Tree Legends and Folklore

Oak Tree Legends in Greek & Roman Mythology

The oak tree is rich in associations, having been regarded as sacred by Hebrews, Greeks, Romans, and early Anglo Saxons. It is believed that Abraham stood under an oak tree when the angels announced the birth of Isaac, and that that particular oak was still in existence in the time of Constantine.

Dodona, the most important oracle of Ancient Greece after the oracle of Delphi, was devoted to the Mother Goddess. The oaks that stood in the grove of Dodona in Epirus were said to be gifted with prophecy; priests and priestesses would go to listen to the sounds of the oaks to determine what actions must be taken. Oak wood from the grove was said to be used to build part of Argo, the ship of Jason and the Argonauts.  As such, the ship had some prophetic powers of its own.

Another myth states that Jupiter derived part of his power from the oak tree, and he taught men to live on acorns, so that they could become strong and wise. To swear by the oak was a solemn and binding oath.

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Hercules and the Poplar Tree

When returning from the land of the dead, it is said that Hercules wore a wreath composed of poplar leaves. The silver-leafed poplar is said to have been created by these leaves: The inner side of the leaves turned white as they pressed against Hercules’ sweaty brow. The outer side of the leaves were exposed to the heat and smoke of the underworld, causing them to turn black.

David, the Willow Tree & the Frankincense

David, after his marriage to Bathsheba, was one day playing his harp when two angels appeared. The angels accused David of great sin. For forty days and nights, David wept tears of repentance. From his tears flowed two streams, which ran from the chamber into the garden, and from the two streams sprang two trees. One was the willow, which weeps and mourns incessantly. The second was the frankincense tree, which sheds large tears in remembrance of David’s repentance.

Mulberry Tree Legend, Holly & Mistletoe

Pyramus and Thisbe, the ill-fated lovers of Roman mythology, are said to have met their tragic deaths near a white mulberry tree. The mulberry tree, being sprinkled with their blood, bore red fruit forever after.

The holly has a similar story related to its red berries. Some of the gods were shooting arrows at Blader, the god of mirth, as he stood among the holly. Loki, the god of envy, shot at him with an arrow tipped with mistletoe. A few drops of his blood spurted over the holly, turning the berries red. The grief of the mistletoe was so intense, that since that time its berries have been like teardrops.