ANTHROPOLOGY OF HABITAT AND ARCHITECTURE (AHA)

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THE SACRED TREES AROUND GOSHONAI / JAPAN - A contribution of building ethnology to the subject of tree-worship

That sacred trees played an important role in many traditional religions of the world is well known and in general this suggests the idea that natural spirits are venerated in this type of worship focused on natural trees. Anybody who would tell us, that there are also cases where those who venerate sacred trees first build these trees artificially with materials that - partially - have nothing to do with trees, would be considered crazy. The following paper deals exactly with this: several communities among the 100 villages researched in the Omihachiman region of Japan build artificial trees with reed, bamboo and some sort of leafy brushes forming the top of the tree. Somebody who does not know would take the tree as a real natural tree in the local landscape! The paper interprets the strange phenomenon in the sense that the sacred territorial symbol of the village community in this case has developed a formal approach towards the concept of a tree, which in Japan - as a sacred tree (shimboku) - has similar functions as a sign and symbol in the sacred landscape. The example might also tell us how built forms of this type had been important in the cognitive process of discovering natural form by means of topo-semantic functions and categorically polar aesthetics (PRO-portion, or YinYang type of harmony). The paper is also interesting because it illustrates a spiritual concept, the veneration of sacred trees, paired with a concrete and aesthetic type of material culture. Is this type of aesthetics a new concept to understand in a humanistic sense what was called 'primitive religion' in former times?

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