Trees for life

Trees for life

The magnificent trees, shelter us, warm us, shade us, and among numerous other things, provide us with life giving oxygen. They're home to countless eco systems and look so beautiful, that it isn't really surprising that the people of yesterday included them in their systems of devotion, and left so many stories relating to them.

According to tradition, Buddha received enlightenment under the sacred Bo tree in India. The original tree has vanished, but a tree in Sri Lanka, said to be over 2,000 years old, is vernerated by Buddhists as having sprung from a slip of the original sacred tree.

When Odin and his brothers constructed their world, according to Norse mythology, the gods created the first mortal man from an Ash tree, and the first mortal woman from an Elm and a giant Ash tree, known as Yggdrasil, supported all creation.

Yggdrasil had three great roots. One root reached the misty and icy land of Niflheim, another grew to Jotunheim, land of the giants, and the third root reached Asgard, the home of Odin which housed the great hall of Valhalla.

Three sisters called Norms, lived around the foot of the great tree and they controlled the past, the present and the future. Near the root that reached the icy Niflheim, there lived a huge serpent named Nidoggo. Nidoggo was loyal and sympathetic to the giants of Jotunheim, whom Odin had defeated, so he gnawed at the root to bring down the great Ash and the gods with it.

Japanese culture, tells of a young handsome batchelor who loved the Willow tree that grew near to his hut. His name was Heitaro and the tree was his temple, his treasure and his company. To him, each year it grew more beautiful than the last.

One day, the villagers came to cut down the Willow for wood to build a bridge. Heitaro protested and scoured the country to find adequate wood for their needs. This they accepted. That night, he stood beneath the Willow and gave thanks to the gods that the tree had been spared. Something moved in the moonlight.

Heitaro peered into the shadows. There, stood a beautiful young woman. He bowed and apologised for disturbing her, and left. But after that, she joined him under the tree every night and the happy couple fell in love and were married. They had a child, and prayed thanks for the happiness each night at the Willow temple.

One day the villagers returned, requiring to cut the old tree down again to build a temple to the goddess Kwan-Yin. This time Heitaro relented, he would miss it, but he had his wife and his child. The villagers began to cut down the tree. The Willow wife cried out inside the house to her husband saying the room was becoming dark. She fell to the ground and covered her face with her hands. She twisted and turned as though avoiding blows. Heitaro could do nothing but watch. When the last blow struck the Willow tree, he was alone with his daughter.

The Yew tree, to the ancients, was a symbol of man's faith of immortality, having observed how the Yew tree can go on living for centuries. The Fortingall Yew tree in Glen Lyon, Scotland is said to be almost 5,000 years old, the oldest living thing in Europe.

In California, some of the Bristlecone pines are between 4 and 5,000 years old and the oldest Sequoias are about 3,500 years old.

There must be thousands of beautiful stories about thousands of different trees, and when we walk through leafy green canopied corridors, with their root steps and sunny dappled floors, it's easy to understand why as our contented spirits seem to sense something wonderful.

About the Author Marilyn Cameron is a writer, trained in Theatre Arts, a commissioned Playwright, and founder of many Community Theatre projects. She now writes about Nature for Children, Walks in Scotland, and Community Theatre Arts and Mythology at Themestream. Marilyn writes Community Drama Workshops at Suite 101. Marilyn has been writing since she was fourteen and since giving up the active side of Theatre, gives her time to writing. The author lives in a beautiful area of Scotland, Glenelg, which is on the Sound of Sleat, and spends a lot of time in her dreamy mountains and shores of home. Marilyn Cameron is also the happy Mum of a son and daughter and Grandmother to three grandchildren.

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