A song to the oak, the brave old oak,
Who hath ruled in the greenwood long;
Here’s health and renown to his broad green crown,
And his fifty arms so strong.
There’s fear in his frown when the Sun goes down,
And the fire in the West fades out;
And he showeth his might on a wild midnight,
When the storms through his branches shout.
— Henry F. Chorley (1808-1872)
As we feel the shifting energies from Winter moving towards Spring, we honor the Green Allies who are stirring and awakening. They guard our homes, they offer us their shelter, bring us healing and comfort, and provide the very air we breathe.
One of the most powerful of the tree beings is the mighty oak. Considered sacred in cultures throughout the world, oak means door in some ancient languages. It was held in the highest esteem by the Druids, the priestly class of the early Celtic people who, for a time, ranged from Ireland to the Alps.
In fact, etymologists believe that the first known written reference to the name “Druid,” was from ancient Greek texts as drus- (meaning “oak tree”) and -ides (meaning “the son of”). The oak is the tree of truth, because, in fact, the same root word “drus,” and later “deru” comes to us today as the English word “truth.” The sacred circles of Druids to this day are often under a spreading oak or in a grove of oak trees, where only the truth may be spoken.
In this same way, burning oak leaves purifies the atmosphere. And oaks are well-known for their assistance in divination. It is said that at the Summer Solstice, the future can be divined by listening to the wind as it blows through the branches of an oak tree. Witches often use the wood of the oak for our tools, particularly wands, the handles of athames, and staves.
Two oak twigs bound together with red thread to form an equal-arm cross can be hung in your house to ward off evil. And if you catch a falling oak leaf, it is said you won’t catch any colds all winter. An acorn planted at the dark of the moon will bring a steady supply of money. And oak fires will help draw off the illness when someone is unwell. But as the King of Trees, oak should not be burned thoughtlessly.
Because of its magical potency, it is used for the Yule log, and is one of the magical woods that should be burned for need fires. As I mentioned on Sunday, when you gather the gifts of the oak, never cut a living tree, unless it is endangering your home.
A waning moon is the correct time to harvest oak, with acorns gathered by daylight, and leaves and wood at night. The exception to this is if you are seeking the oak’s blessing for fertility magic. Then, acorns gathered at night will bring powerful energy for conceiving a child. And when gathering its generous windfall, it is said that wine poured upon the roots is an especially welcome offering to show your gratitude for its gifts.
In British traditions, ancient, hollow oak trees (called bull oaks in England, and bell oaks in Scotland and Ireland) are trees that stand in the oldest enchanted groves. They are believed to be the home of spirits, elves, faeries and not always kindly ones, at that. Not knowing what sort you might be dealing with, it was recommended that you turn your coat or cloak inside out to protect yourself from malevolent magic, as the saying goes:
For faery folks
Are in old oaks.
The oak is a direct connection to the Divine, reminding us that sacred law encompasses the Heavens, the Earth, and the Underworlds. It is the World Tree, the shaman’s tree, and provides a portal to all the realms of Spirit.