Book: Tree Cults In Northern Magic by Tommie ErikssonFrom the earliest times, trees have been the focus of religious life for many peoples around the world. As the largest plant on earth, the tree has been a major source of stimulation to the mythic imagination. Trees have been invested in all cultures with a dignity unique to their own nature, and tree cults, in which a single tree or a grove of trees is worshipped, have flourished at different times almost everywhere. Even today there are sacred woods in India and Japan, just as there were in pre-Christian Europe. An elaborate mythology of trees exists across a broad range of ancient cultures.
According to the Roman Authors Lucan and Pomponius Mela, the Celts of Gaul worshipped in groves of trees, a practice which Tacitus and Dio Cassius say was also found among the Celts in Britain. The Romans used the Celtic word nemeton for these sacred groves. A sacred oak grove in Galatia (Asia Minor), for example, was called Drunemeton (Strabo, Geographica, XII, 5, 1). The word was also incorporated into many of the names of towns and forts, such as Vernemeton near Leicester in England.
The names of certain Celtic tribes in Gaul reflect the veneration of trees, such as Euburones (the Yew tribe), and the Lemovices (the people of the elm). A tree trunk or a whole tree was frequently included among the votive offerings placed in ritual pits or shafts dug into the ground. Others shafts had a wooden pole placed at the bottom. The Celts believed trees to be sources of sacred wisdom, and the hazel in particular was associated with wisdom by the Druids.
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