Sacred trees


A beautiful oak in Ceno Valley, near Viazzano

"The Hidatsa Indians of North America believe that every natural object has its own spirit or, rather, its shadow. To these shadows we owe some consideration, or respect. Some large trees are believed to have intelligence which, when conveniently approached, can aid in various feats.

Cutting down these giants is considered a bad deed, and when large beams were needed, they only used trees that had already fallen. The elders said that many of their people's misfortunes were caused by modern disrespect for the rights of large trees.

The Iroquois also believe that every species of trees, plants and herbs have their own spirit. It was customary to give thanks to these spirits.

Among the Ewe-speaking inhabitants of the Slave Coast (Africa) the god Huntin dwells in some giant trees of the forest. The trees in which he lives are surrounded by a belt of palm leaves, and sacrifices are offered to him from hens, and sometimes even human beings, who are tied to the trunk or placed at the foot of the tree. Even trees that do not contain a Huntin's abode cannot be cut down without the lumberjack offering a sacrifice to purge himself of the sacrilege he is committing. Omitting the sacrifice is an offense that can also be punished with death.

Long ago in the Kangra Mountains of Punjab it was customary to sacrifice a girl to an old cedar, and the families of the village took turns providing the victim.

When an oak is felled, it makes screams or moans, which can be heard a mile away, as if the genius of the oak were complaining. Some sorcerers claim to have heard the weeping of the trees under the ax. Trees that bleed or cry out in pain or indignation when struck by the ax or burned are often encountered in books or stories, in all cultures."

- from Magic and Tree Cult by J.G.Frazer -

Even without offering any human sacrifice, or even chickens, we respect these magnificent creatures, living spirits who put the Earth in communication with Heaven, Dark with Light, Spirit with Matter. The ancients were able to grasp its essence, but most of us pass by distracted and fast without even noticing them. Only some time I met a lady in the woods who pausing in front of every big tree, she touched it and said a short prayer. I am always fascinated by these wonderful and sometimes extravagant creatures, every time I enter the woods, it seems to me to enter a fairy tale.