Saturday, April 2, 2011

Should we observe rituals before cutting down a tree?

A customer came into my store yesterday wearing a tee-shirt with a picture of a tree through which there were three horizontal lines marked Past, Present and Future. 

 Image from Threadibles

The top, green part represents the condition of trees, and by implication, the condition of our planet in the past.  The middle bit represents their current declining circumstance and the bottom bit their fate if business as usual rules.

It prompted a conversation in which he and his wife lamented the chopping down of a native tree in their body-corporate managed residential complex.  This, the man said, with deep emotion, despite pleas not to.  He was feeling particularly discouraged about the fate of our environment but managed to ask me if I had an affinity for trees.

Do I ever!  I shared with him two things that reflect my affinity with trees.  The first was that, as a child, I spent countless hours sitting on my back doorstep absorbed in the presence of the graceful and majestic trees that lined the street by my house.  They were hours of deep solace for me during a time in my life when domestic violence and turmoil were a certain part of the daily diet.

The other thing that I shared which was more recent was a sight that literally stopped me in my tracks.  I was walking up a hill towards the main street when a truck went charging past with its burden of pine logs that had been cut, shaped and *treated*. 

The sight of those logs, taken from trees that had been castrated and left with no dignity filled me with anguish.  I stood still, reeling from the pain that I felt for those trees and their brutal treatment.  It is an image that I have not forgotten and that brought tears to my eyes even as I described it to my customer.

When some people speak of the spirit of trees, I have a sense of what they mean.  After all, all beings arise from the same source, the same power that pervades the entire universe.  I became interested in how these people relate to non-human forms such as trees, rocks, rivers and all the other aspects of nature that most of us ignore or simply take for granted. 

I've read about druidism and am fascinated by the relationships between humans and other life forms in various cultures.  I especially love finding out about the rituals that are practiced. 

I have long abandoned the crude distinctions that I was taught in school and university about *living* and *non-living* things as well as *intelligent* and, by implication, *unintelligent* life forms.

But my recent conversation at work prompted me to look up the rituals for tree-cutting and here's one that I found relating to the Lumads in the Philippines:

Lumads also observe rituals before cutting down trees especially if these are believed to be inhabited by powerful spirits. An example is the balete tree the cutting of which is prohibited as a rule. If the tree grows in a farm lot and it becomes necessary to cut it down, the farmer gives offerings to the spirit-dweller and interprets his response. If the offerings remain untouched it means the spirit has agreed to transfer to another tree and the tree may be felled. But if the offerings are scattered, it means the spirit has turned down the request to cut down his dwelling place.
 This is the full article, A Glimpse of Indegenous Resource Management.

Do you have an affinity with trees?
Do you believe that the same life force pervades all of life?
Do you think that a ritual for tree-cutting should be encouraged?

I''d love to know :)

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