Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Faces in Trees


Susan recently wrote about Oogabooga trees on her blog, and she had some excellent photos that perfectly depicted the meaning of "oogabooga." There's no other word that can describe these trees as well.


Her post reminded me of some photos I've taken of trees with faces. Some scary...



(taken at Lost River State Park in West Virginia)







Some ancient and wise...
(taken in Bellingham, Washington)









and some to make you think the druids knew a thing or two.


This one even has hair.


(taken in Idaho)


This seems to show the face even more clearly.

There are probably other photos like these lurking in my files, but these are the best, I believe.
Can you see the faces in these pictures?
Or am I just a demented old lady who is seeing things? There's always that possibility...
But I am not alone. The Museum of Hoaxes lists many other "tree faces" with link to the news stories about each. Dr. Deb has a collection on her website, too.

Then there is the WaqWaq tree in Middle Eastern folklore, which was said to bear fruit with human faces (imagine biting into one...not!). There is an interesting discussion of this mythical tree and a story or two on SurLaLune.

I suppose any discussion of faces and trees is incomplete without a mention of the Green Man, that male face surrounded by leaves and branches found in ancient carvings and artwork. What does he symbolize? Scholars still argue over that, but there is no mistaking the importance the face must have had to peoples of many cultures in days gone by (and still today, for those who espouse Wicca and pagan beliefs). While browsing the web looking for "faces in trees" I came upon a fascinating book that will have to become part of my library: People and Woods of Scotland, by T. Christopher Smout.

There is far more written about the Green Man than I can cover here. If you're interested, here's a few books you might want to read:


The Green Man by Kathleen Basford.

Green Man by William Anderson.

One last thing about trees: The Celtic Tree Calendar follows the cycle of the year through the thirteen moons, each of which has been assigned a particular tree, for its folkloric properties and strengths. This month (February 18-March 17) is assigned the Ash tree. The website notes that:

"In Norse cosmology, the giant ash tree — Yggdrasil — was the axis point upon which the universe spun. Yggr was one of the many names of Odin, and the usual interpretation is 'Horse of Yggr', since Odin in a sense rode the tree when he hung upon it. The tree is repeatedly called 'the ash Yggdrasil', and a possible reason for the choice of an ash might be the bunches of 'keys' which hang from the branches like bodies of tiny men, recalling the practice of hanging sacrificial victims from trees."


And on that cheery note, I'll depart! (But I may take a bit of a longer path around our ash trees in future, not wanting to be a sacrificial victim just yet. I think I've circled back to oogabooga).

19 comments:

Carol said...

I love trees - the reason I left southern NM. Now I am surrounded by 60 acres of every hardwood tree that is native to the midwest. The faces in the trees were always a comfort to me as a child in the Ozarks of AR. The protecting envelopment of branches and shadows during summer was especially welcoming. But, I must admit to uneasiness walking in the woods in the winter. The clacking of the branches and the starkness of the faces were always warning me to get back to the warmth of the house.

Susan said...

What a great post! That first photo looks like someone was screaming while trying to escape the treeeee....oh no!!!! Imagine the stories you could tell about each one of these "characters".

I was wondering what to post on my photoblog for Wordless Wednesday, but you've made up my mind... TREEFACE! Thanks!

Tracey said...

That first one is scary! I did a post like this once.

Tracey said...

Here's the link to my similar post.
http://iamme-tdm.blogspot.com/2008/08/word-of-daypareidolia.html

Granny Sue said...

I agree, that first tree is scary. I'll have to post the other photo of that tree--it looks like a butt, honestly.

Your last sentences have a very haunted feeling, Carol I can almost see the trees whispering and waving their arms...

OK, Susan, I'll be loking for your tree faces tomorrow. I loved that oobabooga tree post.

And Tracwey, I'll stop by to see your post too. I must have missed that one. I'm off to a meeting now, but maybe later tonight I'll have time.

Marilyn said...

Have you ever read/heard "The Arm-Chair of Tustenuggee"? It's a quasi-Catawba story about a tree that enfolds and binds someone--just desserts, in this case. A storyteller-friend of mine used to tell it. Very eerie.

Granny Sue said...

I have not heard that, Marilyn. Tomorrow I plan to continue with the tree theme because I found so much more information to share. I will see if I can find your story online, or at least a reference to it.

MimiRock said...

Hi! I'll be looking at the trees on our property a little closer, now and hope to get some photos as intriguing as yours. I think the trees communicate with us in some intuitive way, because I can feel it and have always felt it since I was a child. I remember that tree in Bellingham when we attended the NSN conference in 2004, wasn't it? I have lots of fragments of memories around trees I have climbed, trees I played under, trees I read about in books. I think I'll write about trees on my blog. Thanks for the photos and Greenman info. Mimi

MimiRock said...

Hi! I'll be looking at the trees on our property a little closer, now and hope to get some photos as intriguing as yours. I think the trees communicate with us in some intuitive way, because I can feel it and have always felt it since I was a child. I remember that tree in Bellingham when we attended the NSN conference in 2004, wasn't it? I have lots of fragments of memories around trees I have climbed, trees I played under, trees I read about in books. I think I'll write about trees on my blog. Thanks for the photos and Greenman info. Mimi

Marilyn said...

The text of "The Arm-Chair of Tustenuggee" is on Google Books:
http://books.google.com/books?id=TtsXAAAAIAAJ&pg=PA65&lpg=PA65&dq=armchair+of+tustenuggee&source=bl&ots=ytySt4fRG4&sig=j7ryI8PsJjTjO6IhoOuhGfQmJfw&hl=en&ei=UNW2SeP7FomQtQOh56nmCA&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=4&ct=result

Granny Sue said...

Thanks, Marilyn. I'll look it up.

Mimi, you're right, it was on the campus where the national storytelling conference was held. I was fascinated by the ancient look of the tree--and the face.

tipper said...

I see the faces too!! I've always loved the Green Man-where ever he came from! Neat post!

Granny Sue said...

I think it's about paying attention, Tipper. There's a whole lot of attention being paid to mindfulness these days--paying close attention to the world around us and the things we're doing. When we're mindful, we see things like faces in trees and shapes in the clouds.

MimiRock said...

Regarding mindfulness--a few years ago Rocky and I, while driving our back road to Abingdon, noticed something from a distance that looked just like a chicken in profile, reminding me of "The Little Red Hen," except this one was noticeably, even from a distance, green. Our rational minds told us it was probably a group of shrubs, but our intuitive, and playful, minds told us it was "that great green chicken in the sky" looking over us, sitting on her nest, you know, setting an example for us in our roles as parents and mentors. Unfortunately, someone destroyed it in order to build a house there--not nearly as intriguing or comforting, and I don't look up that way much anymore. Mimi

Granny Sue said...

There is a stump along my road, Mimi, that looks like a pig--I think that every time I see it. I've wondered if others see the same thing when they look at it.

I like your great green chicken in the sky better--very comforting, she is!

ELLOUISESTORY said...

Very neat post and comments. I often see faces in tree trunks and wood paneling that shows the wood grain as if the figures are trapped there forever. Never thought to photogrqph them - before. Thanks for the idea.

Small Pines said...

Oh, GS. You're always up to something that I find wonderful and interesting. The photos of those trees are amazing! Green Man (and really any and all nature spirits) is one of my favorite topics lately. Been meaning to go buy a book.

Granny Sue said...

Ellouise, I never thought of looking at paneling and wood that way. That I will have to try.

pines (I still want to call you mouse!) you will find yourself looking at trees in a new way when you get to your property for good. The ones near you become old friends.

Anonymous said...

Harley D said, This is a great site I've tried to find something like it for years.About nine years ago I bought a house and some wooded land in the country.One day I was walking in the woods and triped on a log in the leaves.To my suprise I was stareing down at a face looking back at me.It is about four feet long,and about thirteen inches in diameter.Everyone who sees it saids it looks like Homer Simson.I've had lots of fun with it.

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