to remain at her door, it was a signal that the proposal was accepted. If it was replaced with a cauliflower, the proposal was turned down.
Crosses of birch and rowan twigs were hung over doors on the May morning as a blessing and protection, and left until next May day.
Going ‘A-Maying’ meant staying out all night to gather flowering hawthorn, watching the sunrise and making love in the woods, also known as a ‘greenwood marriage’
The dew on the May day morning is believed to have a magical potency – wash your face and body in it and you will remain fair all year.

Blessed Beltane to You ~

On The Mysterious Matter of Mistletoe..

On The Mysterious Matter of Mistletoe;

According to the Ancient Druid traditions, Mistletoe was the most sacred of all plants.

Allegedly from the Anglo-Saxon word ‘Misteltan’ (Tan = twig) & the German Mistel (Mist = dung)…
This is not so awful as at first may seem, because to the Ancient Nature based traditions, excretion & birth were considered almost synonymous in the cycle of life.
Alternately the name Mistletoe may have derived from the Celtic ‘Mil’ioc’, meaning ‘All-Heal‘.

As Mistletoe grew from the Sky on the limbs of the Holy Oak tree (the Oak tree was believed to be a doorway between the worlds), its leaves green throughout winter representing the fertility of the Earth Goddess, its white berries the seed of the Forest God, the Celts believed that Mistletoe held the soul of the Holy Oak & therefore embodied its Sacred fertility.

Because Mistletoe is botanically unique in the Northern Hemisphere (the only highly-evolved flowering plant that is parasitic/roots into trees), it was considered to have miraculous properties that could cure illnesses, antidote poisons, ensure fertility and protect against witchcraft.
{{Modern Herbalists today use European Mistletoe to strengthen the heart and reduce blood pressure, & to relieve pain from headaches caused by high blood pressure. The powdered leaves have also been used in careful treatment of epilepsy.}}

Mistletoe was used by the Druids in a ceremony held five days after the New Moon following the Winter Solstice;
The Druids would cut Mistletoe from the Sacred Oak tree with a magical golden sickle or Bolline representing the life giving Sun.
The branches had to be caught by maidens, on white cloaks, before they touched the ground, otherwise they would discharge their magical energies into the earth.
The Druids then divided the branches into bunches and gave them to the people, calling it All-Heal, and the people hung them over their doorways as a protection, and as a sign of peace and goodwill.

* * * * * * * *

The Norse Traditions explain the meaning of Mistletoe through the story of Balder, son of Frigga, Goddess of love & life.
Balder, called the well-beloved & Holy one, is the ‘God of Goodness’ and represents the spring Sun in Norse tradition (& hence the Sun God).

Frigga, worried on hearing Balder’s prophetic dream that he would be killed, had the four elements, Fire, Water, Air, & Earth, promise that they would not harm her son.
However, Loki (the mischievous God of Fire, who was jealous of Balder), found the only thing that could break
this promise, Mistletoe, because as it grows ‘from the sky’ it was not bound to any of the four realms.
He made an arrow from its wood & gave it to Hoder (the blind god of darkness & ignorance) while the other gods were playfully hurling their weapons against the invulnerable Sun God Balder.
Hoder shot his arrow at Balder’s heart, and he fell dead, thus Hoder fulfilled Loki’s jealous plan, the mind darkened by ignorance accomplished what nothing else could, the death of the God of light.

Balder then traveled to Hel, The Queen of the realm of the Dead.
Whilst Odin, father of the Gods, pleaded with Hel for Balder’s return
(Hel agreed on condition that all living things weep for Balder’s return)
Frigga implored all beings to mourn the Sun God’s death & her tears of grief became the mistletoe’s white berries.

This account may be the origin of Kissing under the Mistletoe,..
As Balder is restored to life, Frigga is so grateful that she reverses the poisonous reputation of the Mistletoe,
making it a symbol of love and promising a kiss to all who pass under it as a pledge of friendship and goodwill.

Symbolically, the Nordic Story of Balder & the Mistletoe, portrays the cycle of life, death & rebirth of nature.
As The Sun God dies with every nightfall, & rises again each New Morning;
Also, He dies With every Winter Solstice, to return Each New Year bringing Light & Life.

* * * * * * * * * *

Mistletoe is still forbidden in most Christian churches because of its Pagan associations;
Although the holiday at Christmas time has always predated Christianity with it’s traditions of Nordic paganism, Celtic fertility rites, and Roman Mithraism, many such earlier Gods ( including Theseus, Perseus, Dionysus, Apollo ) present a mythologic account of the divinities birth, death, and resurrection that was uncomfortably close to the story of Jesus..
Both Martin Luther and John Calvin abhorred Mistletoe for these reasons, & the Puritans refused to acknowledge it.

* * * * * * * * * *

Evidence of Mistletoe’s use in Ancient Britain has been recorded in the following extract from the Roman natural historian Pliny the Elder‘s accounts of his reconnaissance of Britain, on the subject of a Druidic ritual:

The Druids…hold nothing more sacred than the Mistletoe and the tree that bears it, as long as that tree be an Oak….
Mistletoe is very rarely encountered; but when they do find some, they gather it in a solemn ritual….
After preparing for a sacrifice and a feast under the Oak, they hail the Mistletoe as a Cure-All and bring two white bulls there, whose horns have never been bound before.
A priest dressed in a white robe climbs the oak and with a golden sickle cuts the Mistletoe, which is caught in a white cloak….
They believe that a potion prepared from Mistletoe will make sterile animals fertile, and that the plant is an antidote for any poison. ”

(Natural History, XVI, 249-251).

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Holding an influential role across cultures and over time,
The enduring fascination with the magical properties of Misteltoe are further evidenced in two significant books of the Western Literary canon…

In Virgil’s ‘Aeneid
(the most famous book in classical Latin & one of the most famous poems of all time),
The Roman hero, Aeneas, finds the ‘Golden Bough’ on a sacred tree in the grove dedicated to the Goddess Diana,
The prophetess Sibyl instructed Aeneas to pick this Magical Bough ‘from which shone a flickering gleam of gold.
As in the woods in the cold winter the mistletoe … which puts out seed foreign to its tree … stays green with fresh leaves and twines its yellow fruit about the boles…’ before his descent into the Underworld.
Sibyl knew that, with the aid of such magic, Aeneas would be able to undertake his perilous adventure safely.
(‘Aeneid’ VI, 204-209).

Much later in the 20th C, the Very Title of Sir James G. Frazer’s comparative study of mythology and religion,
The Golden Bough‘ (1922), derives from this scene in Virgil’s Aeneid.
According to Frazer, Mistletoe could become a “Golden Bough” because when they die and wither, Mistletoe plants acquire a golden hue.
Naturally enough, as his subject matter explored the roots and meanings behind Religion & Magic, the apparently Alchemical and Transformative powers of the Mistletoe directly referenced the cathartic insights that his study would make available to his readership, & was therefore a good choice.

The ‘Goldenness’ of the Mistletoe was further influenced by the European folklore that Mistletoe plants were thought to have come to earth as lightning strikes a tree in a blaze of Gold and as the agent of life thus linked to the divine creative force, which is a suitably portentous birth for a plant whose home is half way between the heavens and the earth.

The Tree of Life…

The Tree holds an important place in many ‘Nature~Al’ perspectives of the world, from ancient spiritual & psychological symbolisms of life, wisdom and friendship,
to modern environmental awarenesses that champion the need for a more holistic relationship with the delicately balanced eco systems of the earth our home.

As The Cosmic or World Tree touches the ‘Three Worlds’ of sky, earth & underworld, it thereby links them symbolically & psychologically provides an Axis Mundi or Center of the world, by uniting these realms enabling travel and communication between them.

As The Tree of Life, It also represents both a feminine symbol, bearing sustenance; and a masculine, phallic symbol.
In addition, The Tree of Life represents Eternal Life, because of its ever-expanding branches and because of its seemingly endless cycle of regrowth from seed to towering tree and so on…

Of Magic Trees, some have the ability to speak to certain individuals, usually those gifted with divination.
In particular The Druids were said to be able to consult Oak trees for such divinatory purposes,
(the Christian Bible stories also reference a talking Bush to the visionary Moses)

Such Trees have carried great significance across various world faiths,
including The Yggdrasil or World Ash where, in Norse mythology, Odin discovered wisdom and understanding,
& The Bodhi Tree under which Gautama Siddhartha, the Buddha found enlightenment.
For the Babylonians, The Tree of Life had a magical fruit which could only be picked by the Gods and dire consequences befell any mere mortal who dared to pick them.
Whilst this Babylonian prohibitive/punitive Tree has apparently found its way into the Judeo-Christian legend of Adam and Eve…
In the esoteric Jewish tradition of Kabbalah, the Tree of Life is a mystical symbol used to describe ‘The’ path to ‘God’.

Across cultures and traditions then we see that The Sacred Tree holds an important place in the minds and hearts of mankind, from the purely practical applications of fruit and resources, to the deeply symbolic and spiritual language of interconnectivity and harmonic interdependence, the Tree serves and embodies many significant functions which furnish our lives and spirit’s.

* * * *

The ‘Celtic’ Tree of Life (known in Ireland as the ‘crann bethadh‘) was central to the Celtic tribal life,
they always left a great tree in the middle of any new settlement which demonstrated the integrity of their Celtic traditions.

This Tree of Life represents the wheel of life as witnessed in the cycle of life, death and rebirth (‘rebirth’ in Tir Na Nog the Celtic Afterlife, the Land of Eternal Youth), as well as the Celtic theme of three worlds, that of the upper for Gods, the middle for our physical plane, and the lower as the realm of the fey or faeries (often housed below underground mounds or fairy hills). This symbolism is depicted by the branches that reach to the heavens, the trunk or body in the center, and the roots below, specifically showing that all stages and aspects of life are intrinsically connected through nature.
The Germanic peoples who also worshiped their deities in open forest clearings and believed that a sky god was particularly connected with the oak tree, similarly employed a central tree in their tribal settlements.
All trees in the Celtic perspective have specific powers or serve as the home of fairies or spirits, especially the magical trio of Oak, Ash, and Thorn.
That Chieftains were inaugurated under these Sacred trees with their roots stretching down to the lower world and branches reaching to the upper world, ceremonially endowed them with the magical powers of both the underworld and of the heavens.

Of the many realms that may be reached via these sacred trees,
Legends of the Norse World Tree Yggdrasil (pronounced ig.dre.sil) ((called Irminsul in Germanic mythologies)) describe that around it exist nine worlds.
Yggdrasill is an immense Ash Tree; Ygg’s {Odin’s} horse, was so named because of the notion of the ‘tree’ as the ‘horse’ of the
‘hanged’ on which Odin hung during his self sacrifice for knowledge as described in the Poetic Edda poem Havamal & was often represented by a Cross or a Gallows, however as death did not cary the same finality or distress of modern religious and secular perspectives, these symbols indicated the doorways of change.
The Aesir (Norse gods) go to Yggdrasil daily to hold their courts because the branches of Yggdrasil extend into the heavens, and because the tree is supported by the three roots that reach the Three times…;
Through these paths they could interact with the various realms including the magical sacred creatures that live within Yggdrasil, such as the Wyrm or Dragon, the Eagle, and the Sacred Stag.
The notion of an Eagle sitting on top of the sacred Tree and the World Serpent coiled around its base also has parallels in other cosmologies from Asia, and thereby may be seen to hold psychological significance beyond any narrow micro cultures specific meanings.

Writing of its Shamanic origins Hilda Ellis Davidson comments that the existence of nine worlds around Yggdrasil is mentioned more than once in Old Norse sources, but the identity of the worlds is never stated outright…and speculates that the nine worlds could either exist one above the other or perhaps be grouped around the tree, while the gods are pictured as in the sky, using a Rainbow Bridge (Bifrost) connecting the Tree with the Other Worlds.

* * * *

Of the Christmas Tree..
When the Roman Christian Church decided on a date to celebrate Christ’s birth,
they chose the day of the Pagan Winter Solstice because this was already firmly fixed in the minds of the people,
they thus sought to ‘Christianise’ existing festivals and so both overthrow earlier traditions whilst maintaining the rituals that gave meaning to the indigenous peoples lives.

Some accounts place the earliest Christmas trees in Tallinn capital of Estonia and Riga capital of Latvia,
(both of which resisted Christianity longer than any other European nation and so point towards an earlier Pagan tradition).
The custom of erecting a Pine Tree specifically to celebrate Christmas can more precisely be traced to 16th century Germany, as Ingeborg Weber-Kellermann (Marburg professor of European ethnology) reports of a Bremen guild chronicle of 1570 which states that a Fir Tree was decorated with apples, nuts and paper flowers, & set up for the guild members children to collect the treats on Christmas Day.

By the early 18thC use of Christmas Tree’s had become common in the upper Rhineland of Germany,
but was still regarded as a Protestant custom by the Roman Catholic majority throughout wider Europe.
Robert Chambers in his Book of Days (1832 )asserts that the festivities of Christmas
“originally derived from the Roman Saturnalia, had afterwards been intermingled with the ceremonies observed by the British Druids at the period of winter-solstice, and at a subsequent period became incorporated with the grim mythology of the ancient Saxons“.
However, just as Christmas was established (approximately) over the earlier Pagan Winter Solstice,
so the Christmas Tree was eventually accepted by the Roman Catholic Church as part of the seasons regalia, because it could not prevent its use.
In the early 19thC the custom became popular among the nobility and spread to royal courts as far as Russia.

In Great Britain, the Christmas tree was introduced by George III’s Queen Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz in early 1800’s,
but the custom hadn’t spread much beyond the royal family.
After Queen Victoria’s marriage to her German cousin Prince Albert in 1840, the custom became more popular throughout Great Britain as people emulated the much admired and ‘ideal’ role model family.

* * * *

Regarding the addition of lights and decoration to these Festival Tree’s;
Whilst dried apple’s may have been tied to the Tree as an offering to The Mother Goddess in the hopes of being gifted more fruit in the coming summer,
& Candles may have been lit upon it to represent and summon the return of the (Father’s) Summer Sun
The placing of candles and lights on the Tree also invited and gave home to the associated spirits and faeries that otherwise would be abandoned outside to the hash northern winters.
In this view then, the ancient traditions of decorating and sacralizing a celebratory Tree survives because it meets basic needs outside of our intellectual rationalizations of their purposes,
perhaps embracing deeper psychological or spiritual needs,
But certainly and not least of all….
because we enjoy them.

And in this the blessing of our Nature~Al spirit shines through.

_/\_

Sines, Sigils & Suchlike *%~….

Whilst ‘God’ may have ‘said’ ‘in the beginning was the Word”…
the concept of words as signs and how they are employed is fraught with complexity,
as the studies of such linguists as Saussure & Noam Chomsky would probably agree.

About signs themselves, they are the pre-linguistic and pictorial origins of words, as may be deduced from the pictography of many ancient messages, and the modern chinese text with its origins in the Oracular Dragon Bones of the Shang Dynasty 1300 BC – 1046 BC (thought by some to shamanically echo the cracks in bones from the fire.)..
As such ancient vessels of meaning, such signs reach past our cognitive mind and straight into the heart of our all seeing sub-conscious selves.

To be more exact, as Carl.Jung has helpfully noted in his Symbols of Transformation text (pp124)
“In neither case should they (signs) be taken literally….
A symbol is an indefinite expression with many meanings, pointing to something not easily defined and therefore not fully known.
But the sign always has a fixed meaning, because it is a conventional abbreviation for, or a commonly accepted indication of, something know.”
Symbols by contrast to signs he alleges are more fluid in meaning then.

All wonderful background for an understanding that language is formed of symbols that we have ascribed definitive meaning to, and thats the point here, it is we who have assigned the meaning to the signs and symbols that we make,
a point not lost on our famous Bard, William. Shakespeare who is believed to have ‘coined’ thousands of words and phrases

To bring this slow background swiftly forward into my topic…
Symbols, also known as Sigils when referring to matters of mystery or spiritual ‘power’
Have a long tradition of deriving their forms from Nature, as it was about nature and natural powers that they ‘spoke’.
For example, the tree, which has been employed variously as a symbol of life & regeneration in respect of the shelter, fruits, fuel and tools that it provided, as well as a centre of sacred knowledge, as in the Garden of Eden.
In this context, that the tree evolved as one of the earliest symbols of reverence is not surprising.

More specifically, about Symbols, Sigils and their ‘power’…
Whilst many cultures have employed various signifiers to represent diverse forms & forces,
and whilst they DO take on some mantle of those meanings in so far as we accord with received opinion over these ….
I make the point that they are then,
Both
Real to the extent that we {unwittingly} empower them as described,
& also Unreal as mere aspects of the nomenclature with which we clothe the world around us.
Our perception of the world then,
Is an imagined apprehension of reality dressed in make believe symbols of power.

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