Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Tu Bishvat - The New Year for the Trees and the Celebration of Nature

I recently discovered 'The Festival of Trees' and am so glad that I did. Looking back over the last 6 months of my creative development I begin to see just how much trees and nature influence me and how they are at the forefront of my mind and my art.

January's edition of Festival of the Trees is focusing on Tu Bishvat. Tu Bishvat is the Jewish New Year for the trees. I'm not Jewish, but do have enough respect for other faiths and cultures to embrace the common ground that we share in hope that we can build upon it and live in a harmonious peace filled world.

Tu Bishvat appeals to me for so many reasons. One reason is that my own spirituality is nature based and any tradition of planting trees suits me well. When I first learned of Tu Bishvat I wondered if this tradition had come about due to sages of older days observing nature and linking trees with water and the lack of trees with desertification (in warmer climates). After researching this line of thought it appears that the tradition came to be out of an acknowledgment that human kind can not keep taking from nature without giving something back. To do so would be to bring an end to the resource that accommodates and sustains our lives and lifestyles. This tradition is founded on wisdom and a respect for the resources human kind depends upon.

I found an article which explains Jewish festivals and traditions and explains that many of the customs are based around the agricultural calender and, similar to Paganism, honour the solstices and equinoxes as times of great significance marked by festivals and holidays. Tu Bishvat does not appear to have been included in the original Jewish scriptures instead being borne from the necessity of paying taxes in the form of fruits and nuts and with foresight that many trees would be felled in springtime. Tu Bishvat is an attempt to replace trees before they are depleted.

Another aspect of Tu Bishvat is the importance of knowing the exact age of a tree. One should not eat fruits of the tree in the first four years of the trees life and the day of the shevat that the tree was planted on determines the age of the tree in years, not the actual age of the tree in calendar years.

It is customary to eat nuts (almonds) and raisins during the festival of Tu Bishvat and to plant almond trees. I wanted to create a piece of fibre art to honour this festival and was very inspired by almond blossoms and the mythology of the almond tree. I stated to make a shawl. The shawl is of epic proportions (3.5 metres x 1 metre) and has yet to be completed but the design incorporates almond bowers laiden with blossoms. Lets hope I get it finished in time for the actual Tu Bishvat!

Greek mythology tells of the beautiful princess Phyllis, who was left waiting at the altar on her wedding day by her intended, Demophon. Phyllis waited for years for him to return, but finally died of a broken heart. In sympathy, the gods transformed Phyllis into an almond tree, which became a symbol of hope. When the errant, remorseful Demonphon returned to find Phyllis as a leafless, flowerless tree, he embraced the tree. The tree suddenly burst into bloom, a demonstration of love not conquered by death. Below you can see a painting painted in 1907 by John William Waterhouse which was inspired by Demophon and Phyllis.

T - Thankfulness - be thankful for vegetation
R - Recycle - Help our trees
E - Environment
E - Eco-Friendly
S - Save The Trees


Caio Fernandes said...

Happy Tu Bishvat Jasmine !!!
wow! one more holliday for my list !!
yes . there is something about trees that makes you express yourself more naturaly !!
i love trees . i can't live witout then . anyplace without trees is a hell for me .
Tu Bishvat . yeah !! i liked it ! i am going to ask here for my friends . my sister lives in a jew neigborhood and we have lots of friends there . they never told me about . well... i never asked .
let's celebrate !

Jasmine said...

Caio - It is a great festival isn't it! I'm posting about Tu Bishvat today as the deadline for submissions to The Festival of Trees is tomorrow but Tu Bishvat is not until the end of January. The date changes each year, like Easter. So plenty of time to honour this tradition if you want to join in x

Martine said...

Jasmine i've never before heard of Tu Bishvat but i like it.
And i love trees. I've always had this connection with them, after all my name is made out of many of them.

Jasmine said...

Martine - I did not know of Tu Bishvat either. The festival of trees is eye opening in many ways. I learned so much from it last month. x

Crafty Green Poet said...

sounds like a wonderful festival!

Elizabeth M Rimmer said...

A really interesting post! It reminds me of the many (Irish and Welsh as well as English)customs of wassailing the orchards at New Year, also of the way the Bible talks about the jubilee year, and leaving some of the grain for the birds. Thank you for this, Jasmine, and for much wisdom and kindness over the year - you are one of the many treasures 2009 has given me.

Jasmine said...

Crafty - It certainly does. Trees bring birds. I think I stumbled across the Festival of Trees whilst visiting you. Thank you for the introduction.

Elizabeth - Than you,that is one of the kindest compliments I have received this year. All I can say is that I enjoy visiting you at Luchair and Burned Thumb and will certainly be visiting often in 2010. ave a wonderful New Year xx

Assayya said...

today i discovered the site too.
thank youfor this, jasmine:)))

Harnett-Hargrove said...

It is so very wonderful when we begin to see cycles in our work. It makes all of the meandering, pull together into one cohesive direction. -J

Lyon said...

Thank you for such an informative and interesting post! I too am a tree lover, and I have to say that your work is amazing- I've always thought so but looking back at the tree samples really drove it home. You amaze me with these creations of yours.

ArtSparker said...

Re Jewish Holidays, I have one word for you: Kugel. To die for.

Tammie Lee said...

how wonderful, a post honoring trees. the other day I saw a friend from my past. He said "you have changed" without thinking i replied " i have trees for friends, that would change anyone'. I love all your tree art!

Brian Miller said...

how intriguing...i love trees...i love to walk in the forest...ah, i just may celebrate along side you...

Seth said...

Thanks for this interesting post. And I love the mosaic of your trees. Just beautiful!

Cynthia said...

Jasmine, thank you for posting this
information about Tu Bishvat.
Growing we were surrounded by trees
and I have always loved and respected each one. In awe of the
older trees and esp, the weeping

The Jewish religion is full of
many honoring traditions and I
always enjoy learning about
the various celebrations, etc.

Good luck on the shawl

Lickety Splitter said...

Hello Jasmine! Trees, ahhhh, glorius trees! It is only fitting that they receive a festival! The trees are the reason I love the place I live. My favorites are our Live Oaks and Ginkos! The Oaks stay green all year and the Ginkos give us spectacular fall color before they drop their leaves. I lament not only the destruction of the life giving rain forest, but also any needless slaughter of all of our trees, especially when a little responsibility, thought and planning could go a long way to save them!

Sharon said...

Jasmine another wonderful post and oh so informative. I have some beautiful trees on our property and love everyone of them. As you may know I live in a log home. Every log in this house came from a forrest fire in Yellowstone Park and was what they call standing dead timber. No living tree was cut for this home. I plant trees every year and love watching them grow into magnificent wonders. My neighbors swear they hear me talking to the trees. I just smile, because they are right. Happy New Year friend. I look forward to reading more of your wonderful posts. Sharon (the tree whisperer)!

lk moonwood said...

I know we'll all be looking forward to seeing that epic shawl of the almond tree! Wonderful information on Tu Bishvat - thank you, Jasmine! Happy New Year and may you have many blessings in 2010!
xoxo lulu

Karin Bartimole said...

thank you for sharing this holiday and it's beauty with us Jasmine! Very rich. Your tree imagery is beautiful, and the whole focus of ecology and nature that I find here, through you, is gratifying. blessings to you, as a messenger creating a more thoughtful world.
So glad your package arrived safely, and you are enjoying it in time for the New Year!!! much love, Karin

VE said...

Well, my blog roll starts anew tomorrow. I'd be honored if you participate again in 2010. Leave a comment and you're on the blog roll! Thanks for visiting and commenting in 2009.

yvette said...

happy happy new year!

quick but wel ment

thanks for the tree link ( so important)

Suzi Smith said...

Happy New Year J... the pics look really good grouped together like that... enjoyed reading the info & your thoughts x

Patricia said...

This is a stunning post, Jasmine. Your art and your creative spirit enrich us all.

I greatly admire felted works. How wonderfully they are translated into trees.

Happy New Year. May it bring you creative energy and joy throughout!

ArtPropelled said...

When buying a new house I always look at the trees first. Its important to me to be surrounded by beautiful trees. Though our garden is tiny there are forests nearby and the stream boardering the property is sheltered by trees, alive with cicada, birds and monkeys. I'm listening to the cicadas singing right now and am thinking how sad it would be not to hear them singing. Thanks for such an interesting post, Jasmine.

lettuce said...

i know this picture, but not the story/context - this is a lovely post

lyn and annie said...

We love trees too! Especialy when they dapple sunshine onto to wooded pathways. Thank you for a very informative post.

Kind of Curious said...

Jasmine - Thank you for finding out the origin of Tu Bishvat and reporting it on your blog. I am always interested in learning the story of how traditions develop, especially ones that relate to nature. KindOfCurious (aka John)

Jim Moffitt said...

a beautiful story and equally beautiful works. delightful and enlightening, thank you for sharing.

Yarni Gras! said...

so sad I missed out on this. I seem to miss so many good ones! Your artwork is lovely and inspirational