For once I will not dedicate (directly) my article to the forest, to the trees or to nature. Moreover, I will dedicate it, with great reverence and wonder, to the human. But, as it could not be otherwise, to a kind of human who seems to have become extinct, a human of which there remain, as by evolutionary error of our species, a few individuals, destined to disappear like the little finger of our hand. The human we once were, who once loved the tree.
And to understand the meaning of this article we must understand that what is mentioned here is not the reality of trees, but the vision we once had of them.
Not long ago, humanity worshiped and pleaded Nature, we venerated it with love, respect and delight.
We understood her gift, we valued it and we knew debtors from birth to death.
And likewise, not long ago, we gave the tree meaning in the cosmological, mythical, theological, ritual and iconographic realms.
“El Árbol” by Isabel Uría Maqua
From the earliest times, the tree, by its own form and substance (because it is vertical, it grows, loses its leaves and recovers it again and again), represents for man the living cosmos that regenerates incessantly, inexhaustible life , to immortality. The tree-cosmos can become, in another plane, the tree of the “life without death”, coming to symbolize, by all this, the absolute reality.
As absolute reality, it also represents the sacred, and as such, man saw in the tree the symbol of the center, which by its verticality was shown as the axis of the universe (axis-mundi tree), capable of uniting Heaven, Earth and Hell, a column that holds the world.
The leafy foliage, abundant in leaves, made us give the tree another symbology, that of paradise itself.
Its growing branches gave it the significance of ascension and transcendence.
“El símbolo del árbol” by Johnny McClue
And from the cosmogonic tree we can move on to more concrete trees, such as the Ancestor Tree, the anthropomorphic representation of our past or our future reincarnation, the Hollow Tree, in which the dead were buried to return to Mother Earth and begotten New, the Inverted Tree, “What is Up is Down,” the Universal Fractal Tree, the pattern with which trees, thunder, rivers, nerve branches and veins and arteries manifest themselves among other natural systems, etc.
“Simbología: El Árbol” by Eterno Retorno
The tree is also considered a symbol of the union of the continuous (trunk) and the discontinuous (branches and leaves).
The tree is assimilated to the (goddess) mother, to the spring, to the primordial water. It has all its ambivalence: creative and captivating force, nourishing and devouring.
The tree grows rooted to the earth and ascends to the sky. Its trunk supports the strong wind, the storm and the force of the sun. It is nourished by earth, air, water and sunlight. In turn, it gives the earth its food in the form of leaves and branches, nourishing it so that it is fertile. It helps the air to stay alive and collaborates with the water to rain, and, in harmony with the environment, gives everything and everything receives. If it sets on fire, it gives heat to beings. It gives its fruits for all to feed. He lives in an eternal cycle of giving and receiving. It participates in the cosmos, being one and part of everything, in confluence.
El árbol de la vida. Wikipedia.
The man saw in the tree an archetype, an exemplary model from which other concepts were derived.There are examples of this marvelous vision in all ages, cultures, geographies and religions. There are trees of life in Persian (Gaokerena), Egyptian (Sycamore), Armenian, Assyrian, Chinese, Scandinavian (Yggdrasil) mythologies, in Bahaism, in Buddhism (Bo tree, or Ficus religiosa), in Christianity, in the most recent religions, German paganism, Hinduism (Akshaya Vata), Islam, Jewish sources, Kabbalah, in pre-Columbian Mesoamerican cultures, in the Middle East, in North America, in the Turkish world.
They are trees of life the Thuja or Arborvitae, the tree of Tule, the coconut tree, the Moringa Oleífera or “miraculous tree”, Tepuy Autana of the Piaroa tribe.
“Símbolos celtas: el Árbol de la Vida y la Rueda Celta del Año” by Ekratos.
But among all cultures, perhaps the most popularly known to give an important relevance to trees is the Celtic, being precisely the tree of life one of its most representative symbols, and being the life of its individuals intimately related to the Forests.
For them, each species of tree also had a concrete meaning.
Curious (and motif in part of this article) is the fact that the etymologic concept of ‘druid’, ‘truth’ and ‘tree’, intertwine along their path in their Different languages of origin, Indo-European, Greek, Anglo-Saxon, Welsh, Celtic and ancient Celtic.
1560s, from French druide, from Latin druidae (plural), from Gaulish Druides, from Celtic compound *dru-wid-, probably representing Old Celtic *derwos “true”/PIE *dru- “tree” (especially oak; see tree (n.)) + *wid- “to know” (see vision). Hence, literally, perhaps, “they who know the oak” (perhaps in allusion to divination from mistletoe). Anglo-Saxon, too, used identical words to mean “tree” and “truth” (treow). (‘druid’ from Online Etymology Dictionary)
The word ‘dru’ is related to an indoeuropean stem * deru (to be or to be solid and firm), present in the Greek *dendron (tree), and for example derived words like dendrology or study of the trees. (‘druida’ from Etimologías dechile.net)
Where has this tree-loving man gone, who identified them with the truth, and understood the universe and life through them?
One of the few witnesses capable of bearing witness to his existence, reviving that deep and sincere worship, is, of course, a tree, Matusalen, with more than 4,000 years, one of the longest living beings on the planet.
Who knows if his longevity could have something to do with some kind of hope that keeps him alive, only to feel the kind breath of those humans who loved him and who he longs and waits patiently?