So much discord, so much destruction, so many Earth catastrophes – our hearts are rent asunder and yet we continue to seek balance and peace. The forest provides us with what we need.
Wherever there were forests in the ancient world there were forest goddesses. The Celts worshipped Flidais, a goddess of many aspects. Trees are sacred to Flidais who protects them and the animals who live within the forests. She is seen as a healing goddess – the poor and the outcast call on her when they are in need of safe harbor or healing.
Greek goddess, Artemis ruled wilderness – including forests of oak and olive; pine and cypress – wild animals, the hunt and childbirth. Though viewed as a fierce huntress who could take down the most terrifying beasts, she was also seen as a healing goddess, in particular of women, the young, and small, vulnerable, wild animals.
Lithuanians worshipped Medeina, a healing goddess who ruled forests, trees and animals. Hindu Goddess Aranyani, the Goddess of Forests and the Animals that dwell within them also protected and healed its animals. The German goddess, Holle was known as a protector of the forest, and of wild animals.
Forests and animals, forests and goddesses, forests and healing – themes that repeat worldwide throughout the centuries.
Forests give us so much – sustenance, building materials and medicinal plants. They stabilize climate, purify the air, enrich the soil, regulate the water cycle, and provide habitat to a multitude of animal and plant life. In ancient times wise women developed cures through their knowledge and interaction with the forest, symbolized by the many forest healing goddesses. Today, a large percentage of the drugs used by modern medicine are drawn from the healing properties of the plants and animals of the forests.
Forests came first – human life only being allowed by the environment the forests created. Portals to the Otherworld were found in forests where elves, fairies, the good folk and other eldritch creatures resided – sometimes aiding humans, sometimes leading them astray. Forests held dangers too – ferocious wild beasts like wolf, bear and boar. The duality of life played out fully under the canopy of forest trees. Still today forests hold a magical allure and impart a sense of wonder and awe.
Through out the world trees have long held great spiritual significance. The Tree of Life, also called World Tree, is one of the most ancient, archetypal symbols of the awareness of the one source,- the joining of Heaven and Earth. Found in spiritual traditions worldwide ranging from Shamanic, Hindu, Egyptian, Sumerian, Toltec, Mayan, Norse, and Celtic to Christian, it is still a potent symbol today, with its roots reaching down into the heart of Mother Earth and its branches reaching up to the Heavens above.
Another sacred tree practice found around the world is the tying of pieces of cloth onto the branches of a particular tree – often associated with a natural spring or well. In the Celtic world these strips of fabric are called clouties (or clooties, cloughties, clotties). They are tied to the branches as a way to honor the spirit of the land or as prayers seeking blessings or aide from the same local goddess or god. The trees are often associated with healing wells and often the prayers are ones for healing. This is still practiced today in the British Isles and Brittany. Many other places in the world with different spiritual traditions practice the same thing – the tying of strips of cloth to the branches of a particular tree, seeking aide and offering prayers to the local deity. What the Irish would call a “clootie tree” can be found in countries worldwide – Greece, Thailand, Hong Kong, Japan, Turkey, Anatolia, and China to name just a few. Some Native American tribes tie strings of prayer bundles to trees at the end of a sacred ceremony such as a sweat lodge or pipe-ceremony.
When we listen to the wisdom of trees – taking delight in spring’s new growth, rejoicing in the full greening of summer, breathing in the decaying fecundity of autumn’s fallen leaves and gazing at the moon framed by the bareness of winter branches we feel peace and joy coursing through our veins; we gain access to a heart-felt understanding of the great mystery of life in all its interconnected glory.
Like an ancient tree, may you be powerful and centered – grounded in Mother Earth while forever reaching for the Heavens.
Judith’s deck of Celtic Goddess Oracle Cards is available now. You can order your deck from Judith’s Etsy Shop. Experience the wisdom of the Celtic Goddesses!
Judith Shaw, a graduate of the San Francisco Art Institute, has been interested in myth, culture and mystical studies all her life. Not long after graduating from SFAI, while living in Greece, Judith began exploring the Goddess in her art. She continues to be inspired by the Goddess in all of Her manifestations. In recent years Judith became very interested in the Goddesses of her own ancestors, the Celts, resulting in her deck of Celtic Goddess Oracle cards. She is now working on her next deck of oracle cards – Animal Spirit Guides. Originally from New Orleans, Judith makes her home in New Mexico where she paints as much as time allows and sells real estate part-time. Give yourself the gift of one of Judith’s prints or paintings, priced from $25 – $3000.