My children's visionary fantasy WIND includes a forest goddess, a shape-changing tree spirit. She feels mythic and real to me; I see her in my mind's eye as a wise guide.
After finishing the book, I started wondering if there were any "real" goddesses like the one I had imagined into story-being. Whoa! There are many forest and tree goddesses from nearly every culture.
My own Celtic ancestry has quite a few including Flidais, the Lady of the Forest, who guards wild fauna and flora. The Romans had Diana, protector of wild animals, vegetation and the hunt. Lauma is a woodland fae goddess of trees and marshes in the eastern Baltic. In Greek mythology, Dryads capture our fancy; fairy-like creatures so connected to their trees that if the tree perishes then so do they. A Yoruba goddess named Aja felt quite similar to the tree-goddess Dania I'd written in my book. She is an Orisha spirit of the forest, kindred with animals and heals with herbs. And, of course, there is the Greek mythology about Daphne, who is unwillingly pursued by Apollo. Just before he kisses her, she calls on Gaia, or in some versions her river god father, for help and is transformed into a Laurel tree. Perhaps this is the first time I ever heard of a Dryad, a spirit in a tree, and the image stuck in my mind and inspired me to write a similar character, although Dania is a powerful goddess who walks with a lion and probably doesn't have to run from anyone!
Some of the goddesses like Arduinna are specific to a particular forest, in her case the Ardennes forest region in Belgium, Luxembourg and France. Asherah is a Jewish tree goddess. Kurozome is the spirit of the Japanese cherry tree. The Dakota and Lakota tribes honor Canotila (Chawn-oh-tee-lah), little tree dwellers. And on and on it goes. So many tree spirits and forest goddesses!
The way I've pictured the tree goddess in WIND is with a green golden head wrap and dress that could be leaves and branches, honey skin with dappled patterns of amber, brown and gold. She could be any race at all, and indeed she is, because forest goddess mythology is something we share around the world.