(Versión española AQUÍ)

A sacred grove or sacred woods are any grove of trees of special religious importance to a particular culture. Sacred groves feature in various cultures throughout the world.

They were important features of the mythological landscape and cult practice of Celtic, Baltic, Germanic, ancient Greek, Near Eastern, Roman, and Slavic polytheism, and were also used in India, Japan, and West Africa. Examples of sacred groves include the Greco-Roman temenos, the Norse hörgr, and the Celtic nemeton, which was largely but not exclusively associated with Druidic practice. During the Northern Crusades, there was a common practice of building churches on the sites of sacred groves.

Ancient holy trees still exist in the English countryside and are mentioned often in folklore and fairytales.

Ancient Near East

Excavations at Labraunda have revealed a large shrine assumed to be that of Zeus Stratios mentioned by Herodotus as a large sacred grove of plane trees sacred to Carians. In Syria, there was a grove sacred to Adonis at Afqa.

Ancient Greece and Rome

The oak grove at Dodona
The groves of Academe
The grove of Ariccia
The woods dedicated to Jupiter
The Bosco Sacro

Baltic polytheism

Sacred groves have survived in the Baltic states longer than in other parts of Europe. The main Baltic Prussian sanctuary, which is also considered a sacred grove was Romowe. The last extermination of sacred groves was carried out in the lands of present-day Lithuania after its Christianization in 1387 and Samogitia in 1413. Some groves, such as in Šventybrastis, still survive. A sacred grove is known as alka(s) in Lithuanian.

«Šventybrastis6» de Hugo.arg - Trabajo propio. Disponible bajo la licencia GFDL vía Wikimedia Commons
«Šventybrastis6» de Hugo.arg – Trabajo propio. Disponible bajo la licencia GFDL vía Wikimedia Commons

Germanic paganism

Sacred groves feature prominently in Scandinavia. The most famous sacred grove of Northern Europe was at the Temple at Uppsala in Old Uppsala, where every tree was considered sacred – described by Adam of Bremen. The practice of blót – the sacrificial ritual in Norse paganism was usually held in lunds or sacred groves. According to Adam of Bremen, in Scandinavia, pagan kings sacrificed nine males of each species at the sacred groves every ninth year.[6]

The pagan Germanic peoples (ancestors of the people of modern day Germany, England and Scandinavia) also performed tree-worship and had the concept of sacred groves.

Celtic polytheism

The Nemeton:
Germany, Switzerland, Czech Republic, Hungary, France (in many sites of ancient Gaul) England and Northern Ireland.
The Nevet forest near Locronan in Brittany, France.
The sacred grove at Didyma, Turkey
The Drunemeton (Drunemeton or Drynemeton, Gaulish *dru-nemeton “holy place of oak”), Turkey.
turkish oak grove


Around 14,000 sacred groves have been reported from all over India, which act as reservoirs of rare fauna, and more often rare flora, amid rural and even urban settings.


Buoyem, in Techiman, Brong-Ahafo, Ghana.
Al-gâba, in Kumbi Saleh, Ghana
Amweam, in Esukawkaw, Ghana.
Osun-Osogbo, UNESCO World Heritage Site, Nigeria.
Kaya, in Kenia
Sheka, in Etiopía
Oussouye community sacred grove Usuy, in Senegal.
The baobab tree is considered sacred in almost all countries.

Shinto grove Atsuta-ku, in Nagoya, associated with Kashima Shrine.
Tadasu no Mori, northeast Kioto, associated with the Kamo Shrine.
Utaki Seifa-utaki, UNESCO World Heritage Site, in Okinawa, sacred grove associated to Ryukyuan religion.
Tadasu no Mori




United States of America

Sacred woods, groves and trees in fiction

See also
External Links

Further reading

Mitología de los bosques (Forest mitology, spanish web site)

The forest is always mysterious is easy to believe to see and hear, there, a thousand strange things. The objects are enlarged and distorted echoes Older anthropomorphize the jungle. A forest is a legion of beings who speak, gesture, think and that can even walk
The legend records many examples of protecting forests that close off the persecutors of innocence. Other times the forest does not hide innocence but hell.”
But if in origin, deep forests, silent and gloomy, evoking the idea of the gods, surrounded terror and mystery, then, when the gods take human form, sacred groves become temples, or these are built in the forest.
Locus y nemus: Both terms seem synonymous and show the archaism of the idea of the forest as a sacred place.”
A forest is a sacred place, a covered tree space, which is dedicated, as a whole, to a divinity in particular, or which belongs to the sacred world in general, it is enough mysterious and transcendental as to be capable of becoming sanctuary, but at the same time form a compact unit, and covers an area of ground that normally remains more or less separated from the space inhabited by the human social group .
In the forest (…) no matter what kind of trees they are, are not the qualities of them that matters, but the whole set by trees, and therefore capable of being dedicated to many gods.


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