The cover of our forthcoming book, Magical Healing Trees in Slavic Folklore, is a painting that is part of Alphonse Mucha’s Slav Epic series. This series depicts key battles and cultural events among the Slavs. The first installment portrays a moment from the sixth to eighth century and is called “Slavs in Their Original Homeland.”
Our cover image is called “The Oath of Omladina under the Slavic Linden Tree.” In it, a youth organization called Omladina, from the 1890s, are swearing allegiance to the goddess Slavia, who sits in a linden tree.
This tree is among the most cherished among the Slavs. For me, growing in Eastern Europe, the linden was part of a tradition. Every year when the trees started to bloom, my mother gathered the flowers and dried them on old newspapers in a cold room. I can still imagine the fragrant aroma in that room. It was like entering heaven.
The soft, gentle scents were the pure perfumes of spring. Once the blossoms dried, my mother stored them in paper bags and used them throughout the year for tea. Linden tea was a miracle brew that my mother used to cure anxiety, cold, fever, sadness, broken hearts, runny noses, you name it… a universal herb. The gentle aroma soothed me when I was sick. And, each sip of the tea, which was mixed with lemon and linden honey, gently coated my throat. It was as precious as pure gold.
Among our ancestors, the tree has been dedicated to various Slavic deities, among them Svetovid, the Slavic god of war and abundance. Later on, after Christianization, the linden tree gained an association with the Virgin Mary. She was believed to live or rest among its branches.
Old trees such as the linden have been called saints. These are one of the species that people were forbidden from cutting down. To do so, meant death—either to the cutter or to someone in his family. A man who broke a branch from a tree was said to have gone berserk. He recovered only after he returned the branch. Others who cut down the tree became lost in the forest.
Stories circulated about trees that bled blood and not sap. One such tree was born out of a knee of a girl who was killed. This tree stood on the top of a mountain. Local people venerated it, much to the dismay of a priest. When he tried to cut it down, blood coming out of the tree blinded him.
To find out more about the linden tree and other trees sacred to Slavs, be sure to check out our Kickstarter campaign. We’ll be launching it on Tuesday, May 2, around 9 a.m. Eastern Time. If you follow the campaign now, you’ll be notified the moment the campaign launches. You don’t want to miss out.