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Mythology and trees


Romans and Greeks knew many trees around us. At most, they dedicated a worship which they justified by giving them a divine incarnation :

Hawthorn devoted to Maïa, mother of Hermès, celebrated in May (of "Maïa").
Alder tree of Died (God Cronos).
Birch the birch rods were used for flogging and " Purification " of the convicted prisoners; they encircled the symbolic ax of the Roman lictors.
Cherry his name comes from Cerasus, city of Middle East.
Spanish chestnut the chestnut was Zeus's " acorn".
Oak tree of Zeus-Jupiter, God of the thunder. Oak crowns for the valorous warriors.
Quince tree the name comes from La Canée (city of Greece). Its fruit is astringent.
Cypress a hunter named Cyparisse, friend of Apollon, killed his doe by accident. Sorrow, he morphed into cypress : since then, cypresses watch over the dead. They are dedicated to Hadès, God of the dead. Of their wood, one made the coffins of the warriors died for the Fatherland. The cypress wood, rotproof, is used in framework of temples. The arrow of Eros was also made of cypress. Tradition recommended to plant a cypress at the birth of a girl. At her marriage, the tree is cut down and used.
Norway Spruce devoted to Artemis, goddess of the Moon and of the wild, protector of the women which she attends deliveries: the spruce is the tree of birth (tradition taken back with the Christmas tree).
Maple devoted to Phobos, God of Terror.
Fig tree tree of Dyonisos, Priape, God of fecundity.
Ash tree of Poséidon, God of the sea and of seisms.
Holly tree of Lifespan, because it matures in winter, but its berries are very toxic (they contain the theobromine).
Laurel Apollon's tree. The demi-god falls in love with the nymph Daphne, who escapes by transforming into a laurel. The Greek name is daphne laurel. Pythian Games at Delphi (in memory of the serpent Python which Apollon struck down), the winners received a crown of laurel.
Myrtle Aphrodite's tree. Its berries are appreciated by the drinkers who allocate them power to postpone drunkenness. The Greeks feared that drunkenness returned lifelong madman.
Olive tree tree of Athena (who won competition on Poséidon by giving this tree to the city of Athens) and symbol of chastity. Heracles planted it at Olympia and used a cudgel in olive tree. In Olympic Games (at Olympia, therefore), winners were awarded by a crown of olive tree branches in default of medals.
Elm tree of Oneiros, God of dreams and of the night, son of Hypnos, God of sleep, himself brother of Thanatos, the demise. Devoted also to Hermes. The winged fruits accompanied souls of the deceaseds owing the supreme judge.
Pine tree of Poséidon (it grows on seaside). The nymph Pithys, coveted by Pan, escaped him in turning into a black pine. At the isthmic Games (Corinth), the winners receive a crown of pine. Its wood is used for commercial boats. Of the resin, one extracts either the caulker for sealing boat hulls, or an additive that keeps the wine while flavouring them.
White Poplar the nymph Leuké, coveted by Hadès, avoided him completely transformed into White Poplar which became the tree of resurrection.
Plane tree symbol of the regeneration (the bark regenerates, by flakes, as the skin of the snake). It served for constructing the Trojan horse.
Apple solar tree (form of the fruit); fruit of immortality; Pomone is the goddess of fruits. Heracles searched apples in the Garden of Hesperidiums.
Willow tree devoted to Hecate, watch of Hell.
Elder its berries are food of the Gods.
Linden the nymph Philyie conceived of the father of Zeus a monstrous child, and, of shame, was completely transformed into linden.

Similar myths exist in all peoples, Celts, Germen, etc. The oak which the Romans linked to Jupiter, God of the thunder, was also assimilated with the God of the lightning, Donar, among the Germans. For the Germans and Scandinavians, the ash is the founder tree, Yggdrasil. it supports the celestial arch and takes root in Wisdom.

Read continuation on mythology of the Germans and Scandinavians.

The Slavs allocate power in the same ash to repel the snakes: it is possible to have a rest in its shadow without fear. Some beliefs have persisted to this day: for example, to touch the wood with the right hand preserves from the bad fate.

Forests, because they sheltered wolves, and occasionally the marginalized, the Robin Hood or off-the-law, have always frightened. They haunt the public imagination and house elves and fairies tales. The Druids made their ceremonies there, and, closer to us, religion has taken this veneration of remarkable trees.


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