Created By: HerrGoldschmidt on April 25, 2012 Last Edited By: Paradisesnake on September 7, 2013

Sacred Trees

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Trope
Trees often appear as prominent symbols in religion and mythology.

(Arg! Help!)

Examples:

Religion and Mythology
  • Book of Genesis mentions two trees that were in the Garden of Eden: the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, and the Tree of Life.
  • In Norse Mythology, Yggdrasil was an enormous ash tree that held the nine worlds in its boughs.
  • The druids are famous for their worship of oaks.
  • Shinto holds the sakaki (Cleyera japonica) sacred. Uzume hung a mirror from a sakaki as part of her trick to get the sun goddess Amaterasu to leave her self-imposed isolation.
  • Classical Mythology:
    • Greek myth has the Garden of the Hespardies, in which grew a tree that bore golden apples that would bestow immortality.
    • The oak was sacred to Zeus. His oracle was at Dodona where priests would interpret the god's word by the rustling of the oak leaves.
    • The olive tree was sacred to Athena. She and Poseidon both wanted to claim patronage of a new city and decided to settle the quarrel by seeing who could bestow the best gift. Poseidon gave a spring, but the water was salty. Athena created the first olive tree which was deemed the superior gift. She won the city and it was named Athens after her.
    • The laurel was sacred to Apollo. He fell in love with a wood nymph named Daphne, but she was afraid and ran from him. When he had almost caught her, she cried out to her father, a river god, for help and he turned her into the first laurel tree to protect her from the god. Apollo, grieved at losing her, declared that the tree's leaves would ever after be emblems of victory, which is where we get the word "laureate."

Literature
Community Feedback Replies: 17
  • April 25, 2012
    wotnoplot
    I'm confused why a sacred tree needs to be at a sacred location with a rope around it. The Norse Yggdrasil has neither of these and still is a sacred tree. The Tree of Knowledge in the Garden of Eden could also be described as a sacred tree-sacred location maybe. It is Older than Feudalism, and if the description is important it needs a better name.
  • April 25, 2012
    weirdfantasy
    Sacred trees of the kind with a rope tied around it and such are specific to Japanese Shinto, so the above description appears to be somewhat limited. If it was a little broader, mainly to encompass trees of any kind of importance to a story other than as something a kitten or a kid gets chased up, then it might make an interesting study. Other than those mentioned above, there are also things like the Deku Tree of the Legendof Zelda Ocarina Of Time (along with its various incarnations of forest temples) and the Jurai tree/starships found in Tenchi Muyo.
  • April 25, 2012
    animeg3282
    Ah, but your trope is taking the name from the super trope. This is a sub trope- the Japanese Shinto Sacred Tree
  • April 25, 2012
    Earnest
    The Sacred Grove in Fables, wood from these trees plus a little magic from the Blue Fairy can make Pinochio style living puppets.
  • April 25, 2012
    zarpaulus
    Yeah, if this isn't meant to be an anime specific trope the description needs some work.

    • A Song Of Ice And Fire has the Godwoods, white oaks with what appear to be faces of old men. Northerners believe that the Old Gods see and hear through them, the Starks have a Godwood within their keep and use it as a shrine.
  • April 25, 2012
    Damr1990
    could the broader definition be related to Tree Of Life?
  • April 25, 2012
    DunDun
    ^ Tree Of Life is a subtrope of Sacred Tree, since it's a special kind of sacred tree.

    But if this trope is going to remain as the Japanese Shinto Sacred Tree, then the name might as well be the Portmantou Shintree.
  • April 25, 2012
    captainsandwich
    wasn't their one of these near the beginning of Okami? since the trope changed i'll mention i think it had the rope.
  • April 25, 2012
    Generality
    I don't see why there should be a specific subtrope page for the Shinto approach to sacred trees, especially as we don't have a page for the parent trope at present, and there are tons of examples that don't come from Japan.

    With that in mind, this is probably a subtrope of World Tree rather than the other way around, as sacred trees are typically representative in some way of that archetypal tree.
  • April 25, 2012
    HerrGoldschmidt
    Might as well make this article the supertrope. Unfortunately, I don't know very much at all about the symbolism involved here. Please help with article text and examples!
  • April 25, 2012
    Dacilriel
    Several Greek gods had sacred trees. Specifically:
    • The oak was sacred to Zeus. His oracle was at Dodona where priests would interpret the god's word by the rustling of the oak leaves.
    • The olive tree was sacred to Athena. She and Poseidon both wanted to claim patronage of a new city and decided to settle the quarrel by seeing who could bestow the best gift. Poseidon gave a spring, but the water was salty. Athena created the first olive tree which was deemed the superior gift. She won the city and it was named Athens after her.
    • The laurel was sacred to Apollo. He fell in love with a wood nymph named Daphne, but she was afraid and ran from him. When he had almost caught her, she cried out to her father, a river god, for help and he turned her into the first laurel tree to protect her from the god. Apollo, grieved at losing her, declared that the tree's leaves would ever after be emblems of victory, which is where we get the word "laureate."

    I think there's more, but I can't remember them now.
  • April 28, 2012
    Koveras
    • The Tree of Light in Prince Of Persia 2008. Sacred to Ormazd, used to keep the evil god Ahriman imprisoned.
  • November 10, 2012
    ArcadesSabboth
    I think a broad Sacred Trees trope is a good idea. They appear in many religions, myths, and works of total fiction. Some of them show up on World Tree, which may be a subtrope, though some of its own examples seem to be shoehorns that belong here instead (Avendsora and the White Tree spring to mind).

    I don't see this as a subtrope of World Tree, because a sacred tree need not be an overtly supernatural one. It can be magical, but it can be one particular tree or even entire species that is considered holy to a religion.

    Anyway, if this is to be interreligious, I can think of some examples. There are oodles in Hinduism, and many more from Greek religion. JRR Tolkien's White Trees are sacred.
  • September 7, 2013
    JujuP
    Real Life
    • The Irminsul, sacred tree wieved as the pillar of the world.
  • September 7, 2013
    Kayube
    In Avatar, there are a whole lot of sacred/important trees, since trees are the most important connection to Pandora's natural network/the goddess Eywa.
  • September 7, 2013
    Paradisesnake
    Linked the example titles to their respective pages + did some formatting.

    EDIT: Also, and example:

    Video Games
  • September 7, 2013
    chicagomel
    In Animorphs the Andalites had guide trees that were sentient to a point and could comminicate, albiet very slowly. They're referred to as Garibah trees.

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