Tree worship

Trees have been venerated since time immemorial. To the ancient Celts, certain trees held special significance[131] as providing fuel, building materials, ornamental objects and weaponry. Other cultures have similarly revered trees, often linking the lives and fortunes of individuals to them or using them as oracles. In Greek mythology, dryads were believed to be shy nymphs who inhabited trees. The Tree of Life or World Tree linked the dead with the living and was associated with the Earth Goddess who brought fertility. The Oubangui people of west Africa plant a tree when a child is born. As the tree flourishes, so does the child but if the tree fails to thrive, the health of the child is considered at risk. When it flowers it is time for marriage. Gifts are left at the tree periodically and when the individual dies, their spirit lives on in the tree.[132] Trees have their roots in the ground and their trunk and branches extended towards the sky. This concept is found in many of the world's religions as a tree which links the underworld and the earth and holds up the heavens. The best known example from European mythology is the ancient Norse Yggdrasil.[133] In India, Kalpavriksha is a wish-fulfilling tree that was one of nine jewels that emerged from the primitive ocean. Icons are placed beneath it to be worshipped, tree nymphs inhabit the branches and it grants favours to the devout who tie threads round the trunk.[134] Democracy started in North America when the Great Peacemaker formed the Iroquois Confederacy, inspiring the warriors of the original five American nations to bury their weapons under the Tree of Peace, an eastern white pine (Pinus strobus).[135] In the creation story in the Bible, the tree of life and the knowledge of good and evil was planted by God in the Garden of Eden.[136] Sacred groves exist in China, India, Africa and elsewhere. They are places where the deities live and where all the living things are either sacred or are companions of the gods. Folklore lays down the supernatural penalties that will result if desecration takes place for example by the felling of trees. Because of their protected status, sacred groves may be the only relicts of ancient forest and have a biodiversity much greater t

an the surrounding area.[137] Some Ancient Indian tree deities, such as Puliyidaivalaiyamman, the Tamil deity of the tamarind tree, or Kadambariyamman, associated with the kadamba tree were seen as manifestations of a goddess who offers her blessings by giving fruits in abundance. Tree worship (dendrolatry) refers to the tendency of many societies throughout history to worship or otherwise mythologize trees. Trees have played an important role in many of the world's mythologies and religions, and have been given deep and sacred meanings throughout the ages. Human beings, observing the growth and death of trees, the elasticity of their branches, the sensitivity and the annual decay and revival of their foliage, see them as powerful symbols of growth, decay and resurrection. The most ancient cross-cultural symbolic representation of the universe's construction is the world tree. The image of the Tree of life is also a favourite in many mythologies. Various forms of trees of life also appear in folklore, culture and fiction, often relating to immortality or fertility. These often hold cultural and religious significance to the peoples for whom they appear. For them, it may also strongly be connected with the motif of the world tree. Other examples of trees featured in mythology are the Banyan and the Peepal (Ficus religiosa) trees in Hinduism, and the modern tradition of the Christmas Tree in Germanic mythology, the Tree of Knowledge of Judaism and Christianity, and the Bodhi tree in Buddhism. In folk religion and folklore, trees are often said to be the homes of tree spirits. Historical Druidism as well as Germanic paganism appear to have involved cultic practice in sacred groves, especially the oak.[1] The term druid itself possibly derives from the Celtic word for oak. Trees are a necessary attribute of the archetypical locus amoenus in all cultures. Already the Egyptian Book of the Dead mentions sycomores as part of the scenery where the soul of the deceased finds blissful repose.[2] The evidence for tree-worship is almost unmanageably large, and since comparative studies do not as yet permit a concise and conclusive synopsis of the subject, this article will confine itself to some of the more prominent characteristics.