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By far the best garden scent in July, apart from the smell of an early evening barbecue, comes from the blossom of a huge lime tree. The commonly cultivated lime, Tilia x europaea has one main drawback. By mid-summer the leaves are alive with aphids that produce sticky honeydew. This is disastrous for cars or garden furniture. Nevertheless, the lime is still a tree that looks stunning and smells great. The limes in city streets and parks are one reason why urban beekeepers are so successful. Pollinating insects love them. In eastern Europe people harvest the blossoms each July to make lime flower drinks or jellies
The seedlings of lime trees are rather a surprise. The seeds that the mice fail to find all seem to germinate. The first two leaves on each seedling are deeply cut, very pretty, and quite unlike those of the mature parent.
Legends, Myths and Stories
In Europe, many legends and superstitions are centered around these trees. Linden wood was used for carving sacred works of art, and the linden tree, which was the village tree, played an important role in the life of early Europeans. Thus it was only natural that special curative power was ascribed to these medicinal trees.
Among the Germanic peoples the linden was a "sacred" tree for people in love, the tree that brought fertility and prosperity. In the Middle Ages, people carved images of the Virgin Mary and figures of the saints from linden wood, calling the wood lignum sacrum, sacred wood.
Lime tree or Linden (tilia)
Native to Europe, linden is found in the wild, but is often planted in gardens and along roadsides. The fruits are small, round, hard, green berries. Propagate from seed in autumn or from cuttings or by layering. The flowers are collected in summer and have medicinal properties. Linden flowers are commonly taken to lower high blood pressure, especially when emotional factors are involved.
One myth associated with the linden is the transformation of Philyra, a nymph, into a linden tree. After she was raped by the god Saturn in the guise of a horse, and gave birth to the famed centaur, Cheiron, she was so devastated that she begged the gods not to leave her among mortals. Her wish was granted and she was transformed into a linden tree.
“When Saturn [Kronos] was hunting Jove [Zeus] throughout the earth, assuming the form of a steed he lay with Philyra, daughter of Oceanus. By him she bore Chiron the Centaur, who is said to have been the first to invent the art of healing. After Philyra saw that she had borne a strange species, she asked Jove to changer her into another form, and she was transformed into the tree which is called the linden.” –Hyginus Fabulae 138
Philyra (‘Linden Tree’) Daughter of Oceanus and Tethys, and mother of the centaur Cheiron by the Titan Cronus who mated with her in the form of a horse so as to deceive his jealous wife Rhea. This is why their son was born part man, part horse. Some say that Philyra so loathed the monster born of her that she prayed to the gods to change her into something other than what she was, and they transformed her into a linden tree. But a happier version has her dwelling with Cheiron in his cave on Mount Pelion, and thus able to see her son become one of the wisest and most respected of living beings.
[Pindar, Pythian 4. 102-3; Apollonius, Argonautica 2. 1231-41; Apollodorus 1.2.4]
Legends About the Linden Tree
Sometime during the Middle Ages, a Prussian tribal leader was pardoned by the ruling Teutonic Knights and thanked God by placing Mary's likeness in a local linden tree. Rumors of miraculous healing and epiphany soon attached local pilgrims to the Holy Linden (Swieta Lipka in German). Soon so many came to this tree, that the Teutonic Knights built a shrine to the arbor in 1320. Two hundred years later, the knights razed the Catholic chapel due to a religious reversal and slowed the believers down, by installing threatening gallows, complete with bodies, around these trees. However, the gallows eventually rotted and flocks of Germans and Poles still visited the Santuary of Our Lady. This Santuary is located near Mragowo in the Mazury region of Poland.
Lipa is the Polish name for the linden tree, and Lipiec is the Polish name for the month of July. This is most likely because lindens blossom in July, and the linden tree has always held a place in the hearts of the Polish people. Old lindens were considered sacred trees in Poland's past. They were symbols of exalted, divine power, valour, and victory. The ancient Greeks and the Slavs regarded the Linden as the habitation of their goddess of love.
Later, as Christianity came to the area, this legend was incorporated into Christianity as the tree of the Blessed Mother. In folktales, the Blessed Mother hid among the linden's branches, and revealed herself to children. Many wayside shrines were placed under linden trees for this reason. Lightning was thought never to strike a linden tree, and thus it was a "lucky" tree.
Lindens bloom in July and have fragrant creamy white to light yellow flowers. Beekeepers loved the lindens as bees gathered profusely in their blossoms. Country people and the nobilty enjoyed the product of the bees. They used honey as sweeteners, the making of mead, and beeswax for candles. Old lindens often hosted beehives in their hollowed out trunks. Bees were important and in 1401, it is said that people, in Mazowsze, passed laws to protect bees and beekeeping. People were severely punished for cutting down linden trees and thus cutting linden trees was associated with bad luck and even death of a member of the family. This is a result of the fact, that often times, a painful death was the punishment for cutting down lindens.
Rings of lindens often were the tree of choice in courtyards, markets, cemetaries, and pilgrimage chapels devoted to the Virgin Mary, and the bees, the Linden blossoms attracted, provided beeswax candles to illuminate the church.
Blooms from the linden tree were used for a therapeutic tea (with honey, of course). This drink helped colds and induced sweating that broke fevers (Knab, Sophie Hodorowicz, Polish Customs, Traditions, And Folklore. New York: Hippocrene Books, Inc., 1998, 139-142.).
The linden tree was loved by all Polish people and it stands for family, faith, and the good life. Read "Ode to a Linden Tree."
[Original contribution by W. Howard]
Tracing the connection between the central European peoples and the lime tree further back in time to the pre-Christian era, a picture begins to emerge.
Amongst the Celtic or Gallic races which populated most of Europe before Caesar’s incursions in the century prior to the birth of Christ, were two tribal groups with connections to the lime tree.
These were the Veneti, a seafaring tribe from Brittany who rose against Caesar in 56BC, and the Treveri, who inhabited the lower Moselle valley and mounted an unsuccessful uprising against Roman invasion in 53BC – accounts of which can be found in Caesar’s Gallic Wars.
From research conducted in the 1980s by Dr. Jozko _avli, professor of economics in Gorizia, it has been postulated that the Veneti were of Western Slavic origin and that the present-day relationship of various European peoples to the lime tree coincides with the migrations of the Veneti people, traceable through Veneti toponyms as far as Brittany. (1)
Scholars are not in full agreement as to the exact date of the Veneti's advent in Armorica (Brittany). Some advance arguments for as early as the eighth century, B.C.; others for as late as mid-fifth century, B.C. In any event, we find them fully entrenched by the mid-first century B.C. According to Julius Caesar's " Gallic Wars," they have a large fleet, control the harbors on the Armorican coast, collect tolls, and traffic even with Britain.
The toponyms they leave behind speak of their keen love and knowledge of the earth, the sky, the trees, the waters. Above all, they know no master, nor will submit to one. (2)
See the following article for a further description of the Veneti. Note the elaborate relationship with death present in their culture and how this ties in with the two songs featuring the linden tree which follow this section.
The Treveri’s link to the lime tree is through their deity Lenus Mars (3) (Mars being a subsequent Roman grafting to an earlier Celtic deity) who appears web-footed as a goose or swan (4) and who represented Mars in healing aspect.
We moderns have this idea of Mars as exclusively a brutal war god. To the Celts he was more often a peaceful protector, a healer or a tribal god. This is much in keeping with the original Italian Mars who was a guardian of fields and boundaries and sometimes a storm god. It was only his late-classical/Imperial conflation with the Greek Ares that gave him the combative, warrior-for-gain aspects. Mars was venerated as Mars Albiorix by the Albici in southern Gaul who considered him a protective mountain spirit. Albiorix means "king of the world". Mars Camulos was widespread, found in both Britain and on the Continent.
Lenus Mars is a great healer god who presided over a large temple complex at Trier and a sanctuary at Pommern. He also was known in Britain. He uses his warrior strength as a protector against illness and death. His epithet Iovantucarus shows his special role as a protector of the young. Lenus Mars also has a Celtic consort, the mother Goddess, Ancamna. (She is also paired with Mars Smertius by the Treveri.)
Mars Loucetius ("bright" or "shining") gives us another insight into Mars. Loucetius in the Roman world is usually an epithet of Jupiter. Mars Loucetius is paired at Bath with Nematona (Goddess of the Grove) and on the continent with the war Goddess Bellona. (Note: the lime tree has been attributed to Jupiter as well as Venus and the Moon.)
Mars Mullo (Latin for mule) was very popular in northern Gaul. He was associated with a shrine at Allonnes where pilgrims came to have their eyes cured. Many votive sculptures of the ailing part have been found there. (5)
The character of the Treveri:.
Caesar wrote that the Treveri were war-like and known for their horsemanship. He said they had the best calvary in all of Gaul. Their origin is unknown but they were said to be more Celtic than Gaulish or Teutonic. The Teutons were in areas north and east of the Celts. Although modern people might think of Ireland or Scotland when Celts are mentioned, the Celts actually had been in Central Europe during the Iron Age or at least by the 6th century BC. The Treveri were known as Celts by their language. In the 4th century Saint Jerome noticed the similarity of the language of the Treveri to that of the Galatians, who resided in what would become modern day Turkey. Celts are generally believed to have been seafaring people who made their way to Western Europe from the Middle East.
The Treveri tribe lived in the middle and lower Mosel River valley between the Rhine and Meuse Rivers. Aptly, one possible meaning of Trevari is "water-crossers." Their camps extended from the Ardennes to the densely pine-covered Hunsruck and Eifel Mountain ranges. The area is very hilly and their life was based much more on hunting than agriculture. Their world was one of hill forts, druids and rival chieftains. (6)
Archaeologists and specialists in Celtic art and coinage have noted an unexplained and striking similarity in the styles and motifs between artefacts of Amorican Veneti and Treveri origin (7). They postulate migration between Brittany and the Moselle region as a possible explanation, despite no evidence of any continuity of style in the lands between the two places. But it is equally possible that both tribes share a common origin. The Veneti have been traced to the Baltic region and the Treveri had noted linguistic concordences with the Galatians (Turkey), a region where the Veneti have also been traced. The existence of large tracts of lime forest in the Baltic region – still extant in places in Rumania (see above) – might hint at a common Baltic origin as well as explain the association with the lime that the tribes carried with them throughout their migrations.
Both tribes also placed the horse in high esteem within their cultures – interesting, given the myth of Philyra (above).
In many modern sources, the lime is associated primarily with love in a rather sugary sweet superficial manner and given attribution to Venus and the Moon (8), but the connection with death and with the god Mars in healing aspect revealed in the cultures of the Veneti and Treveri hint at a much deeper, substantial level of relationship.
A synthesis of all the various references in folk custom and mythology, together with a reading of the two Linden Tree songs (see below) as an allegory for the soul’s journey, support the ideas contained in the description of the Findhorn flower essence:
LIME Tilia platyphyllos ~ Keynotes: ONENESS & UNIVERSALITY
Essence of Lime helps us open our hearts to the light and love of our universal being. From this awareness we experience our inter relatedness on earth and create harmonious relationships in our lives: universality
Attributes: Knowing and experiencing the self as universe, transfer from identification with lower to Higher Self, unification of individual consciousness with collective consciousness and environment, transmuting self-preservation into detached world service, humanitarian activity through recognition of need, service, relationship and sense of responsibility; group consciousness.
Essence of Lime helps us to anchor universal love in our hearts. Supporting us in overcoming feelings of separation from our spiritual self or others, essence of Lime can empower and encourage us to work for peace and spiritual harmony on earth.
Indications: Introspective or too focused on self, over identification with lower self/personality, feelings of powerlessness, over-dependency, fear of domination; intolerance, prejudice or nationalism, lack of awareness of the whole, separateness. (9)
THE LUCK OF THE LINDEN-TREE
Of two true-lovers this tale I tell,
That loved each other long and well.
(We tread the dance so featly.)
Their love it flourished as fair and free
As the branch grows green on the linden-tree.
The knight to other lands must roam---
The lady, she must bide at home.
"I'll plant a linden by thy bower,
Leaves that beareth, and many a flower.
"And when the linden sheds its leaves,
Then shalt thou know thy true-love grieves.
"And when the tree its flowers hath shed,
Then shalt thou know thy love is dead."
When night was done and dawn was grey
The lady looked upon the brae.
"God bless the tree, so green it grows!
Well fares my love, where'er he goes!"
That heard the wily serving-maid;
Those lovers true hath she betrayed.
The serving-made, she up and spake:
"I'll spill your loves ere dawn shall break!"
The serving-maid, so false was she,
She tore the leaves from the linden-tree.
When night was done and dawn was grey
The lady looked upon the brae.
"The linden-tree hath shed its leaves---
"Full well I wot my true-love grieves.
"The linden-tree its flowers hath shed---
I wot full well my love is dead.
"And is he dead, my heart's desire,
My bower and all I'll burn with fire."
She's laid a brand her bower unto---
She's choked herself with the bolster blue.
When all the bower in a bale did stand
Her love came a-sailing back to land.
When all the bower was ashes and dust
Her love put in to the selfsame coast.
Unto his page he spake, the knight---
"Whose bower is this that burns so bright?
"If my true-love is dead, I say,
God wot, I'll die the self-same day."
Against a stone he set his hilt,
And there his heart's blood hath he spilt.
(We tread the dance so featly.)
From The Norse King’s Bridal, Scandinavian lore.
THE LINDEN TREE
(By the well before the gate there
stands a linden tree; I dreamed in its
shadow some sweet dreams. I carved
in its bark some words of love; in joy
and sorrow I was ever drawn to it.)
We understand Heine's envy: these are beautifully simple lines, emotional but not sentimental, using no metaphors but moving and impressive images.
Someone (we know it is our wanderer, the poor heartbroken chap) remembers a linden tree. The whole stanza is full of beauty but it is a beauty remembered. We think we can see the very place in our minds: the big, large, sheltering linden tree, the well, ah, we hear the water. What a nice sound! It is a quiet place now but it is not always since it is a popular place, too. The city gate is near, now and then (maybe it is afternoon) people come to fetch some water, to have a little conversation. But we just sit and relax. Now look, there is a young chap, ah, it is the guy who is so in love with whatshername. He carves her name into the linden tree's bark as so many guys have done before him. There are numerous hearts, slowly moving upwards as the giant tree still grows. And now our friend takes a nap in the tree's shadow. We can see that he is dreaming a jolly good dream, he is smiling. It is May, life is wonderful. And this young man not only has a sweetheart but also a place where he can go and a soul friend. Who is his soul friend, his confidant? It is the linden tree. Yes, nature is his friend. This place, full of memories, full of dreams, full of peace draws him to it. "It" draws him as the text literally says. - Cut. Winter. A broken heart. A lost hope. And the linden tree, the soul friend: memory. Now a leafless guardian before the city gate where she lives, the faithless one. We have to pass this guardian in the middle of the night.
(Today, too, I had to wander past in
the dead of night; then I closed my eyes
even in the darkness. And its branches
rustled as if they were calling to me: Come
over to me, chap, here you will find your rest!)
It was Thomas Mann in his magnificent novel The Magic Mountain who explained in a wonderful passage of the wonderful chapter Fülle des Wohllauts (Richness of melodious sound - read it, read it, read it) that the topic of Der Lindenbaum is death, nothing else. And right he is. What kind of rest is the linden tree talking about, now in the dead of winter and the dead of night? It is definitely not the sweetheart, this would be too cynical (and have you ever met a cynical tree?) and far-fetched.
The wanderer closes his eyes as he wanders past the tree, a forced rambler not a voluntary one ("Ich mußt auch heute wandern" - I had to...). The wanderer shuts himself to the place where he was so happy, to the tree he saw as a soul friend. But still nature is sympathetic but now it is a sinister and ghastly sympathy: it is a call to eternal rest, to rest forever. The depressed soul of the wanderer is mirrored in nature. It is striking that the wanderer does not yield to this call. He is not like the miller in Die schöne Müllerin who obviously commits suicide or gives in to death by broken heart. The wanderer wants to live on, he wants to suffer. (Well, this is now - Das Wirtshaus is yet to come.)
(The cold winds blew straight into my
face, the hat flew from my head, I did
not turn. Now I am some hours away
from that place and still I hear the
rustling: You would find rest there!)
Nature does everything to literally turn the wanderer: cold winds straight in the face, the hat blown away. But no, he is on his way. It is highly symbolic that the hat, the shelter, is blown away. The wanderer now is without protection, given over to the elements (and is so since Lied No. 3, since Der Lindenbaum is memory and the wanderer has already gone out of the city gates, past the linden tree).
But even some hours away from the place of his happiness (by the way, "manch eine Stunde" is not "many an hour" as many a translator says, it is "some hour" and nothing else) the wanderer still hears the tree's call. Now, is the promised rest really death? I think so, others do not. In any case there is no return possible. The bride is given to someone else, the words in the bark are only memory now, the dream gone. But maybe the tree (like the brook in Die schöne Müllerin) wants to call the wanderer back into life, to a second (and third and fourth...) possible happiness? Maybe; this is a wonderful thought. But our stubborn friend does not turn. This could be the motto of the whole cycle, of the whole depression-loving attitude of the guy: "Ich wendete mich nicht."