trembling aspen

Populus tremuloides, commonly known as Quaking Aspen (or Trembling Aspen, American Aspen, White Poplar, Mountain Aspen etc.), is a deciduous North American tree species endemic to cooler, often mountainous regions.

The thin, flat, flexible petioles on this species make the leaves particularly susceptible to being shaken by even the slightest breeze, hence it’s common name.

The tree can propagate by roots to form large groves. Quiet, breezy days in such groves can sound like a great rain stick sounding in all directions.

A Girl,

     Her soul a deep-wave pearl

Dim, lucent of all lovely mysteries;

     A face flowered for heart’s ease,

     A brow’s grace soft as seas

     Seen through faint forest-trees:

     A mouth, the lips apart,

Like aspen-leaflets trembling in the breeze

     From her tempestuous heart.

     Such: and our souls so knit,

     I leave a page half-writ —

           The work begun

Will be to heaven’s conception done,

           If she come to it.


Some people asked for an analysis of the tapestry in Northwest Mansion Noir so I started this.

People have argued that the tree in the centre is a pine tree and more people have said that Bill has confirmed it by saying “to make like a pine tree and burn to the ground”. There are a couple of interesting fact about this but one thing is this; pine trees are never just devastated by fire. Their name comes from pinus, a Latin word, but before that (pre-nineteenth century, actually) they were called firs. Fir comes from Old Norse fyrre, by way of Middle English firre. The Old Norse name is still used for pines in some modern north European languages, in Danish fyr, in Norweigan fura/ fure/ furu,  Swedish fura/ furu, and Föhre in German, but in modern English, fir is now restricted to fir (Abies) and Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga).

All of these come from the base fÿr which means to burn, fire, or flames.

Not only that, but pine trees as a species cannot survive without forest fires. Their seeds are stored in closed (“serotinous”) cones for many years until an environmental cue triggers the cones to open, releasing the seeds. The most common form of serotiny is pyriscence, in which a resin binds the cones shut until melted by a forest fire.

Even after a particularly devastating forest fire:

Pine trees can make a comeback in up to three years:

So fire itself isn’t all that big of a deal in fact, they thrive in it and when there isn’t any fires pine trees have a drastic decline. But even then if the tree in the tapestry wasn’t caught on fire and was simply dead, it would look more like this:

Branches down turned and looking quite grotesque. The tree on the tapestry doesn’t look like that. All of its branches are pointed upward. Even if the tree on the tapestry had been burnt so that it wouldn’t die like the pine in the above picture, there’s one problematic factor.

Pine trees don’t just burn, they explode. That’s why none of the trees in the first picture are fully standing and look like someone with a chainsaw went after them. They explode right in the middle so the tops fall to the ground.

So, the tree in the tapestry could be a pine but there’s more evidence stating that it’s not. So what tree is it?

There are three trees depicted on the tapestry. Two of which you can only see the branches of and the one in the middle. Because the tree itself isn’t on fire and the branches aren’t turned down we can’t assume that it’s dead.

Yet it has no leaves.

A deciduous tree then. The only deciduous tree we’ve seen in Gravity Falls are these:

I’ve seen people call them birches but the leaves are yellow leaving just one tree left. The golden Aspen. These trees are gorgeous and they’re one of my favourites. We have three in our yard and they’re so beautiful.

There’s hundreds of symbolism that goes with the aspen tree but I’m going to skip that right now because it’s not just one tree, it’s a group and two people are clearly worshipping it. This means that this isn’t just a tree but something sacred, probably part of a sacred grove if there is more than one.

A sacred grove, fire, and some great guardian looking over it all? Sounds like a Nemeton. For those of you who don’t know, a nemeton is a grove of sacred trees that was used by the druids in the place of shrines and temples. In fact, a nemeton is a shrine/temple according to Celtic religion.

We don’t know a lot about them because the druids don’t have a written history, but the Romans did, and Lucan described one such nemeton in  Pharsalia:

No bird nested in the nemeton, nor did any animal lurk nearby; the leaves constantly shivered though no breeze stirred. Altars stood in its midst, and the images of the gods. Every tree was stained with sacrificial blood. the very earth groaned, dead yews revived; unconsumed trees were surrounded with flame, and huge serpents twined round the oaks. The people feared to approach the grove, and even the priest would not walk there at midday or midnight lest he should then meet its divine guardian.

Now it’s time for the symbolism of the Aspen. The Latin name for this tree is Populus tremula because  this tree is rarely still. Its leaves move at the slightest provocation which gives the tree an almost shimmering appearance. This also explains Lucan’s description of “the leaves constantly shivered though no breeze stirred”. Aspens do this. You could touch the trunk and the leaves will move.

Because of its constant trembling, the aspen has a legend surrounding it that it has such acute hearing that it is reacting to sounds far and wide and gives that information to those that can understand it. In this way, the aspen is a keeper of secret knowledge making it perfect for Gravity Falls.

There’s also several other parts of this passage that are interesting. The “unconsumed trees were surrounded with flame” and “every tree was stained with sacrificial blood”. What if those bodies buried in the ground of the tapestry were sacrifices? With all the worshipping imagery going on here, it certainly makes sense.

Bill could have been worshipped as a God at some point leading to this tapestry being created. He said that he got in touch with a shaman—notably North American—and yet the tapestry is a very European feature.  

With the Northwests having so much Native artwork in their homes the tapestry stands out. It doesn’t fit and I do believe that was on purpose. If the prophecy was said by a shaman, it wouldn’t make sense to be immortalized on an European item.

But, then again this is all just an opinion and I could be totally wrong. It’s an interesting thought, though.


Fresh!Sans: “Oh right, they can teleport. What a lame buzz kill.”

Translation (down here, because Lantern lost his translator):

(Wh-what’s wrong, Sans??? You’re trembling like an aspen leaf!)

(A-a brightly colored nutjob with tentacles was hitting on m-me!)

(Sans, I already told you about timeline hopping being dangerous…)