As the #wassailers sing their songs of fruitfulness to the trees and as the campaign to protect our ancient yew trees continues I am compelled to think of a much wider all encompassing issue...
I love that here at AST we celebrate the fact that people use trees as ‘#PlacesofWorship’ and have done so for millennia according to archaeology and history. They still are used that way by many different beliefs (and none): as embodying the #divine itself, as a conduit to the divine, as a place to meditate, a place to pray, a place to connect with nature, a place to heal, a place to share joy and grief, a place as a #memorial or #celebration, a place to meet friends and a place for #community and #culture. A place for #life, #death and for #living. I see this every single day in our Facebook groups across the world.
“Keep a green tree in your heart and perhaps a singing bird will come.” Chinese proverb
Support of the campaign to give #ancientyews protection has been very well supported by our UK members and others from across the world who have expressed their great desire to see this passed in UK law. The recent tragic case of the #Llandegly yew in #Powys however, has led a number of members online to express the concern that the church won’t support legal protection due to the yew being regarded as ‘Pagan’ symbol. Llandegly has already lost all its other yews, which were described in which were described in Lewis’ 1834 ‘Topographical Dictionary of Wales as ‘some of the finest yew trees in south Wales’. So if true this poses some difficult questions and possible serious issues. We should remember however that for many Christians too, the yew is valued as a symbol of ‘ever lasting life’.
"They (trees) are beautiful, majestic and tell a story. A reminder of God’s miracles."
AST member Sara Brandtner Pullen
"Trees are a massively important part of our ecosystem. As a pagan, I feel we are the custodians of the natural world around us. I am particularly drawn to trees and woodlands" AST member Rich Easterlow
"... they hold such rich symbols and values for us and they feed our souls - besides the environmental importance... :)" -
AST member Ági Novák
This ancient yew tree was in the process of being felled when locals intervened. Now it stands having had all its branches hacked off and it is touch and go wether it will survive. The only yew tree left standing after what has been a clear and sustained campaign of destruction by the church. A deplorable action which has left many Christian AST members (as well as those of other faiths) deeply upset.
Is this really the way we should be treating our ancient sacred places?
If this tree had been an ancient building the local church would not have dared to touch it.
Why is it we as a nation decry the desecration of historic and archaeologically important man made sites yet stand mute when it comes to ancient sites in nature?
If ever there was a symbol of the current ecological destruction that is taking place it is this.
According to Wikipedia it costs £28 to register a building as an official Place Of Worship. Why can we not register places of worship outside? Why is it, for example, that those whose religious beliefs include nature worship cannot legally marry within the bounds of the sacred site of their choice? Instead they are forced to register their marriage inside a soulless building instead against their culture and religious principles. Can this be right?
English Heritage says of Stonehenge for instance that it, “ ... continues to have a role as a sacred place of special religious and cultural significance for many, and inspires a strong sense of awe and humility for thousands of visitors who are drawn to the site every year."
So why shouldn’t a place out on a grassy plain in Wiltshire be recognised as a “Place of Worship?”
The BBC in a list of top 10 sacred sites gives 9 sacred sites outdoors equal billing along with Canterbury cathedral. Yet only in the cathedral are you permitted to be legally married. Those who do not subscribe to one of the mainstream religions have found that they cannot legally marry in their 'Place Of Worship". Thousands of weddings known as 'handfastings' take place outside in nature by trees, lakes, wells, meadows across the United Kingdom yet not a single one is legally recognised. Many faiths still do not get the recognition and respect they deserve.
"I’m a practicing Druid so it’s pretty much a given (to love trees). Trees are old, wise and with a spirit all their own." Beth Amos
"Trees have always seemed to me to sacred. They are ancient and have passed their knowledge on for generations. I love their stillness and rootedness."
AST member Jane Hitchcot
"Love God and all his nature Have always resonated with them and connected with them, they give us life." Anon AST member
If you want advice on getting married you will find that "Approval will not be given for open air venues" according to the Citizens Advice Bureau.
Articles 9 and 14 of the Human Rights Act are there to protect the freedoms of all of us. Yet clearly these articles are only being applied to certain sections of the population. I am no lawyer but surely there is something wrong with this.
So ... the more I think about this, the more I see this is not just about saving individual trees, woodlands and whatever else from greedy developers, an ignorant church, and an out-of-date ridiculously expensive railway line. Nor is it just about individuals and their right to marry in the sacred place of their choice, practise religious beliefs in their recognised place of worship and to have that place of worship recognised.
This really is a fundamental questioning of this modern so-called culture that has brought us to the point of complete alienation from nature and an ongoing destruction of the ecosystem.
“It may be that some little root of the sacred tree still lives. Nourish it then that it may leaf and bloom and fill with singing birds! Hear me, that the people may once again find the good road and the shielding tree.”
Wallace Black Elk: Holy Man of the Oglala Sioux 1863-1950
#Article9 "protects your right to freedom of thought, belief and religion
It includes the right to change your religion or beliefs at any time.
You also have the right to put your thoughts and beliefs into action. This could include your right to wear religious clothing, the right to talk about your beliefs or take part in religious worship. Public authorities cannot stop you practising your religion, without very good reason ....
Importantly, this right protects a wide range of non-religious beliefs including atheism, agnosticism, veganism and pacifism. For a belief to be protected under this article, it must be serious, concern important aspects of human life or behaviour, be sincerely held, and be worthy of respect in a democratic society."
#Article14 "requires that all of the rights and freedoms set out in the Act must be protected and applied without discrimination..."
"Trees provide a unique record of life in that area whether religious, historical or scientific." AST member Andrew Hinton
"They are my direct relationship to Earth and the stars.....I love them more than words can say! "
AST member Catherine Truscott
"So many reasons (to love trees).... beauty, wisdom, constancy. They offer such an important spiritual element to life." AST member June Summer
Important though it is to gain protection for ancient trees and the ecosystems they provide, this is in the end only a small part of the picture.
I am very proud that here at AST (#AncientandSacredTrees) we celebrate DiversiTree. We welcome ALL faiths and none to share their love of trees and the natural world. We believe in the rights of ALL to access to nature and the #rights of all to express their own personal and #sacred connections with the #naturalworld.
Whatever our faith or none, the human #soul is of nature. We are part of the #ecosystem. We would do well to sing of the sacred (in whatever form it takes for each of us) a lot more loudly. If we are to #rewild our #native soul and live in a more sustainable way, then we need to rethink our relationship with the land and our fellow beings.
The wassailers sing their songs to drive out demons and bring fruitfulness back to the land. That’s what we must do, and we must do it loudly. We must make a great big glorious joyful din, a hearts' clamouring that will not be quelled.
There is a part 2 coming ... well, as the saying goes, "If you see a job that needs doing, it's yours". So next time I will explore what positive action might look like. If this is something of interest to you get in touch via this website.
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Blessings from Amanda Claire AST Founder x