As a result they often featured in religious rituals, and still do today. Examples include trees upon which prayers or offerings are hung in many different cultures, and the Christmas tree, a custom whose present form evolved in Europe in the nineteenth century.
In the Shinto religion of Japan, which sanctifies nature, the sakaki Cleyera japonica is especially sacred. The sakaki had a significant role in the Japanese creation story; gods dug up a branched sakaki tree from the heavenly Mount Kaga; on its upper branches they hung an eight-foot string of jewels, on its middle branches an eight-foot long mirror, and on its lower branches white and blue offerings.
The goddess Amaterasu saw her reflection in the mirror hanging from the sakaki and was drawn from her cave, restoring light to the heavens and the earth. Today, in imitation of the myth, mirrors are hung in sakaki trees at Shinto shrines. The sakaki is represented as the sacred central post of the shrine to Amaterasu Wehner, The tradition of the sacred grove, often associated with secrecy and initiation rites, was widespread in many cultures. Groups of trees, or portions of natural or planted forest, were considered to be separate from the rest and untouchable.
Many of these groves retain their significance to the present day: the World Heritage List of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization UNESCO includes several groves and forests recognized for their spiritual as well as ecological values as sacred or holy.
I found a great blogpost about books featuring the folklore of trees. Probably one of the first things most people envision when they think of fairy tales, myths or even ancient legends is a deep, dark forest. In ancient Ireland, mythology and folklore were part of the general knowledge about each tree.
This books gathers together the myths, legends, and folklore associated with the native Irish trees. The folklore has two main themes: the tree as a marker of important places such as royal site or holy well, and the role of different trees as source of magical power in folk customs and superstitions. Many themes are common to different trees, such as fertility, magical power, and the tree as a link between this world and the spiritual.
This book is the one I credit with introducing me to forests in myth and legend. The book contains several stories, myths and legends about forests, sacred groves and even specific trees. The stories are summarized into brief, short paragraphs to give you a taste of the tale but there are well documented sources for all of them so it is easy to look up the full length legend if you are so inclined.
The book is not organized in any way so you go from one fairy tale, myth or legend to the next without much cohesiveness. It is a fascinating read though and a great way to be introduced to several stories about the forests of the world all at once. Protecting the earth is a universal theme and it is one that is brought to light in this next book in a very interesting way. There are several page long but often still truncated summaries of the myth or legend in question accompanied by commentary picking out the threads that unite all of these stories into a cohesive, world-wide, centuries-old message about the preservation of nature.
These myths either show nature being saved, nature being brought back from destruction or nature striking back in self-defense in stories from all over the world. The author lists 80 different types of flowers and talks about the various names each has had throughout history, its role in historical events and its practical uses.
Each essay also includes name origins, symbolism, its meaning in the language of flowers and most importantly its magical or mythical stories and legends. Probably the best part of this book for a reader like myself are all the quotes and references in poems, literature and mythic writing throughout history.
Such forests are described in the oldest folklore from regions where forests are common, and occur throughout the centuries to modern works of fantasy. It is not itself enchanted, but it contains enchantments and, being outside normal human experience, acts as a place of transformation.
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Even in folklore, forests can also be places of magical refuge. At other times, the marvels they meet are beneficial. The danger of the folkloric forest is an opportunity for the heroes of legend. It is off-limits to students, though Harry and his friends frequently enter this mysterious place to find answers.
In the Iron Fey series by Julie Kagawa, the Wyldwood is a mysterious place between other Fey Realms where trees grow as houses for the Fey living there or as Dryads and other tree nymphs. The king of the forest can make anything move in the forest with the power of his sword…. Who can forget the scary forests found in Middle-Earth? From showing the ancientness of the world through Mirkwood and the Old Forest to the forest coming alive through the Ents.
The enchanted forest stays a place that is unknown to the characters and where strange dangers lurk. There are other books where the characters find refuge and answers in the forest, but these came to mind immediately as they continue the tradition of the forest as a place of wild things and danger.
And check it out: they all come in boxed sets…. When you look at the phenomenal forests that you can find in the world, it is no wonder that myths, legends and folktales about them abound. Just look at the woods and forests that have supported stories for centuries — like the Sherwood Forest. Sherwood Forest, Nottinghamshire. This is especially so on visiting the year-old Major oak, whose hollow trunk could easily have sheltered the lofty Little John.
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Would-be outlaws, meanwhile, are sure to go all a-quiver at the Robin Hood festival August. From ghosts and nymphs to foreboding dark pathways into the woods, the Black Forest conjures an image of fairy tales and horror. You can see more of these marvellous forests on my Pinterest board dedicated to the subject. Of course forests feature in my writing. I love trees. While busy with stories in the Labyrinth, I thought it would be awesome if one consisted of trees — even though the Labyrinth is underground.
The Forest in Folklore and Mythology
And as Daphne finds out, the Verdure Labyrinth is much more than it seems. She understood: she was from the Onyx Labyrinth and not from this one. The woods could feel it. Bushes scratched, pushed, pulled and squeezed her out of one tunnel made of twisted trees and plants to the next. The trees trembled. She could scarcely breathe.
Myths and Legends – Telling the stories of the past in the language of the present
All these foreign plants were scaring her in a way that the rest of the Labyrinth never did. Do you have a favourite enchanted forest? What are your feelings towards forests in general? Do you like a story with a forest or two in it? May 25, at pm. Like Liked by 1 person. May 26, at pm. Like Like. May 28, at am. I want to curl up in this post and live here for a while. I love the forest. I hate being out of the woods. The setting and a main character is a forest, even when the forest is no longer there. I went pin-crazy with the excellent images you have here.
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This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. The danger of the folkloric forest is an opportunity for the heroes of legend. Among the oldest of all recorded tales, the Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh recounts how the heroes Gilgamesh and Enkidu traveled to the Cedar Forest to fight the monsters there and be the first to cut down its trees. Romans referred to the Hercynian Forest , in Germania, as an enchanted place; though most references in their works are to geography, Julius Caesar mentioned unicorns said to live there, and Pliny the Elder , birds with feathers that glowed.
The figure of an enchanted forest was taken up into chivalric romances ; the knight-errant would wander in a trackless forest in search of adventure.
John Milton wrote in Paradise Regained Bk ii. In Valentine and Orson , the Queen is sent into exile and so forced to give birth in the woods; one child, taken by a bear, turns to a wild man of the woods , who later aids Valentine, his long-lost brother. This forest could easily bewilder the knights. Despite many references to its pathlessness, the forest repeatedly confronts knights with forks and crossroads, of a labyrinthine complexity. In Jerusalem Delivered by Torquato Tasso , enchantments placed on the only forest near Jerusalem prevent the Crusaders from constructing siege engines for most of the epic poem , until they are broken by Rinaldo.