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June 12, 2019

Graveyards and Yew Trees

Graveyards and Yew Trees

British graveyards usually have a Yew tree growing in it. The two are almost synonymous. So I decided to find out how this had come about.

One explanation is that the trees thrive on corpses and during the middle ages the yew tree was the most popular to make longbows from, as the wood was both hard and flexible. The English archers were renowned across the world for their skills.

So the graveyard proved the best place to grow them successfully.

As an aside, whenever the French caught an English archer they would chop off his middle two fingers, so that he could never be a bowman again. At the start of battles the English would hold up their middle two fingers to the French as a rebuke to show that they had their fingers and the French were about to die. The English bows shot much further than the French. This display of the 2 fingers is now the Victory sign.

As the yew tree is an evergreen it has always been linked with immortality and with ancient Druid beliefs and customs and in pre Christian time they were planted around Pagan temple sites.

Christianity adopted this, as they had a habit of doing, along with bunnies at Easter and evergreens at Christmas. The church eventually adopted the Yew as a holy symbol.

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by John Tomnay. CEO at Apex Office Centers