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Trees and Timber in the Anglo-Saxon World$
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Michael D. J. Bintley and Michael G. Shapland

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199680795

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199680795.001.0001

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What is a ‘World Tree’, and Should We Expect to Find One Growing in Anglo-Saxon England?

What is a ‘World Tree’, and Should We Expect to Find One Growing in Anglo-Saxon England?

Chapter:
(p.177) 9 What is a ‘World Tree’, and Should We Expect to Find One Growing in Anglo-Saxon England?
Source:
Trees and Timber in the Anglo-Saxon World
Author(s):

Clive Tolley

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199680795.003.0009

This chapter provides a background picture of what a world tree is, and looks at some examples from around the world, with particular focus on Germanic evidence deriving, ostensibly, from pagan tradition. Other points noted include the role of the world tree as part of a complex of mythologems, including the world pillar, and the importance of the world tree within shamanism, though we do not have sufficient evidence to posit actual shamanism among the pagan Norsemen. The main aspects of the Norse tree are outlined, noting its association with guardianship, knowledge, progeny and fate; the possible origin of the world tree image is briefly considered: it appears to be an Indo-European heritage, probably going back to traditions originating on the steppe, whence it may also have spread to other cultures, including the shamanic ones of Eurasia.

Keywords:   world tree, world pillar, shamanism, paganism

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