The Meme of Trees

The Tree of Knowledge

The tree is intimately rooted within human culture and consciousness with significant exposure in religion and myth – often serving as a link to the Earth and the subtle worlds beyond. From Egyptian hieroglyphs tying the character’s soul to the tree, Buddha’s realization under the Bodhi tree (Ficus religiosa), old Semitic texts of Adam and Eve eating from the Tree of Knowledge, the Mesoamerican world tree – a symbolic axis mundi connecting the seen and unseen, the Kabbalistic Tree of Life – which still influences Western esotericism, Yggdrasil – the giant Norse tree on which the nine worlds exist and the sacred trees of the Arabs which provide council in one’s dreams.

Yggdrasil, the Norse connection to the 9 worlds

By its very form the tree suggests connection with above and below; a mass of tangling, dark roots changing via a conduit to an expanse of branches in the light of sky. It is no surprise that shamans have used this form in journeying; returning with stories of worlds unseen. There are also long associations with ideas of shelter, contemplation, warmth – from the burning of wood, food – from fruit and nuts, construction and support, sacrifice and punishment, and for the pure enjoyment for children’s play. While human knowledge has grown and ideas and cultures have been created, destroyed and mutated, the tree has ever been present and has appeared in our lives’ stories and memories.

The bodhi tree, where buddha sat all night before enlightenment

We should thus ask the question, what it means from a symbolic or mythological perspective, to destroy the tree, and to cut down far more than those that can take their place? Is it representative of a war within ourselves, or do we wish to sever the undying link between the above and the below, the conscious and perhaps that part of ourselves that is more intuitive and more connected with the unknown? And to plant and to connect with trees – is this a desire to achieve wholeness and integration? Myths and mentations are of the past, but they influence us now, and the course of action that we shall take. Let us remember the many human lives and their stories before us.

4 thoughts on “The Meme of Trees

  1. I am blown away – pun intended.
    This is so deep and meaningful and although I believe I am an avid nature lover and have a special affinity for trees, I have never thought of them in such an emotive way. You are absolutely correct of course! How shallow we humans are – the “Avatar” movie highlighted this!
    it is so comforting to know that there are young people like you who care so deeply about our precious beautiful Planet.
    I hope with all my heart that you and your fellow like-minded peers are able to save it. In the book “The Last Rhinos” by the late Lawrence Anthony – the conservationist who saved the animals in the Baghdad zoo, among other things – he says “Mother earth has two massive lungs – the Amazon and Congo Rain Forests”……and mankind is destroying them both at this very minute!!
    “Cry the Beloved Planet” is all I can say!!

    • Thanks Colleen for your enthusiastic and positive response! I think we all recognise the value of Nature and trees when we are immersed in their presence, and in that way, we all show care. The trick is to try and remember in our busy lives… The project is still going – but lots of work ahead! Will keep you posted!

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