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weLOG #42 Guardians of the Wild: Mythological Protectors of Nature Across Cultures

In mythology and folklore around the world, the natural environment often plays a central role, not only as a setting but as a living entity deserving of respect and protection. Various cultures have envisioned spirits and creatures that serve as guardians of the forests, rivers, and other natural landscapes. These mythological beings, whether benevolent or fearsome, embody the reverence and awe humans have for nature. Here, we delve into the stories and characteristics of seven such protectors: the Curupira from Brazil, the Kodama from Japan, Tawhaki from Māori mythology, the Dryads from Greece, the Apsaras from Hindu and Buddhist traditions, the Leshy from Slavic folklore, and the Yara-ma-yha-who from Aboriginal Australian folklore (you’ll travel into their world across two separate newsletters).



The Curupira: The Brazilian Forest Guardian


In the rich tapestry of Brazilian folklore, the Curupira stands out as a fierce protector of the Amazon rainforest. This mythical being is often depicted as a small, human-like creature with bright red or orange hair and feet that face backward. The unusual orientation of its feet serves to confuse those who might try to track it, leading them in the wrong direction.

The Curupira is endowed with supernatural speed and strength, allowing it to outpace and overpower those who threaten the forest. It uses its powers primarily to protect the flora and fauna from harm, targeting hunters and woodcutters who exploit the jungle's resources irresponsibly. The Curupira is known for its mischievous nature, often playing tricks to mislead and disorient trespassers, but its actions always aim to preserve the sanctity of the forest.



Kodama: The Spirits of Japanese Trees


In Japanese folklore, the Kodama are tree spirits revered for their connection to the forest. These spirits are believed to inhabit ancient trees, and harming these trees can bring severe misfortune. Kodama are often depicted as ethereal, ghost-like figures that are rarely seen by humans. However, their presence is deeply felt in the serene and mystical atmosphere of Japan's old forests.


Kodama possess the ability to bless or curse individuals based on how they treat the forest. Those who respect nature might find themselves blessed with good fortune, while those who damage the trees and disrupt the natural order may face the wrath of these spirits. The concept of the Kodama underscores the importance of living in harmony with nature and respecting the life that thrives within it.



Tawhaki: The Māori Demi-God of Nature


In the mythology of the Māori people of New Zealand, Tawhaki is a revered figure associated with both the forest and the weather. Tawhaki is often depicted as a handsome and powerful demi-god who undertakes numerous adventures and quests. One of his significant roles is as a protector of the forests and birds.


Tawhaki’s powers include control over lightning and thunder, which he can wield to protect the natural world. In some stories, Tawhaki is seen climbing a celestial vine to reach the heavens, symbolizing his connection between the earth and the divine. His legends emphasize the sacredness of the natural world and the divine responsibility to safeguard it.


These mythological guardians reflect a universal recognition of nature's profound importance and the need to protect it. From the dense jungles of Brazil to the ancient forests of Japan and Greece, the sacred landscapes of New Zealand and India, and the mysterious woods of Eastern Europe and Australia, these beings embody humanity’s respect for the environment. Their stories remind us of the delicate balance we must maintain with nature and the reverence it deserves.

AROUND THE WORLD 🌏

by Kenny


THE POSSIBLE UNDERBELLY OF THE GRAU RESERVE

The Grau Tropical Sea National Reserve in Peru has been established after over a decade of negotiations. This protected area is rich in biodiversity and as such its creation is being hailed as a milestone for biodiversity conservation. Though in many regards this is a win for the environment, it still leaves room for some skepticism as some industrial fishing activities are permitted within the reserve. 

While some welcome the move, conservationists argue for no-fishing areas to truly protect marine ecosystems. The reserve aims to address threats like illegal fishing, but the decision to allow industrial fishing has sparked controversy among some experts. 

Peru is not on track as it relates to achieving their 30x30 goal so then one may wonder why not keep this reserve as “pure” as possible? This reserve is a step in the right direction but it’s not without its challenges.  


DOUBLE-EDGED SWORD

Vermont makes history as being the first state to hold fossil fuel companies more accountable for climate change. 

Vermont passed a groundbreaking law, the Climate Superfund Act, requiring fossil fuel companies to cover the consequences of their actions and pay for the costs of weather disasters fueled by climate change. This law mandates that carbon emissions from 2000 to 2019 be evaluated to determine how much big oil companies should pay.

While supporters of this law hail it as holding polluters accountable, some opponents criticize it as punitive and detrimental to the energy industry. 

Could this law lead to negatively significant impacts in other areas? It could be a double-edged sword in our fight against climate change. What’s your take?

WHAT WE'RE READING


  • Papuans head to Indonesian court to protect forests from palm oil Read here

  • Submerged homes and heatwaves fuel Mexico climate angst Read here

  • Why diversity in nature could be the key to mental wellbeing Read here

  • Has the Term ‘Keystone Species’ Lost Its Meaning? Read here

  • ‘More profitable than farming’: how Ecuador’s birding boom is benefiting wildlife Read here

  • The market value of carbon offsets drops 61% Read here




There you have it, dear friends!

Stay tuned for part 2 of the journey into the mythological world of the forests!


Till next time!


Joanna Arai

💛


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