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There was a time when trees spoke...
Trees stand as a magnificent reminder of one of God’s infinite masterpieces, they are like the silent observers of time, wordlessly conversing with life as eons go by. Trees can be regarded as the wardens of earth, unconditionally giving life, sustenance and shelter. It is no surprise that these wondrous creations were once admired and worshipped. Their roots plunge deep into the earth’s core, while their branches soar high into the heavens. Thick forests of primeval trees embellish our earth’s mountains, gorges and groves, and they are the abode for countless life forms since dawn of time.
Born in 1978 in Jordan. Being brought up in a family of artists it seemed destined she would eventually follow the household footprints. Between travels and missions between Europe, America and Russia, it wasn’t until year 2010 that Zaina settled back in Amman and took up arts as her career path. Her collage art focuses on assembling many worlds into one, she focuses on mixing world cultures, architecture, motifs, archaeology, arts and nature into a single portrait to convey that human innovation complements one another harmoniously with nature. Her works can be described as surreal, symmetrical, colourful and full of patterns.
Several early societies venerated trees, and they were a crucial feature in their rites and ceremonies. Animism, the belief in a supernatural power that organizes and materializes the universe, was once a common belief system among numerous indigenous peoples worldwide (Britannica, 2020). Trees played a major role within that system, where they were viewed as sacred sites where various sacraments were performed.
The Circassian tribes of the North Caucasus, or self-designated as the Adighe, once practiced animism, and it was probably the first creed amongst these indigenous tribes (Jaimoukha, A. 2001, p.139), who occupied the western and mid territory of the North Caucasus region.
To the Circassians, trees held an exceedingly sacrosanct role in their belief system and lives, and it is plausible to state that remnants of such sacredness remain to this very day amongst them. Despite the fact that most Circassians today did adopt monotheistic religions, but fragments of this age old belief system are very much animate in their subconscious and contemporary traditions.
"There was a time when trees spoke, at a time when humans were able to hear their words. At that time, the tree and the man were one. It was believed that trees and men shared the same fate and it was also believed that if man begins to cut down trees and forests, his kin will lose their homes and perish. And that is what happened to my nation." Henau the Forest Warden
When an individual decides to take any action, it not only affects their surroundings, but it concurrently affects themselves. When the act becomes a habit, it inevitably becomes part of the character. When a habit grows, it transforms into a ritual, which creates a mentality, and in that transformation, a new way of life is created. Tree veneration is the essence of the Circassian way of life and Circassiansm, and it was the turning point which transformed the primitive human, into one with understanding and appreciation towards nature and his relation to it. To those people, my ancestors, who chose to see a way of life where trees are regarded as respectful subjects with a soul, in order to leave us a legacy to be proud of today… our free spirit…
Beabars Appesh, 2020
The lands inhabited by the Circassians are very mountainous, and they contain vast territories of dense forests, plains, groves, and coastal landforms overlooking the Black Sea. Tree veneration amongst these tribes is very ancient, entwined with much myth and mystery, shaped by a deep age-old native intelligence from a very distant past.
The cult of trees is present in most historical eras amongst the Circassians, and it gradually merged with polytheism and later monotheism. This essay will attempt to explore the history of the Circassians correlation with trees, and narrate their affiliation with these divine creations. It will endeavor to describe and express the psyche of people who shaped a way of life in accord with the raw cycle of nature. Moreover, this article will attempt to convey the phenomena of tree veneration as impressions presented by a handful of individuals, who are nevertheless first-hand disciples of this ancient creed, inherited from their ancestors up to this very day.
Because tree veneration amongst the ancient Circassians is a very antique ideology, it was difficult to find explicit data. Some parts in this essay were added according to personal interpretations, and others are extracted from oral information and anecdotes to convey a most proximate concept. In this essay we may have highlighted and stressed on the positive aspects of the subject matter, but the intention was not to exhibit and promote a utopian society, rather, to focus and revive the distinctive attributes of the Circassian culture.
Finally, we aspire that this modest work will be open for development and productive discourse, as we present it as a stepping stone to join forces with like-minded individuals, who share hopes to revive the wisdom of the past, and create a mindful future for our youth and generations to come.
I wish to dedicate this humble work to my dear mentor the late Dr. Amjad Jaimoukha, who has been a constant support, and a source of inspiration and wisdom. This work amongst many others would not have seen light if it were not for his generous guidance, and dedication and genuine love to his Circassian nation.
Zaina El-Said & Beabars Appesh, Trees (2020) >>
Zaina’s collage art focuses on assembling many worlds into one, usually led by a protagonist; she focuses on mixing world cultures, architecture, motifs, archaeology, arts and nature into a single portrait.
Tree veneration is the essence of the Circassian way of life and Circassiansm, and it was the turning point which transformed the primitive human, into one with understanding and appreciation towards nature and his relation to it.
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