Cherry – Mary and the Cherry Tree

Kwanzan Blossoms
Kwanzan Blossoms

Cherry – Prunus spp. 

Sacred to: Maya, Xi Wang Mu

Myth 1: A Japanese myth tells of a poor elderly couple whose only joys in life were their pet dog and the beautiful blossoms of the cherry tree. After the dog found buried gold for its owners, a jealous neighbor killed the beloved animal. The old man and woman buried the dog under a cherry tree and believed that the dog’s spirit inhabited the tree. With wood from one of its branches, they made a mortar—a bowl for grinding grain—that magically produced plenty of flour, even in a time of famine. The same wicked neighbor burned the mortar, but the old man found that its ashes, when sprinkled on the dog’s grave, caused the cherry tree to produce its lovely blossoms at any time of year.

Myth 2: Buddhism teaches that Maya, the virgin mother of Buddha, was supported by a holy cherry tree during her pregnancy. In Danish folklore, a good crop of cherries was insured by having the first ripe fruit eaten by a woman shortly after her first child was born.

Myth 3: George Washington, the first President of the young United States, was supposed to have cut down a cherry tree on his fathers land. The actual story had him confessing to only ‘barking’ the tree.

Myth 4: One Chinese legend tells of the goddess Xi Wang Mu, in whose garden the cherries of immortality ripen every thousand years. Because cherry wood was thought to keep evil spirits away, the Chinese placed cherry branches over their doors on New Year’s Day and carved cherry wood statues to stand guard in front of their homes.
Myth 5: Wild cherry folklore has unusual associations with the cuckoo, whereby the bird has to eat three good meals of cherries before it may stop singing. Similarly, a children’s oracular rhyme from Buckinghamshire says:

‘Cuckoo, cherry tree,
Good bird tell me,
How many years before I die’

Myth 6: According to Serbian folklore the ‘Vila’ are beautiful female creatures similar to Fairies and Elves. These mystical creatures live in the hills and forests, often by Cherry trees loving to pass their time singing and dancing. Always clad in white, with long hair the only danger they cause is the breaking of men’s hearts as they fly over. When travelling through the forests the Vila make a sound similar to that of the woodpecker, and ride seven year old stags which are bridled with snakes. Folklore has it that should a parent discipline a child and indicate that they have the Devil in them, or should be sent to him, then the Vila are thought to have a right to take the child, perhaps to protect it.

‘Cherry! Dearest Cherry!
Higher lift thy branches,
Under which the Vilas
Dance their magic roundrels.’

Myth 7: In Japanese mythology, the goddess of Mount Fuji KONOHANASAKUYAHIME (meaning “the goddess who can revive dead flowers”) is symbolized by a cherry blossom. It is said that she scattered seeds and decorated her mountain with the flowers in spring.

Other Notes: Cherries can symbolize fertility, merrymaking, and festivity. In Japan, where cherry blossoms are the national flower, cherries represent beauty, courtesy, and modesty. The ancient Chinese regarded the fruit as a symbol of immortality. Cherry tree symbols mean death and rebirth and new awakenings.

Forest demons were believed to live in Cherry trees according to Danish folklore. In Lithuania the guardian of the Cherry was called ‘Kirnis’.

Mary and the Cherry Tree

A tale recounted in an old English carol tells of how Joseph and the pregnant Mary were walking in a cherry orchard when Mary asked Joseph to pick her some cherries. However Joseph remarked unkindly that she should get whomever ‘brought thee with child’ to pick the cherries for her. The unborn Christ child then communicated with the cherry trees, asking them to lower their branches so that Mary could pick her own cherries, and Joseph was suitably repentant.

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