Reprinted from Newsletter 102, dated 2002 January

A tale of twins in the forest

Ian Rands

Two views of a tree trunk in a forest. It has a distinct line down its length but is still living.
This ash tree near the Rhine was split east to west and north to south and then bound up to keep growing.

About thirty years ago I came across an unusual sight in a forest in the Taurus mountains east of the Rhine. Several times between then and now I have returned to keep an eye on its progress. Last September I took my camera so that you might be able to share this phenomenon with me.

On the corner of a large plantation of ash and oak and beech, and by the side of a well-worn track, I spotted a damaged young ash sapling. It had been slit through from north to south, and also from east to west, and then bound up for the wounds to heal and for the tree to carry on living.

Now who had done this, and why? I had heard that children of families who lived and worked in the woods were, when small babies, passed through a split tree as part of their initiation rites, and that the practice was not uncommon. If you read Thomas Hardy’s The Woodlanders and enter a large forest, you will understand.

Was my tree, with its double split, used to initiate twins? The tree survived, as you will see by the photographs. Did it bring good luck to the twins? When they die, will the tree die also?