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Tree Worship

The important position whit h this peculiar faith occupied among the peoples in the earliest ages of the world is apt to be overlooked in the multitude of succeeding beliefs, to which it gave many of its forms and ceremonies, and with which it became materially blended. In fact, Tree and Serpent worship were Combined almost at their inception. So prominent a position does Tree worship take in the opinion of Fergusson, in his absorbing work on free and Serpent Worship, that he designates the Tree as the first of Faiths; and adds that "long before the Theban gods existed, Tree and Serpent Faiths flourished. The Methidy tree was brought into the later religion, to shade with holy reverence the tomb of Osiris; the Sycamore was holy to Netpe, and the Persea to Athor, whilst the Tamarisk planed an important part in all the rites and ceremonies of Osiris and Isis; and all who are orthodox will acknowledge that Abram seemed to consider that he could not worship his Jove till he had planted his grove and dug a well (Genesis xxi, 33).

His Oak or Terebinth, or turpentine tree, on the plains of Mamre, was commonly worshiped till the fourth century after Christ, and it is revered by Jews to the present hour." And again: "That long ere Buddha or his saints were represented by images and adored, long ere the eaves and temples of that faith had sanctuaries for holy relies, the first actual symbol-worship he can trace is that of the Bo tree, which he describes as upon a bas-relief in a cave called the Jodea Gopa at Katak, Bengal, proving how early that worship was introduced, and how pre-eminent it was among the Buddhists of those days" and says J. G. R. Forlong, in his Rivers of Life, or Faiths of Man, "before Vedic days (the period in India of about 1600 B.C.) and can be found in almost every cave and temple allied to the Phallic faith as certainly as can be found ever standing at the entrance of these Houses of God the Phallic pillar or pillars. It is the old story whether we turn to Solomon's temple, 1000 B.C., or to the Karli Buddhist temples, which gaze down upon us from Bombay to Poona, and which date from about the Christian era."

The Bael tree, as a representative of the triad and monad, was always offered at Lingam worship, and the god was commonly to be found under an umbrageous or leafy-screened Bael. All nations, Aryans in particular, considered tree planting a sacred duty. The grand old trees became centers of life and of great traditions, and the character of the foliage had its symbolic meanings.

At the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles, at the autumnal harvest, lews are ordered to hang boughs of trees, laden with fruit, round the borders of their booths also boughs of barren trees. The worshipers go to the Synagogue carrying in their right hand one palm branch, three myrtles, and two willows, all tied together; and in the left hand a citron branch with fruit on it. These they make touch each other, and wave to the East, then South, then West, and then North. this is termed Hosanna, an exclamation of praise to God, the Hebrew word meaning "Save, I pray." On the seventh day of the Feast, all save the willow bough must be laid asides. The Palm, as a tree, yields more to man than any other class of trees. Nineveh shows the Palm surrounded by winged deities holding the pine-cone-- symbol of life, which there takes the place of the Crux Ansata, or Cross with circle. The Phoenix resting on the Palm signifies Resurrection to eternal life. The four Evangelists are depicted in "an evangelum," in the library of the British Museum, as all looking up to the Palm-tree. Christians, for a similar ideal, erected a cross-bar, and placed an Alpha and an Omega on it.

At Najran, in Yemen, Arabia, Sir William Ouseley describes the most perfect tree-worship as still existing close to the city. The tree is the Palm or Sacred Date. The Palm has always borne a most important part in all the faiths of the world down to the present day. The Jews gave the Palm a distinguished place in architecture. The tree and its lotus top, says Kitto, took the place of the Egyptian column on Solomon's famous phalli, the Jachim and Boaz.

The two trees in Genesis were those of Life and Knowledge, and were probably drawn from the Egyptian and Zoroastrian stories. But no further reverence is taken in the Bible of the Tree of Knowledge after Genesis, but to that of Life, or the "Tree which gives Life," as in the Apocalypse (ii, 7). This is also the Eastern name and significance of the Lingam or Pillar; and when covered with carved inscriptions, the Toth or Pillar in Egypt became known as the Tree of Knowledge.

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