The Time Travelers: Sacred Ancient Odinist Trees


Photo: Seana Fenner. A German Reber Adventskalender with Yggsdrasil.

Photo: Seana Fenner. A German Reber Adventskalender with Yggsdrasil.

Sometimes historical research is hard, but one has to have standards! This wonderful German advent calendar, filled with incredibly glamorous, and some alcoholic, chocolates, all different, shows an interesting survival of ancient Norse origins of the Yuletide. Yggdrasil, the World Tree, is a symbol of the focal point of the 9 worlds, or realms, in our ancient Norse Cosmology. The giant tree here, which would have also symbolized the Milky Way, is covered with lights, meant to be stars. Giant trees such as the one shown here were venerated and stood outside ancient Norse Temples in Scandinavia and Germany, and also in the UK. Many of the sacred trees and groves were destroyed, for instance by St. Boniface, but their memory remains.

It is said that the All-Father Odin himself shared the sacred rune glyphs with mankind. While on a quest for wisdom and knowledge of the other worlds, Odin was caught on a windswept tree, for nine days, amongst the stars,  between heaven and earth. As he became more luminous in form, the runes revealed themselves and their meanings to him and increased his power. As he managed to free himself, exhausted, Odin carved them into the cosmic tree with his sword. In one version, it is the elder God, Tyr, instead, who hung from the tree and discovered the runes’ mysteries. This is similar to the story of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, but it comes from an earlier and purely European tradition, in which knowledge is sought after and given as a gift of our God, a truly loving Father, rather than denied.


Nine Long Nights  I hung,

 On the Windswept Tree

Wounded by a spear

Offered to Óðinn, myself to myself,

Upon that tree of which none telleth

from what or where its roots doth rise.

None gladdened me with bread or drinking horn.

Then peering to Earth I saw them.

I caught up the runes, roaring I took them,

And, fainting, back I fell.


“Odin’s Rune Song”, From the The Hávamál, Poetic Edda (circa 1200 A.D.) Translation by S. Fenner, based partly on various previous translations.

Odinists see trees and forests as a living part of nature and creation, and believe that Nature is alive and filled with divine spirit, while Christians see nature as separate from us, and from their somewhat limited concept of god. The idea of holding nature, forests, springs, trees and our holy sites as sacred is thought by them to be evil and idolatrous. For this reason, both trees, and people, who believed that God and Nature are one, were destroyed by the Church.

In Germany, for example, Archbishop Unwan, purposely built churches with wood from our sacred forests, and Boniface, a monk from England,  chopped down Thor’s Sacred Oak and used its wood to build a church. It is said that a baby pine miraculously grew up in its place out of its roots. Boniface was sainted for his destruction of our ancient, sacred tree.

Upper Left: Boniface, the Tree- Murderer (Pictorial Lives of the Saints, Benziger Brothers, 1887). Right: (Photo: Karl Brodowsky) The oldest tree ever discovered, recently found in Sweden. Its root system is more than 9,500 years old and it dates it to around the time of the end of the last Ice Age. The offshoot itself is 600 years old. Let us hope that the Judeo-Christians do not try to chop this down as well.

We Odinists love trees. In fact, our legend tells us that our sacred race is born from them. We believe that they are imbued with spirit, as are all lifeforms on this planet, and that this world is alive. Even in the face of all the beauty of the Earth, a tree is literally the axis of our Universe, a celestial one.. The greatest of trees have, since time immemorial,  served as a focus for our spiritual growth and worship, and as a source of wisdom, and they are very sacred to us.

 The Norway spruce is often traditionally used as a Yule tree in Northern Europe, and a number  of ancient  spruces have been found in Scandinavia,. These are even more ancient than the Methusalah Bristlecone Pine just below, and are as much as  8,000 years old. Recently, a Norway spruce, from an even more remote time in the past was discovered at 2,985 feet (910 meters) atop Fulu Mountain, in  the Dalarna Province of Sweden. This ancient tree, in the picture above,  is the single oldest tree on our planet thus far discovered.. It has been named Tjikko  and is an astounding 10,000 years old…

An ancient bristle cone pine tree in the snowy desert in the White Mountains of California.. This tree (below) is called the  Methusaleh Tree and is approximately 5,000 years old…There was once an even more ancient bristle cone pine named Prometheus nearby, but a scientist accidentally cut it down….

Photo: Rick Goldwasser. Methuselah Tree.

The great tree, Tjikko, actually saw the end of the last ice age! It would have stood witness to scenes we can barely imagine. Vistas of ice as far as eye can see would have loomed like an otherworldly lake in its presence when it was young. Ancient mammoths no doubt nibbled at its vegetation while foraging, and early men and women may have sheltered under its branches. What remains now is its ancient root, from which a younger looking tree has grown as a clone, and indeed, this tree must have seem many setbacks during its lifetime, which is almost immortal by our reckoning, but it is still the same tree, and older than it looks.

There are other references to ancient Odinist trees and it is clear that an entirely different attitude towards Nature held sway before the one that now generally exists in the Judeo-Christian world, and hopefully this ethos could prevail again.  Another example is Ελιά Βουβών, the Olive Tree of Vouves . This utterly amazing ancient olive tree resides in Crete. It is as much as 4,000 years old, and still bears olives!

Olive trees are of special symbolic importance in the ancient Greek world, and are traditionally the gift of the Goddess Athena. Pollen analysis indicates that the olive tree was present in Greece from Neolithic times.  It is said that when ancient Greeks were searching for a name for a citadel, two Gods, Athena and Poseidon, made contest for who should be patron. Poseidon struck a rock with his trident and a great salt spring and a war horse appeared from the Earth. Athena, in turn, struck the ground with her spear and an olive tree, considered by all to be the greatest gift, arose. The city, Athens, was named after her…Olympic athletes received olive wreaths as a sign of excellence and the olive tree became part of sacred ritual. The olive tree was considered so precious that laws were made by Solon in the 6th century BCE, limiting the number of olive trees that could be chopped down .

To this day, the ancient olive tree on the Acropolis is said to be the very tree that grew from the spot Athena stuck with her spear. It stands on the south side of the Erechtheion with its fabulous porch of Caryatid columns and its trunk is embedded deep in the rock. It appears to have been burned and re-sprouted a number of times, and like the Cretan tree, it still gives us the gift of olives.

The Ancient Olive Tree of the Erechtheion re-sprouted. Life can be vigorous.

The Ancient Olive Tree of the Erechtheion re-sprouted. Life can be vigorous.

Yet another famous olive tree is found in the Odyssey. According to this epic, after 20 years of war and treacherous voyage, Odysseus finally returns to the shores of Ithaca, his own kingdom. Fearing he has been forgotten, especially by his wife, Odysseus is transformed by the Goddess Athena to give him the appearance of an old beggar and seeks out his home to see what has happened in his absence.

Odysseus finds his wife Penelope has remained true to him and that she and their son Telemachus have been attempting to fend off suitors who wish to force their hand upon his wife and thereby obtain his kingdom. Penelope had been delaying them by saying she would choose a suitor when she finished a great tapestry that she had been weaving as a shroud for Laertes, her father in law. Every night she had been unraveling, what she had woven, but a treacherous handmaiden had betrayed her secret. Upon hearing this, the suitors had become especially impatient.

 When Odysseus appears, Penelope cannot at first believe it is he, until she tests him by ordering one of her maids to move their bed. Odysseus knows this is not possible because one of its legs was made of a live olive tree, since he had made the bed himself. Suddenly, Penelope looks into his eyes and knows he is her husband.

Finally, here is one more reference to our sacred trees, slightly closer to us in time. It is not well known that Hitler, who was supposedly Catholic, wrote an Odinist Poem while at the Front, and this seems an interesting historical episode. It is a good poem, but I did not like the only translation of it, so I made a new one, which follows.


On Bitter Nights to Wotan’s Oak sometimes I go.

Surrounded by the quiet gleam of night.

Alliance with Celestial Gods to sow,

While Moon makes manifest her rune of might

Those who during day with hateful glee do wax,

Now lessen before her marching dance,

Evil ones throwing spears of steel find their aim lax,

Turning to stalagmites of stony stance..

Thus the lunar light doth separate the false from true,

Transforming nest of swords to blessing for the just with morning dew.


A. Hitler (Translation S. Fenner)

 Seana Fenner von Fennberg

©2010 Odinia


For the previous translation and the poem in its original language see here.:

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