by Allen Meredith
Ancient stories come to us from many parts of the world. We may never discover the origins of some of these stories, one of which tells us that Adam and Eve were evicted from the Garden of Eden and from that moment on, the human race no longer had ‘dominion over all living creatures’. The way to the Tree of Life was protected, as it said:- ’lest they should turn also and take from the tree of life’. The implications of this are yet to be fully understood and indeed too, what its true origin may mean to us today. I believe events like this are interwoven with a tree and the fate of the human race.
Some years ago, I believed that the destiny of the human race was inextricably linked with the Yew. These thoughts have not changed. That the Yew may act as some kind of monitor or guardian on this planet was almost certainly known to the druids. Their understanding of nature was far in advance of ours today, but from time to time we are given glimpses into their world.
In 1974 a series of dreams and visions began a quest to find the ‘yew cross’. A great adventure had begun. The dreams and visions were given to me by those hooded ones who were sat in a circle. They beckoned me towards them but I was not allowed in the circle. They gave me entry into their world and to search for the ‘tree of the cross’.
Being compelled to enter that otherworld was a great adventure, but also a dangerous undertaking. It was one thing to be given strange words in the dreams but even stranger to understand them. If these people were druids and understood Sanskrit, the ancient language, it naturally followed that they knew something of the Yew. These people, known as druids, would also have known something of the otherworld and would have had some form of protection, for they would have known that living between 2 worlds made for a perilous journey.
How close the druid was to the Yew may be learnt from the word ‘druid’, for the Sanskrit word ‘daru’ indicates ‘tree’ (the dream said Yew tree). Over the years ‘deva daru’ and ‘deo dar’, became associated with oak and cedar, which is clear to understand in the case of the Cedars of Lebanon. Both ‘deva daru’ and ‘deodar’ would also have been seen as ‘divine tree’ or the God Tree, hence the title of the recent book I researched with Janis Fry. Daru became dru and druid, which could mean ‘tree wisdom’ or someone who sought wisdom from the yew tree. In the Himalayas, the yew is still called ‘deva daru’. It is no surprise that this part of the world has a link with the druids.
With evidence gathered, we now know that yew trees were growing in the mountains of Lebanon and were growing there long before the cedars. The fact that this has generally not been recognised, is because the Yew, in the ancient Mesopotamina region, went under many different names, such as eres, erin, kishkanu and mesu. Later in the Old Testament, the Yew was referred to as algum or almug. One thing all the ancient cultures have in common however, is the description of the tree though perhaps the greatest mystery, still remains in connection with the Yew as the White Tree, a certain tree with great magic, mentioned throughout the ancient world.
Today we can be transported into the magic world of Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings and the recent TV series Merlin, but thousands of years ago these things were not seen as magic but as happenings. So when we see the ‘golden bough’ on a Yew tree, something not seen for over 2,000 years, when we hear of time loss, time travel or healing from a tree, we look for a rational or scientific answer, but there may not be one. My experiences at Waldershare, Gresford, Knowlton Circles and Druids Grove, tell me that something out of the ordinary did take place and healing, time loss and even invisibility, appear to have occurred. At one site I viewed the landscape changing. Rational thinking might tell me that the influence of the Yew on a particular day was causing me to hallucinate, but that would not account for some of the things that happened, and if the Yew at a particular time does act as a sort of ‘time machine’, it would not be beyond the realms of possibility that such strange things could take place.
At Gresford, the church warden accompanied me in the churchyard. He got distracted by his dog jumping over a high wall and went to retrieve it. Meanwhile, I began measuring the old Yew and was completely thrown by coming up with different measurements of its girth. When I found it to be 72 feet, I realised something was going on. From the Yew, I could see that the church had disappeared, the gravestones and the iron railings surrounding the tree had gone and the only thing visible to me was the grass. The atmosphere was still and there was a slight mist. I did however notice the presence of the Yew. I was quite relaxed about what was going on, having had other experiences at one or two sites. Having gathered my thoughts, I realised I needed to go clockwise around the tree and when I did, gradually, everything began reappearing, the last thing being the door in the railings.
A while later the church warden appeared looking puzzled. He asked where I had been. He had searched all over for me, including in the church and around the Yew, but I hadn’t moved from the tree. What I thought had been ten or fifteen minutes by the Yew, turned out to be about three hours! So had I become invisible, or was there a logical explanation?
On the subject of magic, in ancient times the golden bough was seen as a powerful talisman and only certain individuals were given permission to obtain it. As for a magic wand, many thousands of years ago in ancient Mesopotamia and Europe, there was someone known as the ‘lady of the magic wand’. She was known by many different names such as Gis Zida, Allata, Eres Ki Gal and Persephone. Underworld goddesses all seemed to have a link with the underworld Yew tree. Yews may possess properties or power and occasionally we may accidently stumble on these things. It reminds me of Lewis Carroll’s ‘Alice in Wonderland’, where Alice stumbled into another world. Strangely enough, recent research suggests that the hollow Yew in Iffley churchyard may have been the inspiration for Carroll’s story.
The Summer Solstice is celebrated at Stonehenge, but thousands of years ago it was the Winter Solstice that was the main gathering at Stonehenge. The original gathering there would have been under an axis mundi or a circle of trees. According to the eminent Victorian archaeologist, Arthur Evans, ‘a huge tree once stood at the centre of Stonehenge’. As for the druids, stone monuments were not their original places of meeting or gathering. The most likely places would have been woods and forests and in particular Yew groves.
In ancient times, particular yew twigs were used to aid prophecy. A yew brand was also used to revive those with certain ailments. Sometimes this was lit and the smoke inhaled in similar fashion to the way the Egyptian ankh symbol is seen depicted in the pyramids, as being offered to the nostrils of the Pharaoh. Druids carried a yew staff or what we might call a magic yew wand. They knew it contained a certain energy, but they also used it for practical purposes such as for physical protection or for support in crossing rough terrain.
In an age before the Romans came, druids would have existed peacefully and what was a druid’s natural ability and instinct, would now be viewed as a kind of magic. When we see the branch of a Yew turning into a root and growing downwards inside a hollowed trunk it is quite a miraculous, if natural, event. Merlin (Emrys) apparently said:- ‘When root and branch shall change places this thing shall be seen as a great wonder’. Another great wonder is the way the dormant roots of a Yew re-emerge from the last Ice Age growing out of the cracks of limestone cliffs. Some of these Yews, though just a few feet in girth, could be several thousands of years old.
In 2015, the ancient, the medieval and the modern world will all link up with the 800 year anniversary of the Magna Carta, which was agreed on a small island in the Thames, at Runnymede. This occasion, which was so important to our history, was witnessed by an ancient Yew. It is another great wonder, that this awe inspiring tree lives on, the only survivor of this event.