Of Tree Worship and Sundry other Customs

This year's Christmas Tree

Nature has , it seems, always given rise to wonder among the humans that inhabit this planet. At the same time it would seem that humans have sought to explain nature in the best way they can, so that from early times the existence of a spirit within anything in nature was assumed. Streams and rivers and wondrous waterfalls were assumed to be governed by spirits, as were the rocks and soil and sand and seas. Every plant and every animal had its spirit. Often these spirits were deemed to be good or bad, benign or evil. Perhaps this was according to the habits and effects of  the phenomenon itself. A venomous creature would easily be seen as evil.  river in Flood could well be described as angry.

No doubt this tendency to imbue natural things with spirits increased as language increased. Gradually the concept of gods evolved. A god for this, gods for that, a god or two for the other. In fact often the other might just have come into worship. Any excuse for some people. Of course along with all this comes the idea of a priesthood, a ruling group who are the ones who inherit the ritual secrets and, this is important, have control and the opportunity to exploit others.

I love plants and  from among the plants I love the trees especially.(oh yes I love other groups too). I can understand the desire among men and women, to worship trees which count among their number the largest living things that have ever existed on this Earth of ours and which also feed us and house us.

I received a Christmas card this year with the handwritten legend, “With best wishes for this festive (Christian) season.” It was from friends with whom we (well, I)  have an ongoing debate about the verity or other wise of the existance of God and such things.  This set me thinking…Christmas was ordained for this time of year by a convert pagan Emporer of Rome to fit with pre existing celebrations and thus make Christianity’s acceptance more palatable to the people of the Roman Empire.

It would seem that whilst the citizens of Rome were celebrating their feast of Saturn there were other peoples that also celebrated at this time of year and had been doing so for many, many years. Increasingly people in Britain are taking up the celebration of the Solstice of Winter instead of Christmas.

Well,I am happy to go along with the imported, ancient worship of trees at this time of year and the longstanding pagan practice of using branches and greenery to decorate one’s home and if I had n open fire I would willingly burn a Yule log. And in the spring I would carry on the ancient tradition of dancing around a tree in the form of a gigantic maypole (none of those mincy little continental  maypoles for me). Whether I imbue this festival with the celebration of a putative all forgiving, all powerful, all loving god figure is neither here nor there for me.

Mid-winter celebrations pre-date Christianity by thousands of years in northern Europe and so I cannot accept it as a purely Christian festival.

And as for the trees? I’ll continue to view them with awe and wonder, while we have them, with no need to explain their existence as a gift from any god. Like me, they just are.

An ancient beech in Wiltshire


4 Responses to “Of Tree Worship and Sundry other Customs”

  1. Grannymar Says:

    I was surrounded by some lovely trees this Christmas, all dressed in a wonderful frosty glory.

  2. Rummuser Says:

    Magpie, in India, tree and plant worship is as current as any other form of worship. I give you a link to a blog site that opens fascinating information of some of the forms. http://www.kamat.com/indica/culture/plant_worship/

    You and I have one more thing in common. Love of trees!

  3. Conrad Says:

    Magpie, that tree pic is terrific!

    You and I could have good some good discussions on this, because I wouldn’t be trying to ram anything down your throat or trying to save you. Indeed, I, too, find that statement of “Like me, they just are” to be right on the mark.

    Of course, we would no doubt end up at different conclusions about all-that-is, because “I are too, just that I are different.” And that is when we laugh, lift a stein and toss darts at a board to see which one gets to be “right” tonight!

    Happy Celebration of One More Revolution Around the Sun! May your Being enhance throughout this revolution!

  4. Magpie11 Says:

    There is a lot of beauty amongst the anger hatred and selfishness that abounds in this world. I worry that human selfishness will destroy it all, then I realise that destruction has happened several times before and the world has re-invented itself. Meanwhile , GM let’s enjoy it all when we can.

    Ramana, I will have a look at the site later… in the mean time I must try and find the cartoon my siter sent me many years ago…

    As for discussions about “All that is”… I have made a resolution to try and avoid political and religo/spiritual discourse for 2010…. I can but try.. having been dubbed inhuman among other things.

    Please don’t tempt me.

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