"There are few things that smell as wonderful as a deep breath of warm, morning country air, full of the sweet smell of growing things all around", commented Janet and send my little grey cells-those that still work-in a frenzy.

There had been a time when people believed that inside every majestic tree, in every holy grove, in the deepest parts of the woods lived a Nymph. 
A Dryad to be presise, as Nymphs had many sub-categories: nymphs of the sea, nymphs of streams and freshwater springs, nymphs of groves and sea caves etc.

John William Waterhouse (6 April 1849 — 10 February 1917)  A Hamadryad  Oil on canvas, 1893  160 x 61 cm  Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery, Plymouth, Devon, UK
Hamadryad by John William Waterhouse

Some of the Nymphs lived as, lets say, souls and protectors of trees. Meliades took care of orchard trees such as apple etc but their sisters Dryads or Hamadryads were the souls mainly-but not exclusively- of oak trees 
(drys is the Greek word for oak....notice the use of almost the same linguistic root in the word druid ).

Dryads were somewhere between Gods and humans. They were not immortal, but they died when their tree died. Thus it was a sacrilege to harm in anyway the sacred trees.

Goddesses mine, ye Mousai, say did the oaks come into being at the same time as the Nymphai [Dryades]? The Nymphai rejoice when the rain makes the oaks to grow; and again the Nymphai weep when there are no longer leaves upon the oaks.” - Callimachus, Hymn IV to Delos 75

 39-19-18/37 Tiepolo,Giovanni Battista. Apollo and Daphne. A...
 Nymphs in general were quite wild creatures. 
They fell in love with young men luring them to their doom,they had affairs with gods, run naked following Pan, gave birth to semigods and heroes like Achilles, hunted with virgin Artemis, rode dolphins around Poseidon's chariot 
(and had a hell of a good time :)
But some-not many-of them were a bit more reserved. Best known is Daphne who run in terror when Apollo declared his love for her and prefered to be turned into a bush-the Apollo laurel-rather than having an affair with the most handsome and charming of the immortal gods...can't say I understand her choice...sigh* 

Ylas and the Nymphs. Companion of Hercules, he went to bring water and I m sad to report he never came back. The Nymphs of the pond fell in love with him and kept him there.
By John William Waterhouse.

All this wildness gave them a very bad reputation indeed and even today their name is used in the word "nympho-maniac".
But I have to point out that Dryads were in general realy good girls, just taking care of their trees, unlike their water/sea/spring sisters.

Nymphs survived the coming of the Christian era by hidding in fairytales and folk myths. Up till the middle of last century there were people in villages "able to see the fairies". Grandmothers told bed time stories about the "Neraides" and gave council to the children, if they meet one never never never to talk to her or she would steal their sanity and/or their voice.

There are countless folk tales about young men who happened to sneak up on a fairy taking her bath. 
If the guy kept his wits and managed to steal her garments, she would follow him meekly and be his for ever.
But many tales end with the fairy discovering her clothes hidden in the house. She would then abandon her husband and children and go back to her own kind.
A prominent Greek politician in the 1800s was seriously reputed to have a fairy as a great-grandmother :)
Maybe (I wish) Dryads will be back one day. Maybe we mortals will remember then what a huge part of life on this planet we owe to plants. Till then they will continue to hide deep in the forests...

(just an after-thought : maybe they are the Entwives Treebeard was searching for...if you meet him tell him about them)


  1. Wow, its very interesting that Greeks had very similar beliefs as old Slavs. In old pagan Slavic religion the "supreme commander" of all Gods was Perun and tree representing him is oak. Even Christianity destroyed Slavic pagan religion some customs or people behavior of it is still present today or some are implemented into Christianity slightly differently. So anyway, oaks ware used instead of churches for people to pray on them when Turks burned churches, also oaks are in some places still in use as meeting places, for fairs or similar gatherings. For instance second Serbian uprising against Turks was assembled in village of Takovo near an old oak which is still alive today. In my courtyard in village I have several hundred years old oak tree, thats about to die from his old age. I will make a picture of him next time I go there.

  2. How interesting to read about the origins of dryads. I love the idea of tree guardians and I do wish that there truly is such a thing as a fairy. Isn't it fun to think about?!

    Have you ever hugged an enormous old tree? When I find such trees, I have a hard time resisting the urge to wrap my arms around it, because when I do, I feel like I am touching a very special, wise, old spirit and it fills me with awe and happiness to be so close to such a thing. I will stand there and think about how many years it must have been standing there, what it has lived through, and I wish that I could learn its stories.

    To me, all plants are individual little spirits. Some are simple and have a short life, so they live fast and gaily. Then there are the trees, some of which live many hundreds of years old. I have hugged an old redwood tree was nearly 1,000 years old and I felt like its aura completely enclosed me as its own hug to me.

    Is it any wonder that I would be a druid if there was any posibility of such a thing?! :)

    Thank you for the wonderful post and lovely pictures! Miodrag, I would love to see the picture of the old oak tree of which you speak!

  3. Is it any wonder that from the start I never thought of playing anything else in wow but a druid ?;)
    I have to admit, I'm a tree-hugger myself.Their aura is palpable and it soothes me everytime.In Greece the oldest trees are olive trees.
    According to wikipedia the oldest one is in Crete estimated to be between 2000 and 5000 old. Ring analysis showed 4000 years.
    And still producing olives!!
    I will post the olive tree's story soon. It also has to do with us girls losing the right to vote in ancient Athens:(

    @Mio,see how common tradition is in all parts of the planet??If you look closely and without preconseptions you will see the red thread connecting everything with everything. I would also love to see the old oak:)

  4. Ok, while I find or take a picture of my oak here are some others from villages nearby.

    This is Takovo uprising oak pictured this winter. Sadly they cut him down because of risk of falling.


    These pictures are from village of Ljutovnica that is in half way from Takovo to my village. In church courtyard there is a few old oaks with one very representative. You can see him here in the distance.


    On next picture the very far one is the oldest, even these others are very old also but look very small comparing with their brother giant.


    And finally this is close shot of this very tree, my compact camera lenses are not wide enough to take closer image of whole tree, but for reper of how big it is you can take the fence which is about 150 to 170 cm tall.


  5. Great Post :D
    I thought that you might like my
    Taliesin's Battle Of The Trees machinima film,
    which also features some Dryads among the cast of actors
    Bright Blessings By Stone and Star,
    Celestial Elf ~

  6. Thanks for the comment and for the blessing too :)
    What a magical film and what an interesting story about the Battle of the Trees !!!
    I've been reading a lot about the old Greek matriarchical religion/society, the one that flourished in Minoan Crete and the Greek mainland before the Mycianians and the Dorians brought their male warrior gods-Zeus,Appolo,Poseidon,Aris etc.
    I need to read about the Celts asap:)