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