Biblical Poetry – Trees by Janet Maika’i Rudolph

Image from an Egyptian tomb ca. 1314-1200 BCE. Isis is giving nourishment in the form of fruit and drink,

In many cultures of the world, including our own, trees are considered the ancestors of humanity – own our ancestors.

Trees are connected with great goddesses throughout antiquity. We see this in the bible where, as I’ve noted before, the Tree of Life is Eve’s tree for the word Eve means life. It is, in essence, the Tree of Eve. Goddesses in trees feeding humans were common themes in ancient Middle Eastern art. The tree was Hers to give freely of as she wished.  

Anthropologist and religious scholar, Mircea Eliade writes extensively about the associations of trees ancestral connection to humans. He calls them both mystical and mythical.[1] His examples include the Miao groups of Southern China and Southeast Asia who “worship the bamboo as their ancestor.” He also notes Australian tribes who view the mimosa as their progenitor. And there is a tribe from Madagascar, called Antaivandrika which means “people of the tree,” who considered themselves descended from the banana tree.

Our connection and relationship to trees appears in the English language. We all have a family tree which has its roots and its branches. The connection is also apparent in Hebrew. The word for tree is ets. If we add the quintessential breath syllable (ha or ah) to ets we get ets-ah which means spine. Our spine is our own personal Tree of Life. We are related to trees inside and out.

I’ve already discussed Proverbs 3:18 in relation to the great Goddess Ashera at this blogpost.

 I am revisiting the same passage in this post to examine its wisdom regarding trees.  Here is the verse from King James

She is a tree of life to them that lay hold upon her:

and happy is every one that retaineth her.

As I wrote in the blogpost referenced above, the word for happy is asher which is the root of the goddess name Ashera. Sometimes asher is translated as blessed.    

I believe that many of the passages about trees are very old ones that were incorporated into the biblical library of books. Their original messages were probably too popular for the emerging priesthood to ignore or remove, so they sought to hide them either by verbiage or through translations. Here is my translation of the passage:

She is a tree of life to those who flow in her wake

Those who embrace her are blessed.

As per my theory that old knowledge was hidden behind translations, the roots of the names of two goddesses are mentioned in this one passage – Ashera and Eve. Asher translated as happy or blessed and Eve translated as life. Asherot (plural of ashera) were groves of trees that the authorities of the time vociferously worked to cut down due to their goddess associations.

Deuteronomy 20:19 is another verse which I believe has a much older message hidden among the descriptions. The passage itself discusses war and sieges so it is odd that praises of trees found their way into it. As I’ve written before, I also believe these are glimmers of wisdom from pre-patriarchal times that didn’t get completely scrubbed out by the male-controlled order that did its best to erase all traces of earlier, goddess intensive times.

In Deut. 20:19, the discussion is what to do (or not) in the case of a siege of war. The people are admonished not to cut down the trees . . . “for the tree of the field is man’s life.” It’s odd that the bible should suddenly be so concerned with “man’s life” when two passages before (Deut 20:17) it says this:

But thou shalt utterly destroy them;

namely, the Hittites, and the Amorites, the Canaanites,

and the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites;

as the LORD thy God hath commanded thee:

Here is Deut 20:19 in complete for context.

When thou shalt besiege a city a long time,

 in making war against it to take it,

thou shalt not destroy the trees thereof by forcing an axe against them:

for thou mayest eat of them,

and thou shalt not cut them down (for the tree of the field is man’s life)[2]

to employ them in the siege:

I am only going to address the line in parentheses for translation because I think that it is an older line than the rest. KJV has it in parentheses. It is three words: Ha-adam ets hassadeh. Ets as we have seen means tree. Adam is obvious because it’s also a familiar name, and hassadeh is the land or fields. We’ve seen Adam in relation to trees and food before in the bible and that, of course, didn’t turn out so well. It is ironic that the grand deity, who had once punished Adam is now advocating for eating the fruit of the trees. There is some confusion of message.

I’ve seen translations of these three words such as “man is the tree of the field.” But that’s not right either except for the fact that it likens humanity to our ancestral trees. Here is my poetry that is not translation but rather my expression of the meaning of these three words.

Our sister/brother trees

Echo throughout our bodies

Vibrating pulses throughout the land.

I will end with two passages that make the relationship palpable. I have not translated them at this time. You can tell it’s a traditional verse, namely King James, because of pronoun “he” is used. Even with this translation, though, the connections between human and tree are made crystal clear. 


And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water,

that bringeth forth his fruit in his season;

his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.

Psalm 1:3

For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters,

and that spreadeth out her roots by the river,

Jeremiah 17: 8


[1] Eliade, Mircea Patterns of Comparative Religion, translated by Rosemary Sheed, University of Nebraska Press, 1996; 300-301.

[2] My underline, KJV’s parentheses.

BIO: Janet Maika’i Rudolph. “IT’S ALL ABOUT THE QUEST.” I have walked the spirit path for over 25 years traveling to sacred sites around the world including Israel to do an Ulpan (Hebrew language studies while working on a Kibbutz), Eleusis and Delphi in Greece, Avebury and Glastonbury in England, Brodgar in Scotland, Machu Picchu in Peru, Teotihuacan in Mexico, and Giza in Egypt. Within these travels, I have participated in numerous shamanic rites and rituals, attended a mystery school based on the ancient Greek model, and studied with shamans around the world. I am twice initiated. The first as a shaman practitioner of a pathway known as Divine Humanity. The second ordination in 2016 was as an Alaka’i (a Hawaiian spiritual guide with Aloha International). I have written three books: When Moses Was a ShamanWhen Eve Was a Goddess, (now available in Spanish, Cuando Eva era una Diosa), and One Gods



Categories: Asherah, Bible, Earth-based spirituality, Feminism, Feminism and Religion, Feminist Awakenings, General, Herstory, Nature, Poetry, Shamanism, Textual Interpretation, Women's Voices

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10 replies

  1. Wonderful and inspiring. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Well Janet, if this essay doesn’t create food for thought I don’t know what would….EXCELLENT!!!!!!!!! ( I also love this picture) I am looking out my window at a forest of trees covered in white. I don’t know how many times i have thought to myself if I couldn’t see trees i don’t know what I’d do… Why? I could start with the practical. We do know now that humans and trees share 53 percent of our DNA, so we are literally related. 400 million years old trees contain ancient knowledge – the kind that seeps through dreams, religions, paying attention to our senses, and by listening to trees themselves. My scientist- Indigenous healer friend says ‘myth and stories are our holy water”…. and I think you are writing about the truth he expresses Even in war do not destroy the ‘field’ of trees’…. hmmm I see that field as a holy place, an energy field, informational field that MUST not be destroyed no matter what. To destroy that field is to destroy life. That trees are goddesses we know from myths… but the Tree of Life is MORE….. what is so frightening to me today is that we are destroying trees everywhere on the planet – these trees of life – this frightens me more than I can say. Just yesterday after the first unwelcome snow and rain I was still drawn into the forest to listen to hemlocks in particular who were nudging me in some way – When I returned to the house I discovered a new piece of of information in an academic article that I found by mistake relating to this tree’s survival… you see what I mean here… There is a reason every religion has a tree of life – and we need to be LISTENING for our own survival… DO NOT DESTROY THE TREE OF LIFE

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh, I hope people are listening. Thank you Janet

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Another essay full of insight and poetry! It makes me think of how often when invaders take over other people’s land, they cut down all the trees and often use them for some commercial purpose. Trees are, indeed, our ancestors and the holders of our bonds with the land. Here in New England, the trees were cut for farm land in the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries and up to 70 percent of the forests were lost. Now that fewer people are farming, the forests are coming back, though not always with the same trees as before. Now something like 75 percent of the land in New England is forest, so at least there is one small step forward.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Carolyn. That is horrifying that we European types came and destroyed so much of the forest. Delighted that forests are returning. I hope the eco-system is restored by that.

      Like

    • Most of that forest isn’t forest – these are young trees and most are plantations….that will be cut again and again until the soil will not support another ‘crop’ of trees…. The Old Ones are telling us that we are losing the thread….only fragments of real forests remain.

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  1. Biblical Poetry – Trees by Janet Maika’i Rudolph – Glyn Hnutu-healh: History, Alchemy, and Me

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