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Author Topic: Druids and Trees  (Read 2645 times)

Altair

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Druids and Trees
« on: March 23, 2016, 07:10:17 am »
How important is tree lore to the modern druid? And has that lore been expanded in a modern American context?

Despite my futile resistance, I find myself learning more about trees, and as I do, I begin to feel a certain connection to them. I've always been a guy drawn to the Eastern deciduous woods, and I've often wondered at/bonded with individual trees--specimens who caught my eye and imagination, who drew out a numinous sense from inside me.

Lately, that has grown to a species level: learning to differentiate different kinds of trees better, and feeling an affinity or almost mystical inspiration for certain varieties. (Right now I'm all about birch.) My limited knowledge of druidry tells me that trees were and are important in their worldview, and that different kinds of trees (birch, oak, ash...holly? Pine?) symbolized different things.

How many different kinds of trees were recognized as significant by the ancient druids? (If there's a way to know such things; I know that written records are scant.) Is there a good website that summarizes the trees and their symbolism? And has there been any attempt by modern druids to build upon that lore, to assign specific meanings for other trees not acknowledged by the ancients (apple, cedar, hawthorne...)? I'd be especially interested in such efforts based in North America and our collection of species.
The first song sets the wheel in motion / The second is a song of love / The third song tells of Her devotion / The fourth cries joy from the sky above
The fifth song binds our fate to silence / and bids us live each moment well / The sixth unleashes rage and violence / The seventh song has truth to tell
The last song echoes through the ages / to ask its question all night long / And close the circle on these pages / These, the metamythos songs

RecycledBenedict

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Re: Druids and Trees
« Reply #1 on: March 23, 2016, 12:07:36 pm »
Quote from: Altair;188759
How important is tree lore to the modern druid?


John Michael Greer includes it in The Druidry Handbook, but, personally, I find it the weakest part of that book. It looks like a re-telling of Robert Graves' The Wite Goddess, if I am not mistaken.

Quote from: Altair;188759
And has that lore been expanded in a modern American context?


Since I am not American, I do not know. I have myself peeked into Swedish folklore, popular customs and cunning craft in order to adapt Druidry into the climate and biotopes I live with (Spring does not begin at Imbolc!). If I remember correctly, Greer encourages modern Druids to familiarize themselves with Nature in their own surroundings, not playing Iron Age Britons or Hibernians. I think it is good advice.

Quote from: Altair;188759
(...) and I've often wondered at/bonded with individual trees--specimens who caught my eye and imagination, who drew out a numinous sense from inside me.


I can totally relate to that. People have probably been doing that in several cultures all over the world during history. Think about the sacredness of particular trees in Hinduism and Buddhism (Buddha awakened under a tree held sacred by his religious surroundings), and folk customs pertaining to trees close to many farms both in Sweden and in the Balkans.

Quote from: Altair;188759
My limited knowledge of druidry tells me that trees were and are important in their worldview, and that different kinds of trees (birch, oak, ash...holly? Pine?) symbolized different things.


At least in British folklore (which of course is much younger than Paleo-Druidry) oak, rowan, juniper, holly and hawthorn have significance, but it is probably better to ask some of the English, Welsh or Scottish here on the forum about that. I don't want to dabble in someone elses folklore.

Quote from: Altair;188759
How many different kinds of trees were recognized as significant by the ancient druids? (If there's a way to know such things; I know that written records are scant.) Is there a good website that summarizes the trees and their symbolism?


Most websites you will find are probably based on Robert Graves' mytho-poeia than on ancient Celtic lore. The source material on Paleo-Druids is extremely limited: A few short quotes by Greek and Roman authors. There are of course Irish and Welsh poems and novels from the Middle Ages, but these are all written from a Christian point of view, and any reconstructions based on them must be made with caution.

Druidry as it exists today is an ever growing and changing movement that began in 1740 when the tolerant latitudinarian Anglican vicar William Stukeley wrote his two books on Druidry, and envisioned a primordial inter-faith Nature spirituality. The switch from a Meso-Druidic phase to a Neo-Druidic phase happened around 1980 (Philip Shallcrass and Isaac Bonewits probably the most well-known propagators of this turn), but Meso-Druidry and Neo-Druidry still exist in parallel to each other. I fall in the Meso-Druidic category, for instance.

Altair

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Re: Druids and Trees
« Reply #2 on: March 23, 2016, 11:06:51 pm »
Quote from: FraterBenedict;188773
Druidry as it exists today is an ever growing and changing movement that began in 1740 when the tolerant latitudinarian Anglican vicar William Stukeley wrote his two books on Druidry, and envisioned a primordial inter-faith Nature spirituality. The switch from a Meso-Druidic phase to a Neo-Druidic phase happened around 1980 (Philip Shallcrass and Isaac Bonewits probably the most well-known propagators of this turn), but Meso-Druidry and Neo-Druidry still exist in parallel to each other. I fall in the Meso-Druidic category, for instance.

FB, you've given me a lot to chew over, not the least being that there even is a pale-, meso-, and neo-druidry. Thanks!

Meanwhile, a little digging on the web turned up this:

http://www.ancient-wisdom.com/treelore.htm#sacredtrees
« Last Edit: March 23, 2016, 11:07:16 pm by Altair »
The first song sets the wheel in motion / The second is a song of love / The third song tells of Her devotion / The fourth cries joy from the sky above
The fifth song binds our fate to silence / and bids us live each moment well / The sixth unleashes rage and violence / The seventh song has truth to tell
The last song echoes through the ages / to ask its question all night long / And close the circle on these pages / These, the metamythos songs

SunflowerP

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Re: Druids and Trees
« Reply #3 on: March 24, 2016, 03:09:43 am »
Quote from: Altair;188795
FB, you've given me a lot to chew over, not the least being that there even is a pale-, meso-, and neo-druidry. Thanks!


It's a useful construct in some ways - I believe it might be FraterB's own construct, riffing on Isaac Bonewits' paleo-/meso-/neoPagan structure; at any rate, I'd never run across it before FraterB joined TC. Myself, I think I'd place the transition from mesoDruidry to neoDruidry earlier than 1980, if only because it seems to me that there was neoPagan Druidry well before that point, though I don't know that I'd want to put a single date on it; I'd as soon speak of it as a process.

FraterB and I conversed at some length about this a few months back; I'll see if I can find the thread.

Quote
Meanwhile, a little digging on the web turned up this:

http://www.ancient-wisdom.com/treelore.htm#sacredtrees

 
Looks a very mixed bag to me. Quite a bit of stuff that's purely modern invention (Gravesian and otherwise). I'm (as usual) in the camp of 'if you find it useful, it's useful,' but if provenance matters, you'll want to doublecheck pretty much everything there.

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SunflowerP

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Re: Druids and Trees
« Reply #4 on: March 24, 2016, 03:32:04 am »
Quote from: SunflowerP;188809
FraterB and I conversed at some length about this a few months back; I'll see if I can find the thread.

The convo starts here (or in the post of FraterB's that I'm replying to, depending how you look at it), continues for a few exchanges, and then gets its own spinoff thread.

Sunflower
« Last Edit: March 24, 2016, 03:32:46 am by SunflowerP »
I'm the AntiFa genderqueer commie eclectic wiccan Mod your alt-right bros warned you about.
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Altair

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Re: Druids and Trees
« Reply #5 on: March 24, 2016, 07:14:55 am »
Quote from: SunflowerP;188809
Looks a very mixed bag to me. Quite a bit of stuff that's purely modern invention (Gravesian and otherwise). I'm (as usual) in the camp of 'if you find it useful, it's useful,' but if provenance matters, you'll want to doublecheck pretty much everything there.


Agreed, though in my quick perusing it seemed like there was at least an effort to flag the stuff that's believed to be druidic in origin. Since I'm approaching this from an attitude of "what the druids thought about which trees, and how that has been expanded since," I'm in the "Is it useful?" camp on this, as you suggest.
The first song sets the wheel in motion / The second is a song of love / The third song tells of Her devotion / The fourth cries joy from the sky above
The fifth song binds our fate to silence / and bids us live each moment well / The sixth unleashes rage and violence / The seventh song has truth to tell
The last song echoes through the ages / to ask its question all night long / And close the circle on these pages / These, the metamythos songs

Altair

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Re: Druids and Trees
« Reply #6 on: March 24, 2016, 07:16:32 am »
Quote from: SunflowerP;188811
The convo starts here (or in the post of FraterB's that I'm replying to, depending how you look at it), continues for a few exchanges, and then gets its own spinoff thread.

Sunflower


Thanks! I'll read it ASAP; hopefully it will help relieve me of my ignorance of the druidic landscape.
The first song sets the wheel in motion / The second is a song of love / The third song tells of Her devotion / The fourth cries joy from the sky above
The fifth song binds our fate to silence / and bids us live each moment well / The sixth unleashes rage and violence / The seventh song has truth to tell
The last song echoes through the ages / to ask its question all night long / And close the circle on these pages / These, the metamythos songs

RecycledBenedict

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Re: Druids and Trees
« Reply #7 on: March 24, 2016, 09:03:42 am »
Quote from: SunflowerP;188809
It's a useful construct in some ways - I believe it might be FraterB's own construct, riffing on Isaac Bonewits' paleo-/meso-/neoPagan structure;


Yes. I abbreviate Bonewits.

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