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The cursed trees

Are there trees that are victims of people’s superstition?
Trees that folk tradition associates with curses? And trees that we are happy to accept their fruits but are not welcome in our garden?


The incriminated fig tree

One of the most “incriminated” trees is the fig tree.
Many do not want it in their garden because of the curse of Christ as a folk tradition refers. The reason is a misunderstood excerpt from the Gospel of Mark (11:20). It is said that Jesus approached a fig tree to find some figs. But as it was not the right season for the fruit, He found nothing and He cursed her not to grow any fruit.
Of course this episode is symbolic(11.21- 11.24).

Others again say that the humble tree is full of demons because Judas hung himself from it. Or that Satan is resting in his shadow.
That’s why if someone sleeps under the fig tree because – according to folk tradition – he may lose his speech, or see the worst nightmares.

The truth is that the fig tree is scientifically associated with many allergies and the problems they create. But this is definitely not a curse. And certainly is Judas not responsible for everything, as more trees apart from the fig tree being accused of having hosted the painful end of Judas. Some of these are walnut trees or wild olives.

The tree of betrayal

In many areas, also the wild tree “Koutsoupia” (Cercis siliquastrum) is also called “Judas tree” since, according to a folk belief, it is the tree on which Judas hanged himself after betraying Christ. That is why it has been “made to blush with shame” ever since – a reference to the pink flowers that erupt from the bare stems and trunk before the leaves appear. The koutsoupia is a beautiful tree, very characteristic for the Greek countryside, and its bloom means the coming of spring. 

The jinx walnut tree

Another misunderstood group is the trees that grow fast. They are accused that with their rich shade they give home and a resting place to fairies, elves, and other demonic creatures.
That’s why anyone who finds rest in their shade will get seriously ill.

Also, many say that planting walnut trees brings bad luck and that when the tree reaches the height of the throat of the one who has planted it, this person will die. Others again say that if the tree does not bear fruit, the one who has planted it will die … And lots more…

Perhaps all of this is connected with the logical explanation that other plants generally do not grow in the shade and do not usually thrive? And because the walnut grows quickly, it is considered that its shadow is depriving life?

Prejudices or superstitions?
Certainly for all popular beliefs there is a reasonable explanation. But all these silly stories, as they appear to us, have been developed in a time when the people knew very little and could barely comprehend the mystery of the world that surrounded them.


                                          © Lato,
Het Griekse Taal– & CultuurCentrum van Amsterdam

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