History of Hamadryads

6 Jan

I think I can safely say that all pagans revere Nature and one of Nature’s greatest Sentinels are our friends, the Trees.  There is an incredible amount of lore, symbolism and tradition surrounding trees, especially in the Druidic tradition, and I’m sure that most Craft practitioners have at least some rudimentary knowledge of the magical qualities of specific woods, such as oak, ash, birch and willow.

I have a particular interest in the spirits that inhabit trees, and for the earliest documentation of these we must first turn to the mythology of Ancient Greece.

Hamadryads are Greek mythological beings that live in trees. They are a specific species of dryad, which in turn are a particular type of nymph. Hamadryads are born bonded to a specific tree and if their tree dies the hamadryad dies as well.  For that reason, dryads and the gods punished any mortals who harmed trees.

HAMADRYAS (“Together with Tree” or “Together with Oak”) was a dryad, perhaps the first of the Oak tree nymphs. She was a daughter of OREIOS (“He of the Mountains”), the wife of the forest spirit OXYLOS (“Of the Woods”), and the mother of the eight hamadryad who presided over other specific types of tree.

AIGEIROS was the hamadryad of the black poplar.

AMPELOS was the hamadryad of the vine, including the wild grape, bryony, black bryony and the wrack.

BALANOS was the hamadryad of acorn-bearing trees, such as the holm and prickly-cupped oaks.

KARYA was the hamadryad of the nut tree, both the hazel and walnut, and possibly also the sweet chestnut.

KRANEIA was the hamadryad of the cornelian cherry tree (dogwood).

MOREA was the hamadryad of the mulberry tree or else the wild olive.

PTELEA was the hamadryad of the European elm.

SYKE was the hamadryad of the fig tree.

It is thought that their father, OXYLOS, resided in the beech tree.

The following excerpt is from Athenaeus, Deipnosophistae 1. 78a (trans. Gullick) (Greek rhetorician C2nd to 3rd A.D.):

The Epic poet Pherenikos, a Herakleto by birth, declares that the fig (Sykon) was named from Syke (Fig-Tree), the daughter of Oxylos (Thick with Woods); for Oxylos, son of Oreios (Mountain), married his sister Hamadryas (Oak-Tree) and begot among others, Karya (Nut-Tree), Balanos (Acorn-Tree), Kraneia (Cornel-Tree), Morea (Mulberry Tree), Aigeiros (Black Poplar-Tree), Ptelea (Elm-Tree), Ampelos (Vines), and Syke (Fig-Tree); and these are called Nymphai Hamadryades, and from them many trees derive their names. Hence, also, he adds, Hipponax says : `The black fig-tree (syke), sister of the vine (ampelos).’

I enjoy talking to the many trees I had the honor to plant on my property and their soft murmuring voices outside my window provide the loveliest music in return.  My hamadryads are happy and I am content; we wish the same for you.


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4 Responses to “History of Hamadryads”

  1. DrowseyMonkey January 6, 2009 at 1:01 AM #

    Very interesting. I love that photo. Do you ever visit http://www.enchanted-art.com/ ? I love her work.

    • Faerie♥Kat January 6, 2009 at 9:25 PM #

      I haven’t visited in a very long time; it’s changed quite a bit. Glad you
      stopped by and gave me the incentive to pop over there! Mwah!

      > [Original Message]
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  2. marvin January 13, 2009 at 7:35 PM #

    Heinlein has a recurring obscure character in some of his books, Hamadryad, who I believe is a genetic construct made of genes donated by a large group of people. I think. So was Friday, but she was only in one book.

    • Faerie♥Kat January 13, 2009 at 9:04 PM #

      I’ve read Heinlein, but not for mumble mumble mumble years. I apparently
      must read him again, because I don’t remember even a snippet of Hamadryad
      or Friday. Another blasted senior moment has eaten a hole in my grey
      matter…

      > [Original Message]
      >

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