"Battle of Trees" as written by and Tori Ellen Amos....
Our language of love
The Battle of Trees
We fought side by side
No one had more

Sharper consonants than you, love
And my vowels, well, were trusted

First comes the Birch
Rowan followed by the Ash
Then through the Alder she forms
And merges with Willow

The Hawthorne blossoms
As the Oak guards the door
She is the hinge on which the year swings
He courts the lightning flash and her

Summoning the spirits
Through incantations
You said the Thunder God seems to have
And our enemies are the Reed
But we knew the Furies held the Holly sacred

We were insulated
In a circle of words we'd drawn
With wisdom sent from nine Hazels
A Rowan fire and a Willow rod

At ten comes the vine
That generates bramble wine
The constant change of the night sun
A song in the blood of the white bull

Our language of love
The Battle of Trees
We fought side by side
No one had more

Sharper consonants than you, love
And my vowels, well, were trusted

From Ivy leaves is an ale that can unveil
The hidden meanings and serpents
Only revealed through visions
Yes vowels could insert
"A" was for the Silver Fir

The Firs of course
Then came next
With Heather at her most

The White Poplar's gift to the souls of the dead
A promise that it was not the end
But for the vine the "U", its coffer

Vowels and consonants
The power of trees
The power they hold
The power of prose

So when the church
Began to twist the old myths
They built their own Tower of Babel
From Ulster to Munster

The Reed gave way then
To the Elder
The Earth turns her will
So that night follows day

From dawn to dawn
From Winter to Winter
At day the Ash had power over the Alder

Our language of love
The Battle of Trees
We fought side by side
Then he said to me:
"I've dodged bullets and even poisoned arrows
Only to be foiled by the blade of a vowel"

Lyrics submitted by UhHuhHer

"Battle of Trees" as written by Tori Ellen Amos

Lyrics © Downtown Music Publishing, Kobalt Music Publishing Ltd.

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Battle of Trees song meanings
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    General Comment"Battle of Trees" is part of the narrative (story) of the "Night of Hunters" album, and it also contributes to Amos's spiritual themes that are referred to throughout her catalog.

    The song's basic place in "Night of Hunters," as I interpret it so far (after hundreds of listens--but I always make new discoveries in Amos's music as the years pass) is:

    1. Shattering Sea = the narrator (Tori calls her Tori) and her mate/partner/significant other have a devastating conflict as they cross the Atlantic ocean from the U.S. to Ireland. It's a life-changing experience.

    2. Snow Blind = Night comes--either as part of an internal rationalizing process or literally, depending on your interpretation (both are probably intended)--and Tori realizes that she has been blinded (emotionally/psychologically) by daylight...in other words, she had chosen to believe everything was great in her relationship because things were generally light/OK, but with the night she "sees clearly." She appeals to the shape-shifting fox/goose character, Anabelle, and Anabelle tells Tori that she has to follow her in order to make sense of it all. A note in my opinion: while a shape-shifting fox/goose sounds absolutely ridiculous and totally random, when I realized that this album is built on a scaffolding of both astronomy and astrology, I discovered that there is a constellation called Vulpecula that is drawn out to be a fox holding a goose in its jaws--so that solves the seemingly random pairing of the two animals. In antiquity, the constellation was imagined as a fox with a goose in its mouth. Later on, the two animals were imagined as two separate constellations--a fox and a goose, separately. And now, Vulpecula is once again a fox/goose. So over time, mankind has imagined this area of the sky as a pair of animals that has essentially shifted its nature from predator-plus-prey to predator-and-prey-in-coexistance, and now back to predator-plus-prey. In this sense, Anabelle makes absolute sense. So Tori meets her and follows her back (or forward?) in time 3,000 years to witness her relationship with her soul mate at that time...

    3. Battle of Trees = Tori and her significant other were mated in another time, as well, and they worked together in battle: his consonants were sharp and cutting/penetrating (i.e., male force), and her vowels were trusted (i.e., softer qualities associated with the feminine aspect). The power they had was language, and that language was powerful in large part because it was imbued with nature: every single letter had a counterpart in the plant world, and each of these plants (and therefore each letter) had special qualities and powers unto itself--we should think of these plants as human- or animal-like in nature. Tori is singing in this song about a time when human beings are living in harmony with nature--a theme common and consistent in most of her albums, and especially the most recent--and so words were a part of nature, which made them far more dynamic and organic, and the skies referenced throughout the album also represent that nature. Throughout the song, Amos names various trees, and all those trees represented a letter with its own qualities and powers--and she even included a legend to the letter/plant correspondence in the album's liner notes.

    "Battle of Trees" is not just about a man and a woman's relationship. It's about humanity's relationship with the planet itself, where the planet is described in nuanced detail in the form of both plants and people. A significant key to understanding where this all fits in Amos's mind are the lines: "From Ivy leaves/is an ale that can unveil/The hidden meanings and serpents/Only revealed in visions." As with "cactus practice," these lines refer to an organic and spiritual hallucinogenic experience that is geographically inconsistent with the song--cacti don't grow in Ireland, and while Ivy does, I believe Amos is referring to another vine: Banisteriopsis caapi, the primary ingredient in ayahuasca, which Amos has said she has taken with shamans in South America. Most commonly, an ayahuasca experience involves seeing vibrant, often fluorescent, colors and very often (something that puzzles scientists) people who have drunk ayahuasca describe having seen and interacted with huge and frightening-but-wise serpent creatures. People native to the Amazon region who take ayahuasca for spiritual reasons state simply that the serpent-beings met during the experience are the actual spirit of the caapi vine, whose mother they believe is an actual snake, and people often claim to be enlightened by the intangible and mostly inexplicable knowledge of life/enlightenment that these serpents impart. I'm fairly certain that Amos is referring to the caapi vine here because of certain other songs, including "Strong Black Vine," which is a straightforward recounting of her interactions with ayahuasca, and "Virginia," in which Amos sings about the eponymous character--who we should note is both an American Indian woman and the land itself:

    so hundreds of years go by
    (the red road carved up by sharp knife)
    she's a girl out working her trade
    and she loses a little each day
    to ghetto pimps and presidents
    who try and arouse her turquoise serpents
    she can't recall what they represent
    and when you ask, she won't know

    I puzzled for years over what the "turquoise serpents" represent, but now I am fairly certain that they are the fluorescent snake deities that come from the "ale that can unveil/the hidden meanings and secrets/only revealed in visions" from "Battle of Trees."

    At the end of the song are a number of homophone-puns that underscore what happened to the relationship: After "the church began to twist the old myths," all this happened:

    The Reed gave way then [Can be heard as the r-e-a-d--as in the language itself, and its common use, which was undermined by the church, as it only allowed clerics to be literate]

    to the Elder [this probably refers to church elders--language and the native language's correspondence with the essences of nature were simply taken over by the church that invaded Ireland]

    The Earth turns her wheel
    so that Night follows Day [so after a long period of knowledge of the land and its inherent language, a long night came]

    From Dawn to Dawn
    From Winter to Winter
    The day the Ash had power [This, I believe, is a pun: because of the context of the song, it's obvious that "ash" refers to a specific tree species; however, in this use it can be understood as the ash of the Catholic church==as in Ash Wednesday]

    over the Alder [in the tree alphabet, letters may have had various powers over one another, but here I think this is another pun, where just as "ash" [tree] can be understood as ash of a religious significance, "alder" can also be heard as "altar." So here the ash--which can be seen as the result of a death--has power over the religious altar; i.e., death has power over the new invasive religion, as opposed to the previous spirit-imbued language, which worked in harmony with life]

    So that's my understanding of "Battle of Trees" as I hear it so far. It's part of the album's story and it explains how the couple were when they lived in harmony in another life, but I believe its larger 'story' is about how a native Celtic belief system, which involved the lives in the heavens and the living planet, was corrupted and essentially killed by the invading Christian church. So here she goes back to the source and describes when this sudden imbalance happened, and she begins to understand that her world is in disharmony, where it used to be fully harmonized with her lover and with the universe. She's identified the rupture in herself and her relationship, and having learned that, she forges ahead, back into the future and into the "mighty stars" to try to balance her world back out again.

    Just my thoughts. Tweet me at @ArtistLike to share yours!
    ArtistLikeon May 15, 2012   Link

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