December 22nd, 2011
There was the Tree of Life in the Garden of Eden, and also the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, whose forbidden fruit brought about mankind’s fall from grace. “As by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous,” says Romans 5:19. Celtic Christians also liked the the duality of one tree leading to separation from God, and a second tree, the cross, bringing salvation.
I love trees.
I always have. Whether I’ve known them long or short, I touch their bark and stroke their branches, or just feast my eyes upon them. One in the schoolyard was a dear friend and confidant during various elementary school trials. Of the five pieces of jewelry I ever wear, one is a copper-enameled tree necklace (gift from a son), and another is stylized silver tree earrings (gift from my daughter). Coniferous or deciduous, no matter what season, I just love trees.
Lately I find myself enamoured of the Tree of Life and artistic impressions of it. A few months ago I purchased such a painting, depicting mother earth’s silhouette beneath the branching roots, and seven birds in the branches representing the seven virtues of Native religion, which bear some similarity to the Fruit of the Spirit listed in Galations 5. Although not depicting my precise spiritual beliefs, I sense profound connection to it…and like so many unnamed instinctive loves in me, learning more the Celtic perception of things unveils the ‘why’.
The following is from “The Celtic Way of Prayer” by Esther De Waal, page 148-149, which is beautifully stated.
In pre-Christian religion, trees were not merely natural objects, they were majestic signs of the connectedness of the heaven and the earth. [Our ancestors] saw the pattern of the immense root system that bound the tree to the earth and then above it that immense system of arms and handlike leaves stretching out into the sky above, and the trunk itself standing there so strongly, the axis that bound the underworld with the upperworld, the human with the divine, the earthly with the spiritual, the world itself with God. So when Christ was lifted up from the earth and displayed spreadeagled on a dead tree set up on a hill, the ancient archetype of the tree of life suddenly blazed out in living historical actuality, fulfilled once and for all, and the primeval myth of the sacred tree-ladder connecting God with the world, the divine with the earthly, suddenly found real and historical expression – for there is an actual tree, the cross of the crucifixion, connecting us with God and God with us, once and for all, in the figure of Christ – Christ the axis of history.
No wonder I love trees.