Knowlson, writing in The Origins of Popular Superstitions and Customs, has this to say about yew trees in churchyards:
Some authorities ascribe it to the adoption of ancient funeral rites; others to the prosaic notion of keeping the wind off the church; others, again, to the warlike need of bows and arrows--yew being especially serviceable. A large body of writers believe the use of the yew was symbolic--it typified by its unchanging verdure the doctrine of the resurrection. A few cynically assert that yews, being gloomy and poisonous, are rightly used for churchyard decoration; and there are not wanting writers who see in the practice a tribute to the superstitious regard men have always paid to trees. We may examine one or two of these suggestions, although no definite conclusion may be possible. We know that the ancient Britons planted yews near their temples long before Christianity was introduced into England, and this would suggest a custom on the island not necessarily Roman or Christian.
|Knife with yew hilt|