Legends of killer trees have been told since time immemorial. In ancient times, similar properties of trees were associated with magical creatures living in their trunks - for example, the ancient Greeks believed in dryads. A legend has survived about the king of Thessaly, Erisichton, who cut down a tree that served as a dwelling for the nymph - a terrible death awaited the blasphemer, he, under the influence of madness sent by the gods, began to tear his body with his teeth and died in terrible torment.
The peoples of Siberia and North America believed, based on the example of their own society, that among the trees there are shaman trees. According to Tuvans, the shaman tree differs from other trees by its special crown. People hung offerings on the shaman tree and asked him for good luck. It was impossible to chop it, to break its branches - otherwise the person could die.
However, one should not think that the terrible fate of the one who encroached on the sacred tree is known exclusively from the legends of primitive tribes.
English historians describe in detail what happened when the Puritans, commissioned by Cromwell to occupy Woodstock Palace, cut down the famous Royal Oak. These pious people did not have enough firewood for heating, and they decided to "post" a huge oak, which was revered as sacred throughout the district. At the same time, one must assume, the Puritans wanted to debunk age-old pagan prejudices - but their good intentions went to pieces. What we would call today manifestations of an everyday poltergeist began, but then it was explained by the intrigues of evil spirits. Furniture began to fly in the palace, mysterious heavy steps were heard, and an invisible hand was tearing important documents before our eyes …
At the beginning of the 20th century, the Crimean Tatars still had rituals of worshiping sacred trees. One of the sacred objects was a pistachio tree growing in Gurzuf, which is rumored to be thousands of years old. They say that one day a loudly and indecently swearing man walked past a tree - but suddenly he fell silent and collapsed on the spot. The foul-monger lost his tongue and legs - that's how the tree punished him!
Pseudoscientific horror stories?
“With the advent of the century of steam and electricity, the concept of killer trees has changed, now they tried to explain their properties from a scientific point of view. “Under the tree itself, no other trees, no bushes, no grass grow - not only under its crown, but even at the distance of a thrown stone
»However, there are descriptions and more terrible man-eating trees that kill and swallow their victims. Such properties, in particular, were attributed to Philodendron bipinnatifidum, a kind of tree growing in Brazil. It was said that “people were attracted to the tree by the strong scent of its flowers.
True, there are real predators among the plants (such as the sundew), but they hunt for insects. The largest of the predatory plants are the Nepenthes vines from Borneo, but their trapping jug leaves are no more than 60 cm long - enough to catch a lizard or a mouse, but clearly not enough for humans.
The biosphere is a single mysterious organism
Stories of killer trees should not be dismissed, however. If you look at it impartially, you can come to the conclusion that the ancient legends about dryads, avenging people for the destroyed sacred trees, are closer to the truth than the horror stories of the 20th century about predatory plants eating unwary travelers.
People in all corners of the globe knew about the magical properties of trees - it is obvious that objective facts should have been hidden behind such ideas. After all, it is impossible to imagine that similar stories about trees were independently invented by both the New Guinean Papuans and the Indians of the Amazonian selva. Do not disdain the opinion of the "savages" - an aboriginal forest man who lives his whole life in the jungle knows much more about trees and animals than any civilized person. And many views of primitive tribes on the life of the rainforest have found unexpected confirmation in modern science.
So, for example, the bambuti pygmies consider the living world (known to them in the form of a tropical forest) as a single creature and refer to it exclusively as “you”. Meanwhile, after the work of the British scientist James Lovelock, similar ideas began to penetrate into the scientific world, where it became quite common to consider the biosphere as a single organism, conventionally called Gaia. Such views, quite generally accepted today, would seem to be the most complete heresy to scientists of the 19th century, who viewed the biosphere as a set of separate and little related organisms. However, time passed - and scientists actually accepted the point of view of the bambuti pygmies.
It can be assumed that even today our knowledge of the biosphere is far from complete and will have to be corrected more than once. The ideas of ancient peoples (as well as modern primitive tribes) about sacred trees possessing magical powers reflect, to a certain extent, real facts - individual trees, which are the "nodal points" of the biosphere, can really have properties that seem supernatural to people. It is possible that even scary stories about cannibalistic plants devouring travelers are by no means groundless - the “sacred” trees of untouched forests could defend themselves from travelers from enlightened Europe with the help of images understandable for “civilized” people (in the place of a predatory plant, a traveler of the Middle Ages saw would be demons, and people of more ancient eras - a forest nymph who was enraged,ready to send misfortune on the blasphemers). Of course, all this was just an illusion that revived human fears: the rational colonizer of the 20th century was afraid of cannibalistic trees, the medieval Christian was afraid of devils, and the ancient Hellene was afraid of angry dryads).
The biosphere has powers and capabilities that are still not understood by humans. In ancient times, people believed in the "animation" of nature and knew how to enter into direct contact with it - even if not everyone had such an ability, but only a select few (shamans, priests). Probably, they could tell a lot about the power of sacred trees, about the power of living nature not known by the human mind, which ancient people personified in the form of forest spirits. Let us note the myth about the "world tree" Ygddrasil of the ancient Scandinavians, whose trunk pierces the worlds. On the branches of this tree you can climb into the light worlds of the gods, and the roots lead to the dark "lower" worlds, where dark forces hostile to man rule. According to the beliefs of ancient peoples, individual sacred trees were magically connected with the world tree and allowed the "initiate" to open the door to other worlds.
Many legends are associated with this property of sacred trees - one can, for example, recall the history of the Epuri forest tribe, who lived in the jungles of the Congo. Among the surrounding tribes, the Epuri had a reputation as sorcerers and magicians, closely associated with the spirits of the forest. When at 70? In the early 20th century this tribe had to face the tyranny of the Congolese military, the tribe simply disappeared without a trace. Locals believe that the Epuri, having passed through the hollow of a huge tree hidden somewhere in the jungle, simply left for another world, free from the destructive influence of modern civilization. However, there is also a widespread belief among the forest tribes of the Congo that when the last untouched forests are cleared by voracious logging companies, the Epuri will reopen the passage between worlds. Then hordes of demons from the lower worlds will rush to the defiled earth and punish humanity, who so lightly destroyed the green cover of the Earth.
Will this prophecy come true? Who knows what troubles modern civilization is preparing for itself, frivolously destroying the biosphere? The future will answer these questions. But it is worth remembering how little we know about the world around us and how frivolous we behave, destroying nature, which is thousands of times older than the human race.