This month we will be exploring the oak tree as we enter the seventh moon of the Ogham Tree Calendar.
Oak, or Duir, is traditionally revered as the ‘King of the Woods’. It is prevalent throughout Ireland and the British Isles and makes up part of the ‘Sacred Triad’ of Oak, Ash and Thorn and Irish ‘Seven Noble Trees’. Oak is known as the tree of endurance, strength and triumph. Duir – the Celtic name for oak lends itself to the adjective ‘durable’
Oak is a very slow-growing tree that given time can grow into a giant and live for centuries. The Common oak that we are familiar with has dark green leaves of around 8cm with rounded edges that change to a myriad of greens and yellows before falling in Autumn.
‘In May the tree drips with fairly inconspicuous flower tassels. The greeny-brown ‘acorn’ fruits ripen in summer and drop along with the tiny cups that hold them. These cups are treasured by the faeries, most of whom collect them for use as utensils, whilst some use them as night-bonnets.’
Historically sought after and valued for its strength, the oak yields solid wood that makes the finest of ships, grandest doors and weight-bearing beams. It is also a prime wood to carve. As a fuel, oak is slow-burning and gives off great heat.
Often mistaken for a fruit, oak apples are marble-like balls made of wood and are quite abundant in woodlands. Despite their misguiding name, they are not fruit, but swellings made by gall wasps. The female wasp lays her egg in a leaf bud, juices cause the bud to swell and as the grub grows it feeds inside the hardening gall. Since the Middle Ages, crushed oak galls have been used to make ink, favoured by the likes of scribes who designed the Book Of Kells.
Oak Healing and Medicine
In ancient herbology, oak bark was widely used and continues to be used in modern medicine as an astringent and antiseptic tonic. When powdered bark is mixed with water (as part of a herbal tea) it has a strong, bitter taste, but smells faintly aromatic.
This can provide relief from fever or high temperatures. Mix powdered bark with some natural peppermint oil to use as toothpaste. To relieve inflammation, lay bruised leaves on stings, cuts or bites.
Oak Religion, Folklore and Spirituality
‘The ancient Druidic religion was based on the oak-cult and the white-robed priests only met for rituals where a fine oak tree – ‘ The King of the Woods’ was present. Throughout Europe, oak is the tree of the thunder gods – most likely because it is quite commonly struck by lightning. It is the sacred tree of the very highest of the god eschelons, Zeus, Thor, Jupiter and Hercules -The Celts, Norsemen, Greeks and Romans all revered the tree and also strongly linked it to Pan and Hecate.’
Saying has it that the roots of the great oak trees, ‘extend as far under the ground as its branches above, so the Oak King can look above to the heavens and down into the below, as well as back and forwards into the two halves of the year.’
[Image credit: Jenny Kelly]
** So what can our OFN community learn from our ancient oaks?
Oak has lots to teach us about patience and endurance. Like the oak, we should not rush into things or get frustrated when things are moving slowly. With a little hope and patience, we will surely live to see the rewards of our efforts.
Giant, century-old oaks have weathered many storms, surviving the harshest of conditions to see the light of a new day. We can take guidance from the oak, offer it our struggles and ask it to share our burden as they used to do in olden times when oak was often sought out by people looking to transfer their pain. It was believed that since oak trees are strong, they could bear the temporary discomfort and be able to transfer the pain through their roots into the ground or through their branches into the sky.
Oak Magic, Charms and Beliefs
* Two twigs of oak, bound into an equal-armed cross with red thread should be hung in the house, as a charm against all evil.
* Carry an acorn as a charm for youthfulness and fertility.
* Acorns placed on the windowsills guard against lightning.
* Add oak logs to your fire and they will help to carry away sickness.
* Plant an acorn by the light of the full moon to invoke the money power of the oak for prosperity.
* Camp beside an oak tree and your time there will be blessed with good luck, happiness and prosperity.
* At the Summer Solstice – the shortest night – June 21st, make herbal incense with oak as a base – use powdered bark, acorn or oak-apple, dried oak leaves. Burn it to invoke the powers of the great trees – long life, inner strength, courage, endurance, protection and prosperity.
[Text adapted from Eco Enchantments Ogham Tree Calendar]