The leaves of the Aspen tree were believed to tremble continually, hence it also being known as the ‘shivering tree’. The Greek word ‘kepkis’, which means ‘shuttle’, was given to this tree because of the action of the leaves, quivering back and forth all the time. There are many legends connected with the Aspen.
One is thought to stem from the belief that the cross on which Christ was crucified was made from the wood of the Aspen tree. Belief has it that the tree was filled with grief and remorse at being connected with the Crucifixion. The Aspen was the only tree reputed not to bend with compassion as the Passion and continues to tremble as a result.
A traditional legend from Germany is associated with the Holy Family. They were walking in a forest and all the trees bowed reverently. The only tree that didn’t was the Aspen. It is said that the Holy Child cursed the tree, and the leaves began to tremble. It is also said that the tree has continued to do so ever since.
Traditional German Poem
‘Once as our Saviour walked with men below,
His path of mercy through a forest lay;
And mark how all the drooping branches show
What homage best a silent tree may pay!
Only the aspen stands erect and free,
Scorning to join the voiceless worship pure;
But see! He casts one look upon the tree,
Struck to the heart, she trembles evermore!’
Sir Walter Scott
‘O woman! In our hours of ease
Uncertain, coy, and hard to please,
And variable as the shade
By the light quivering Aspen made.’
Traditional Russian Proverb
‘There is an accursed tree
which trembles without even a breath of wind.’
The movement of Aspen leaves have been associated by Gerarde with women’s tongues. A rather ungracious association as they ‘seldome cease wagging’. He also said the tongue itself has been made of the leaf itself. The Aspen has also been thought to help cure fevers being seen to have curative powers, but only if the following was carried out at night. The nail clippings of the sick person should be taken and placed in a hole cut in the trunk that should then be covered again to seal the tree.