Sacred groves

Many of the world's ancient belief systems also include the belief of sacred groves, where trees are revered and respected and there are priests and priestesses attending to them who also serve as guardians, preventing those who wish to tear down the trees by means of ancient magic and elaborate protection rituals. From ancient Norse and Celtic mythologies, to the Nigerian and Indian cosmological thoughts, extending far east in the ancient Shinto faith of Japan and the peculiar habits of the 19 tribes of the forest peoples of Malaysia, sacred groves provide relief and shelter from the mundane aspects of life and are considered living temples, albeit absent of stone walls or ornate stone monuments. A place of meeting where ancient rituals are performed, it is also a place of refuge for many in times of danger. For those who were fated to not find peace in this life, it is considered as the final resting place where the soul finds eternal peace as it reunites with the creator. A sacred grove or sacred woods are any grove of trees of special religious importance to a particular culture. Sacred groves were most prominent in the Ancient Near East and prehistoric Europe,[citation needed] but 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 horgr, 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. Norse mythology or Scandinavian mythology is the body of mythology of the North Germanic peoples stemming from Norse paganism and continuing after the Christianization of Scandinavia and into the Scandinavian folklore of the modern period. The northernmost extension of Germanic mythology, Norse mythology consists of tales of various deities, beings, and heroes derived from numerous sources from both before and after the pagan period, including medieval manuscripts, archaeological representations, and folk tradition. Numerous gods are mentioned in the source texts, such as the hamm r-wielding, mankind-protecting god Thor, who unrelentingly pursues his foes; the one-eyed, raven-flanked god Odin, who craftily pursues knowledge throughout the worlds and bestowed among mankind the runic alphabet; the beautiful, sei?r-working, feathered cloak-clad goddess Freyja who rides to battle to choose among the slain; the vengeful, skiing goddess Ska?i, who prefers the wolf howls of the winter mountains to the seashore; the powerful god Njor?r, who may calm both sea and fire and grant wealth and land; the god Freyr, whose weather and farming associations bring peace and pleasure to mankind; the goddess I?unn, who keeps apples that grant eternal youthfulness; the mysterious god Heimdallr, who is born of nine mothers, can hear grass grow, has gold teeth, and possesses a resounding horn; the half-god Loki, who brings tragedy to the gods by engineering the death of the goddess Frigg's beautiful son Baldr; and numerous other deities. Most of the surviving mythology centers on the plights of the gods and their interaction with various other beings, such as mankind and the jotnar, beings who may be friends, lovers, foes and/or family members of the gods. The cosmos in Norse mythology consist of Nine Worlds flanked a central cosmological tree; Yggdrasil. Units of time and elements of the cosmology are personified as deities or beings. Various forms of a creation myth are recounted, where the world is created from the flesh of the primordial being Ymir, and the first two humans are Ask and Embla. These worlds are foretold to be reborn after the events of Ragnarok, where an immense battle occurs between the Gods and their enemies, and the world is enveloped in flames, only to be reborn anew. There the surviving gods will meet and the land will be fertile and green, and two humans will repopulate the world. Norse mythology has been a discussion of scholarly interpretation and debate since the 17th century, when key texts were brought to the attention to the intellectual circles of Europe. By way of comparative mythology and historical linguistics, scholars have identified elements of Germanic mythology from Proto-Indo-European mythology. In the modern period, the Romanticist Viking revival re-awoke an interest in the subject matter, and references to Norse mythology may now be found throughout modern popular culture. The myths have further been revived in a religious context among adherents of Germanic Neopaganism.