In this article, I will explore some mythological and ritual aspects related to a pair of trees, the aśvattha and the śamī. In India, since the Vedic culture, these two trees have often been the protagonists of myths and rituals in which they are conceived of as a couple. In various contemporary religious contexts, one finds dendrolatric practices (vanaspatipūjā), which sometimes result in the celebration of actual tree marriages (vr̥ kṣa-vivāha), whereby trees grow by intertwining with each other. The aśvattha and the śamī, though in today’s context separately, are also subject to dendrogamic practices. In particular, the aśvattha is subject to a gender shift whereby in some contexts, though traditionally regarded as the male tree, it acquires a female role within the couple. This phenomenon parallels various myths and rituals handed down in the Vedic texts. In fact, the araṇis, that is, the two sticks rubbed together during the ritual of lighting the fire, were made from the wood of the two trees. The analysis of the symbolic values linked to the coupling of the two araṇis and the many variants that this motif generated allows us to highlight, on a mythical level, the emergence of a sexuality that is not necessarily heteronormative. These versions lead us to reflect on an arboreal nature that alludes to sexuality that bypasses and transcends the gender binary and accounts for the fluidity found in certain contemporary arboreal ‘marriages.

Igor Spano (2023). Aśvattha and śamī. The evolution of the meanings of an arboreal couple in Indian religious history. 'ILU, 28, 1-14 [10.5209/ilur.85074].

Aśvattha and śamī. The evolution of the meanings of an arboreal couple in Indian religious history

Igor Spano
2023-01-01

Abstract

In this article, I will explore some mythological and ritual aspects related to a pair of trees, the aśvattha and the śamī. In India, since the Vedic culture, these two trees have often been the protagonists of myths and rituals in which they are conceived of as a couple. In various contemporary religious contexts, one finds dendrolatric practices (vanaspatipūjā), which sometimes result in the celebration of actual tree marriages (vr̥ kṣa-vivāha), whereby trees grow by intertwining with each other. The aśvattha and the śamī, though in today’s context separately, are also subject to dendrogamic practices. In particular, the aśvattha is subject to a gender shift whereby in some contexts, though traditionally regarded as the male tree, it acquires a female role within the couple. This phenomenon parallels various myths and rituals handed down in the Vedic texts. In fact, the araṇis, that is, the two sticks rubbed together during the ritual of lighting the fire, were made from the wood of the two trees. The analysis of the symbolic values linked to the coupling of the two araṇis and the many variants that this motif generated allows us to highlight, on a mythical level, the emergence of a sexuality that is not necessarily heteronormative. These versions lead us to reflect on an arboreal nature that alludes to sexuality that bypasses and transcends the gender binary and accounts for the fluidity found in certain contemporary arboreal ‘marriages.
2023
Settore L-OR/17 - Filosofie, Religioni E Storia Dell'India E Dell'Asia Centrale
Settore L-OR/18 - Indologia E Tibetologia
Settore M-STO/06 - Storia Delle Religioni
Igor Spano (2023). Aśvattha and śamī. The evolution of the meanings of an arboreal couple in Indian religious history. 'ILU, 28, 1-14 [10.5209/ilur.85074].
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/10447/638625
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