A significant point made in Lachlan Maclean’s “Celtic Languages” is that symbols of a language must be constants if a language is to live. Languages die every day because those who understood what the words mean have ceased to be. When those who understand the words die, the language also dies. Maclean speaks of language in phonetic units, the sounds in words rather than in the visual sense elements of English. His book specifically relates sounds to ideas. Those ideas based in sounds could only be shared among peoples sharing the same time, place and culture. The sound-ideas which he wrote of were related to wildlife and to tools and other things which are used frequently. He then relates instances of change in both wildlife and tools. It becomes readily apparent that languages have often been used to isolate peoples from others rather than to unite them. We frequently still do that with professional and social jargons. There is a place for such insular speech: establishing a class structure, forming a social club or a professional organization, excluding people and peoples from many insular and ‘exclusive’ organizations. Languages are definitely not just for unifying many and varied peoples. However, using phonetic sense units, which are exclusive to one small group, could quickly make a language obsolete.
There is a place for such insular language. I call such language ‘Me Speak’ because it is so limited but, I have known small social groups which manage to do good works with limited means by such insular functioning.
A more disturbing possibility is that we could revert to the time before Peoples’ Languages when a small group was in power because only they had the power of complete language. This last scenario leads me to consider more deeply just what symbols could be used and how they could be used to compose an inclusive language which could adapt to changes as they happen.
To make languages which could unite the various peoples and recognize the many differences which represent their various distinct gifts, we have to use compatible ideas which can be expressed in ways that are unique to their traits. These would have to be symbols which would relate to all of life on Earth; in the air, on land and beneath it, on the water and within it. Since our subject is human language, I will limit the symbols to those related to humanity and our partnerships.
These unifying features would require vowels, a complete set of them including tools to form more vowels. The Vowels are the most significant difference that I have found to distinguish Peoples’ Languages. Without vowels, an authority figure is required to explain the specific sense of the words.
The lifeform that is most like Man but, not enough like him to ever be mistaken for him, is the tree. There is as much variety in the Greenworld as there is in Mankind. Traits of several types of trees can be found in each human. Those traits are expressed poetically in our languages. Our ancestors must have been acutely aware of this fact since they repeatedly destroyed groves of many varieties of trees. The excuse was that they were stamping out paganism by destroying the groves of trees that Man was worshiping. Was Man worshiping trees? We could say both ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ since Man did and still does pray among the trees. What are we referring to when we say ‘worship’?
The word ‘worship’ is a compound of ‘wer’ and ‘scipe’, Man and ship. Wer is an ancient word for mankind. Though the word is ancient, it can be declined with the sense code of English. Wer is a common sense element though we often think of it related to ‘werewolf’, it is repeatedly used in words like word, work, worship, worst and worry, all words beginning with w, ending with r, and having one to three vowels between. Wer is also represented in all words beginning with wr-, wrestle, wrest, wring, wright, wrought, wrong, wring, wreath, wreak, write – all of which are about twisting, scratching, scraping, etching and otherwise physically changing or marking things. We put the marks and signs of mankind on our works and words – which are Man-things.
I stated that “our ancestors…repeatedly destroyed groves…” ;but, it was those of our ancestors who wanted to be the ‘Masters’. Mankind, of the kinds with which I am familiar, have the significant trait of hypothesizing an omnipotent and omniscient higher power which has humanoid features yet is a superior form of being. I started to say a ‘god’ which is the English word for this. Most of us seem to break this odylic force down into it and its’ antithesis, or good and evil divinities. There have to be opposites so that we can abrogate responsibility for our unacceptable traits, as in ‘the devil made me do it’. These members of humanity which covet divinity have been around since time before memory. The ones of whom I speak, those destroying groves, have been around since the beginning of our history. They were destroying oak, ash, hawthorn and yew groves in the British Isles when Rome invaded. These wannabe Masters of the Universe wear many costumes. They justify
the killing of trees by asserting that worshippers offer human sacrifices, while they overlook their own slaughter. These ‘divinities’ are of two basic varieties, Earth and Air energies, and are described as Black and White. These are not colours, though they are confused with colour. Black and White are both ‘the presence of all colours’; the former being all colours and the latter being ‘the presence of all colours in the proportion they are in the rainbow’.
We haven’t always denied our vices and blamed them on evil spirits; however, when someone comes along and gives us the option of ‘passing the buck’ and then gives us the opportunity to pay our way out of trouble, most of us don’t deny the opportunity. The presence of trees has given us scapegoats of another order. The characteristics of trees are so like us, and yet so distinctive, that we are able to demonize them and even sacrifice them for our sins.
I’ m certain that our ancestors could look at the heavens, especially at night, and know that we are on a vessel of some kind, sailing around the universe with our shipmates the trees. They were also aware of how much we depend on those shipmates. We inhale the air that they exhale, and vice versa. We eat from the trees, tan hides with their tannin, use them for medicines, housing, weapons, tools, and making fire. The list of uses is endless. We also use them to make weapons and poisons and even bury our dead among the trees. We certainly notice that the trees flourish in cemeteries and on battlegrounds. The spears, bows, arrows, poisons and protective enclosures make them veritable partners in our wars and blood lusting. Small wonder if we share our portion of Evil with them. We have historically associated much of our evil with them.
I had never really considered gender related to trees, though I knew that some trees were male, some female, and cross pollination was a factor. I first read about masculine and feminine genders in trees from “Artistic Anatomy of Trees”. The sense of the word gender has always confounded me because of the uses of gender in grammar. What exactly is gender if tools and household objects can have it? The sense code of English declines the word ‘gender’ basically as ‘trans formative horsepower gifts rooted within’. This sounds like something powerful but, not necessarily related to reproduction. So, I went back and looked at masculine and feminine again.
In another posting, I drew the connection with line, as in a way of going. The sac is the Ash tree and is about parallelism, the u is Ur of group energy, M is human. In Feminine I said it was about wealth or well-being within. F is Feoh and is said to refer to cattle. However, the eoh refers to Eoh, human spirit. This broadens the idea a great deal. I re-visited the sense of em by declining many unrelated words containing em. E is Ehwaz, a horse or team of horses, also man and horse or a team of men; hence, this is more like ‘horsepower within’. Then I noticed the -nine which is no accident since three is the number of completion. Nine is three times three and the symbol of woman was the Triple Goddess. Both men and women have both masculine and feminine within them, gender is addressing the variety of the various gifts within. It is not all about who carries eggs and who has fertilizing sperm.
What “Artistic Anatomy ” said about gender in the Ash tree was quite compelling. Another seminar participant brought in some tree books since, I had been talking about the influence of trees in our languages. I ordered some for myself and they have been quite enlightening. They have opened up many lines of questioning. Fred Hageneder is the author of three books that I know of. Reading about the multiple expressions of “gender” and “sexuality” of the trees should give us some insight into the natural variants present in humans. In “The Spirit of Trees”, “The Meaning of Trees” and “The Living Wisdom of Trees” there are stories about varied characteristics of the different trees which I could call the “horsepower of their gifts within” without feeling as though I had exaggerated even one whit. I was pleased to see that the January 2017, issue of National Geographic printed an in depth article on gender and sex in humans. In reading the article, it appears that we have
forgotten a lot of what our ancestors knew.
The word ‘cisgender’ has been coined. I found that we still have the word ‘cisalpine’ in use. It refers to a particular side of the Alps, the side from which we most view them. It sounds like ‘cisgender’ is another sliding scale of measurement, for trees as well as for humans. 01-06-2017JOH
The symbolic use of tree characteristics, including the many gifts they bring to mankind, is an object lesson about the many gifts that mankind also brings to the world, including fellow citizens.01-03-2017JOH
See “Language Death” by David Crystal for more on this
- Judith has written (and re-written) the pages below, initially for a book and now for this website. These files are still under revision, and should not be treated as stable documents.