In 1974, I did my student teaching in Wythe County Virginia. One of my friends from college lived in Wytheville. Her family had lived there for generations. As we drove around the county, she pointed out some of the flowering trees and told me the legends surrounding them. The dogwood tree and the Judas tree are relevant on Good Friday.
According to legend, the dogwood was originally a tall, strong tree and provided the wood for the cross where Jesus was hung. The dogwood was so ashamed of that role, that it prayed to God. God answered it’s prayers. The dogwood would be a smaller tree whose wood could not longer be used to make crosses used for crucifixions. The flower of the dogwood was shaped with four petals to represent the four nails that affixed Jesus to the cross. In the center of each flower would be a small red seed that represented a drop of Christ’s blood.
When I looked this legend up, I found the following poem, author is anonymous.
When Christ was on earth, the dogwood grew
To a towering size with a lovely hue.
Its branches were strong and interwoven
And for Christ’s cross its timbers were chosen
Being distressed at the use of the wood
Christ made a promise which still holds good:
“Not ever again shall the dogwood grow
To be large enough for a tree, and so
Slender and twisted it shall always be
With cross-shaped blossoms for all to see.
The petals shall have bloodstains marked brown
And in the blossom’s center a thorny crown.
All who see it will think of Me,
Nailed to a cross from a dogwood tree.
Protected and cherished this tree shall be
A reflection to all of My agony.”
The Judas tree, which is also known as the Redbud tree, is allegedly the tree where Judas Iscariot hung himself after he betrayed Christ. It’s once white blossoms blushed pink with shame.