Elm – Isolation
Genus: Ulmus – Family: Ulmaceae
Elm acknowledges that life’s difficulties can create the illusion that we are isolated, alone and misunderstood. This can leave us feeling powerless and therefore trapped. The elm spirit is here to gently encourage us to rethink our situation from a different perspective.
Ulmus is a genus of 30 to 40 species of elm that date back 20 million years. The name Ulmus is the Latin word for “elm.” Elm trees originated in central Asia before spreading across most of the Northern Hemisphere, becoming a beloved shade tree. Unfortunately, millions of mature elms living in Europe and North America have died or are dying of Dutch elm disease. Elms are now being isolated and quarantined to prevent Dutch elm disease from spreading to other countries via the elm-bark beetle, which carries a micro-fungus. These stately trees that once lined our streets inspired the need for urban forestry.
Elm is an ancient species that symbolized the ongoing struggle between war and isolation as it related to life and death.
The Iiliad, attributed to Greek poet Homer during the 8th century BCE, contains the first literary reference of elm trees being planted at the tombs of greats warriors who died in the Trojan War. The elm tree is also credited with saving the hero Achilles from drowning by “grasping a branch of a great elm.”
By the 3rd century BCE, elm trees were symbols of the idyllic pastoral life, their shade created cool and peaceful sanctuaries for both mortals and gods.
In Germanic and Norse mythology, the first woman Embla is made from an elm, the first man is made from an ash. In Japanese mythology, the chief goddess was born from an elm that was impregnated by the god of the heavens.
In politics, the elm is associated with revolution, war and liberty. This began in 1188, when an elm tree was felled in Normandy, signaling a dispute between the King of France and England. During the American Revolution in 1765, the “Liberty Tree” was planted in Boston as a symbol of rebellion against the British. The British felled the elm in 1775, which inspired Americans to plant ‘Liberty Elms’ everywhere they could. The elm became a symbol of war and hope, not only in America but around the world.
Today efforts are underway to isolate and create disease-resistant elms so the legacy of this once mighty and gentle tree can live on.
Message: It is time to step out of feeling like a victim and reclaim our freedom and independence. When we realize that we were the ones who ultimately allowed ourselves to feel victimized, even if we were physically hurt, we can see that we colluded with our self to feel trapped by this wound. Now is the time to see life in a new way and open ourselves up to all the possibilities that life has to offer us.
Challenge: Remaining angry and resentful, choosing to be a martyr.
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