I saw a little red sapling growing but I had no idea what it was. Then a dog started howling and I howled with it and all my Wolves appeared and took me off to a tree. I did not look up or see it's leaves. It was growing in that very organic soil you get in coniferous woods and we wanted to dig and dig. We also wanted to scratch at the tree. It was red and it's bark was peely and there were patches that loked like we had scratched where the tree looked sort of stringy underneath. The tree was not a straight tree and it bulged at the bottom so you could see where the roots were headed.
I asked for help and discovered red fungus used as warpaint and the the Dogwood which i more of a bush but then someone suggested the Arbutus and well, that is that...
This site has some lovely photos of the tree and this site has a traditional story about the tree. This tree feeds hummingbirds and butterflies with it's flower, and birds and critters with it's berries. It has deep roots which hold the soil and prevent erosion, It is a tree that grows happily with others as long as it is not smothered and sometimes forms a very close relationship with other trees, it has even been known to act as a nursemaid to Douglas Fir trees. The story makes it clear that it is a tree of abundance and generosity, a good tree.
Types of the Arbutus tree also grow elsewhere including Ireland and across Western Europe. This is a traditional song from this site.
Our king, he has a daughter fair; Arbutus is her name And he has gone a soldiering to the court of the king of Spain. Where our harpers sang of her gentle grace, of her beauty and her face And the Spanish king's declared his love, begged she might share his name Our Irish king, he's hurried home with all speed he could command And there he's told his daughter fair he's promised away her hand Her lovely eyes were filled with tears and her cheeks were scarlet red "Oh Father, dear, I can't marry him; I'd rather you see me dead." "Oh but you shall do as I command, I swear it on my sword! Go dress yourself in bright array; I'll hear not another word." "But Father dear, I love a man, Will Winsboro is his name, And I'd not leave my own true love for the hand of the king of Spain." "But I swore you were a maiden fair, and my Chiefs did all agree! I command you now, take off your gown that I may examine thee." "Oh, Father dear, don't shame me so; I would rather you see me dead Before I'd let your noble lords search for my maidenhead." "Take off, take off your very brown gown and stand upon the stone, For if you be a maiden or none, the truth it must be known." So she's taken off her very brown gown, and she's let the gown fall free But before its hem could touch the ground, she's turned into a tree And her lover's turned to the gentle breeze; through her branches he does play And she has shed her soft brown bark 'till this very day.
And while this Mediterranean species is not the one from my journey because it would not tolerate living in the wild in cold Northern places, there is a relationship here. So I will continue to look at European lore too. It seems that this tree is part of the symbol for Madrid and these arms also show a Bear eating the fruit. Bears like to eat the fruit when it has fermented slightly so the bears become drunk from eating it.
In addition, Hieronymous Bosch's famous paininting the Garden of Earthly Delights is also known as the Painting of the Strawberry Tree. This is curious to me as I have always been fascinated with this painting, ever since childhood. My parents had a classical album with this painting on it's cover and I would sit and look at this painting for hours.... I never had the feeling of evilness or sin from the central painting and in reading about Hieronymous Bosch I found that there is a theory that this painting was produced for the leader of a group called the Adamites and that Bosch too was a member. In reading this I felt like my head had been knocked sideways, dizzy and out of myself. I wonder at the draw of this painting on me.
Back to the tree though, in some places the leaves are used as an astringent and internally as a urinary tract disinfectant. Externally it is used as a bath soak for hemorrhoids, perineal tears and post partum bleeding. I wonder if there is a healing there for me, with my endless bleeding...
The wood is used for inlay work because of it's prettiness but it's charcoal is the best for making gunpowder. Apparently this tree saved humanity from the great flood.