January 3rd, 2018|0 Comments

By Dylan Stuntz, American Forests

Humanity has understood the importance of trees for millennia — just look at the oldest forms of stories we have: folklore and myths. Trees have held sacred and important roles in many ancient theistic tales, and here are just a few culturally sacred trees in mythologies from around the world.

Acacia Tree (Egyptian Mythology)

The ancient Egyptians believed that the first gods were born under a sacred acacia tree, while other members of their pantheon emerged fully formed from the trunk. It was believed that life and death were decided by the gods under an acacia tree. The boat the sun god navigated the world on was made from palm fronds and acacias.

Yggdrasil the World Tree (Norse Mythology)

For the Vikings, this tree was so central to their mythology that they believed it held up the entire world! According to the Old Norse view of the cosmos, Yggdrasil was an immense ash tree that supported the nine realms, or the entire known universe. The gods lived at a realm at the center of the ash, with the branches stretching up supporting all nine of the existing worlds, including humanity.

The Sky-High Tree (Hungarian folklore)

Depiction of dragons at the top of the égig érő fa, found on Jacob’s Arch in Austria.

The égig érő fa is a tree from Hungarian folklore, and is featured in the story of a shepherd boy who ran into a tree that appeared to be without a top. He climbed and climbed, but the tree seemed to be endless. Once he reached above the clouds, he found himself in a magical realm full of fantastic creatures. It was believed that this endless tree reached all the way up into the heavens, while its roots intertwined with the deepest pits of the underworld.

Garden of the Hesperides (Greek Mythology)

In Greek mythology, a sacred apple grove found at the westernmost edge of the world was tended by nymphs, known as the Garden of the Hesperides. One bite of a golden apple found growing in the grove was said to grand immortality to anyone who dared to tread on this ground. Immortality did not come without a price, for guarding the grove was a hundred-headed dragon who never slept. According to myth, one of the apples from the grove was the source of the infamous Trojan War. The famous hero Hercules was commanded to steal an apple from the grove for one of his Labors.