YggDrasil is the World Tree. The Tree of Life. The Tree that unites Heaven and Earth.
In Pagan and Norse mythology it is the tree in which Odin, whilst on his quest, hung himself for nine days until he spied the Runes in its branches, and they spoke to him, and gave him wisdom and purpose.
In Christian Mythology it is the Tree at the centre of the garden of Eden. The tree from which we were not permitted to eat. The tree in which the whispering serpent spoke to Eve and said ; ".. you will not surely die, For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.
Two very different perspectives of the whispering tree, two very different perspectives on life.
Moksha is liberation. Liberation from duality, splitness and contradiction. In every argument which we can find opposing perspective, there is a greater perspective that unites, the third view, also known as seeing with the third eye.
Yggdrasil, the tree that unites, is the greatest of metaphors for this perspective, its roots in the dark underworld, with the worms, and its branches high in the air with the birds. It unites and bridges the worlds. It is itself the winged serpent, the Dragon with which St George did battle. It represents death and rebirth and as you shall see, is still very much alive in England today.
If you visit any church yards in England, Wales, Scotland or Ireland you cannot fail to notice how many of them have an ancient Yew Tree in the cemetery. Nearly all have one, and I believe that if they dont have one now, then it has been cut down. The wardens and priests dont seem to know the resons why all their churches have Yew trees, they say its just traditional, but dont really know why. Well, its because;
The Yew tree IS the tree of life. Our pagan ancestors worshipped these trees.
Recently, botanists have come to realise that Yew trees can live an extaordinarily long time. Most of the ancient Yew trees you will find in Churchyards will be at least 1000 years old and some of them may be 3 or 4000 years old ! There have always been problems dating the age of yew trees. They grow incredibly slowly. Church records show that on average the girth of these trees increases only by about 0.2 inches every year. This is on a tree that can often have a girth of over 20 feet. They also become hollow fairly early in their life, making ring counting an impossibility. It has been noticed that at a date maybe hundreds of years after the tree becomes hollow, it has the ability to send an internal shoot down into the hollow cavity which re-roots. This shoot becomes another trunk within the hollow. In effect, starting again. This brings the prospect of an eternal tree, a tree that could just keep living, perpetually regenerating. This is not fantasy, but well documented botany.
Examples of Hollow Trees with internal stems.
Now when I first started driving around the country looking at Yew trees, I was perplexed as to why the early christians planted this tree in their churchyards, and had then forgotten why. As time went by and the incredible age of these trees became more apparent, the answer became clear.
The trees were on these spots before the churches.
The trees were planted by our ancient pagan ancestors, to mark their sacred spots and burial grounds. When the christians arrived and began to convert us, they built their churches on our sacred sites. God was taken 'indoors'.The trees were left standing, as to chop them would have been much too controversial. The Yew trees were believed to literally contain the spirits of our ancestors. The christians in turn, carried on the tradition of burying their dead on these sacred sites.
You will also notice if you look at enough, that a surprisingly large percentage of old churches with ancient Yews are on little raised mounds. These sacred mounds are where we put our dead for their journey to the Otherworld. The Yew Tree was the vehicle by which they travelled. Go and see an ancient churchyard Yew, and you will feel the spirits. The Yews are dark and mysterious. Their roots devour our dead, buried beneath thier branches. The bark is reminiscent of gnarled and twisted flesh. You can see limbs and faces in the trunks. They even 'bleed' a blood red sap. A bleeding Yew is a well known holy tree. The Yew tree is evergreen. In the depth of winter when all else is dead, the Yew tree remains verdant and green. In fact it bears its red berry at midwinter in contrast to most fruiting trees. The flesh of this berry is sweet, but the pip is poisonous.
For our ancestors, the dead remained alive within the Eternal tree of life. They would go and talk to the ancestors within the tree. I think a lot of the stories of witches dancing around graveyards talking to the devil were just people doing what they had always done, worshipping the Tree of Life and communing with the spirits of their ancestors, it was just that now, a church had been built on their sacred site.
The Yew tree speaks of eternity, of life within death and rebirth. We need to reconnect with this ancient deity and to listen to the voices on the wind within the branches of the whispering tree.
For more information read the book 'The Sacred Yew'. Find it, you will not be dissapointed,
A deeply magical moment when two horses protest at the chopping down of an ancient English Oak.
From Old Norse
The Poetic Edda (ca AD1200)
The Rune 'Eihwaz' means Yew.