Here in Yucatan there is a long tradition of a talking tree. This tradition apparently pre-existed Christopher Columbus, as detailed in several ethnographic studies, one linked below. Sometimes myth is truer than mere historical fact. If we ponder this mythical tree what might we discover? (I’ve been pondering it for a number of months in the near term, and also for a lifetime.) Photos shared here – two taken during that “pagan” holiday called carnaval – hint at my project in terms of inquiring into the nature of consciousness itself.

The original inhabitants of Yucatan, the Maya (who are still vibrantly here), consider a thorny tree species known as the ceiba tree to be holy. The thorns fall off at some point after it reaches a foot or more in diameter. Then the tree eventually becomes huge. One near Izimná plaza here in Mérida surely is two meters in diameter.

When the Spaniards invaded Yucatan they brought their religion with them, and attempted to impose it on the locals. Such efforts rarely proceed gently. One of the foreign priests, Fr.Diego de Landa, schooled in the methods of the Inquisition, befriended the natives, and then seized their holy books, burning them. This was at a time when Europe was only beginning to revise its understanding of astronomy from the faulty Ptolemaic earth-centric model, to the correct Copernican model, where the Earth revolves around the Sun. The Maya were centuries ahead of the Europeans in correct astronomical modeling of the solar system, and significantly more precise, without having optical telescopes! Who knows what wisdom was reduced to ashes in those bonfires? Exceedingly few books survived. 

There was also a deadly toll paid by the natives. (Most history has been written by victors.)  Recovering the lost wisdom of the vanquished has been a delicate project, at best. But that’s a tale properly told by specialists, which can be read elsewhere.

The religion which the Spaniards brought centered on a myth* about a God-man crucified on a tree. The encounter between these two tree-stories is what deeply intrigues me. I’ve been studying and pondering the Christian account for many decades, reading from the Bible text almost on a daily basis. (However, I’ve largely been cured of denominationalism. A denominator, at least in mathematics, is that which is divided – and division no longer appeals to me.) The Yucateco account is new to me. And the merger of these two accounts surrounds us, here in Yucatan. Yes, the church bells ring boistrously; the trees whisper. Are you listening?

In the very last chapter of the Bible, we’re told that “the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.” (Rev22:2) Now, some trees put forth their flowers before their leaves; and I’ve never known an old tree to send forth old leaves, but only tender young leaves and flowers. What does all this portend for healing? How does something as grotesque as crucifixion blossom into blessing for a world of suffering? I listen longingly for an answer.

If a tree could talk, what might it say to you? Or even better, what do you long to hear from nature, our context, the very essence of being? 

*Myths are generally regarded as true by a large segment of the culture in which they are told, whereas fables are regarded as false. ¶Sometimes a myth is a story that is true on the inside whether or not it happens to be true on the outside.  http://jeshua21.wordpress.com201303/25a-myth-is-a-story/ . ¶For a scholarly report on talking tree / talking cross, see www.famsi.org/reports/99034/99034Aguilera01.pdf
And the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and placed it upon his head. (John 19:2)

 Cursed is every one that is hanged on a tree. (Galatians 3:13)
The tree is known by his fruit. (Matthew 12:33)
And a little child shall lead them. (Isaiah 11:6)
On his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself. 
And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God. (Revelation 19:12,13)
Israel shall blossom and bud, and fill the face of the world with fruit. (Isaiah 27:6)

6 thoughts on “A TREE THAT TALKS?

  1. Yury, you get the gold star of the day for asking this question. (Asking the right question is the beginning of wisdom.) But I can’t say that I have an answer for you. I’ve spent much of my life either listening for an answer, or hiding from the voice which might utter one.

    To be fair, I could ask you what the tree is saying to you. I won’t do that, as it’s not for me to know. Yet I’m so glad you asked it of me. (I should know, but must confess that I don’t.) Your question is the best feedback I’ve had thus far; and is likely to remain at the very top of the class. So, thanks!

    I’ll make a feeble attempt at an answer, but putting words to this issue of consciousness is a big deal for me. I think of it as the biggest quest of being. Who am I? (What is consciousness?) Since words are so inadequate, I tend to resort to photos, pictures “worth a thousands words” as they say. Some philosophers (Wittgenstein, et al) have argued that everything is linguistic. I have no idea what he might say about using photo images in place of words, except to speculate that he would probably say that we talk to ourselves when we view them or share them. We are storytellers, and story consumers, no? Can we step outside of our story? Who’s out there?

  2. My favorite ceiba trees are the ones along the rivers in the back country of Central America; forests felled but for one majestic stick sticking up from the scrub and a mile latter along the river another, all within sight of each other. Who decides to leave a few grand on the table so that a holy tree might stand?

  3. Those will be the momma trees to re-sprout the forest, Norm. (I don’t imagine there was much corporate planning; but there is a bit of wisdom by some few actual loggers.)

    My friend Paul has a ceiba which has sprouted in his back yard, next to his wall. He can’t persuade the gardener to remove it. It’s about 3 inches in diameter presently. They grow fast. ~eric.

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