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Sink Your Teeth Into This

Keep Your Pearly Whites Happy

A beautiful smile is perhaps one of the most important features of a person. According to the latest studies, it turns out that our smiles are not a learned behavior, but something that is deeply ingrained within our genetic makeup. Even blind people, who were born without the ability to see, still flash smiles left, right, and center. So why is this simple gesture so widely spread and important to humans? Well, for one, it’s one of the most extensively recognized forms of non-verbal communication. In certain situations, a smile can convey your emotions better than words can. When we can’t speak, we turn to smiling in order to reassure each other that everything’s going to be alright. When a child smiles, we know that they are happy. It’s nature’s way of telling us that we’re doing a good job. What’s even more interesting is the fact that smiling influences the way our brains think. Forcing yourself to smile, no matter how down or gloomy you are triggers a small chemical outburst in your nervous system. It’s basically your fail-safe mechanism against unhappiness. Smiling makes you happy and being happy makes you smile. It’s a never-ending cycle! That’s why it’s extremely important to take care of our teeth, as they are the stars of the whole smiling show. There is a wealth of information online that can help us choose what’s right for the health of our mouth and teeth.

Making the Right Choices

In total, adults have around 32 teeth, and most pearlies spend their entire time being all but hidden away behind our cheeks and lips. However, when one of them is unhappy, you can bet that all of them will get unhappy pretty soon. After all, they work as a unit, so they will absolutely behave as such. You could not even eat a sandwich without using all of them simultaneously, so treat them with the utmost care. Lately, it seems that a lot of companies are putting out huge electric toothbrushes which sport multiple functions and vibrating speeds. While they might seem worthwhile in theory, some of us just cannot wrap their heads around using one. Maybe your teeth are simply too sensitive to endure the pressure of a motorized toothbrush. Maybe you tried an electric one and just weren’t impressed. Choosing which manual toothbrush to go for can be a bit of a daunting task, so make sure to check out this link which highlights the best ones on the market right now.

If you wear dentures, you must definitely be familiar with the pain and hassle they can cause. If they’re not fixed correctly, they can slide around and make it uncomfortable to speak or eat. This can prevent you from living life to the fullest and enjoying meeting friends or going out to restaurants. A good, reliable adhesive is key to dispelling anxiety related to dentures. If you find yourself wondering: “what is the best denture adhesive for my needs?” I am here to tell you that it’s not a one-size-fits-all issue. Different adhesives serve different purposes and fit certain needs better. Make sure you choose the one that’s right for you!

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How to Lighten the Load

Traveling with a Baby

Having a child is an equally wonderful and scary adventure. When you hold them in your arms for the first time, you’re amazed at how tiny and lightweight they are. At birth, babies usually weigh less than the average housecat. When it’s time to take them home, you very carefully place them in their carrier. As you grab the handle, you’re very careful not to swing it around too much. They’re so small, it’s easy to forget that they’re even in there. During the first months of their lives, you pick them up more times than you can count. Gradually, you notice your back starting to ache. You pay no attention to it, you’ll adjust to it eventually. Some weeks pass; it’s time to start going outside more. You find yourself juggling a diaper bag, a stroller, a car seat, and the (now significantly heavier) baby. You muster all the strength in your body and get the little one in the car seat. You get to the park and immediately head over to a bench to catch your breath. Everyone warned you having kids is a difficult job, but no one ever told you it’s going to wreak havoc on your joints. And don’t get me started on taking a baby on a plane. Lugging everything around through a busy airport is nothing short of exhausting. Depending on where you go, you might have to bring a portable crib on top of your usual stroller and luggage. Who would have thought traveling with a kid could replace a visit to the gym?

Making Light Work of It

There are no hard rules when it comes to buying things for your child. It all depends on your needs and parenting style. Sure, there is some stuff you can’t afford to overlook, such as a stroller, a car seat, a good bassinet or crib, but don’t rush to buy expensive diaper bags. sleep monitors, or fancy toys. No one child needs 10 blankets. Trust me on this one. When choosing the essentials, heavy doesn’t always mean more sturdy. Oftentimes, it’s exactly the opposite. Heavy car seats are more difficult to lug around and install in your car. A heavy cot or crib could be good, but not if you plan on moving it around a lot. Out of all of the new purchases you have to make, I’d argue that a stroller is the most important. It’s the key element that can either make your life easier or more difficult. When picking one out, remember that its weight will almost double once you add the baby and a bag full of diapers, bottles, and snacks. Lille Nord is a website dedicated to new parents struggling to navigate this new way of life. They have articles on everything baby-related, including a particularly helpful one on how to choose the best lightweight stroller. You might be tempted to go with one that looks robust and weighs as much as a tank. You know just know that thing will not turn a corner, no matter how strong your core is. What’s more, featherweight strollers are oftentimes more compact and portable, so you won’t need to worry about long drives or packed airplanes. Keep it light!

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Hiking with Kids

Benefits of Hiking

Hiking is, by far, one of the most popular outdoor activities because you don’t need any special equipment (like rock climbing or mountain biking), just the clothes on your back and a good reliable water bottle. Its popularity is, in part, due to the fact that a lot of us live just a short drive away from a hiking trail or walking route. Oftentimes overlooked as a type of exercise, walking is a very important form of cardio for our bodies. Before cars or horses, our ancestors used to walk a lot – whether they were hunting and foraging for food or looking for shelter. It’s a form of travel that is very well ingrained in our genetic makeup. Hiking allows us to exercise while surrounded by nature, which is not only good for our physical health, but also for our mental well-being. We live incredibly busy lives, where it’s not unusual to sit at a desk all day and not unheard of to breathe unclean, polluted air. Hiking, while a very good form of exercise, is also very social in essence, allowing us to take in and enjoy the great outdoors in the company of family and friends. The fresh air clears up our lungs, while the amazing scenery nourishes our souls. When it comes to toddlers and young children, hiking teaches them how to respect nature, and instills in them a bond to the outdoors which they won’t relinquish easily. Embarking on a trail with small kids might seem a bit daunting to new parents. However, according to The Lake and Stars, your first hike with your child can go smoothly, as long as you do a bit of preparation.

How Do You Prepare?

Hiking in nature is not that different from going on a very long walk to the park. You will, of course, need plenty of food and water with you. You can turn it into more of an event by packing a blanket and having a picnic. Depending on where you’re going, it can get chilly, so make sure you and your family are bundled up. Above all (and I cannot stress this enough) make sure your child is wearing comfortable shoes that suit the trail and support their growing feet. A lot can go wrong when choosing hiking boots for kids. They have a lot less experience using their legs than you do, so even the slightest discomfort causes them a lot of pain. If the shoes do not offer enough support, it might make it difficult for them to keep up with your pace. Depending on the terrain, their boots need a stiff sole if the trail is rocky; but softer soles are more comfortable on grassy or muddy tracks. If you live in an area where it rains a lot, you might benefit immensely from buying shoes that are weather insulated. You don’t have to spend a fortune on your kid’s shoes (as they will outgrow them pretty quickly), but they need to be of good quality so they don’t hurt or damage their tiny feet. After all, the last thing you need is to carry your crying toddler halfway up the hill while they scream about how much their feet hurt.

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7 Backyard Summer Activities For You And Your Children

Summer is coming, and this is no time for complying with a passive life at home. Just as children need dynamics, you do too. If you have a writer’s block and still want to plan in advance a list of activities to pursue in the summer, dive into my list of fun activities for inspiration.

How to get the most out of this summer

1. Water Balloon Fight

Splashing water balloons around is an awesome way of mitigating the scorching summer days. Besides, your kids might love the idea of finally getting to play with water after a bunch of promises throughout the colder seasons. Since filling up one balloon at a time can get pretty tedious, you should opt for a pack of self-sealing water balloons, which you can find both on Amazon and at Walmart.

2. Rustle up a reading nook

Nature plays a central role in relaxing our minds. Thus, you should take advantage of a personal yard and assemble a DIY nook for reading books and fun talks with your folks. Also, you could consider buying a walmart pop-up tent from Walmart and extend the storytime for the night. It would be a great chance to teach your children how entertaining camping is and play scouts while exploring the vegetation in your backyard.

3. Challenge your family to a Twister game on the grass

Improvisation is the key to genuine entertainment. Also, thinking outside the box can only bring up extra ideas to your bucket list, which could lead to even more crazy game ideas. Go to the nearest crafts shop and buy a bunch of paint that you’ll apply on the grass while trying to imitate the Twister carpet. Let the paint dry and challenge your children to a fanned game.

4. Organize a crafting workshop

Children urge to exercise and explore their creativity in all forms. While you could let them discover it by themselves, involving yourself and creating a fun environment to stimulate their imagination would surely be appreciated. Not having ideas? Just ask your children. They’ll instantly trump up a few cutting, gluing, and painting ideas. You merely have to provide the papers and scissors.

5. Create a puppet show

During childhood, inventing stories and profiles of our dolls and cars and creating contexts for them to exist is one of the most beloved activities. Your little ones will adore the idea of putting up a puppet show with their teddies and dolls, and they might even come up with a narrative. You could take turns at playing the audience and the actor and then vote for the best play.

6. Arrange a rope bridge tournament 

If your children have a lot of energy, then more dynamic activities would play better. With some ropes and two or three trees, you could devise a rope bridge for riveting contests. Make sure that the trees are stable enough to support the weight of an adult, and the same goes for the ropes.

7. Initiate an outdoor movie night 

Place a few blankets and pillows on the ground, supply yourself with a projector, and grace the day with a film for the family. The natural environment will add value to the experience and create a romantic scenery that no indoor cinema could ever provide.

Planting Trees Around the World
Posted in Forests Trees

Planting Trees Around the World

Thanks to Global Forest Fund – new opportunities

Thousands of trees have been planted during 2013 by schools in Russia, Indonesia, Cyprus, Bahamas, Malawi, India and Ghana. This has helped to educate local communities, to improve air quality, to reduce CO2 emissions and noise pollution and much more!

We are opening the new edition of Global Forest Fund 2014 and your school may have opportunity to join to the global tree planting activities.

The Global Forest Fund is an important tool to support schools in tree planting activities combined with education on global climate questions. The Fund symbolises the Foundation for Environmental Education ́s (FEE) policy of taking part in practical activities to achieve actions and knowledge building. Activities supported in engaged schools strongly influence local communities and enables them to act with higher level of informed decisions in future.

Throughout its sixth year, the FEE Global Forest Fund supported hundreds projects around the world. Children planted trees to protect the planet against climate change, to learn about the role and functions of urban forests and to raise community awareness about the importance of forests.

Planting Trees Around the World

A school in Brynsk 56 in Russia said: We planted 210 trees. This action was organized as a Climate change campaign. We organized a competition to make posters to raise awareness about climate change, we provided grafting trees workshops and organized a seminar on climate change. We also organized a competition of ideas on prevention of climate change. Children, parents and teachers offered ideas of action that could be taken at the level of family, community, city and country to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

250 trees were planted at the school in Indonesia. It was a full day of activities and students from Junior High School invited other schools as well as the local Women Islamic Student Association. Following the tree planting activity, everyone took a part in classroom activities where they learnt about the importance of, and the role and functions of urban forests as well as the importance of healthy food, drink and nutrition in general for children.

All projects supported by FEE’s Global Forest Fund are financed by CO2 compensation from flights from organisations and individual donors. In 2013, 18 projects in Europe, Asia and Africa were supported with more than 8,400 EUR. To find out how to donate to the fund please contact the LEAF Programme Director.

Schools interested in applying for funding for tree planting projects can apply anytime during the year by contacting the International LEAF Director: Malgorzata (Gosia) Luszczek, e-mail: gosia@feeinternational.org.

plant a tree for 2019
Posted in Forests Trees

Plant a tree for Peace 2019

LEAF International (Learning about Forest) and ENO (Environment Online) invite all schools to plant trees for a sustainable future.

The event takes place on 21st of September 2014 – UN’s World Peace Day or like is proposed this year on Monday 22nd September 2014. It is part of a global campaign where more than 5000 schools in about 120 countries will participate.
Since September 21st is on a Sunday this year, you may of course do the activity on a different day, if it’s more suitable.

plant a tree for 2019

This event is a practical way of enhancing environmental and global education. It connects children all over the world to focus on environmental issues. What is more, the event fosters peace education and increases the awareness of school children about the importance of trees and forests on a global scale. The planting of trees symbolize hope and the continuity of life.

The first trees will be planted at noon in Oceania. Following the Sun, new trees will be put to earth in Asia, Europe and Africa. Finally this chain of trees will reach the Americas. The Earth turns on its axis once, and several hundred thousand new trees will have found their homes.

Plant a tree for Peace
Posted in Forests Trees

Plant a tree for Peace

LEAF International (Learning about Forest) and ENO (Environmental Online) invite all schools to plant trees for a sustainable future.

The event takes place on 21 September – UN’s World Peace Day. It is part of a global campaign in which thousands of schools around the world will participate. Each participating school which sends us a report and a picture, will receive a certificate.

Plant a tree for Peace

A tree is a symbol for us. Firstly, it reminds us of nature and the importance of environmental protection. Secondly, it symbolises our cooperation between schools around the world. We support cultural diversity and tolerance. As it is an international day for peace, we mark these trees as peace trees. We hope to grow together with our trees in the future and for the future.

The first trees will be planted at noon in Oceania. Following the Sun, new trees will be put in the earth in Asia, Europe and Africa. Finally this chain of trees will reach the Americas. The Earth turns on its axis once, and several hundred thousand new trees will have found their homes.

Report 2011
Posted in Forests Trees

Report 2011

21 September 2011 was again a huge success. Children from all over the world planted trees for peace. Thank you so much to all who participated.

Below are photos from the events.

This page will be updated continuously until we have received all reports.

Onuma Furusato no Mori Nature School, Japan

Daisetsu Nature School, Japan

Houkago Shizen Taiken Katsudou Kokoiku, Japan

Zakladni skola Sternberk, Olomoucka 76, Czech Republic
Photo: Marie Hrachovcova

Rwengwe Primary School, Uganda

Kaberebere T/school, Uganda

Kateerera Primary School, Ungada

Nyamitsindo Primary School, Uganda

Kagarama Mixed School. Uganda

Ngarama Cath Primary School, Uganda

Report 2011

Katembe Primary School, Uganda

Buhungura Primary School, Uganda

Kyabishaho Primary School, Uganda

Burungamo Primary School, Uganda

Kiyenje Primary School, Uganda

Katooma I Primary School, Uganda

Rushongye Primary School, Uganda

Rubindi Girls’, Uganda

Kibingo Primary School, Unganda

Katukuru  Primary School, Uganda

Bujaaga Integrated, Uganda

Kinoni Integrated, Uganda

Runengo Primary School, Unganda

Bassabalaba Primary School, Uganda

Kashozi Primary School, Uganda

Birimbi Model Primary School, Uganda

Kanyamabona Primary School, Uganda

Kyeizooba Primary School, Uganda

Mungonya Primary School, Uganda

St. Andrews Kigoma Primary School, Uganda
Kababaizi model Primary School, Uganda

Bugongi central  Primary School, Uganda

Kyangyenyi Primary School, Uganda

Kyamuhunga central Primary School, Uganda

Rwabutura Primary School, Uganda

Kyeitembe Model Primary School, Uganda

Základní škola Stará Boleslav, Czech Republic

News article about Základní škola Stará Boleslav, Czech Republic

Colegiul Tehnic de Posta si Telecomunicatii ”Gh.Airinei”, Romania
Presentation: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GnR8NMs3_24&feature=feedu

Școala cu clasele I-VIII Păulești, jud. Satu Mare, Romania

Santoh Nursery, Japan

Primary School Luková, Czech Republic
Newspaper: http://orlicky.denik.cz/zpravy_region/dva-javory-porostou-s-nami-20111012.html

Newspaper: Základní škola a Mateřská škola Přerov, Malá Dlážka 4, Czech Republic

Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ByU_33-sKrY

Link: http://prerovsky.denik.cz/zpravy_region/foto-skolaci-na-male-dlazce-vysadili-strom-miru.html#

GRUP SCOLAR AGRICOL BISTRITA, Romania

http://www.radiotransilvania.ro/Jocuri/elevii-de-la-agricol-au-plantat-de-ziua-pcii.html

http://www.bistriteanul.ro/FII_REPORTER_Grupul_Scolar_Agricol_Bistrita_a_sarbatorit_Ziua_Mondiala_a_Pacii-1316675131864.html

http://www.citynews.ro/bistrita-nasaud/din-licee-5/campanie-mondiala-de-plantat-copaci-intr-o-singura-zi-foto-201855/

Member Organizations
Posted in Forests Trees

LEAF Member Organizations

Belgium Flanders Bond Beter Leefmilieu
Bulgaria Bulgarian Blue Flag Movement

Cyprus   Cyprus Marine Environment Protection Association (CYMEPA)
Czech Republic Tereza Association

China Center for Environmental Education and Communications
Denmark Skoven i skolen
Finland Finnish Forest Association
Greece Hellenic Society for the Protection of Nature (HSPN)
Iran “World’s Green Star” Organization (Setar-e Sabz-e Jahan) 

Ireland An Taisce Education
Japan FEE Japan
Kenya Kenya Organization for Environmental Education (KOEE)
Latvia Latvia’s State Forests
Malta Nature Trust Malta
Netherlands FEE-N
Norway Forestry Extension Institute – Skoleskogen
Romania Centrul Carpato-Danubian de Geoecologie (CCDG Romania)
Russia Keep St. Petersburg Tidy (KSPT)
Sweden Skogen i skolan
Turkey Turkiye Cevre Egitim Vakfi (TURCEV)
Uganda Conservation Efforts for Community Development (CECOD)

Forest Myths
Posted in Forests

Forest Myths

This is our first forest theme and it has inspired a variety of fascinating contributions from different countries.

Introduction to Myths – a general introduction to forest myths and the use of myths in environmental education.

Contributions to this theme come from:

Bulgaria – Learn about the Bulgarian wood nymph, the ‘samodiva’ and the Tree of Life. Here you will also find a story called ‘The Magic Forest’ written by 13-year old Donka Dragova as well as some myths sent by the pupils at Vasil Aprilov school.

Cyprus – Here are four stories edited by pupils (aged 11 years) at Christakio Primary School of Potamos Yermasoyias, about the most famous tree in Cyprus, the olive tree.

Denmark – How did the Red Alder tree get its name? Read about the Danish elves that live among the alder trees.

England – Read about the ‘Hoods’ from England:  Little Red Riding Hood and Robin Hood and their adventures in the forests of England long ago.

Finland – These stories about the wolves, bears, trees and gods of the Finnish forests have been edited by the pupils from the Lintumetsä Secondary School.

Germany – ‘Hansel and Gretel’, an old fairy tale written by the famous Brothers Grimm in the early 1800s, is set in one of the forests in Germany. Read about how the clever children overcome the evil in the forest.

Greece – In Greece many of the myths about trees are connected to stories about the great Greek gods and goddesses. Learn about the fir, oak, myrtle, pomengranate, laurel, olive and others.

Ireland – Here you can find two legends set in Irish woods: one about telling secrets to oak trees and a very vain king who did not like having his hair cut, and the other, a love story set in a forest.

Southern Africa – Learn about a very special tree in southern Africa and the role it plays in ‘bringing home the spirit’ of someone who has died far away from home.

Sweden – Juniper plants are special parts of Swedish forests.  Did you know that juniper beer is a healthy drink?  Learn more about juniper and then read about the Swedish Skogsrået, or Woman of the Forest.   Here you will also find extracts from ‘The Wonderful Adventures of Nils’ written by Selma Lagerlöf.  Nils is a little elf boy who travelled all around Sweden on the back of a goose.  Learn about Swedish forests and wolves with Nils.

Turkey – Read about the ghost of Cicek Baba in the Black Pine Forest.

Forest Myths


Introduction

Forest mean many different things to different people. In the Learning About Forests programme we recognise the importance that forests play from ecological, socio-cultural and economic points of view. One way of exploring the socio-cultural importance of forests is to study the myths and stories that are told by people about their forests.

By reading the contributions from participating countries you can learn about the significance of particular trees and forest areas in different countries. Many myths are fairy tales with deeper meanings to teach certain lessons to children. In some areas the forest has traditionally been seen as a place of darkness and fear which we must learn to overcome.  In the words of Terri Winding,

“The fairy tale journey may look like an outward trek across plains and mountains, through castles and forests, but the actual movement is inward, into the lands of the soul. The dark path of the fairy tale forest lies in the shadows of our imagination, the depths of our unconscious. To travel to the wood, to face its dangers, is to emerged transformed by this experience. Particularly for children whose world does not resemble the simplified world of television sit-coms … this ability to travel inward, to face fear and transform it, is a skill they will use all their lives….”

(“White as Snow: Fairy Tales and Fantasy,” in Snow White, Blood Red from http://www.legends.dm.net/fairy/index.html- 1 February 2001)

In environmental education we often focus on ecological aspects of ecosystems but it is important to consider other areas too.  It is interesting to consider a question asked by Bob Jickling, a well-known environmental educator from Canada. He asks: ‘What is most fundamentally missing from societies’ educational experiences?’ He finds some insights in the words of Norwegian philosopher Arne Naess who said: “You learn as a child that there is something called knowledge, and soon children learn about scientific knowledge as something opposed to myths and the undue influence of feelings, and values. And you easily get to overestimate the importance of scientific knowledge in a vital question, which is also a value question.”  (From http://www.planetcreacom.nl/bepa/ 13 January 2002).  Let us value both the myths and the scientific studies in order to develop clearer understandings about our precious forests.

We hope you find these myths interesting and useful for your students.  Please contact us if you would like to share how you use them as others may find your suggestions useful.  New myths are also welcome.

Bulgaria

From: Stanimir Georgiev
Learn about the Bulgarian wood nymph, the ‘samodiva’ and the Tree of Life. Here you will also find a story called ‘The Magic Forest’ written by 13-year old Donka Dragova as well as some myths sent by the pupils at Vasil Aprilov school. 

The myth is history and philosophy and at the same time religion and science, moral lesson and literature.

Even primitive man was looking at the surrounding world with great interest and curiosity, which he satisfied with the help of his imagination, creativity and wit. Sometimes he may have passed by a rock or a tree without paying attention to it, but if it caught his eye with something extraordinary in its appearance, shape or position, he would immediately assign some magic power to it.

Trees have power and soul and they come into a special connection with man sometimes, and it is believed that someone who is related with them will die if they are cut. It is the same with animals too. That is why man feels like “primus inter pares” among them and not superior to them, because as the animals may transform into humans, the humans can turn into animals too in the myths.

Bulgarian myths often originate from the beliefs of the people and their superstitions. There are different types of myths:

  • Some are based on the Bible;
  • Some are emphasising ethics;
  • Some depict strange and magic creatures and people’s beliefs in them;
  • Some myths try to explain phenomena, customs, origin of things.

The main character in the Bulgarian forests myths is the so-called samodiva – a wood nymph, which is the Bulgarian equivalent of the elf and the fairy. (Diva can be translated either as wild or as wonderful and fascinating.)

The Bulgarian samodivi live in the forest or in the mountain rivers and springs. They fly in their long light white shirts and ride grey deer, which they whip with snakes, dance wild chain dances in a circle (the Bulgarian dance horo) and their laughter is heard everywhere. The samodivi have beautiful palaces in the forest where they grow the samodivi flower, which is called rosen or dittany (Dictamnus fraxinella). The samodivi are very beautiful and charming ladies, who seek friendship with humans and they tempt and enchant men and if they are betrayed by them their revenge is really cruel. They can bring you suffering, illness or death if you treat them badly and they can cure you as well if you win their mercy. They lose their magic power if someone steals the veil or wreath they wear on their heads.

The Spring of the Samodivi
We believe in the healing power of the samodivi and their spring. Usually people with illness, that cannot be identified or cured in any other way, go to a glade in the forest by the samodivi spring only once a year – on the eve of the Ascension Day. They find a place on the glade, near a samodivi flower and make up their bed for the night there. Every ill person leaves a bowl with honey, covered with a round loaf of bread by the stem of the flower and goes to the samodivi spring where he washes his face or bathes in it if possible. Then he leaves some sign by the spring – usually a thread from his clothes or a coin and gets back to the glade in total silence where he lies on his bedding and covers himself with a white cloth. Everyone there waits for the storm, which is repeated three times and then the samodivi come, led by their queen. They throw their sign on the white cloths of the sick people, which can be a sign of healing or a sign of death. If you see or hear the samodivi you must not talk because you will get crippled, deaf or blind. When the storm is over, before daybreak all the ill people get up in the dark and run silently away from the glade. Sunrays should not touch them. When the people get back home they open the cloth and by the samodivi sign they find, they read their destiny. If they find fresh rosen flower or green grass they will be cured. If they find earth or dry grass it means they will fade away and die.

You can learn more about samodivi, or woodland fairies, at http://www.omda.bg/engl/ethnography/samodivi.html

The Tree of Life
The tree of life is one of the most widespread mythical symbols of the universe in Bulgarian mythology. It embodies the idea of the three layers of the world in a vertical plan.

The head of the tree symbolises the upper, heavenly world with its real and supernatural inhabitants – birds (eagle, pigeon), God, the saints and angels.

The trunk of the tree of life is the middle world or our world on earth.

The roots of the tree represent the lower, underground world, haunted mainly by evil demons of darkness and water, living in the bodies of the snake, the dragon, the fish, the mole.

The tree of life expresses the archaic notion of the possibility to cross the boundaries between the lower, middle and upper world. It is interpreted as the “way” to the worlds of the heavenly gods or the underground demons.

Usually in the myths and customs the tree of life is the oak, the walnut-tree or the pine tree and rarely the elm-tree or the vine. The tradition prohibits breaking of the branches or cutting such age-old trees.Religious ceremonies and sacrifices were held under old trees like in a temple in the name of the saint – guardian of that place, in the name of the demons of the illness and in the name of the gods of thunder and rain. The blood of the sacrificed animals was let to flow and soak into the roots of the tree.

The symbol of the tree of life is widely covered in the Bulgarian traditional culture, art and crafts. We can find it in the traditional embroidery and woodcarving, in the decoration of metal vessels and pottery, in the gold and silver jewelry. The tree of life is typical not only for the myths, but for the folk songs too.

Very often the tree of life is considered the mythical equivalent of the individual and his home as a model of the micro cosmos, which develops according to the rules and laws of the Universe (the macro cosmos).

The Magic Forest
A story by Donka Dragova – 13 years old

There was a beautiful forest, surrounded by mountains, with a magnificent small lake in the centre of it. Thousands of fish lived in the clear water and many animals and birds found their shelter in the trees and bushes.

Fabulous forest creatures lived in that heavenly spot untouched by human eye or hand. Beautiful forest nymphs gathered around the big willow-tree by the lake every night. They used to sing and dance under the oldest tree in the world.

But the Devil was envious and decided to harm the harmony of the magic forest. He washed his muddy and ugly body, combed his hair and suddenly turned into a handsome forest spirit. One night he went to the old willow and started dancing together with the fine creatures there. Their queen was swinging on a big branch while her friends sang and danced with the stranger.

The Devil grinned cunningly and invited the beautiful queen to dance with him. They started dancing enchanted by the magic songs and motions of the other fairies. Suddenly the Devil jumped, grabbed the golden crown from the head of the queen and sank in the black ground.

The young queen screamed and started crying. She felt sick and lay down on the bottom of the lake. Frightened the animals hid in their holes and shelters, the birds started yelling and black clouds covered the sky over the century-old forest, terrifying thunder and lightnings cut the darkness.

The queen of the fairies died in sorrow after two days. At that time the old willow-tree fell down. Chaos reigned over the forest. The fairies were crying all the time and they forgot the songs and dances. They did not leave their palaces on the bottom of the lake, whose water raved in grief too. All the inhabitants of the forest felt something terrible was about to happen.

And the revenge was not late. All the forest powers got angry. The old trees entangled the Devil in their roots and took him out of the ground. All the birds and animals were waiting for a signal to attack him. The forest spirits appeared and they crucified the Devil on the place where the old willow-tree was growing and burned him.

After a long time the harmony in the heavenly forest was restored. The fairies chose a new queen and the body of the late queen was placed in a glass coffin covered with flowers on the bottom of the lake. You can still see it there.

Myths from pupils at “Vasil Aprilov” school

How God created the Pine-tree
Once God and the Devil were partners. God owned the Earth until it was green and the Devil ruled it when the leaves of the trees fell. Each autumn they changed their places. If summer was short – God lost, and if winter was short – the Devil lost.

Then God created the pine-tree so that he could beat the Devil. This tree is evergreen and God ruled over the Earth all the year. Where there is a pine – God is also there.

The Devil got angry and took a drill. He wanted to make holes in the trees so that they would die. Knots appeared in the holes – they were signs of the Devil. But in spite of this the pine-trees still grow.

When you are near a pine-tree you must know that God is on the other side of the tree. Don’t look for him but plant a pine-tree and so in that way you will become God’s partner. If you see a cone fall from the pine-tree you have planted it will be best present that God gave you.

Sayings about trees
Pine and fir-tree:
These trees grow high up in the mountains, where others trees cannot grow up. Pine and fir-trees are symbols of innocence and sometimes songs compare young women and girls with these trees.
Walnut:
Under it’s shadow you must not stay, because you might fall ill.
Beech: 
Beech woods are always dark and dangerous and devils and ‘karakonjels’ live here. The beech woods have frightful, awful names like ‘The Devil’s Valley’, ‘The Dark River’, ‘Oukchlenski Valley’.
Oak: 
Bulgarians say that this is a holy tree. This tree lives for many years. Many oaks can be found on Strandja mountain. At Christmas the oak is put into fires which burn all night.
Pear: 
The Pear tree is the keeper of the field. Evil spirits and devils cannot live in its shade. Because of this the swings of the children are tied to pear trees.

Legend of the last brown bear
This legend tells us about a group of treasure-hunters. The treasure-hunters were living at “Chajduchky dol” area. They killed a bear. This big animal had a little child.

The story continues with one herdsman. He took the bear’s child at his home and many years he was looking after it and saved it from the winter cold days. The legend tells us how the same little bear grew up and helped the herdsman and some other members of this family. The bear also helped many other people.

But one day envious inhabitants from the neighbouring village killed the bear. From this day their life became difficult and bad; illnesses, troubles and death were everywhere.  People believe that they are damned by the bear.

God and the Deers 
At Stranja mountain there is a legend that narrates that  deers are God’s creatures. God himself is their shepherd. We mustn’t kill them. This is a story of one little deer.

An old man treated some hunters with the meat of the little deer. One hunter hid one of the deer’s bones.                 The next day the group of hunters killed a deer.  But it was the same little deer that the old man had given them. From this time they decided do not kill the deers, because they are God’s herd.

Why does the aspen shake? 
Once upon a time when God came to the Earth he went through the forest. All trees bowed to him and only the aspen stayed erect. That’s why it was cursed to shake forever.

A legend about the Rhodopi
Once upon a time, there was a good pious man, living in the mountains, called Slav. He used to eat only forest fruit. Slav knew the healing power of the herbs and used to cure people. A lot of them looked for his help and everyone was cured. Slav lived for a long time. After his death the mountain was called “Slaveeva polyana”. The grateful generations narrate splendid stories about him and beautiful Rhodopa where lies the fragrant “Poislavova polyana”.

Cyprus

From: Demetris Mikellides
Here are four stories edited by pupils (aged 11 years) at Christakio Primary School of Potamos Yermasoyias, about the most famous tree in Cyprus, the olive tree. 

Myths of the Cypriot Olive Tree

The Olive Tree – Story no. 1
Once upon a time, Cyprus was full of dragons. The people didn’t live happily. At least so it seemed. Aphrodite, the Goddess of beauty, ordered the fairies to tell Hercules (a national hero in ancient Greece) to come to Cyprus. Goddess Aphrodite told Hercules to go to the dragons’ lair and exterminate them. The evil spirits were there too, as they were the dragons’ masters. When the dragons were killed, their masters remained. Hercules couldn’t beat them, so he asked his friend Theseus for help. The two of them managed to send the evil spirits that guarded the olive seeds away. Immediately Aphrodite appeared before them, took the seeds and so olive trees grew.

The Olive Tree – Story no. 2
Once upon a time, Cyprus was an island full of forests: pine-trees, fir-trees, platens, willow-trees covered the land and made it as green as a forest can be. Forests, mountains, rivers and the clear, blue sea turned this scenic island basking under the sun into Heaven on Earth. The people here lived a content life.

But god Ares (Mars, the god of war), furious from jealousy for the beauty of the island, sent his evil minions, the little goblins over, having given them a lurid red seed. The goblins came to Cyprus and planted the notorious seed. Gradually, they grew into mysterious, wicked trees. Soon, they spread over the whole island of Cyprus.

On a peaceful day, goddess Aphrodite (Venus, the goddess of beauty, native of Cyprus) was walking around in the magnificent Paphos forest. As she was wandering, she noticed these sinister trees. There were black and green fruit on the dark green branches. She wanted to try them. She approached and picked one. When she put it in her mouth, she collapsed. She was unconscious when the fairies of the forest happened to be passing by, found her and carried her to their kingdom. They took good care of her and when she came to, they asked for explanations. She recounted everything.

The fairies placed a magical, golden seed at the roots of those plants and all of a sudden the poisonous trees became lovely and beautiful. They named them OLIVE TREES. Since then, the olive tree is the most well-known and nicest tree of the Cyprian flora.

The Fairies had planted the whole of their castle gardens with olive trees. One day, two giants that lived in the area, Titan and Zeron were going for a stroll. They didn’t notice that there were olive trees there. So they stepped on hundreds of trees and left without realizing what they had done.

When the fairies saw the damage done, they were very sad.  But their sorrow didn’t last for long, as they perceived that a kind of juice was squeezed out of the crashed olive crop. The youngest fairy, Marilena, tasted this juice. She liked it and added it to her salad. It was delicious. The fairies processed this juice in their workshop and called it OLIVE OIL. So they used it for other sorts of food which became tastier and more nutritious. From that time on, have nominated the olive tree as THE TREE OF CYPRUS.

The Olive Tree – Story no. 3
Cyprus was a beautiful island.  Everywhere was green.  Mountains, rivers, animals and people were part of its natural environment. People lived happily until one day they realised that something was missing.

A winter day some people went to a beautiful forest in Cyprus. They had a lot of fun but then it started raining and the people looked everywhere to find a place to go under. They found a cave and they were very happy about it.

Down the cave there was an old wooden door. They tried to open it but it was locked. There was a large key on the door. When the storm and the raining became heavy they decided to break the door with this key. They thought that there would be a warm room to rest.

The door opened and the people got inside. There was an old bed full of dust and spiders. As soon as the people saw these they started to get out but it was too late. Ghosts and spirits appeared all of a sudden and started torturing them in many ways. In the meantime other people who knew about their friends’ excursion to the forest worried about them a lot. They couldn’t go to find them because it was very dark.

The next day they went to Eleophoros Square to look for their friends. The ghosts and the spirits appeared again and started taking these people too. They had nearly taken all of them when a strange tree came out of the earth. The people started cutting the branches of the tree. They threw them against the ghosts. All the ghosts disappeared forever. This tree was named ELIA because it appeared in Eleophoros Square. (ELIA means olive tree).

So the people started to grow olive trees and Cyprus became full of olive trees. The people of Cyprus started using olive oil in their food and they loved olive trees. The olive tree is the most popular tree in Cyprus.

The Olive Tree – Story no. 4
Once upon a time, there were two dragons imprisoned in a cage. They belonged to a king. Theseus and Hercules, the two famous heroes in ancient Greece, were the guards of the dragons. They watched them carefully and they were hoping to catch a third dragon because the King promised them a very beautiful present.

When the day came to look for the third dragon, they went to a very dangerous forest. They found the dragon there and they started fighting with him very bravely. Finally they won.

When they returned with the dragon, the King was very proud of them. These kinds of dragons were called Elion. Theseus and Hercules found a seed in the dragon’s mouth and when they planted it, it grew a tree which they named it after the dragon. Elion, they called it ELIA (which means olive tree).

The King gave them a wonderful garden with many kinds of trees like them. Theseus and Hercules, however, decided to plant the seed in their garden and since then it became the olive garden. All these things happened in Cyprus, and Cyprus is famous for its olives.

Denmark

From: Malene Bendix
How did the Red Alder tree get its name? Read about the Danish elves that live among the alder trees.

Myths about alder Trees

The name
Red Alder (or Common Alder) gets its name from the fact that its timber is red straight after it has been felled. This happens because the juice of the alder becomes red when it comes into contact with oxygen. If the tree is felled during spring, when there is high pressure on its juices, then the red juice will leak out from the cut. Then it looks as if the tree is bleeding.

 

Myths about alder Trees

Elves
Red Alder thrives in damp conditions, where fog is often formed. When the wind moves the fog it looks as if forms and shapes are moving between the alder trees. In previous times people were convinced that these forms were Elves that danced. Elves were dangerous creatures, as they would put spells on people. If a spell was cast on you, you would be afflicted by elves and be good for nothing. You could even die of such spells!

During the days the Elves would stay underneath the old alder trees. An old treetrunk of Red Alder with many small shoots of new growth protuding from it would be called an “aldertrunk”. It was told that if you saw an elven girl from the front she would be very comely and beautiful. But if you saw her from behind she would look like an “aldertrunk” – and she would have a hole in her back. People said that: The Elven girl is comely and pious if seen from the front, but she is empty and hollow if seen from behind.

England

Read about the ‘Hoods’ from England:  Little Red Riding Hood and Robin Hood and their adventures in the forests of England long ago.

Little Red Riding Hood
Robin Hood

Little Red Riding Hood
There are many versions of this famous story for children. In some stories Little Red Riding Hood escapes the wolf, in others she gets eaten up! When children were told the story it was always with the message that when they were sent on errand they should not stop along the way to play or talk to strangers. Look at the home page for the Little Red Riding Hood Project:  www.dept.usm.edu/~engdept/lrrh/lrrhhome.htm – here you will find many different versions of the story and wonderful pictures. 

rrhood

Source of story and picture: “Little Red Riding Hood Project”, Michael N. Salda (ed), The de Grummond Children’s Literature Research Collection, University of Southern Mississippi, http://www.dept.usm.edu/~engdept/lrrh/lrrhhome.htm

Adapted from English Fairy Tales, Flora Annie Steel, Macmillan, London, 1979

Once upon a time there was a little girl who was called little Red Riding-Hood, because she was quite small and because she always wore a red cloak with a big red hood, which her grandmother had made for her.

Now one day her mother, who had been churning and baking cakes, said to her:  “My dear, put on your red cloak with the hood, and take this cake and pot of butter to your Granny, and ask how she is, for I hear she is not well.”

Now little Red Riding-Hood was very fond of her grandmother, who made her so many nice things, so she put on her cloak joyfully and started on her errand.But her grandmother lived some way off, and to reach the cottage little Red Riding-Hood had to pass through a big lonely forest. However, some wood-cutters were at work in it, so little Red Riding-Hood was not very frightened when she saw a great big wolf coming towards her, because she knew that wolves were not very brave.

And sure enough the wolf, who would surely have eaten little Red Riding-Hood if it was’t for the wood-cutters, only stopped and asked her politely where she was going.

“I am going to see Granny, take her this cake and this pot of butter, and ask how she is,” says little Red Riding-Hood.

“Does she live a very long way off?” asks the wolf craftily.

“Not so very far if you go by the straight road,” replied little Red Riding-Hood. You only have to pass the mill and the first cottage on the right is Granny’s; but I am going by the wood path because there are nuts and flowers and butterflies.”

“I wish you good luck,” says the wolf politely.“Give my respects to your grandmother and tell her I hope she is quite well soon.”

And with that he trotted off. But instead of going his own way he turned back, took the straight road to the old lady’s cottage, and knocked at the door.

Rap! Rap! Rap!

“Who’s there?” asked the old lady, who was in bed.

“Little Red Riding-Hood,” sings out the wolf, making his voice as shrill as he could. “I have come to bring dear Granny a pot of butter and a cake from mother, and to ask how you are.”

“Pull the door open then,” says the old woman, well satisfied.

So the wolf pulled the door open, and – oh my! – it wasn’t a minute before he had gobbled up old Granny, for he had had nothing to eat for a week.

Then he shut the door, put on Granny’s night-cap, and, getting into bed, rolled himself well up in the blankets.

By and by along comes little Red Riding-Hood, who has been amusing herself by gathering nuts, running after butterflies and picking flowers.

She knocked at the door.

Rap! Rap! Rap!

“Who’s there?” says the wolf, making his voice as soft as he could.

Now little Red Riding-Hood heard the voice was very gruff, but she thought her grandmother had a cold; so she said: “Little Red Riding-Hood, with a pot of butter and a cake from mother, to ask how you are.”

“Pull the door open then.”

So little Red Riding-Hood pulled the door open, and there she thought, was her grandmother in the bed; for the cottage was so dark one could not see well.Besides the crafty wolf turned his face to the wall at first.  And he made his voice as soft, as soft as he could, when he said:

“Come and kiss me, my dear.”

Then little Red Riding-Hood took off her cloak and went to the bed.

“Oh, Grandmamma, Grandmamma,” says she, “what big arms you’ve got!”

“All the better to hug you with”, says he.

“But, Grandmamma, Grandmamma, what big legs you have!”

“All the better to run with, my dear.”

“Oh, Grandmamma, Grandmamma, what big ears you’ve got!”

“All the better to hear you with, my dear.”

“But, Grandmamma, Grandmamma, what big eyes you’ve got!”

“All the better to see you with, my dear!”

“Oh, Grandmamma, Grandmamma, what big teeth you’ve got!”

“All the better to eat you with, my dear!” says that wicked, wicked wolf, and with that he gobbled up little Red Riding-Hood.

Robin Hood
There are many different versions of the legend of Robin Hood and his Merry Men who lived in Sherwood Forest, Nottinghamshire, England in the 1100s. Although Robin Hood was a bandit, he only took from the rich to give to the poor, and for many people Robin Hood has become a symbol of fearlessness and justice. Read about some of the myths of Robin Hood below. You can also find information about Sherwood Forest where Robin lived.

The extracts below come from ‘A Beginner’s Guide to Robin Hood’ at Robin Hood — Bold Outlaw of Barnsdale and Sherwood http://www.boldoutlaw.com. and are reproduced with the kind permission of Allen W. Wright. Visit his site for much more on Robin Hood.

robinhood

Source of picture: “Robin Hood Project – University of Rochester
http://www.lib.rochester.edu/camelot/rh/rhhome.htm

Robin Hood, dressed in green with a feathered cap and a bow and arrow, is probably the most famous English outlaw of all time.

As an outlaw, Robin lived outside the protection of the law. But he was a law unto himself. He was the self-styled king of the greenwood — either Sherwood Forest in Nottinghamshire or Barnsdale in Yorkshire.  But Robin was no common criminal. As the famous saying goes, he robbed from the rich and gave to the poor. The poor had little to fear from Robin Hood. His enemies were the rich and corrupt, especially the Sheriff of Nottingham.

Sometimes Robin Hood fought for the Saxons. The Saxons were better known as the English, and for a time they lived under the cruel domination of the Normans, the French-speaking descendants of Vikings. In many modern stories, Robin fights for an England where Norman and Saxon could live together in peace.

Robin Hood could usually be found with his band of Merry Men — Little John, Friar Tuck, Will Scarlet, Much the Miller’s Son, Alan a Dale. The beautiful Maid Marian was his true love.

Robin Hood was a champion archer. Once, in a Nottingham archery tournament, the prize was an arrow with a silver shaft and golden head and feathers. It was a tough contest. Some people say Robin’s leading opponent shot an arrow into centre of the target. It seemed impossible to beat that shot.  But bold Robin Hood took aim and fired an arrow that split his opponent’s arrow in two. Thus, Robin won the tournament and the gold and silver arrow. Some tales say Robin can split a mere branch from over 300 yards away.

But for all this, Robin actually lost a lot of fights. There are many stories where Robin meets a stranger, often a simple tradesman like a potter or a tanner. Robin picks a fight.  But the stranger often overpowers Robin Hood. Then Robin sometimes asks the stranger to join his band. This is how many of the most famous Merry Men met Robin Hood.

There are many stories about the adventures of Robin Hood.  Nobody is quite sure who he really was or even how he died.  One thing is certain though, his spirit remains alive – when good friends gather or when the underprivileged need a champion. For centuries people have recalled the legends of Robin Hood.  He will never be truly dead as long as someone tells a tale of the bold outlaw of Barnsdale and Sherwood.

Sherwood Forest
Sherwood Forest was the home of Robin Hood. It is located in Britain, just north of Nottingham and west of Lincoln. In relation to the major cities, Sherwood is a little less than 50 miles northeast of Birmingham and about 110 miles northwest of London. It used to be a very large forest and made an excellent hiding place for Robin and his merry men.

Sherwood literally meant “Shire Wood.” And in the Middle Ages, Sherwood did cover much of Nottinghamshire and was over twenty miles long. Some of the trees in Sherwood include oaks like the Major Oak and silver birch trees. One peculiar kind of oak is the “stag-headed” or “blasted” oak. These oak trees have been ravaged by a fungal disease, but legend has it they were struck by lightning.

In England’s middle ages, the forest was a legal term referring to areas where certain harsh and hated laws were in force. Most notably, the restrictions against hunting the king’s deer — a law which Robin Hood cheerfully violated.

Within the boundaries of the ‘forest’ in the past, there were actually large open fields and whole villages — it was not simply a dense woodland.

Many of the early Robin Hood stories, however, are set in Barnsdale, Yorkshire. The Barnsdale area was not covered under the forest laws, nor was it densely wooded, but it was a known haunt of outlaws in the 14th century.

The interest in the legend of Robin Hood has led to initiatives such as the Sherwood Initiative to save the forest which remains there today and which is becoming increasingly threatened by human activities.

See also

http://www.lib.rochester.edu/camelot/rh/rhhome.htm

The Robin Hood Project at the University of Rochester (for a large collection of  ballads, plays, poems and artwork)