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In Greece the pine is intrinsically linked to the growing of vines and the production of wine, and so the gods associated with vines are also linked with pine trees.
In Egypt, Osiris, the great god of Egyptian magic, was seen as a tree spirit in his primitive character and was represented ceremonially by cutting down and hollowing out a pine tree. Then an image of Osiris was made with the excavated wood from the tree and inserted back into the hollow tree. This was kept for a year to watch over the vines, and was then burned and scattered on the earth in order to fructify it for the next seasons crop. Osiris originaly taught men to train vines on poles and to extract the juice from the grape. His primitive character, felt to be embodied in a pine tree, also pointed to an alternative source of drink should the vines perish, for the resin of the Mediterranean pine itself is to this day a potent drink.
In Greek legend we are told how the pine became an evergreen. Rhea was the daughter of Uranus and Ge and the wife of Cronus. Under the name of Cybele her worship became wild enthusiastic and orgiastic, and was closely connected to the frenzied worship of the vine-god Dionysus / Bacchus. She was loved by Arys, a Phrygian shepherd who vowed to be ever faithful to her. But he broke his vow and Cybele in anger changed him into a pine tree. Then, regretting her act, she wept beneath the branches. Zeus, her son, gave her comfort and promised that the pine would never lose its needles, so it would stay green all through the year as a constant companion.
Dionysus gave the first vine plant to Oeneus, but the knowledge of making the first wine from the grapes he gave to Icarius. After Icarius had made wine, he gave some of his trial jarful to a perty of shepherds, who drank the draught neat and became so drunk that they saw everything double. Thinking they had either been poisoned or bewitched by Icarius, they killed him and buried him under a pine tree. However his faithful dog Maera saw the act, ran to fetch Erigone, Icarius' daughter and led her to the grave beneath the pine tree, whereupon it dug up the corpse.. On seeing her dead father Erigone in despair hanged herself from the pine, praying to the gods as she did that all the daughters of Athens should do likewise until Icarius' death was avenged. As Icarius seems to have been the mortal heir to Dionysus' cult of ecstasy, his death greatly disturbed the antique world and although only the gods had heard Erigones prayer, nevertheless maidens were found hanging from one pine after another. This continued until finally the Delphic Oracle was consulted and it was explained that the only way to end the innocent daeths of the maidens was to find and hang the guilty shepherds, who had fled overseas. This was done and in celebration a vitage festival was instituted which still continues to this day. At this libations are poured to Icarius and Erigone, and young girls swing from ropes tied to trees, their feet on small platforms of wood. Masks of Dionysus were once also hung on the branches of pine trees in the middle of the vineyards in memory of the hanged maidens and when they turned in the wind they were thought to fructify the vines wherever they faced.
In Europe druids burned great fires of pine at the Winter Solistice to draw back the sun and this practice became the custom of burning the Yule log. Livin glades of pine were also decorated with lights and shiny objects at Yule, which echoes the Icelandic myth when the divine light is represented by a tree covered in stars. In later years this tradition became that of the Christmas tree, which is brought into the house rather than being decorated and celebrated outside.
Pine branches and sprays have always been used for protection, for when placed at doors and windows they were thought to keep out evil. When placed above a sick person's bed, pine branches aid their recovery.