Douglas Davies (1988: 33-34) argued in his paper on ‘evocative symbolism’ that trees had a practical symbolism that derived ‘both literally and metaphorically’ from their being living entities ‘spanning many generations’. He saw trees as ‘historical markers’ which could provide actual or mythical links with the past and could ‘make ideas more realistic and dynamic in the present’ and stressed the ‘evocative symbolic response of humans to trees’. Trees are frequently worshipped as gods and held to be sacred. On a recent visit to Hayachine Shrine, which combines Buddhist and Shinto traditions, in the mountains of Iwate Prefecture, Japan, I was shown several Sugi trees (Cryptomeria japonica) which were worshipped, as they are at many shrines, and there were also rare examples of a weeping Katsura tree (Cercidiphyllum japonicum) whose leaves were dried and used to prepare incense for the Buddhist festival of Bon. Sir James Frazer (1922: 1-2) opens The Golden Bough with an analysis of the landscape around the shores of Lake Nemi in the Alban Hills to the south of Rome where ‘stood the sacred grove and sanctuary of Diana Nemorensis’. In this wood grew a tree from which no branch might be broken except by a ‘runaway slave’ who if he succeeded had the right to fight the ‘priest in single combat, and if he slew him he reigned in his stead with the title of King of the Wood (Rex Nemorensis)’.
Watkins, C. (2016). The Cedar of Lebanon in England: the introduction and reception of a sacred tree. In M. Guest, & M. M. Le Mon (Eds.), Death, life and laughter: essays on religion in honour of Douglas Davies. Routledge