I am reminded that according to the Eddas the first humans (Teutons) were named Askr and Embla- Ash and Elm. This connection between man and tree is also present in Iranian mythology-Meshia and Meshiane and thus this relationship between the origins of man and the tree may be a very old Indo-European one.
The scholar Anders Hultgård observes:
"myths of the origin of mankind from trees or wood seem to be particularly connected with ancient Europe and Indo-Europe and Indo-European-speaking peoples of Asia Minor and Iran. By contrast the cultures of the Near East show almost exclusively the type of anthropogonic stories that derive man's origin from clay, earth or blood by means of a divine creation act". (2006)
So we have a very different account for the genesis of man found in Germanic and Indo-European mythology than the semitic one which has been pressed upon us after the forced conversion of our peoples to xtianity.
Hengest`s son Aesc also appears in the genealogy of the Anglo-Saxon kings of Kent. In Tolkien`s Hobbit and Lord of the Rings we have of course the very human like Ents; Ent is derived from the Old Norse word jǫtunn which originates in the Common Germanic*etunaz. I was always struck by their very human qualities. Tolkiens` works, which are in essence a recovered mythology of the English people needs a more thorough analysis than has hitherto been given to it and I hope to return to his work in future articles.
The closeness between the Teuton and nature should not be marveled at for our ancestors dwelt in a very heavily forested Germania and likewise the other northern Indo-Europeans (Celts, Balts and Slavs) likewise resided in similar northern habitats. The Ogham alphabet used by the Celts of Britain and Ireland consist of 20 characters or fedha (English: fews) and each one of these is significantly named after a tree. The Ogham few that relates to the yew tree is idad, the 20th and last few which I think is significant. Unlike the Anglo-Saxon rune Eoh and the Common Germanic Eihwaz which appear one third and one half of the way through the Futhork/Futhark, in the Younger Futhork Yr appears at the very end and this gives a kind of finality to the meaning of the rune which is not present in any of the three rune poems although interestingly the Abecedarium Nordmannicum does say "Yr al behabet (Yew holds all) which I interpret to mean death.
This meaning is supported by the corresponding Yr rune of the Armanen Futhork. Guido von List calls this the "error-rune" (Irr-rune). He summarises for this rune: "Think about the end!"-very worthy advice![See The Secret of the Runes)
The yew tree may be found in most ancient English church yards as these were usually built upon sites that were considered sacred to our ancestors. In my opinion one way to reclaim these sites would be to carry out secret rites in them during the cover of darkness in the vicinity of the yew tree. The yew was undoubtedly a sacred tree and the Celts for instance forbade their damage or destruction:
"Assemblies were held under these venerated trees, and it was tabu to damage them in any way." (Pagan Britain, 1967, Anne Ross)
No doubt sacred trees such as the yew were the focal point of rites carried out by northern Europeans and this must in part be explained by the belief that in some way they are our ancestors and also that the world column, the Irminsul or Yggdrasil was in fact a tree. The Irminsul supported the nine worlds of the universe so anyone caught carrying out damage to one unnecessarily would have been considered to have committed a heinous crime. The yew is associated by many with the world tree and this concept is borne out in the shape of the rune stave in the Younger and Armanen Futhorks which shows it to be a column with three roots which undoubtedly are the roots which lead to the three wells. In 1930s Germany this was referred to as the Todesrune (death rune).The Common Germanic and Anglo-Saxon versions of the stave are very different but stylistically represent the eternal return, the top being a mirror image of the bottom. The idea of eternal return is inextricably linked to the idea of finality-death in this life so the two meanings are different aspects of the same idea. The reason why the yew tree was so venerated was because of its longevity, a symbol of apparent immortality which in Armanism we interpret in the formula of arising-becoming-passing away to new arising. This is the deep meaning behind the image of the three norns.