Magical Forests by Judith Shaw

judith shaw photoThe forest calls me. I long for her lush coolness, her sheltering trees, her world filled with life.

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.

Light in the Forest, oil on canvas, by Judith Shaw

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.

Flidais, Celtic Goddess painting by Judith Shaw
Flidais, Celtic Goddess by Judith Shaw
Artemis, Greek Goddess
Hindu Goddess, Aranyani

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. 

The Tree of Life painting by Judith Shaw

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.

Wishing Tree – Hong Kong
Clootie Tree – East Sussex, UK

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.

Sources: Goddess Gift, Earth Eclipse, Myth and Moor

Judith’s deck of Celtic Goddess Oracle Cards is available now. You can order your deck from Judith’s website – click here 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.

Author: Judith Shaw

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, which of course includes the flora and fauna of our beautiful Earth. Judith has exhibited her paintings in New York, San Francisco, Mytilene Greece, Athens Greece, New Orleans, Santa Fe NM, Taos NM, Albuquerque NM, Houston TX and Providence RI. She has published two oracle decks - Celtic Goddess Oracle and Animal Wisdom Oracle and is hard at work on an illustrated fairytale - Elena and the Reindeer Goddess.

17 thoughts on “Magical Forests by Judith Shaw”

  1. Such beautiful pictures and stories, Judith. Also sad for me. When I came to Vanc. Island we had rain forests and amazing old growth trees that were here before the Europeans. I’ve joined others on the highways, stopping logging trucks taking raw, ancient logs that are from clear-cuts of our forests. That was 20-30 years ago, but we still fight to preserve the forests. Maybe Artemis can help.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Barbara, I feel the same way often – very sad at the ongoing destruction of our natural world. Do we have to lose it all before we, as a world, can find the political will to change? Have the ancient trees all been cut down now on Vancouver Island? Thanks for being part of the resistance.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Beautiful, informative, inspiring post as always, Judith. May the goddesses of the forests give us the wisdom, wit, and will to preserve the holy trees!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Wonderful! I always love your art. I’m glad there are so many forest goddesses, but I think they need to be working harder–and teaching people to work much harder–to protect the forests. I don’t much like to go into a forest myself (I’m the only Pagan I know who doesn’t like to get the outdoors on her), but I know many people of many faiths do want to go into forests to protect and decorate the trees. Blessings to all of them! And to you for reminding us how magical and useful forests are.


    1. Barbara, I think those forest goddesses must be sending us all messages in the form of the many Earth catastrophes taking place around the world. If only those in power would sit up and listen…… the message is really clear. It’s interesting that though the forests have held so much for us most ancient human settlements were more on the edge of the forests as the forests always held so much mystery and danger that the forests were somewhat feared.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Thanks Judith. Not sure if this is a “magical forest,” but in my city, some years ago, there was a need to start cleaning the air by planting a huge number of trees, that is, all along the city streets. And it did make a wonderful difference in air quality, and in a sense, all those city trees might be thought of now as a “magical forest,” because it had an effect of real delight so good for the soul.


    1. Sounds magical to me Fran – always great to hear of trees being planted. In my old neighborhood (just moved) which is in a poor part of town, far from the river and without many trees there was recently a big day of planting trees. The trees were provided for free to whoever signed up and dug a hole in their front yard for it. In a few years the neighborhood should be much more inviting and cooler in the summer.


  5. This was a lovely tribute to our precious forests, woods, trees … I never feel safe unless I’m living among the trees, the thicker the woods, the better. Blessings!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have to agree Darla… having just returned to Maine after living in New Mexico where I loved with giant cottonwoods I realize that my sense of safety comes from living in a forest…nothing like it.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. Wonderful and much-needed paintings and words. I could look & look at that painting of the tree with circles on it for a very long time; so, so moving.

    It ALL touched me deeply. Thank you!


  7. Judith, I love this art work and of course, I must be the original tree hugger since I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t in Love with trees… I can’t do without them.


    1. Sara, My original tree loves were the giant oaks of New Orleans and then olive trees of Greece captured my heart for many years. Now of course (living in New Mexico) cottonwoods enchant.


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