Articles/Essays From Pagans
August 12th. 2016 ...
When Reality Rattles your Idea of the Perfect Witch
Designing a Pagan Last Will and Testament
Hungarian Belief in Fairies
July 13th. 2016 ...
What Every Pagan Should Know About Curses
Magic With A Flick of my Finger
An Open Mind and Heart
Finding and Caring for Your Frame Drum
June 13th. 2016 ...
Pollyanna Propaganda: The Distressing Trend of Victim-Blaming in Spirituality
Living a Magickal Life with Fibromyalgia
My Father, My First God
Life is Awesome... and the Flu
May 15th. 2016 ...
Faery Guided Journey
How to Bond with the Elements through Magick
Magical Household Cleaning
Working with the Elements
April 2nd. 2016 ...
An Alternative Conception of Divine Reciprocity
Becoming Wiccan: What I Never Expected
Rebirth By Fire: A Love Letter to Mama Maui and Lady Pele
The Fear of Witchcraft
Blowing Bubbles with the Goddess
Magic in Sentences
The Evolution of Thought Forms
March 28th. 2016 ...
Revisiting The Spiral
Lateral Transcendence: Toward Greater Compassion
Spring Has Sprung!
January 22nd. 2016 ...
Coming Out of the Broom Closet
Energy and Karma
Community and Perception
December 20th. 2015 ...
Introduction to Tarot For the Novice
Magia y Wicca
October 24th. 2015 ...
Facing Your Demons: The Shadow Self
The Dream Eater--A Practical Use of Summoning Talismans
Native American Spirituality Myopia
A Dream Message
Feeling the Pulse of Autumn
October 16th. 2015 ...
Sacred Lands, Sacred Hearts
September 30th. 2015 ...
September 16th. 2015 ...
Nature Worship: or Seeing the Trees for the Ents
Vegan or Vegetarian? The Ethical Debate
August 6th. 2015 ...
Lost - A Pagan Parent's Tale
July 9th. 2015 ...
Love Spells: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly
The Magic of Weather
June 7th. 2015 ...
A Pagan Altar
A Minority of a Minority of a Minority
The Consort: Silent Partner or Hidden in Plain Sight?
Why I Bother With Ritual: Poetry and Eikonic Atheism
May 6th. 2015 ...
Gods, Myth, and Ritual in Naturalistic Paganism
I Claim Cronehood
13 Keys: The Crown of Kether
March 29th. 2015 ...
A Thread in the Tapestry of Witchcraft
March 28th. 2015 ...
On Wiccan Magick, Theurgy, Thaumaturgy and Setting Expectations
March 1st. 2015 ...
Choosing to Write a Shadow Book
Historiolae: The Spell Within the Story
My Concept Of Grey
February 1st. 2015 ...
Seeker Advice From a Coven Leader
The Three Centers of Paganism
Magick is No Illusion
The Ancient Use of God/Goddess Surnames
The Gods of My Heart
January 1st. 2015 ...
The Six Most Valuable Lessons I've Learned on My Path as a Witch
Manipulation of the Concept of Witchcraft
Publicly Other: Witchcraft in the Suburbs
Pagans All Around Us
Broomstick to the Emerald City
October 20th. 2014 ...
Thoughts on Conjuring Spirits
A Microcosmic View of Ma'at
October 5th. 2014 ...
The History of the Sacred Circle
Abandoning Expectations and Remembering Your Roots
September 28th. 2014 ...
Seeking Pagan Lands for Pagan Burials
Creating a Healing Temple
September 20th. 2014 ...
GOD AND ME (A Pagan's Personal Reply to the New Atheists)
September 7th. 2014 ...
Deer Man- A Confounding Mystery
August 31st. 2014 ...
Coven vs. Solitary
A Strange Waking Dream
August 24th. 2014 ...
Thoughts on Cultural and Spiritual Appropriation
NOTE: For a complete list of articles related to this chapter... Visit the Main Index FOR this section.
The Religion of Trees
Article ID: 14525
Age Group: Adult
Days Up: 1,890
Times Read: 5,335
RSS Views: 13,507
Author: Sarah Anne Lawless
Posted: June 26th. 2011
Times Viewed: 5,335
I am a tree worshipper, but it goes beyond holding an ancient Oak or Redwood in awe. I worship the tree, the World Tree. I worship it like a god, and in many cultures the World Tree was considered a god, but its deified versions became so common it was forgotten they were part of the Tree to begin with.
I started researching and worshipping trees many years ago at the same time I began woodworking. It wasn’t until an ancient god sat beside me on the bus one day that I started chasing gods and the history of the World Tree. That god was Legba of the Good Tree. My first reaction was “what the hell is an African god doing getting the attention of a pasty white Scots-Irish girl?” But later I learned that was all he was doing – getting my attention so I would pay attention. Today the Tree still whispers recipes for remedies and magical concoctions into my ear for the Tree rules knowledge of herbs – both their medicinal and magical applications. But the Tree no longer wears Legba’s face.
The Tree rules the creatures that live in symbiotic relationships with trees – from squirrels, birds, lizards, and snakes to termites, cicadas, and spiders. Larger animals also depend on trees; bears, deer, wild cats, and goats – yes goats can climb trees. Trees are used to build our homes, to build our ships, to make clothing, blankets, baskets, furniture, tools, ropes, amulets, and medicines. Trees are sources of food for human and animals – we feed on their fruits, their seeds, and their blood.
Legba originates from Benin, Africa. The locals view him as a virile black man with goat or bullhorns and an erect phallus (sound familiar?) . Legba is the lwa of the crossroads through whom all gods, spirits, and mortals must go through to cross and communicate between realms. He guards the gates between worlds. All who wish to speak to spirits must propitiate and ask for Legba’s help first. His symbol is the crossroads—two intersecting lines—and offerings may be left for him there of tobacco, rum, or his favourite meal of roasted chicken and sweet potatoes. Legba is both the World Tree or axis mundi and the poteau mitan or centre post of the peristyle (outdoor temple) in Haitian Voudou. Legba is sexually ambiguous, usually presented as male, but not masculine. He has appeared to me as a flamboyantly gay man before.
Legba is a triple-god. One of his other two sides is Legba Ati-Bon or Gran Bois/Bwa who is ruler of the wild forests and the Island below the Waters where the spirits and lwa dwell. Gran Bois is well versed in herbal medicine and communing with wild animals. He is known for and proud of his massive erect phallus. Red and green serpents are especially sacred to him and offerings to this deity are usually hung from a tree.
The second is Carrefour, one of the three magician lwa. Carrefour is well known for being a spirit of black magic, charms, enchantment, cursing, and destruction. He is considered to have the appearance of a demon, and when he possesses someone during a ritual, the attendees do not speak to him, fearing he will bring evil spirits into the realm of the living through the doorway he opens between the realms. Both Legba and Carrefour open doors, but working with Legba rather than Carrefour ensures the spirits you commune with are benevolent, but does not guarantee they won’t be mischievous. He is always left offerings and called before all the other lwa and spirits.
I didn’t stop there; I kept chasing the Tree. I followed him into the future and found the Gaulish god Esus. Esus is a tree and each year he must cut himself down with his great axe, only to reborn again in the New Year. Esus was associated with bulls and egrets (white herons) . He was also a triple god often found along side the other Gaulish gods Teutates and Taranis. Human sacrifices and offerings to Esus were hung in trees.
“In early ritual, human, animal, or arboreal representatives of the god were periodically destroyed to ensure fertility, but when the god became separated from these representatives, the destruction or slaying was regarded as a sacrifice to the god, and myths arose telling how he had once slain the animal. In this case, tree and bull, really identical, would be mythically regarded as destroyed by the god whom they had once represented. If Esus was a god of vegetation, once represented by a tree, this would explain why, as the scholiast on Lucan relates, human sacrifices to Esus were suspended from a tree.” ~ John Arnott MacCulloch, 1911
Esus sounds so much like Jesus who is so much like Dionysus, who is so much like Osiris, the great fertile pillar or djed of ancient Egypt. As the poteau mitan of the Haitian temple is Legba’s spine, so too are the great djeds of Egypt Osiris’ spine. But trees aren’t so common in Egypt and Osiris’ backbones were often pillars of stone. The word for a stone pillar in the ancient Greek tongue is herme or herma. It referred to stone pillars with four sides found at crossroads, borders, and sometimes doorways. Hermai were usually topped with the head of an older bearded man and carved with an erect phallus. For good luck people would rub olive oil on their hands and stroke the phallus. Then comes the new Olympian god Hermes – guardian of crossroads and boundaries, guide of the souls of the dead, and messenger of mortal and god alike.
But he couldn’t just have appeared, come from nothing. Hermes, the pillar of Greece, is so very much like Prometheus the ancient Titan believed to be the father of our race. Prometheus who created us with his hands and gifted us fire and cunning against the desires of the other gods. For favouring us with a divine gift he was punished. A great wooden pillar was struck through his body, some say on and some say under a mountain, and to it he was chained for thousands of years in punishment for aiding us… perhaps even for making us. Every day an eagle would pluck out his liver and every day it would grow back to be eaten again.
Even in anguish he was still friend to our race gifting us with the knowledge of sacred plants. It is said Mandrake sprung up from his blood spilled on the ground, and perhaps the other Solanaceae as well. In the Argonautica, it is told that he taught Medea, the witch of Hekate, how to brew ointments and prepare these herbs. Prometheus was messenger of the Titan gods and also their resident trickster, which his epithets reflect. What if Prometheus was the wooden pillar, a tree, and the mountain was the World Mountain – the axis of the Earth? Then Prometheus would be both the Earth’s axis and the World Tree and thus able to communicate with anyone anywhere on Earth even simultaneously.
In my search I found wooden pillars used as temples and also carved into the likeness of gods by the Scandinavians and Slavs, and ancient rings of wooden pillars have been excavated in the United Kingdom. I read the ancient Brehon laws protecting sacred trees in Ireland and the expensive and grisly punishments for those who harmed them. This led me to other excavations, this time of great tree trunk coffins found in Scotland, England, Germany, Eastern Europe, Asia, and even a cypress tree trunk coffin found in Egypt just like in the myth of Osiris’ death. Anthropologists postulate that the ancients once believed one’s soul could travel to the otherworld only if one’s body was buried in a tree.
As little as a century ago here in Canada, it was common for Northwest Native tribes to bury their dead in trees. Some in tree trunk coffins, some in hollowed-out canoes, and some at the foot of a tree they were close with in life. There are tribes in South America who mummify their dead and hang them in trees. I read of the cult of Odin, the trickster who hung himself on a tree for knowledge and whose sacrifices were also hung from trees like those of Esus.
I followed the tree, the pillar, back into time when trees were not cut down and reshaped. When the most that was done to them was a face carved into their living flesh or Druids grafting arms high upon the trunk of an Oak mimicking our human form as well as the images painted onto a shaman’s frame drum. A time when strips of wood were taken from living trees to make a drum, it being bad luck for the drummer if the tree died. This was a time of pre-shamanism when the gods were anthropomorphic beings with branches of flowers and leaves growing from their horned heads.
The gods of trees are the oldest gods. They created us; we are their children, the children of trees. Bark and skin, wood and bones, pith and marrow, sap and blood, leaves and lungs… My God is the phallic axis of the world and my Goddess is the round earth the World Tree is struck through, the tree and navel, the tree and the cave, the tree and the well, the stang and the cauldron. That, my friends, is how a god from Africa led me back to my own roots and my own culture to find the balance between the old world and the new. And now I carve, grow and wildcraft healing and poisonous plants, and visit the Old Ones often in their wild wood. Their animal and insect messengers come to me often and I use stang, staff, and wand to commune with the spirits of the three realms. I follow the religion of Trees and my witchcraft is that of the wild wood.
Follow the path I stumbled onto:
Comparative Mythology by Jaan Puhvel
Deer Goddess of Ancient Siberia by Esther Jacobson
Gods of the Greeks by Karl Kerenyi
Myths and Symbols in Pagan Europe by H.R. Ellis Davidson
Old Man's Garden by Annora Brown
Secrets of Voodoo by Milo Rigaud
The Forest in Folklore and Mythology by Alexander Porteous
Copyright: ©2010-2011 Sarah Lawless. Please do not copy or distribute without permission. Excerpts must be under one paragraph and have full attribution.
Sarah Anne Lawless
Location: Vancouver, British Columbia
Author's Profile: To learn more about Sarah Anne Lawless - Click HERE
Other Articles: Sarah Anne Lawless has posted 3 additional articles- View them?
Other Listings: To view ALL of my listings: Click HERE
Email Sarah Anne Lawless... (No, I have NOT opted to receive Pagan Invites! Please do NOT send me anonymous invites to groups, sales and events.)
Web Site Content (including: text - graphics - html - look & feel)
Copyright 1997-2016 The Witches' Voice Inc. All rights reserved
Note: Authors & Artists retain the copyright for their work(s) on this website.
Unauthorized reproduction without prior permission is a violation of copyright laws.
Website structure, evolution and php coding by Fritz Jung on a Macintosh G5.
Any and all personal political opinions expressed in the public listing sections (including, but not restricted to, personals, events, groups, shops, Wrenâ€™s Nest, etc.) are solely those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinion of The Witchesâ€™ Voice, Inc. TWV is a nonprofit, nonpartisan educational organization.
Sponsorship: Visit the Witches' Voice Sponsor Page for info on how you
can help support this Community Resource. Donations ARE Tax Deductible.
The Witches' Voice carries a 501(c)(3) certificate and a Federal Tax ID.
Mail Us: The Witches' Voice Inc., P.O. Box 341018, Tampa, Florida 33694-1018 U.S.A.
of The World
NOTE: The essay on this page contains the writings and opinions of the listed author(s) and is not necessarily shared or endorsed by the Witches' Voice inc.
The Witches' Voice does not verify or attest to the historical accuracy contained in the content of this essay.
All WitchVox essays contain a valid email address, feel free to send your comments, thoughts or concerns directly to the listed author(s).