Those of you who have been lurking around here a while will know that i tend to post an Xmas Grinch rant at around this time. I would say that it is a tradition but i am a Uranian. So it’s, I don’t know, a download.
Some of the frequent themes are forced frivolity, compulsive consumerism and the appropriation of a Pagan festival – Xmas being among many but with Easter perhaps being the most brazen. The very name Easter comes from Oestre, the Celtic Fertility Goddess. As in oestrogen etc.
But this year my Grinch anti-Xmas theme is Free The Pine.
This is an ancient tree, sacred to Jupiter, Dionysus and the Phoenician Moon Goddess Cybele. The Pine tree has also an affinity to Jupiter. It is renowned for its hardiness and ability to thrive no matter what. The ancients did not, in general, revere hard-to-grow plants. They loved the flora that thrived, lush green and triumphant, in the most barren or challenging of circumstances.
So having this noble tree grown in plantations – that are an ecological nightmare in themselves – and then chopped down to serve as decoration for a few weeks while they die, festooned with lights, before being turfed out into the back lane to rot? It seems like a travesty.
In Pagan times, they were seen as a symbol of hope in mid-Winter. A branch or a found log – not a chopped down tree – was bought into the house as a reminder that Spring was just around the corner, the longest night of the Winter had in fact been survived and it was fine to bring out the stored up ’emergency food’ and have a feast.
For the ancient Roman Saturnalia – the festival that predated Christmas – trees were decorated where they grew to honor Saturn in his guise as harvest God. I would also like to add that a dying tree in the living room corner is poor Feng Shui.
Could it be time to buck convention and Free The Pine?
Here is an epic extract from Sacred Earth Ethnobotany – the whole piece is worth reading – and some beautiful pictures of pine trees in their natural habitat – alive, grounded, free for their branches to be moved by the breeze, supple and nourished.
Pines naturally grow in harsh and difficult environments, often acting as pioneer species that make the ground more hospitable and act as protectors for other, more sensitive species. In their natural habitat they rarely crowd each other, leaving plenty of gaps for sunlight to penetrate the spaces between one tree and the next, thus ensuring a healthy and varied undergrowth development.
Pines grow fast and have a light wood and very straight stems which have made them popular as a commercial timber species. Logged areas can re-grow at a relatively fast speed if they are not entirely clear-cut. However, commercial logging companies are often too greedy to give nature time to regenerate. Instead, monocultural plantations are planted in straight rows over vast areas of land, for easy harvesting. Such plantations are biologically dead…
There are no birds or small animals in this kind of ‘dead’ zone and the atmosphere is the exact opposite to that of a natural pine forest. Where the latter is lofty, serene and inspirational, the plantation is oppressive, forbidding, sad and gloomy.
Familiarity breeds contempt. So common are Pines that we hardly pay any attention to them at all, except, perhaps in recognizing them as a cheap and common timber species. Yet anyone who has ever hiked on a warm and sunny afternoon through a mountain forests populated with lofty pines, firs and spruces will agree that nothing compares to their fresh balsamic scent mingled with that of the soft forest floor beneath. Their resinous aroma permeates the air and each breath one takes is like sipping nectar, invigorating body and soul. It elevates the spirit, clears the mind and makes the feet move lightly along the path.
With their crowns waving gently high in the sky above, they exude an air of loftiness and serenity and spread a sense of inner peace, tranquility and calm. They embody the essence of resilience and determination, the arboreal image of ‘mind above matter’.