Sacred Trees Of Greece  

Posted by Stella Clark

Sacred Trees Of Greece Image
Trees also figure prominently in the culture and mythology of Ancient Greece. Pausanias [see BIBLIOGRAPHY] describes the sacred groves of Aesculapius at Epidaurus (II, 27. 1), of Argus in Laconia (III, 4. 1), and a sacred grove of plane-trees at Lerna (II, 38, 1, 2, 8). In the land of Colophon in Ionia was a grove of ash-trees sacred to Apollo (VII, 5. 10), and a sacred grove at Lycosura included an olive-tree and an evergreen oak growing from the same root (VIII, 37. 10). Perhaps the most famous grove, of plane-trees, was that sacred to Zeus, known as the Altis, at Olympia (V, 27. 1, 11).

The oak tree was also sacred to Zeus, especially the tree at the sanctuary of Zeus in Dodona which also served as an oracle; it would seem the rustling of the leaves was regarded as the voice of Zeus and the sounds interpreted by priestesses. The oak was also sacred to Pan [see Pausanias BIBLIOGRAPHY], while the myrtle-tree was sacred to Aphrodite. In the Pandrosium near the temple known as the Erechtheum (421-405 BCE) on the Athenian Acropolis, besides many other signs and remains of Athens' mythical past -- a salt-water well [cf. Water and the Sacred] and a mark in the shape of Poseidon's trident in a rock -- could also be seen a living olive tree sacred to the goddess Athena.

In several Greek myths, women and men are frequently transformed into trees: Atys into a pine tree, Smilax into a yew, and Daphne into the laurel, which was sacred to Apollo.

In numerous cases the spirit of trees is personified, usually in female form. In Ancient Greece, the Alseids were nymphs associated with groves (alsos, grove), while the Dryads were forest nymphs who guarded the trees. Sometimes armed with an axe, Dryads would punish anyone harming the trees. Crowned with oak-leaves, they would dance around the sacred oaks. The Hamadryads were even more closely associated with trees, forming an integral part of them. In India, tree nymphs appear in the form of the voluptuous Vrikshaka.

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