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Natural Healers:
Feeling Spirit of the Forest


A FEW weeks ago, I was on my way to Amphiarion to restore my city-beaten spirits in the cool shade of the pines and ancient ruins, when I stopped off to visit a modern ancient descendent of the mythical healers of old, Petros of Microhori. He was just what I had been led to expect - a long-haired, semi-toothed, smiling forest hermit. Petros' specialty is sculpting wood with his bare hands into smooth symbolic shapes where the grains of the wood rise and fall revealing the inner world of the trees.

In ancient Greece , the natural healers would sit under trees and hear them speak. In fact, many ancient Greek words are onomatopoeic from the sounds they heard the trees making. Listening to the spirits of the trees, they were told their essence.

Visitors roll 'hearts' of wood formed by Petros along their hands and arms, using their energy for healing.

Petros himself talks about trees as if they were human beings. He held up a 30cm x 20cm rounded, smooth, creamy-yellow core from the trunk of a pine tree that came from King Otto's palace and land holdings at Tatoi, close to Athens . Through a gummy smile, he told me its name and said "You see how this is a self-centred piece of wood? It was only planted for the pleasure of one man and it holds its energy inwardly." Picking up another piece, a darker, thick-grained oak tree heart, he said, "This is a wild tree. This gives its energy freely."

I held the piece in my hands. In actual fact, I have to say that the plane tree oval felt warmer in my hands, whilst the king's pine had felt heavy and cool. It was almost the same difference between holding amber versus stone.


Petros is continuously holding and rubbing a piece of root, branch, trunk in his worn, spade hands and smoothing it with his worn, stubby fingers. He lives with his creations in a hut deep in the middle of the forest. He built it himself from stones picked up from the land around him. It reminded me of a cave dwelling because of the cavelike door opening and holds for windows. He is surrounded by over 50 pieces of beaming wood of all different shapes and sizes, some crooked branches, small round balls that fit snuggly in the palm of your hand, heavy nuggets as big as a man's torso. One piece looked like three parts of wood, shaped like a propeller.

Petros doesn't just sculpt these for art's sake. After many years of "feeling" wood by handling it, he discovered that the touch of wood on flesh had healing properties. Dioscouros of Cypress used crushed crystals and rocks for healing. Petros of Varnava uses wood. He claims that touching parts of your body that are in pain releases energy blocks and promotes healing. He then proceeded to show this on me.


Rolling a large round ball around my calves and thighs, always smiling, he announced: "You have tiredness trapped in your legs." I felt a sudden shocking burst of pain where the wood touched and then slowly as he rubbed wood on the spot, the pain receded and in fact felt rather refreshed - and myself in general.

Petros lets you pick up pieces of wood to see which one suits you, and rolls it over parts of your body. He himself plays with the wood, rolling it around his shoulders and arms like a Chinese acrobat.

Whether he heals pain or just makes graceful wood sculptures, he is following one of the ancient Greek mysteries of the forest hermit who works with the power of nature in a way that us city-dwellers find hard to comprehend.


Hermits have always existed in mountain huts in Greece . The most favoured choice was the tallest mountain range in Greece , the Olympus , 100 kilometres southwest of the city of Thessaloniki in northern Greece . This is where the ancient gods were said to live, including Zeus, the king of the gods; Hera, his wife; Poseidon and Hades, his brothers; Demeter and Hestia, his sisters; and his children, Apollo, Artemis, Ares, Aphrodite, Athena, Hermes and Hephaestus.


These gods and goddesses did not actually live on Olympus , rather the ancient myth can be understood to be a metaphor for the power of this traditionally sacred mountain. This spiritual power had drawn hermits and monks to live in the caves and forests of the mountain since long before the dawn of the Christian era.

With the coming of Christianity the myths and legends of the old Greeks were suppressed and forgotten, and the holy mountain was seldom visited. Today, it's a great place for a weekend hike. Or, you can come as a pilgrim and stay some quiet days in the woods.

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