Lime tree in culture

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Arldt: Lime tree in Kaditz, c. 1840

The lime tree or linden (Tilia spp.) is important in the mythology, literature, and folklore of a number of cultures.

Cultural significance[edit]

Lime tree in Kaditz, photo

Slavic mythology[edit]

In old pagan Slavic mythology, the linden (lipa, as called in all Slavic languages) was considered a sacred tree.[1] Particularly in Poland, many villages have the name "Święta Lipka" (or similar), which literally means "Holy Lime". To this day, the tree is a national emblem of the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Lusatia.[citation needed] Lipa gave name to the traditional Slavic name for the month of June (Croatian, lipanj) or July (Polish, lipiec, Ukrainian "lypen'/липень"). It is also the root for the German city of Leipzig, taken from the Sorbian name lipsk.[2] The Croatian currency, kuna, consists of 100 lipa (Tilia). "Lipa" was also a proposed name for Slovenian currency in 1990, however the name "tolar" ultimately prevailed.[3] In the Slavic Orthodox Christian world, limewood was the preferred wood for panel icon painting. The icons by the hand of Andrei Rublev, including the Holy Trinity (Hospitality of Abraham), and The Savior, now in the State Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow, are painted on linden wood. Its wood was chosen for its ability to be sanded very smooth and for its resistance to warping once seasoned. The southern Slovenian village of "Lipica" signifies little Lime tree and has given its name to the Lipizzan horse breed.[4]

Baltic mythology[edit]

In Baltic mythology, there is an important goddess of fate by the name of Laima /laɪma/, whose sacred tree is the lime. Laima‘s dwelling was a lime-tree, where she made her decisions as a cuckoo. For this reason Lithuanian women prayed and gave sacrifices under lime-trees asking for luck and fertility. They treated lime-trees with respect and talked with them as if they were human beings.

Germanic mythology[edit]

Avenue with linden in the cemetery by Ringkøbing, Jutland, Denmark

The linden was also a highly symbolic and hallowed tree to the Germanic peoples in their native pre-Christian Germanic mythology.

Originally, local communities assembled not only to celebrate and dance under a linden tree, but to hold their judicial thing meetings there in order to restore justice and peace. It was believed that the tree would help unearth the truth. Thus the tree became associated with jurisprudence even after Christianization, such as in the case of the Gerichtslinde, and verdicts in rural Germany were frequently returned sub tilia (Unter der linden) until the Age of Enlightenment.

In the Nibelungenlied, a medieval German work ultimately based on oral tradition recounting events amongst the Germanic tribes in the 5th and 6th centuries, Siegfried gains his invulnerability by bathing in the blood of a dragon. While he did so, a single linden leaf sticks to him, leaving a spot on his body untouched by the blood and he thus has a single point of vulnerability.

The most notable street in Berlin, Germany, is called Unter den Linden, named after the trees lining the avenue. It leads from the center of Berlin to Potsdam, the country residence of the Prussian kings.

In German folklore, the linden tree is the "tree of lovers." The well-known Middle High German poem Under der linden by Walter von der Vogelweide (c. 1200) describes a tryst between a maid and a knight under a linden tree.

Hohenlinden (translated as "High linden") is a community in the upper Bavarian district of Ebersberg in which the Battle of Hohenlinden took place; Thomas Campbell wrote the poem Hohenlinden about said battle.

Greek mythology[edit]

Homer, Horace, Virgil, and Pliny mention the linden tree and its virtues. As Ovid tells the old story of Baucis and Philemon, she was changed into a linden and he into an oak when the time came for them both to die.

Herodotus says:[5]

The Scythian diviners take also the leaf of the linden tree, which, dividing into three parts, they twine round their fingers; they then unbind it and exercise the art to which they pretend.

Philyra, mother of the centaur Chiron, turned into a linden tree after bearing Chiron.

Literary references[edit]

"I saw that there was indeed a fountain, that it was abundant, and, which touched me most, that someone had planted a lime tree next to it, which might already have been four years old, already thick; an undeniable symbol of resurrection.[7]
  • Eminescu's Linden Tree (Romanian: Teiul lui Eminescu) is a 500-year-old silver lime situated in Iași, Romania. Mihai Eminescu reportedly wrote some of his best works underneath this lime, rendering the tree one of Romania's most important natural monuments and an Iași landmark.[8]

In the coat of arms[edit]

The coat of arms of Mariehamn features lime tree leaves, referring to the local tree plant.[9][10][11][12]

In popular culture[edit]

In surnames[edit]

In Sweden, where the lime tree is named "Lind", the 100 most common surnames in 2015 included at 17 Lindberg (Lime-hill), at 21 Lindström (Lime-stream), at 22 Lindqvist (Lime-twig), at 23 Lindgren (Lime-branch), and at 99 Lindholm (Lime-island).[13]


  1. ^ Archaeology and Language: Language change and cultural transformation Roger Blench, Matthew Spriggs, p.199
  2. ^ Hanswilhelm Haefs. Das 2. Handbuch des nutzlosen Wissens. ISBN 3-8311-3754-4 (in German)
  3. ^ See Slovenska lipa
  4. ^ Snoj, Marko (2009). Etimološki slovar slovenskih zemljepisnih imen. Ljubljana: Modrijan. pp. 234–235.
  5. ^ Keeler, Harriet L. (1900). Our Native Trees and How to Identify Them. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons. pp. 24–31.
  6. ^ Jonathan Miller, "Off-Centaur", New York Times Book Review, 1 February 1963.
  7. ^ "The Man Who Planted Trees - Wikisource, the free online library". Retrieved 2013-10-17.
  8. ^ Pettersen, L. & Baker, M. . Romania. Lonely Planet Travel Guide. p. 262.
  9. ^ Suomen kunnallisvaakunat (in Finnish). Suomen Kunnallisliitto. 1982. p. 171. ISBN 951-773-085-3.
  10. ^ "Ahvenanmaan kuntien vaakunat 1947-1987 (I:15) Maarianhamina" (in Swedish). Kansallisarkiston digitaaliarkisto. Retrieved March 25, 2021.
  11. ^ "Ennen 8.4.1949 annettua kunnanvaakunalakia vahvistetut vaakunat (I:7) Maarianhamina". Kansallisarkiston digitaaliarkisto (in Swedish). Retrieved March 25, 2021.
  12. ^ "Mariehamns vapen" (in Swedish). City of Mariehamn. Retrieved March 25, 2021.
  13. ^ "Efternamn, topp 100 (2015)" (in Swedish). Statistiska centralbyrån (Statistics Sweden). 22 February 2016. Archived from the original on 29 July 2016. Retrieved 26 July 2016.