List of tree deities

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Yakshi under a stylized ashoka tree. Railing figure at Bharhut Stupa, 2nd century BC, India

A tree deity or tree spirit is a nature deity related to a tree. Such deities are present in many cultures. They are usually represented as a young woman, often connected to ancient fertility and tree worship lore.[1] The status of tree deities varies from that of a local fairy, ghost, sprite or nymph, to that of a goddess.[2]

Examples of tree deities[edit]

The Yakshis or Yakshinis (Sanskrit: याक्षिणि), mythical maiden deities of Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain mythology are closely associated with trees, especially the ashoka tree and the sal tree. Although these tree deities are usually benevolent, there are also yakshinis with malevolent characteristics in Indian folklore.[3]

Panaiveriyamman, named after panai, the Tamil name for the Palmyra palm, is an ancient fertility deity linked to this palm that is so important in Tamil culture. This deity is also known as Taalavaasini, a name that further relates her to all types of palm trees. Some other Tamil tree deities are related to ancient agricultural deities, such as Puliyidaivalaiyamman, the deity of the tamarind tree, and Kadambariyamman, associated with the kadamba tree. These were seen as manifestations of a goddess who offers her blessings by giving fruits in abundance.[4]

In Thailand the village ghosts or fairies related to trees such as Nang Takian and Nang Tani are known generically as Nang Mai (นางไม้).[5] There are also other tree ghosts that are male.

Tree deities were common in ancient Northern European lore. In Charlemagne's time, following the Capitulatio de partibus Saxione in 782 offerings to sacred trees or any other form of worship of the spirits of trees and springs were outlawed. Even as late as 1227 the Synod of Trier decreed that the worship of trees and sources was forbidden.[6]

List of tree deities[edit]

Tree deities in different cultures of the world include:

Gallery[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Heinrich Zimmer, Myths and Symbols in Indian Art and Civilization. (1946)
  2. ^ Trees in Mythology
  3. ^ Heinrich Zimmer, Myths and Symbols in Indian Art and Civilization. (1946)
  4. ^ Mythical Trees and Deities
  5. ^ Spirits
  6. ^ Leander Petzoldt: Kleines Lexikon der Dämonen und Elementargeister, 3. Auflage München 2003; Seite 31–32; Lemma „Baumgeist“
  7. ^ Wolfram Eberhard, The Local Cultures of South and East China, pg. 64
  8. ^ Olivier Dabène & Sophie Blanchy, Les dieux au service du peuple: Itinéraires religieux, médiations, syncrétisme à Madagascar, Karthala Editions, 2006