The Canuck World Tree

In lieu of a Q of the Week (since I was in Edmonton for the last four days…)

At the Spirit of the West Gathering, I had a brilliant time. The event is run by excellent people, and I do recommend to those within reach of Edmonton to attend next year.

At this year’s event, I made a suggestion. There has been talk, on and off, at various times, of forming a Canadian Druid association of some kind. The rationale is sometimes just the mere fact that as of yet there isn’t one; we Canucks are members of imported American Druidic Federations, like ADF, or British groups like OBOD, if we are members of any Druidic groups at all. Why not a Canadian one? We have a distinct society (remember that phrase?), a different history, a truly flippin’ huge landscape, lots of regional variations, two official languages (or we have seven, if we count unoffficial-official languages like Cree, Ojibway, Inuktituk, Jouale, and Scots Gaelic)

I’ve nothing against the idea of a Canadian-made druidic organisation, at least principle. However, for my part, while there are a lot of things I’d like to do and to change in the pagan movement in Canada and around the world, I don’t feel the need to create an institution around me to accomplish them. I think they can be achieved by writing books, talking to people wherever I travel, posing good questions, and as we try things we keep what works and discard what doesn’t work. I proposed the idea of the Clan-maker in that kind of way.

Here’s another suggestion, a simpler one, which I proposed in Alberta this weekend, and now offer to everyone.

At your next ritual, or pub moot, or camp, or conference, no matter what organisation or group is hosting it, and no matter whether you are Asatru, or Wiccan, or a Ceremonialist, or whatever: if you have any reason at all to refer to the World Tree, make it the sugar maple. That’s the leaf that appears on the flag of our country. And that leaf has been a symbol of Canadian national identity long before 1867.

Doing this could help create a sense of a shared Canadian spiritual identity, without a need for a “Canadian ADF”.

Yes, I know that the Eddas say that the World Tree, Yggdrasil, was an ash. But I don’t live in Norway. I live in Canada. I think it would be interesting and positive if we hosers decided together that here in the Great White North, the world tree is a maple.

Other countries already do similar things. I’ve heard that many American druids and wiccans now invoke “Lady Liberty” as a goddess in some of their rites, and refer to the signatories of the constitution as important ancestor – predecessor figures. This is perfectly appropriate for American pagans, for whom values like freedom feature so prominently in the national story.

In Canada, obviously we value freedom too, but the values that loom largest in our origin-story are peace, order, and good government. These values were symbolised in the sugar maple, a strong, tall, hardy tree, that grows everywhere in the four original provinces, was of central importance to the early lumber industry, and is so tall and beautiful that it was an almost obvious choice.

I think this can be a way for we Canadians to assert a distinct Canadian spiritual presence in the world, so that we can create the terms of our spirituality more ourselves, rather than importing almost everything from Britain and America. And this might serve as a way for us to identify each other wherever we go in the world: if you are attending a ritual in New Zealand, or South Africa, and the person presiding over the right invokes the world tree in the name of the sugar maple, then you know you have a Canadian there, or someone trained in a Canadian tradition.

What do you think?

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20 Responses to The Canuck World Tree

  1. alfrecht says:

    Very good idea!

    Just one question: then, isn’t it the “Canadian tree,” rather than The “World Tree”? Or is it the “Canadian-World Tree”?

    I think the distinction is an important one…Though perhaps banal, it’s like what Eddie Izzard said about the “World Series” in baseball, that the U.S. has won every single one, which is rather odd for a “World” event…

    Putting the focus on localized manifestations of such powerful symbols is important, I think; but also then labeling them appropriately in doing so is useful…

    • admin says:

      What I had in mind was perhaps closest to what you mean by “Canadian-World Tree”, but I was also thinking of “The World Tree – If you are Canadian”. Or something like that.

      By the way, the World Series is called that because it was once sponsored by a Chicago-based national newspaper called ‘The World’. When that newspaper went out of print decades ago, the name still stuck.

  2. abbadie says:

    I’m left with several questions here. Here in Mexico, for example, pre-Hispanic peoples had their own concept of the World tree -a double world-tree, in fact, but let’s not get into that-. Around the Yucatan Peninsula, the Mayans identified the World Tree with the sacred Ceiba tree, which can grow to enormous proportions. If I ever went to Yucatan, I would certainly acknowledge the ceiba tree as the World Tree; it’s quite plainly the actual physical tree that it manifests itself as (or through) in that Land. While I do know some Odinists who would be horrified at the “universalist” implications of such a replacement, I see the ceiba as yet another form of the primal Tree, which in the Norse realms was and is the ash tree.

    Here, in my city (Guadalajara), there are no ceibas. We do have oaks, alders, etc., so that is of little consequence. but if I went to Canada and called on the ceiba World Tree (to stick with my original example) I’d feel misplaced, just as I would if I did lΓ±ikewise in Guadalajara. Doing that, or you coming here and calling on the maple tree, would be -imho- akin to something I have discussed in the past with some Celtic/Druidic acquaintances.

    Some of them, here in Mexico, call on the four sacred cities of Celtic myth, as a kind of “quarter call”, which I’m told correspond to the direcions where said places would be for somebody in England or Ireland. But they are here – they are east or south-east of the physical locations they identify with west and south! But what they are doing is situating themselves beyond physical space on the sacred Land of the Celtic ancestors; I can certainly relate to that.

    But is that what you are implying, or merely using the sugar maple as an abstract representation? Does the sugar maple -like the ash tree, the ceiba, and others- have World-Tree connotations in the local tribes’ lore, or has the World Tree revealed or manifested itself as a maple tree to modern pagans there? Or is the choice merely for its national connotations? I know nothing of this, but it stands to reason that a sugar maple IS a sacred tree in Canada -but is ir a sacred world tree? Old maples are very likely the dwelling places of the spirits of various pieces of Land across Canada, and this being so, should certainly be acknowledged as such. But this is where Alfrecht’s above comment demands attention.

    Calling on the sugar maple in order to align yourself with your Land while abroad would certainly be appropriate, but doing so while others in the same group ritual focus on others forms of the Tree, or on their own Lands, would probably short-circuit the rite! Conversely, calling on the World Tree in the shape of a tree which does not exist in the place one is working at, seems to me like disregarding the spirits of the Land you are at.

    • admin says:

      For a truly local tree with “world tree” – like connotations, I think the Ontario tree would be the Eastern White Pine. This is the tree which features in the story of the Great Peace of the Iroquois Confederacy. All the weapons of war were buried beneath it, (hence the phrase “to bury the hatchet”, meaning to put anger and grudges aside), and an eagle was placed at the top to be ever watchful of danger.

      I chose the sugar maple just because it is the tree whose leaf appears on the flag of the country.

      I generally agree that if one person calls upon the maple as the world tree, and another calls upon the ash, both in the same ritual, this might be counter-productive. So, when I visit Norway, I’ll happily acknowledge the ash when I’m in circle with other people, and I’ll acknowledge the maple when I’m on my own; and here in Canada, I’ll hope my Norwegian guests call the maple when in circle with me. πŸ™‚

      • abbadie says:

        I should hope they would!

        Ah, I’d read that story of the Great Peace once, I love it! While I understand the convenience of using the sugar maple, the entire idea of attributing certain qualities to a particular tree put of choice and not because of any inherent essence or symbolism is a bit too much for me. Of course, it’s no big deal, especially in a day and age when some folks even make up new deities according to their needs! :-S So never mind me, I’m feeling like a bitchy old-timer.

  3. dubhlainn says:

    Just out of curiousity, other then the fact you (and many others) may not have an interested in joining ADF, is there a problem you forsee with the creation of a Canadian ADF?

    It is kind of exciting from my perspective. The creation of the first national ADF structure outside of the US.

    I am not sure whatever happened with this. I know a lot of work was done getting a constitution prepared but no idea what happened after that.

    • kallisti says:

      I don’t know what happened with ADF Canada either…other that I stopped pushing for it. It seems that most people in ADF couldn’t care less about ADF Canada, even Canadians.

      Ultimately, one of the big problems is the difference in Canadian Law and US Law. The USAians don’t understand why our laws can’t be just like the US’s law. Even simple terminology like “tabling” means different things…to “table” somethign means “create” in Canadian parlance, as in “To table a bill in Parliament”. In USAian, it to table something means to put it aside.

      Until there is a will on the US side to help the Canadian side to do fund raising to get the incorporation and jump the other legal hoops, nothing but a lot of talking will happen. πŸ™


  4. Anonymous says:

    sugar maple

    The sugar maple is not indigenous to BC. Perhaps the Manitoba Maple would be more appropriate. It is regarded as a scrub tree and can grow anywhere. My goodness even east of Manitoba where the elite live.

  5. darach says:

    Well as a Canadian I love the idea of the sugar maple Canadian world tree. As an Albertan, I’m thinking….Spruce works better. πŸ™‚

    All provinces have some version of Maple that grows there. It may not be the Sugar version… but in any case I don’t think it is or would be a hard thing to incorporate. Too bad we don’t have an Oak Maple πŸ˜‰

    As for ADF Canada… Even as a Canadian ADFer… I don’t have a desire for a Canadian flavored version. I like the American flavor just fine. πŸ™‚ Guess it comes from all that American TV eh?

    I’d much rather have something akin to the Druid Network…. Something with a very distinct Canadian flavor….But since the Druid Network already has a Canadian branch… why reinvent the wheel I guess.

    Anyway, After Brendans visit… one of the things I got to thinking about was… we need to work on community, networking and getting along. We need to quit behaving like a bunch of Protestants – recreating hundreds of little spinter groups. That I think, is truly the first step to creating any kind of Canadian Druid anything. πŸ™‚


    • kallisti says:

      The only reason to have an ADF Canada is to have all the benefits of a legally recognized religion. That’s all.


      • admin says:

        I’m not an ADF member, so perhaps I have no right to say anything, but: if there is ever to be a Canadian ADF, can it please not be called “ADF Canada”?


        • darach says:

          LOL What would you call it then… she asks… scared to ask… πŸ˜‰

          Maybe CDF… Canadian Druid Fellowship? Not sure if we should add ‘EH’ or not?
          Could you imagin….our logo and motto
          We could have a beaver in the middle of a Maple leaf….wearing a touque and holding a beer in one hand and a hocky stick in the other….One arm can have a tatoo of an oil rig and on the other a Lobster…. with a Salmon totem pole tatoo on his chest… In a Dog sled being chased by the RCMP….

          And underneath it would say… Why not excelence eh?

          LOL ok way to far there … but it was fun.

          • admin says:

            I think I’d call it something like The Canadian Celtic Revival Society.

            I’d offer to help draw up a teaching program and a series of rituals, but one could say that in my second book I’ve already done it. πŸ™‚

          • kallisti says:

            That would be fine for the Celtic types…but what about the Norse, Greek etc. who are not Celtic? Although ADF uses the term “Druid”, it is more of a convience…it doesn’t lock itself into things Celtic.


          • admin says:

            How about this:
            the Canadian Heroic Revival Society.

            That can include any of Europe’s pre-christian, bronze-age and iron-age cultures. It can also include not just Druids (or equivalent), but also warriors, bards, seers, scholars, and craft artisans.


          • kallisti says:

            But it aim is religion, your title makes it sound like a newfangled Society for Creative Anachronism! Please, something better if you are going to suggest a name. πŸ™‚

          • admin says:

            Actually, the idea of a newfangled SCA strikes me as not a bad idea. I’m fairly sure that if such a society were drawn up, under the name I’ve suggested, and its description and its statements of identity were written clearly enough, then no one would get a wrong impression.

          • marytek says:

            only problem i see with this is that some of us don’t function in english when it comes to our spiritualities…will you understand me or a polish pagan or a russian pagan or a serb/latvian/estonian when we do our rites?

        • Also: Canadian Association of Druids would be a bad idea, acronym-wise.


  6. I absolutely love the idea of individuating the World Tree in Canada as a Sugar Maple!

    In my personal beliefs, I honour the Sugar Maple as the Mother of Sweetness; Her sap being a kind of Mother’s Milk. Sugar products are scarce and valuable in non-technological culture so I put honey and syrup (and bees, birches, and maples) in a special category.

    And only syrup and Sugar maples are specifically native ones.

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