Sacred Trees: Arbutus (Madrone) Tree
As far as sacred trees go, this story shows why, amongst all the trees of the Pacific northwest, the Arbutus or Madrone Tree holds the title of most sacred tree to the original inhabitants of this vast region.
In the legend of the great flood, the Salish First Nation describe how the Madrona tree provided an anchor for their canoes to hold steady and not drift away.
And that's why, to this day, they don't use the Madrone tree as firewood.
It is their way of thanking and honoring the memory of the refuge and survival for the People it provided long ago.
Isn't it amazing how so many indigenous peoples around the world have a story of the great flood?
On the British Columbia West Coast, the Salish Nation also honors the Arbutus Tree as their Tree of Knowledge because it knows how to find the sun.
It twists and turns and somehow knows to drop one branch when there is not enough sunlight and it is shaded and it will grow a new one where the sun can reach it.
It explains why there are so many incredible features on the trunks of Madrona trees.
Perhaps that is why I love the Arbutus tree painting on the right by Dianne Bersea of Cortes Island BC.
Somehow she captures, so eloquently, all that is magical and mysterious, and symbolic and sacred about this amazing tree.
Poet Richard Olafson shares another Native legend, writing, “The tree's webbed roots hold the splintered earth together."
If the Arbutus should disappear, the myth warns (whether from fungal infection, habitat loss or some other cause, man made or otherwise), the planet would fly apart and be utterly destroyed.
The Arbutus tree is also known as the Tree of Depth and Integrity,
and is symbolic of protection and safety (obviously from the flood myth).
Madrone stands for the balance of darkness and light.
No wonder the Arbutus tree is a Native American sacred tree and is still revered.
It has an energy about it that attracts people to it. Probably this explains why, to so many, it is their favorite tree.
I call it The Spirit of Arbutus. There are times when there is something almost magical about the tree, its shapes and its always changing nature.
In past days the Madrone tree had many uses.
Although bland, the berries were eaten by Native Americans. The small fruits would last on the trees sometimes right into winter.
Infusions of the astringent leaves and bark were used to treat wounds, colds and stomach problems and as a post-childbirth contraceptive.
The berries possess some narcotic properties. Combined with other bark types, it was also used to treat tuberculosis and the coughing up of blood.
They fashioned eating utensils from the bulbous roots and used the berries and bark for dyeing.
Sacred trees: some so long-lived they make a heart!
Sending you many Great Spirit Blessings my precious brothers and sisters...Have a peaceful and stay safe...With honor and respect always...Wandering Deer... (Carol Anne)...
Upon suffering beyond suffering:
The Red Nation shall rise again and it shall be a blessing for a sick world; a world filled with broken promises, selfishness a...nd separations; a world longing for light again.
I see a time of Seven Generations when all the colors of mankind will gather under the Sacred Tree of Life and the whole Earth will become one circle again.
In that day, there will be those among the Lakota who will carry knowledge and understanding of unity among all living things and the young white ones will come to those of my people and ask for this wisdom.
I salute the light within your eyes where the whole Universe dwells. For when you are at that center within you and I am that place within me, we shall be one.
- Crazy Horse, Oglala Lakota Sioux (circa 1840-1877)
Crazy Horse is quoted as saying while he sat smoking the Sacred Pipe with Sitting Bull for the last time — Crazy Horse was killed four days later by US Army soldiers in a hand-to-hand scuffle as they attempted to imprison him. There are no known photographs of Crazy Horse, he would not permit anyone to take his picture, presumably, Crazy Horse believed a photograph stole or unnaturally held the soul of the person(s) pictured.
"People need to wake up. They can't hear God's voice if they're asleep."
-- Vernon Cooper, LUMBEE
When the world was new, the Creator made all the birds. He coloured their feathers like a bouquet of flowers. The Creator then gave each a distinct song to sing. The Creator instructed the birds to greet each new day with a chorus of their songs. Of all the birds, our Creator chose the Eagle to be the leader. The Eagle flies the highest and sees the furthest of all creatures. The Eagle is a messenger to the Creator. During the Four Sacred Rituals we will wear an Eagle Feather in our hair. To wear or to hold the Eagle Feather causes our Creator to take immediate notice. With the Eagle Feather the Creator is honored in the highest. When one receives an Eagle Feather that person is being acknowledged with gratitude, with love, and with ultimate respect. That feather must have sacred tobacco burnt for it. In this way the Eagle and the Creator are notified of the name of the new Eagle Feather Holder.
Feathers-notched, clipped, dyed, or otherwise altered-were used by the Sioux as symbols of specific kinds of exploits, or coups, as shown below. from left to right: 1) wearers first coup-upright feather with horsehair tuft; 2) wearer wounded-upright feather dyed red; 3) wearer wounded but killed foes-upright feather with quill work bands, (one band per kill) 4) wearer killed foe-red spot on feather; 5) wearer cut foe's throat and took his scalp-notch in feather; 6) wearer wounded many times-split feather; 7) wearer cut foes throat-top of feather clipped on diagonal; 8) wearer counted coup four times-serrated edge on feather; 9) wearer counted coup five times-sides of feather partially removed.
SYMBOLISM OF THE EAGLE FEATHER
A Lumbee Story
In the beginning, the Great Spirit above gave to the animals and birds wisdom and knowledge and the power to talk to men. He sent these creatures to tell man that he showed himself through them. They would teach a chosen man sacred songs and dance, as well as, much ritual and lore. The creature most loved by the Great Spirit was the eagle, for he tells the story of life. The Eagle, as you know, has only two eggs, and all living things in the world are divided into two. Here is man and woman, male and female and this is true with animals, birds, trees, flowers and so on. All things have children of two kinds so that life may continue. Man has two eyes, two hands, two feet and he has a body and soul, substance and shadow. Through his eyes, he sees pleasant and unpleasant scenes, through his nostrils he smells good and bad odors, with his ears he hears joyful news and words that make him sad. His mind is divided between good and evil. His right hand he may often use for evil, such as war or striking a person in anger. But his left hand, which is near his heart, is always full of kindness. His right foot may lead him in the wrong path, but his left foot always leads him the right way, and so it goes; he has daylight and darkness, summer and winter, peace and war, and life and death.
In order to remember this lesson of life, look to the great eagle, the favorite bird of the Great Spirit. The eagle feather is divided into two parts, part light, and part dark. This represents daylight and darkness, summer and winter, peace and war, and life and death. So that you may remember what I have told you, look well on the eagle, for his feathers, too, tell the story of life. Look at the feathers I wear upon my hand, the one on the right is large and perfect and is decorated; this represents man. The one on my left is small and plain; this represents woman. The eagle feather is divided into two parts, dark and white. This represents daylight and darkness, summer and winter. For the white tells of summer, when all is bright and the dark represents the dark days of winter. My children, remember what I tell you. For it is YOU who will choose the path in life you will follow -- the good way, or the wrong way.
Sharon Locklear,publisher of Metrolina Pow Wow