I have an affinity for pine trees. I always have, I always will. They’re my favourite tree, followed by oak and silver birch. Ever since I was a child, pine trees have held me captivated. I grew up surrounded by evergreen forests, and when the time came that I had to leave them, it felt as if I was leaving my happiness behind, nestled on the forest floor among pine needles. I found it again, years later, in the vast forests of Norway and I didn’t want to leave it for a second time.
There are 126 different species of pine tree, and, while I know fine well that they’re capable of withstanding the cold and snow, as well as rocky ground, wind, and drought, I’m still always in awe when I see them growing in the most inhospitable of place.
The pine tree means so much to me that I gravitate towards anything even remotely associated with it; a candle scented with pine, a horror movie set in a pine forest, a book with pine trees on the front cover. If I’m ever in a car and driving past a pine forest (as a passenger) I press my face against the glass or wind the window down to look and try and catch the scent of the trees, and I’ll do this until the forest disappears from my view. I also write about them. All the time. Most of my writing features a pine tree in one way or another.
Pines have always brought me joy, and I especially love it when they form impenetrable forests that appear to have no end. I relish the dark mystery those forests conjure and the idea of getting lost forever. And who really knows all those that live and die and live again there, in among the trees and their needled branches? Oh, and when there’s a heavy fog hanging damp and deep among the trees…oh…my heart it dances.
Pines are well known the world over as special trees that promote a feeling of well-being. My moods are notoriously turbulent but put me in a forest, where I can walk under the pines, and I can re-learn peacefulness in moments. It’s astonishing. (In future posts I want to talk more about the therapeutic benefits of nature and open a platform for open conversations about mental health.)
They’re a tree that symbolizes prosperity, fertility, and protection, with needles that stay green all year round, even though the long, dark, cold months of winter. In past times, farmers would seek the powers of the pines by sweeping their stables and barns using brushes made from pine twigs. It was common for them to hang the twigs above doors too. It was said that they would ward off witchcraft and protect the house and livestock from misfortune.
In Finland, the pine was commonly used as a ‘merkkipuu,’ a ‘mark tree.’ When a person died, a piece of bark would be removed from a pine and that person’s date of birth and death was carved into the tree. That tree would act like a gravestone and remind the living that their loved one belonged to the world of the dead.
Remaining in Finland, the pine is connected to several different deities, including Ukko, the god of sky and thunder. While they’re traditionally thought to be considered masculine trees, there are numerous goddess and female nature spirits connected to the pine. Tellervo, for example, a forest spirit and goddess of the wilderness. The huntress goddess Mielikki is also connected to pine trees.
Druids refer to the pine as ‘one of the seven chieftain trees,’ and witches have long used the pine’s gifts of needles and cones for magical purposes including cleansing and purifying homes and increasing fertility.
As winter approaches each year, I find myself yearning – as I imagine many of you do – to bring pine into the home. And it isn’t surprising, as it’s symbolic to the season and an essential element of the Yule time magick.