Trees in mythology

Trees in mythology

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. The most ancient cross-cultural symbolic representation of the universe's construction is the world tree. Other examples of trees featured in mythology are Yggdrasil 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. The term "druid" itself possibly derives from the Celtic word for oak. "Ficus religiosa" plays an important role in Indian mythology.

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 (Gollwitzer p. 13).

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 motif of the world tree.

The tree, with its branches reaching up into the sky, and roots deep into the earth, can be seen to dwell in three worlds - a link between heaven, the earth, and the underworld, uniting above and below. It is also both a feminine symbol, bearing sustenance; and a masculine, phallic symbol - another union.

In literature, a mythology was notably developed by J. R. R. Tolkien, his Two Trees of Valinor playing a central role in his mythopoeic cosmogony. Tolkien's 1964 "Tree and Leaf" combines the allegorical tale "Leaf by Niggle" and his essay "On Fairy-Stories". William Butler Yeats describes a "holy tree" in his poem "The Two Trees" (1893).

Mythology of trees

* Axis mundi
* Christmas Tree
* Five Trees
* Gerichtslinde
* Irminsul
* Mesoamerican world tree
* New Year Tree
* Sephirot (Kabbalah)
* Sidrat al-Muntaha
* Talking trees
* Tree of life
* Tree of Life (Judeo-Christian)
* Tree of Life (Kabbalah)
* Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil
* Thor's oak
* World tree


* Fred Hageneder, "The Meaning of Trees: Botany, History, Healing, Lore" (2005), ISBN 081184823X.
* Alexander Porteous, "The Forest in Folklore and Mythology" (2002), ISBN 0486420108.
* Bansi Lal Malla, "Trees in Indian Art, Mythology, and Folklore" (2000), ISBN 8173051798.
* Gerda Gollwitzer, Botschaft der Bäume, DuMont Buchverlag Köln (1984)
* Lore Becker, "Die Mythologie der Bäume", Papyrus 1-2 (2002) []
* Jaques Brosse, "Mythologie des arbres" (1989), ISBN 978-2228887113.

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