Sacred groves were a feature of the mythological landscape and the cult practice of Old Europe, of the most ancient levels of Germanic paganism, Greek mythology, Slavic mythology, Roman mythology, and in Druidic practice. Sacred groves also feature prominently in many Asian and African mythologies and cultures, most notably in India, Japan, West Africa, and Anatolia.
In Syria, some sacred groves are believed to have been made during Assyrian times.
In central Italy, the town of Nemi recalls the Latin nemus Aricinum, or "grove of Ariccia", a small town a quarter of the way around the lake. In Antiquity the area had no town, but the grove was the site of one of the most famous of Roman cults and temples: that of Diana Nemorensis, a study of which served as the seed for Sir James Frazer's seminal work on the anthropology of religion, The Golden Bough.
In the town of Spoleto, Umbria, two stones from the late third century BCE, inscribed in archaic Latin, established punishments for the profanation of the woods dedicated to Jupiter (Lex Luci Spoletina) have survived; they are preserved in the National Archeological Museum of Spoleto .
The Bosco Sacro (literally sacred grove) at Bomarzo, Italy is a well-known sculpture garden and sacred grove.
The pagan Germanic tribes also performed tree-worship and had the concept of sacred groves. It is thought that the idea of sacred trees like the Thor's Oak might have led to the concept of the present day Christmas tree.
Nemetons were often fenced off by enclosures, as indicated by the German term Viereckschanze - meaning a quadrangular space surrounded by a ditch enclosed by wooden palisades.
Many of these groves, like the sacred grove at Didyma, Turkey are thought to be nemetons, sacred groves protected by druids based on Celtic Mythology. In fact, according to Strabo, the central shrine at Galatia was called Drunemeton. Some of these were also sacred groves in Greek times (as in the case of Didyma), but were based on a different or slightly changed mythology.
Around 14,000 sacred groves have been reported from all over India, which act as reservoirs of rare fauna, and more often rare flora, amid rural and even urban settings. Experts believe that the total number of sacred groves could be as high as 100,000. Threats to the groves include urbanization, over-exploitation of resources, and environmental destruction from Hindu religious practices. While many of the groves are looked upon as abode of Hindu gods, in the recent past a number of them have been partially cleared for construction of shrines and temples.
Ritualistic dances and dramatizations based on the local deities that protect the groves are called Theyyam in Kerala and Nagmandalam, among other names, in Karnataka.
The concept of sacred groves is present in Nigerian mythology as well. The Osun-Osogbo Sacred Grove, containing dense forests, is located just outside the city of Osogbo, and is regarded as one of the last virgin high forests in Nigeria. It is dedicated to the fertility god in Yoruba mythology, and is dotted with shrines and sculptures. Suzanne Wenger, an Austrian artist, has helped revive the grove. The grove was designated as an UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2005. .
Sacred groves are also present in Ghana. One of Ghana's most famous sacred groves - the Buoyem Sacred Grove - and numerous other sacred groves are present in the Techiman Municipal District and nearby districts of the Brong Ahafo Region. They provide a refuge for wildlife which has been exterminated in nearby areas, and one grove most notably houses 20,000 fruit bats in underground caves. The capital of the historical Ghana Empire El-Ghaba, contained a sacred grove for performing religious rites of the Soninke people. Other sacred groves in Ghana include sacred groves along the coastal savannahs of Ghana . Many sacred groves in Ghana are now under federal protecttion - like the Anweam Sacred Grove in the Esukawkaw Forest Reserve Other well-known sacred groves in Ghana include the Malshegu Sacred Grove in Northern Ghana - one of the last remaining closed canopy forests in the savannah regions , and the Jachie sacred grove.
Sacred groves in Japan are typically associated with Shinto shrines, and are located all over Japan. The Cryptomeria tree is venerated in Shinto practice, and considered sacred. Among the sacred groves associated with such jinjas or Shinto shrines are the shrine at Atsuta-ku, Nagoya - one of the most important Shinto shrines in Japan, and the Kashima Shrine - now protected as part of the Kashima Wildlife Preservation Area, on account of its varied bird life and plant life (it houses over 800 kinds of trees).
The Utaki sacred sites (often with associated burial grounds) on Okinawa are based on Ryukyuan religion, and usually are associated with toun or kami-asagi - regions dedicated to the gods where people are forbidden to go. Sacred groves are often present in such places, as also in Gusukus - fortified areas which contain sacred sites within them. The Seifa-utaki was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site designated in 2003. It consists of a triangular cavern formed by gigantic rocks, and contains a sacred grove with rare, indigenous trees like the Kubanoki (a kind of palm) and the yabunikkei or Cinnamomum japonicum (a form of wild cinnamon). Direct access to the grove is forbidden.