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A Tree-shaking Ritual Just in Time for the Eclipse

Welcome to Scorpio season; a time for transformation and change. Scorpio asks us to go deeper, into the mysteries of life, death, and rebirth. The word "death" is usually a very scary one for most people. I think this is because we've moved away from a spiritual cycle that speaks to regeneration or rebirth and towards one that tells us that death is the end. We've also been told that death could potentially lead to eternal suffering and pain. I don't believe this. And neither did the Goddess-worshippers of Minoan Crete.

Many scholars and archaeomythologists argue that the matrilineal society of ancient Crete was one that had a cult dedicated to the sacred dead. (If you're wondering about my use of the word cult here, please check out this past blog post.) There is evidence to suggest that caves acted as symbolic wombs and tombs, signifying the belief in the Goddess' ability to regenerate life. There's also cultic evidence to support the belief in nature and her cycles. Many of the iconography left behind by the Minoans reference Goddesses in close association with trees. The Priestess or fellow worshippers knew trees to be sacred sites where they could commune with the Goddess and offer her libations.

Nanno Marinatos, author of Minoan religion: Ritual, image, and symbol, writes that trees were “…transported in a boat, within a planter or pot, and [were] placed on top of the shrine on certain festival occasions. In other words, the shrine was a permanent construction, but it was empty for most of the year. On special ritual occasions, such as, we may surmise, the divinity's appearance, the tree would be ritually transported and placed on top of the shrine. It was a visual cue signifying the arrival of the god[dess] and his/her manifestation to the populace.” (pg. 183) Marinatos also makes a joking reference here to our potted plants being the modern version of transporting the Goddess from place to place. Something to think about!

We can see this depicted in the Makrigialos seal showing a palm being transported in a boat and the Mochlos ring, where both the divinity and the tree arrive together. Both are depicted below. The Minoans weren’t the only culture who depicted their gods arriving in boats with or as trees either. Iconography from Greece, Egypt, and Mesopotamia demonstrate a similar connection.

Mochlos Ring Makrigialos Seal

In tree-shaking rituals, depicted on a gold ring from Mycenae and more, we see a similar ritual scheme unfold: We see three figures, two votives on either side of a priestess. There seem to be multiple phases of the ritual which take the practitioner through a range of emotions. “Each phase is enacted by one of the participants. During one there prevailed a mood of aggression, even exaltation. The tree was bent out of shape and perhaps even destroyed. During the other phase, the participants bent over a pithos, an oval stone, or even a table. The body language in the iconography suggests a mood of dejection and depression.” (pg. 186) This can be seen in a Gold ring from Archanes, Crete, which is depicted below here with the ring from Mycenae.

Mycenae Archanes

Although, Marinatos states that there isn’t a great deal that can be deduced or said about such a ritual representation, I disagree. Earlier in the text Marinatos discusses cultic imagery, caves, and the Cult of the Dead in pre-palatial Crete. She talks about the people of Minoan Crete being very connected to vegetation and the cycles of the earth as found in nature. If we are to believe the interpretations of iconography of the phases of the tree-shaking ritual, then I think it would be one of death and rebirth. The first participant shakes the tree violently, possible in jubilation and as a testament to the energy of life itself, whereas the second participant seems to throw themselves on the ground (where the tree is not) in a depressive mood. The Priestess, embodying the Goddess, mediates between the two therefore mediating between life and death. So, in the spirit of trees (or potted plants) I give you the following ritual:

Find a sturdy tree outside, or a sturdy plant of your own inside. If you don’t have access to a tree or plant you wish to shake, envision yourself as the tree. Cast an energetic circle. Envision all of the joys of life, all of the positive, life-affirming, connectiveness of life and community. Bring that energy into your awareness. Allow it to fill you up and encircle you. Maybe you wish to add a personal chant or mantra. I recommend:

The Earth, the Air, the Fire, the Water. Return. Return. Return. Return. (

Shake your tree. Shake it as an act of celebration. Shake your body and release all the stagnant, pent-up energy. Let it flow out of you and into the tree and air.

When you empty yourself of this energy, take three deep breaths. Stand in your new awareness with your eyes closed. Now, envision the things you wish to let go of. All of the difficulties, the hurts, the rejection, the hardship, the pain. Let it move through you. Throw it onto the Earth. Throw it outside of you. Use your hands to toss it like lightening bolts. Use your feet to stomp it out onto the Earth. Release it. Maybe you release a scream or words you’ve been holding on to. When you’ve finished, take three deep cleansing breaths. Feel this new awareness of emptiness.

Know that you’ve just made space for a new cycle of joy. Close your ritual by thanking the tree, the plant, or your own body for its assistance and love.

A suggestion: (

Blessed be.

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