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  • Writer's pictureOlivine Moss

Oak Tree Myths Legends Poetry and Planting

Updated: Jun 14







Courage, Friendship, Liberty, Independence, Bravery


Myths and Legends


Resides under Jupiter


The oak tree has a long and rich history in many cultures and mythologies. For example, in ancient Greece, the oak was sacred to Zeus, the king of the gods, who was also known as Dodonean Jupiter. He was often depicted wearing a wreath of oak leaves on his head, symbolizing his power and authority. The oak was also associated with the Fates, the three goddesses who controlled human destiny, and Hecate, the goddess of magic and crossroads. The oak represented their wisdom and mystery.


But the oak was not only revered by the Greeks. In Celtic mythology, the oak was a symbol of courage, friendship, liberty, independence and bravery. The Druids, the priests and teachers of the Celts, worshipped the oak as a sacred tree and performed their rituals in oak groves. They believed that the oak was a portal to the otherworld and a source of divine inspiration. The oak was also linked to several Celtic deities, such as Dagda, the father god, Lugh, the god of light and skill, and Brigid, the goddess of fire and healing.


The oak tree has inspired many legends and stories throughout history. One of the most famous is the legend of Robin Hood, the outlaw who fought against injustice and tyranny in medieval England. According to some versions of the legend, Robin Hood and his Merry Men lived in Sherwood Forest, where they hid in a hollow oak tree called Major Oak. The tree still stands today and is considered one of the largest and oldest oaks in Britain. Another legend tells of King Charles II of England, who escaped from his enemies during the English Civil War by hiding in an oak tree in Boscobel Wood. The tree is known as the Royal Oak and is commemorated every year on May 29th.


The oak tree is more than just a plant. It is a symbol of strength, endurance, loyalty and freedom. It is a witness to history and a guardian of secrets. It is a living legend that resides under Jupiter's protection.


But there are also other myths about oak trees that are less known but equally fascinating. For instance, in Norse mythology, the oak was sacred to Thor, the god of thunder and lightning. He wielded a hammer called Mjolnir that was made from an oak branch. He also rode a chariot pulled by two goats that could regenerate from their bones if they were eaten under an oak tree. In Slavic mythology, the oak was sacred to Perun, the god of thunder and storms. He threw lightning bolts made from acorns at his enemies. He also had a sacred grove of oaks where he received offerings from his worshippers. In Baltic mythology, the oak was sacred to Perkunas, the god of thunder and fire. He had a golden axe that he used to strike down evil spirits that hid in oaks. He also had a daughter named Saule who was the sun goddess and married to an oak tree


Baucis and Philemon


This is a story about how an elderly couple, who were kind to the gods were rewarded with a miraculous transformation. One day, two strangers came to their humble cottage and asked for a place to stay. They were actually Jupiter and Mercury in disguise, who had decided to test the hospitality of the people in that region. They had been rejected by many richer houses before, where they had been treated with contempt and rudeness. The old couple, named Baucis and Philemon, welcomed them warmly and offered them the best food and wine they had. They did not have much, but they shared it generously with their guests. They soon realized that their guests were divine, because the wine never ran out, no matter how much they poured. They wanted to sacrifice a goose to honor them, but the goose ran away and hid under the gods' feet. The gods spared the goose and asked the couple what they wished for. Baucis and Philemon said they wanted to die together, so they would never have to mourn each other. They also said they wanted to serve the gods in their temple. The gods granted their wish and showed them that their cottage had turned into a splendid temple, while the rest of the village had been flooded by a great wave. They lived happily as priests of the temple for many years, until one day they felt themselves changing into trees. Baucis became a linden and Philemon an oak, and their branches intertwined. They remained like that forever, as a symbol of their love and devotion, and as a reminder of the gods' favor for those who are hospitable and generous.



The Druids


Jacob ThompsonÂ’s painting of The Druids Cutting Down The Mistletoe 1806-1879


Druids were a group of religious leaders and scholars in ancient Celtic cultures, who played important roles in society as judges, teachers, healers, and advisors. They derived their name from the Celtic word derw, meaning oak, and the suffix ydd, meaning the one who does something. Derwydd, Bardd, and Ovydd were the names of the three ranks of Druidism, each with different functions and responsibilities. The Derwydd was the highest and most powerful, who had the authority to make laws, settle disputes, and communicate with the gods. The Bardd was the poet and musician, who preserved the history and legends of the people through oral tradition and songs. The Ovydd was the apprentice and learner, who studied under the guidance of a Derwydd or a Bardd to acquire knowledge and skills.


The Druids revered the oak tree as a symbol of their god Teut, who was associated with wisdom and magic. They believed that the oak tree was a portal to the otherworld, where they could access hidden secrets and divine messages. They performed rituals and sacrifices in sacred groves of oak trees, where they also built stone altars called Pouquelays. These altars can still be found in some islands near Britain and Gaul, such as Jersey, Guernsey, and Anglesey, where the Druids believed that the presence of water made them more sacred and isolated from human interference. The Druids also used oak leaves to crown their victims before offering them to the gods, and to make their funeral pyres when they died.


The oak tree was not only sacred to the Druids, but also to many other ancient peoples who saw it as a representation of God or a divine power. The oak tree was admired for its strength, beauty, and longevity, and was often seen as a source of protection and blessing. For example, the Greeks dedicated the oak tree to Zeus, the king of the gods; the Romans to Jupiter, his counterpart; the Norse to Thor, the god of thunder; and the Hebrews to Yahweh, their supreme deity.


Some famous Druids in history and legend are:


  • Diviciacus, a Gaulish chief of the Aedui tribe who was also a druid. He was an ally of Julius Caesar and a diplomat who visited Rome.

  • Amergin Glúingel, a bard and druid who was one of the Milesians who invaded Ireland and defeated the Tuatha Dé Danann.

  • Cathbad, a druid of Ulster who prophesied the fate of several heroes in the Irish mythology, such as Cú Chulainn and Deirdre.

  • Merlin, a wizard who appears in Arthurian legend and is presented as a druid in some modern works. He was an advisor to King Arthur and had various magical powers.

  • Mug Ruith, a blind druid in Irish mythology who had a flying machine called roth rámach. He was also the father of Tlachtga, a druidess who gave birth to three sons on Samhain night.

  • Gwenc'hlan, a 6th century Breton poet and druid who wrote several poems about his travels and battles against the Franks.




Indigenous Legends


The Delaware Indians and the Sacred Oak: A Story of Faith and Respect


If you ever visit the town of Oley, Pennsylvania, you might notice a towering oak tree that stands out among the other trees. This is the Sacred Oak, a tree that has been alive for more than 500 years and has witnessed the history of the land and its people. The Sacred Oak is not just a remarkable natural wonder, but also a sacred site for the Delaware Indians, a Native American tribe that once inhabited the region.


The Delaware Indians, also known as the Lenape, had a deep connection with nature and believed that everything had a spirit. They respected the Sacred Oak as their shrine tree, where they would go to seek guidance, healing, and protection from their Creator. According to their legends, the Sacred Oak always answered their prayers and helped them in times of need. For example, when a smallpox epidemic threatened to wipe out the tribe, they prayed to the Sacred Oak and received a vision of a plant that could cure them. They also believed that the Sacred Oak had the power to punish those who harmed or dishonored it. There are stories of lightning striking or branches falling on people who tried to cut down or damage the tree.


The Sacred Oak has survived many challenges over the centuries, from wars and diseases to storms and droughts. It has also witnessed the changes in the land and the people, from the arrival of European settlers to the modern development of roads and buildings. The Delaware Indians were forced to leave their homeland and move westward, but they never forgot their sacred tree. Today, the Sacred Oak is still standing strong and healthy, thanks to the efforts of conservationists and local residents who value its historical and cultural significance. It is a symbol of resilience, faith, and respect for both the Delaware Indians and the people of Oley.





Poetry


" By the bright circle of the golden sun ,

By the bright courses of the errant moon ,

By the dread potency of every star ,

In the mysterious Zodiac's burning girth ,

By each , and all of these supernal signs ,

We do adjure thee , with this trusty blade

To guard yon central oak , whose holy stem ,

Involves the spirit of high

Taranis : Be this thy charge . "






[ ABRIDGED ] JAMES RUSSELL LOWELL


The very trees in the forest and along the roadside were supposed to be each under the protection of a special divinity called Hamadryad , said to live and die with the tree entrusted to her care . -


GUERBER


HEAR now this fairy legend of old Greece ,

As full of gracious youth and beauty still

As the immortal freshness of that grace

Carved for all ages on some Attic frieze .

A youth named Rhoecus , wandering in the wood ,

Saw an old oak just trembling to its fall ,

And , feeling pity of so fair a tree ,

He propped its gray trunk with admiring care ,

And with a thoughtless footstep loitered on .

But , as he turned , he heard a voice behind

That murmured " Rhoecus ! " " T was as if the leaves ,

Stirred by a passing breath , had murmured it ,

And while he paused bewildered , yet again It murmured " Rhoecus ! " softer than a breeze .

He started and beheld with dizzy eyes

What seemed the substance of a happy dream

Stand there before him , spreading a warm glow

Within the green glooms of the shadowy oak .

It seemed a woman's shape , yet far too fair

To be a woman , and with eyes too meek

For any that were wont to mate with gods . " Rhoecus , I am the Dryad of this tree ,

' Thus she began , dropping her low - toned words

Serene , and full , and clear , as drops of dew , " And with it I am doomed to live and die ; The rain and sunshine are my caterers ,

Nor have I other bliss than simple life ; Now ask me what thou wilt , that I can give ,

And with a thankful joy it shall be thine . " Then Rhoecus , with a flutter at the heart ,

Yet , by the prompting of such beauty , bold ,

Answered : " What is there that can satisfy

The endless craving of the soul but love ?

Give me thy love , or but the hope of that

Which must be evermore my nature's goal . " After a little pause she said again ,

But with a glimpse of sadness in her tone , " I give it , Rhoecus , though a perilous gift ;

An hour before the sunset meet me here . " And straightway there was nothing he could see

But the green glooms beneath the shadowy oak ,

And not a sound came to his straining ears

But the low trickling rustle of the leaves ,

And far away upon an emerald slope

The falter of an idle shepherd's pipe .

Now , in those days of simpleness and faith ,

Men did not think that happy things were dreams

Because they overstepped the narrow bourn

Of likelihood , but reverently deemed

Nothing too wondrous or too beautiful

To be the guerdon of a daring heart .

So Rhoecus made no doubt that he was blest ,

And all along unto the city's gate

Earth seemed to spring beneath him as he walked ,

The clear , broad sky looked bluer than its wont ,

And he could scarce believe he had not wings ,

Such sunshine seemed to glitter through his veins Instead of blood , so light he felt and strange .

Young Rhoecus had a faithful heart enough ,

But one that in the present dwelt too much ,

And , taking with blithe welcome whatsoe'er

Chance gave of joy , was wholly bound in that ,

Like the contented peasant of a vale ,

Deemed it the world , and never looked beyond .

So , haply meeting in the afternoon

Some comrades who were playing at the dice ,

He joined them and forgot all else beside .

The dice were rattling at the merriest ,

And Rhoecus , who had met but sorry luck ,

Just laughed in triumph at a happy throw ,

When through the room there hummed a yellow bee

That buzzed about his ear with down - dropped legs As if to light .

And Rhoecus laughed and said ,

Feeling how red and flushed he was with loss , " By Venus ! does he take me for a rose ? " And brushed him off with rough , impatient hand .

But still the bee came back , and thrice again Rhoecus did beat him off with growing wrath .

Then through the window flew the wounded bee ,

And Rhoecus , tracking him with angry eyes ,

Saw a sharp mountain peak of Thessaly

Against the red disk of the setting sun , - And instantly the blood sank from his heart ,

As if its very walls had caved away .

Without a word he turned , and , rushing forth ,

Ran madly through the city and the gate ,

And o'er the plain , which now the wood's long shade ,

By the low sun thrown forward broad and dim ,

Darkened wellnigh unto the city's wall .

Quite spent and out of breath he reached the tree ,

And , listening fearfully , he heard once more

The low voice murmur " Rhoecus ! " close at hand :

Whereat he looked around him , but could see

Naught but the deepening glooms beneath the oak .

Then sighed the voice , " O Rhoecus ! nevermore

Shalt thou behold me or by day or night ,

Me , who would fain have blessed thee with a love

More ripe and bounteous than ever yet

Filled up with nectar any mortal heart : But thou didst scorn my humble messenger ,

And sent'st him back to me with bruisèd wings .

We spirits only show to gentle eyes ,

We ever ask an undivided love , And he who scorns the least of Nature's works

Is thenceforth exiled and shut out from all .

Farewell ! for thou canst never see me more . "




How to Grow an Oak From an Acorn!



Oak trees are majestic and beautiful, and they provide many benefits for wildlife and the environment. They produce oxygen, store carbon, provide shade, and produce acorns that feed many animals. If you have a large yard or a nearby park, you might want to grow your own oak tree from an acorn. It's a fun and rewarding project that can help you connect with nature and contribute to the conservation of these amazing trees.


I will show you how to grow an oak tree from an acorn in six easy steps. You will need:


  • A few acorns

  • A bowl of water

  • A plant pot with drainage holes

  • Some stones or gravel

  • Potting soil

  • A sunny spot


Step 1: Collect acorns


The first step is to collect some acorns from an oak tree in autumn. You can find them on the ground or pick them from the branches. Try to collect acorns from different trees to increase your chances of getting healthy ones. Avoid acorns that have holes, cracks, mold, or rot.


Step 2: Test acorns


The next step is to test the viability of your acorns. Place them in a bowl of water and discard any that float. Floating acorns are either immature or damaged and will not germinate. Healthy acorns will sink to the bottom.


Step 3: Prepare pot


The third step is to prepare your plant pot. You will need a pot that is at least 12 inches deep and has drainage holes at the bottom. Put a layer of stones or gravel at the bottom of the pot to improve drainage and prevent root rot. Then fill the pot with potting soil, leaving some space at the top.


Step 4: Plant acorn


The fourth step is to plant your acorn. Make a hole in the soil with your finger and insert the acorn about an inch deep. Cover it with soil and gently press it down. You can plant more than one acorn in the same pot, but make sure they are spaced at least 6 inches apart.


Step 5: Water pot


The fifth step is to water your pot regularly over the winter. Keep the soil moist but not soggy. You can place a tray under the pot to catch any excess water. Check the soil every few days and water as needed.


Step 6: Watch for sprout


The final step is to watch for your oak tree sprout. Depending on the species of oak, it may take anywhere from a few weeks to several months for the acorn to germinate. You will see a green shoot emerge from the soil and grow into a small sapling with leaves.


Congratulations! You have successfully grown an oak tree from an acorn!


Now you can either keep your oak tree in the pot or transplant it to a permanent location when it is big enough. If you choose to transplant it, make sure you do it in early spring or fall, when the weather is mild and the soil is moist. Dig a hole twice as wide and deep as the pot and carefully remove the sapling with its root ball intact. Place it in the hole and fill it with soil, making sure the root collar (where the stem meets the roots) is level with the ground. Water well and mulch around the base of the tree.


Enjoy your oak tree and watch it grow for years to come!








 





Resources and More Information


Reade, William Winwood. The Veil of Isis, Or, the Mysteries of the Druids. Google Books, C.J. Skeet, 1861, play.google.com/books/reader?id=7lwAAAAAMAAJ&pg=GBS.PP6.


Burt, Isabella. Memorials of the Oak Tree: With Notices of the Classical and Historical Associations Connected with It. Google Books, authoress, 1863, play.google.com/books/reader?id=IjwbAAAAYAAJ&pg=GBS.PA20. Accessed 28 Nov. 2023.


Gites, P. byBon R. (2021, May 19). The druids of brittany. Bonjour From Brittany. https://bonjourfrombrittany.wordpress.com/2020/08/19/the-druids-of-brittany/


Fickett, Mary Grace. Trees in Prose and Poetry. Google Books, Ginn & Company, 1902, play.google.com/books/reader?id=Cb4QAAAAYAAJ&pg=GBS.PA124 . Accessed 28 Nov. 2023.


“The Sacred Oak of Oley.” International Oak Society, 18 Feb. 2017, www.internationaloaksociety.org/content/sacred-oak-oley . Accessed 29 Nov. 2023.









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