What is it about trees, anyway? To walk through a grove of them is almost to sense the presence of a Goddess around you. Today I walked through a plum orchard, past an oak grove and toward a field in which we are preparing to plant hazelnuts. There was no wind and even if there had been, there were no leaves for it to rustle. In February, the trees are all graceful branches growing out of smooth or knobbly trunks. They almost look — well — human.
Perhaps this is why many Goddesses have been worshiped in groves of trees, and why some have been pictured as trees. Asherah, the Canaanite mother goddess who was apparently (according to the Bible) worshiped by a great many Hebrews, was identified with a tree and worshiped in groves. Brigit of Ireland, who was first a goddess and then a saint was served by 19 nuns who tended a sacred flame at Kildare, which means the Church of the Oak. Back in the day, the nuns were no doubt priestesses and the goddess associated with springs, wells, and groves. Lithuanian Sun Goddess Saule was said to perch atop a tree at the summer solstice each year. Diana, the Roman Goddess of the hunt and later the moon, whose cult eventually came to compete with Christianity for the hearts of the Roman Empire was originally a goddess of the grove.
If events had turned out differently, significant numbers of people in Europe, the Americas, and other Christian countries might be dancing in groves this Sunday instead of visiting buildings with stained glass windows.