Monday, 25 October 2010

Beech, lime, birch, hazel and oak - an arboretum of angels and an invitation to dance

One of the wonderful things about being in Berlin for 28 hours was that our hotel was less than 5 minutes away from where Stephen used to live in Georgenkirchstrasse. The former East Berlin Missionshaus is now the Berlin Brandenburg Church's offices. The church and theological book shop that was always there is still open and doing good trade it would seem. I remember visiting Stephen in 1984 and buying my first book by Christa Wolf from the shop.
On Saturday morning I did of course buy books - a couple by my former professor Friedrich Schorlemmer and one by Margot Kässmann - but I was particularly looking for the little wooden angels you can see pictured here which come with accompanying cards, biblical verses and quotes by theologians. In the past I've always bought them for other people but this time I wanted to keep at least one for myself ... I've still not decided which it will be though.
These little Schutzengeln or guardian angels have different names - your angel of freedom, your angel of clarity, your angel of constancy, your angel of departure, your angel of equanimity ... and many more. Each one is made out of a different kind of wood which is supposed to go with the idea that the particular angel represents. For instance the angel of clarity is cut from lime tree wood which is both easy to cut and very strong. I was also though fascinated to learn that in Germany there is an old tradition of planting limes on the village or town square, the place of gathering but also building dance floors into the tree. The Tanzlinde also probably served as the place of judgement or court. The kind of clarity that also invites all to the public dance seems like a wonderfully angelic thing to me. Reading about it reminded me of the role of the sycamore as the place of religious gathering in the gospels. Trees are like public buildings in old communities and these extraordinary old Tanzlinden look as imposing as some old market halls.
As I read the angel cards I have brought back with me it strikes me that in any human life we need a whole arboretum of guardian angels to encourage us in difficult and challenging times, helping us ever to go into the future. I love botanical gardens and arboretums, so next time I go to one I shall try to learn more about the qualities of the different trees and think about them being messengers of those qualities in my life. An invitation to continue the dance.
You can see more images of the dancing limes here.