The next mythical creature on the list is the dryad. They are tree spirits from Greek mythology and are the daughters of Zeus, the most powerful of the gods. They live in forests or woods and protect it by frightening humans who wish to do it harm. Usually, though, dryads are peaceful beings. They are not immortal, but live for many years and usually take the form of young, beautiful women moving among the trees.
Hamadryads, on the other hand, are beings within individual trees, each spirit having her own tree, unable to move and living as long as the tree does.
This is the sort of spirit that the Celts and many other cultures around the world believed in. Spirits were everywhere in the landscape. Each tree, each stone, each river had its own spirit. I love this idea and so I painted an image of a tree with its spirit inside it, something you might miss unless you look really closely when you pass by….
Back in the time of the Celts - the Bronze Age and Iron Age - and among cultures such as the Native Americans, the landscape was sacred and commanded respect. If a tree was cut down for its wood to be used, an offering was given back to make up for what was taken. They only took what was needed.
I wonder if we had kept that belief whether we might have continued with that respect for the natural world and treated it and its animals better.
The idea that each tree has a spirit is actually not that far away from the truth, because its been shown that trees are full of life; the trunk pulling up the water and food from the ground, the leaves doing their thing with photosynthesis, lichen and moss on the bark, insects living in and on the bark and – this is what I really love – trees can actually communicate with each other. If one is being attacked, it can send out a chemical to warn the other trees around it. They can’t move to escape, obviously, but those trees can then produce another chemical to make their leaves less tasty to whatever is eating them.
As well as that, trees have a symbiotic relationship with fungus in the ground. They share nutrients and the trees communicate through the fungus too. How they do it is not really within the scope of this blog, I’m here for art, myth and stories, but there are plenty of books or websites that you can find information in. If you’re interested, do go and find out. Nature is wonderful.
You can find me here;
Shop: Etsy: Rusty and Boots
Folksy: Rusty and Boots
Facebook (art): @RustyandBoots
Facebook (writing): @talesfromdemetia