The Devil

The Devil

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hold the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in the sands of the desert
A shape with a lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

The Second Coming ~ W.B. Yeats

The Devil card represents the worst excesses of materialism. Connected with lust, greed and tyrrany and a blind attachment to pleasure, the card may also point to addiction in all its forms. Often it heralds misery or a disaster. Strangely, unlike other cards, the reversed meaning is much more positive, often indicating the overcoming of all of the above.

Fifteenth card in the major arcana it takes the Hebrew letter Samekh, fifteenth in the Hebrew alefbet, equivalent to the European S. The astrological sign is Capricorn.

Finding a tree to represent the devil card was not easy. How can you accuse a plant of over indulgence? The relationship had to be somewhat whimsical, and I came up with two candidates. The first was the "bicycle tree". Nestled close to the heart of Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park lies the small village of Brig o’ Turk. This century-old sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus) has almost swallowed up what was once an anchor, and a bicycle.

It occupies a spot close to the old smiddy (smithy), and local folklore has it that the village blacksmith was in the habit of propping up or hanging various articles, which were then forgotten about and gradually absorbed by the ‘ironivorous’ tree.

There is a story about a villager conscripted to the Great War who left his bicycle over a branch. Perhaps he never returned, or perhaps on his return he found that the tree had claimed the bicycle as its own. Today all that remains sticking out of the trunk is the handlebars: an unusual testimony to nature’s efforts overcoming Man’s. This is the only tree I can think of which could be accused of over-indulgence in gastronomic delights.

However, I evntually settled for the lime coppice in Westonbirt Arboretum's Silk Wood. The coppice is about fifty feet in diameter and appears to consist of a number of young trees in a clump. Amazingly, all the growths in the coppice turned out to be parts of one tree. They are the top branches of a single tree which has buried itself undergound. This was established by Oliver Rackham of Cambridge university and John White, then curator of Westonburt in the 1970s. DNA testing also established that this tree is over 2000 years old.

My vote for the devil tree simply has to go to a tree which emerges from the subterranean realm in such a spectacular way.

To view our article on the Sycamore CLICK HERE

To view our article on the Lime CLICK HERE

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