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The Gibbet Tree - The Hilltop Oak

This poem is inspired by the history of trees as gibbet trees, in particular the oak . It is also a comment on the enduring Spirit of Jack In The Green.

Oak tree on a hill with ripe corn
A Hilltop Oak

The Gibbet Tree

Upon the hill that great oak stood

From its boughs swung bones and blood

On the orders of King James

Trees were clothed their spirit to contain

Those ancients once held so dear

Came to be held in contempt and fear

The starving strung up for stealing bread

Set as example and left for dead

Their soul to be taken by the tree

Shown no mercy & damned by decree

The thoughts of men are a curious thing

That truth and beauty should be held as a sin

But a king is not as mighty as an oak

Even when burned & gone up in smoke

For the oak is the spirit of Jack In The Green

And the life of man is but a dream

Only those with the eyes to see

Saw the souls cared for by that great tree

A man is king he will say

But Jack is the king of the ancient way.

©Amanda Vesty

King James

I heard somewhere that King James decreed that evil spirits lived in trees and jackets were made to contain them. (I must find out more about this to see if it's true. If you have any info let me know. )

Throughout the ages many trees were believed to be haunted and Oak trees were a particular target because of their ancient associations with the druids and pre christian symbolism.

Trees as Places of Punishment

Trees on hilltops were often used as gibbet trees where wrongdoers were hung. Their bodies were left strung up as lessons to passers by. This was especially true of those trees near to crossroads. In fact these places were also used as burial places for those considered evil or had sinned in some way as it was believed that being buried where the road split meant they would not be able to find their way home to haunt the living.

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Amanda Claire x


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