In spring 2019, I was doing a bit of research about trees in Norway. I found an interesting paper by Douglas Forell Hulmes about “sacred trees of Norway and Sweden: a #friluftsliv quest”. This professor environmental education in Arizona, USA studies “the traditions and folklore related to trees planted in the centrum of farmland in Sweden and Norway.” In Norway they talk about #tuntre and in Sweden about #vårträd.
I wrote a blog about it, called Sacred “Garden” trees of Norway and Sweden.
In the end of July, my friend Asgeir, one of my hosts in Northern Norway, showed the tuntre of their family and also the last remains of a former farm. I really got excited when I heard they had still this practice. I could also feel the energy of the sacred garden tree from afar. He knew that the idea of tuntre is an old practice and that it protects the farmland. Perhaps older than the Vikings. When his ancestors believed that spirits can reside in trees. A belief (or truth) which still exists in Japanese Shinto or Thai spirit worship. The spirits who live in these Scandinavian trees are the ancestors.
In his paper, Douglas refers to the importance of knowing your home through the land and the beings which live there. He believes if people give more value to the environmental knowledge about their home: the knowledge of plants that ripen during different seasons providing a steady source of food, or the location of secret water, or where the wind brings cooling in very hot summers, … that we can be more resilient for the societal and environmental changes. The idea of a sacred garden tree which reflects an intimacy with the place is part of knowing home. An old Norse poem says that where forests have a place in us it is home.
I could witness in the way how Asgeir talked about the histories of the land that he has a strong relationship with this place.
And I know that this place will take care of his family.
Asgeir explained why the birch looked this way. What perhaps looks like scars, were actually stories about humans and the land. A sense of belonging is not only about the place, but also about the continuity of the culture and the stories. Each generation adds another layer to the farmland … while the birch sheds of one more layer.