Mighty Myth Month: Trees.
No, this isn’t about the 1976 Rush song.
It’s about trees.
In Norse mythology, Yggdrasil is the tree that represents all levels of above, middle, and below for mankind:
In Norse mythology, the World Tree called Yggdrasill runs like a pole through this world and the realms above and below it. Yggdrasill is a great ash tree that connects all living things and all phases of existence.
Trees represent life, growth, and perhaps greatest of all: potential. Trees symbolize strength, honor, as well as other less-attractive human qualities such as jealousy, greed, and death:
Trees—or the fruit they bore—also came to be associated with wisdom, knowledge, or hidden secrets. This meaning may have come from the symbolic connection between trees and worlds above and below human experience. The tree is a symbol of wisdom in stories about the life of Buddha, who was said to have gained spiritual enlightenment while sitting under a bodhi tree, a type of fig.
Two sacred trees—the Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil—appear in the Near Eastern story of the Garden of Eden, told in the book of Genesis of the Bible. God ordered Adam and Eve, the first man and woman, not to eat the fruit of either tree. Disobeying, they ate fruit from the Tree of Knowledge and became aware of guilt, shame, and sin. God cast them out of the garden before they could eat the fruit of the Tree of Life, which would have made them immortal. Thereafter, they and their descendants had to live in a world that included sin and death.
A traditional Micronesian myth from the Gilbert Islands in the Pacific Ocean is similar to the biblical account of the fall from Eden. In the beginning of the world was a garden where two trees grew, guarded by an original being called Na Kaa. Men lived under one tree and gathered its fruit, while women lived apart from the men under the other tree. One day when Na Kaa was away on a trip, the men and women mingled together under one of the trees. Upon his return, Na Kaa told them that they had chosen the Tree of Death, not the Tree of Life, and from that time all people would be mortal.
Oops. Kind of puts a whole new spin on “poison apple.”
Humans need trees, and yet our relationship with them has been somewhat strained, at best. Humans who try to help the environment are lambasted as “tree-huggers.” I wonder what would happen if they actually did talk, threw apples at us, or used their switches for a humanity-spanking. What if they could walk and wage war like the mighty trees in the Lord of the Rings? It’s all the trees’ fault. They just don’t grow fast enough for the speed of humans. We needs our houses NOW. We need our teak tea trolleys NOW. We need our toothpicks NOW. (Say the NOW in the voice of Veruca Salt.) Trees measure the planet by their own standards, not man’s, and those two cultures clash. Can trees have a culture? Well, personification aside, perhaps. They are such an important part of our survival and existence on this planet, that perhaps they deserve to be revered, perhaps even worshipped. We have not done a very good job of being their caretakers, but they have not faltered in their gifts to us.
We climb trees. We live with trees. We use their breath for our breath, and they use ours. We should never use trees for harm, or for death. In the words of the late, great Shel Silverstein:
Once there was a tree….. and she loved a little boy. And every day the boy would come and he would gather her leaves and make them into crowns and play king of the forest. He would climb up her trunk and swing from her branches and eat apples. And they would play hide-and-go-seek. And when he was tired, he would sleep in her shade. And the boy loved the tree…….very much. And the tree was happy.
Time to plant a seed.