The Church of the Divine Earth


The Sacredness and Sanctity of Trees

 

Romuva is a revival of the indigenous Pagan religion of Old Prussia and Lithuania. The symbol of Romuva is a stylized oak tree with three pairs of branches topped by a sacred flame. The three pairs of branches represent the axis mundi, or “world tree,” known in local mythology as Austras Koks, "tree of dawn," i.e., a tree of life.

Holy are the rivers, springs, trees, stones and others - all part of the ancient prechristian legacy, connected primarily with nature and not so much with the people.

And in the planting of a tree it shall be regarded as an act of continuous charity and shall be forever reflected as a good deed.

Owing to this holy, world creating force - the world spreads, grows, taking forms that do not loose the link with their source, thus the world resembling a tree. Thus a tree - a significant sign and image of ancient religion explains the world’s structure.

A tree, even though it drops its leaves in the autumn, goes into sleep in winter, but its life goes on and its soul remains alive. Such is man’s path - through birth, death and rebirth.

Every locality, river, mountain and tree has a soul or deity within. 

A person - Žmogus, his name shows a direct connection to the earth - žeme, Žemyna - mother of earth, žmona - wife, he is a child of the earth. Because of this the most important symbol for man is a tree - medis, whose beginning is the earth. But, like the tree reaching for the heavens, so a man also has heavenly elements.

Dead man’s further existence is understood as the combined existence of both heart and soul. Siela - heart and soul, eternal force of life, which does not leave earth but reincarnates as trees, flowers, animals and the like. 

P. Dlugosz, in the 15th century wrote that the most important deities were: "fire, which was considered eternal, was lit and tended by seers and burned through night and day, - forests, holy groves, which were worshipped and kept inviolable, and - serpents and grass snakes, because it was believed that god lived and hid in serpents and snakes." Ugnis - Fire, was allotted to Thunder and to other gods, fire is intermediary between god and man. Grass snakes are embodiments of our ancestors or gods. The holy groves were also intermediaries - our connection with gods and forefathers.

Every earth born object is full to the brim with life’s strength, granted by mother earth. Tree, flower, stone and man - all from the earth. They are all full of earth’s power, although in each, the power is of various shape and form."

Nature worshippers' morals are full of respect for nature, life and man. The simplest and universal moral proposition is to invite man to do to other men or living beings, that which he would want to be done to him. 

Since it is difficult and almost impossible to avoid killing of living creatures, trees, plants and animals, because of nature's ways, one should employ the ancestors' experiences: to perform such killings only in dire necessities. In ancient times, when cutting down a tree or slaughtering an animal, one would beg forgiveness for such an action. Such behavior would slow down the unlimited use and destruction.

There are sacred sites in nature: sacred rivers, lakes, springs, mounds (Lith. alkas), alkupiai, stones, trees, groves, different sites having mythological or gods’ names. These sanctums undoubtedly represent the heritage of millennia belonging to the oldest religion in the world.

Sacrificial offerings used to be made to extraordinary stones, springs, trees, in certain holy places.

Our ancestors saw that force in the surrounding world. They saw it not only in celestial bodies, but also on the Earth: plants, trees, springs, stones.

All sacred sites were a place of mutual religious interaction. Gintaras Bersenevičius wrote about that special religious link between the man and the sacred powers of life: “Lithuanian religion generally was a link-in-groves religion. Trees performed the mediation function.” The essence of religion is to get united with the sacred supernatural.

Vitality of ethnic religions stems from the earth’s chthonic powers that are characteristic of quiet waiting and awakening in the presence of favorable conditions. Such religions do not need scriptures, prophets or saint martyrs. Natural religion always tries to breakthrough into daylight, like any plant or tree does.

Summer Solstice - Not unusual is the greeting of the setting sun, lighting fires and the making of offerings, visiting and blessing fields and trees, casting of wreaths, greeting the moon and the stars and paying homage to the rising sun.

In prayer - That I may not fell a single tree without holy need; that I may not step on a blooming field; that I may always plant trees. That I may love and respect Bread. If a crumb should accidentally fall, I will lift it, kiss it and apologize. If we all respect bread, there will be no starvation or hardship. That I may never hurt anyone; that I may always give the correct change; that I may not mistakenly steal even the smallest coin. The Gods punish for offences. That I may not denigrate foreign beliefs and may not poke fun at my own faith.

The Gods look with grace upon those who plant trees along roads, in homesteads, at holy places, at crossroads and by houses. If you wed, plant a wedding tree. If a child is born, plant a tree. If someone beloved dies, plant a tree for the Vele. At all holidays, during all important events, visit trees. Prayers will attain holiness through trees of thanks.

In recognition of Žemyna - Her name means "Earth" and the poetry exalts her productiveness by calling her "Bloomer", "Bud Raiser", and "Flower Giver". As her name implies, her main responsibility was plant life - not only agrarian, but weeds, trees, algae and arctic lichen. Connected to Žemyna were trees with three leaves or nine branches, and the oak, linden and spruce were her favorites. It was believed that women were represented or personified by lindens and spruce; men by oaks, maples, and birches. Young virgins by lilies, and village ancestors would reside in fruit trees.

A basic of the Faith - reverence for trees, reverence for fire.

How is Romuva celebrated in the mundane and mechanized world? Plant trees and visit cemeteries.

Early peoples understood everything in terms of relationship, imbuing rocks, trees and animals with conscious, sacred and godlike qualities.

Ludwig Rhesa wrote in 1809: “Tell us, what crime did this nation commit which wasn’t looking for gold or conquests, but only worshiped their own gods in a quiet shadow of the oak tree forests? Why did you go armored in steel to their land to seize their fields, to destroy their temples and their homes.”

Derme is the harmony of sound, the essence of songs and music. Darna of the song also expresses harmony between man and world. This is seen in the contents of traditional songs, where the stars, the trees and all nature are portrayed as man's brothers and sisters. The parallelism between things of nature and man reveal that man, trees, birds and all living things experience the same reality.

The most harmonious process is growing. The world of harmony shows itself by growing - in the life of nature. "Dereti" means to grow and present harvest. The universe is a tree, which grows, or as we would say - "dera" and we see and feel its "darna". Man is also like a tree. He also grows and makes "darna."

The world is alive. Life is understood in a much wider perspective than just biological life. The Sun is alive, as are trees, rocks and water. We must love and respect life. That is why our world-outlook must be respectful. The ancient Baltic religion is a religion that respects life.

Many Middle Age chroniclers describe the features of the Baltic Pagan religion: cremation rites; the belief in reincarnation; the veneration of holy groves, trees, fields, waters and fire; the belief in the existence of many gods and spirits; sacrificial offerings and soothsayings.

The fundamental of the Baltic faith is the morality known as Dora. Romuva resurrects the traditions of respecting Nature: planting trees, maintaining natural historical landmarks called piliakalniai, alkai, etc. It restores natural sanctuaries and ignites sacred fires during rituals.

Looking into folk traditions and art - we can see the true essence of the Goddess. The return of the ancient Goddess is unavoidable, it is demanded by nature and peoples’ conscious disposition. We begin to understand that we are the children of one Mother - people, animals, trees, plants, and that the Mother lives here, near us.

Let us remember the words of M. Gimbutiene: "All that is alive - is a sign of the earth’s kindness. Every earth born object is full to the brim with life’s strength granted by mother earth. Tree, flower, stone and man - all from the earth. They are all full of earth’s power, although in each, the power is of various shape and form."

Holy lakes, holy groves, trees, megaliths, holy bread, holy flax, the house shrine and the sacred chair are all expressions of the holiness and godliness of our ancestors.

A tree, even though it drops its leaves in the autumn, goes into sleep in winter, but its life goes on and its soul remains alive. 

The nature and nature objects are perceived as very close relatives, as family members: the family members have their symbolic representatives not only in the sky, but also in the surrounding nature. The trees are the family too: the oak tree in most cases is the representative of father, the linden tree – mother, the rue – sister, beach tree – brother.

(The foregoing are excerpts from individual pages within this website)