The oak (Quercus robur) is a tall and majestic tree. It has been a symbol of strength and power for a long time. At first it provided food in the form of acorns as well as wood for fire and building; later it became a place of gatherings and public life. It has been a focus of worship at Western Europe for millennia and it still is the sacred tree of the moon of June/July.
The oak tree has many varieties but in general it is slow growing and with great longevity. It retains many uses in the modern world: the acorn is used to feed the swine, the wood (strong and elastic) for building, and the bark to tan leather and make several dyes.
Lore and Deities Associated with the Oak
Because it is tall and has low electric resistance the oak attracts lightening and is the tree most often struck by it. Thus, it became sacred to sky and thunder deities, such as Thor, Zeus, and Jupiter.
For the Celts the oak was the King of the Forest. It was sacred to Herne, the Horned God who leads the Wild Hunt and whose spirit inhabits a sacred oak tree, and Dagda, the King of the Gods. Druids would get advice by embracing the tree and they carved a symbol of the four elements on the tree, representing its power over magic. Important rituals, such as marriages, were held under an oak tree and druid gatherings happened only in oak groves, where people believed it was possible to communicate with the Fae.
For the Nords Thor of the thunder was the main deity associated with the oak tree. This benevolent and valiant god, protector of his people, not only rode in a chariot carved from oak but carried the famous hammer Mjolnir, made from a sacred oak tree, which is a symbol of might, fertility, rebirth and strength.
For the Greeks the oak was the sacred tree of Zeus. In Dodona, an oracle that belonged to the sky God, priests would learn about the future by listening to the rustling of the leaves of the sacred oak groove. The Romans also believed the oak to be a mark of Jupiter and, thus, of power.
The oak has always been a symbol of protection. The custom of knocking on wood for safety, for example, used to be knocking on oak wood. There was also a game, called tree tag, where touching an oak tree gave the players safety. Even warriors, from various cultures, wore oak for protection, and travellers carried with them a piece of oak wood.
Christians also found the oak to be sacred because it was the first tree created by God and the first food of Man. In Britain, priests would preach from under majestic oak trees which came to be known as Gospel Oaks.
Other deities associated with the oak are Cybele, Rhea, Pan, Hecate, Dianus, Janus, and Brighid.
For Wiccans the oak is present at many of the Sabbats. At Yule, the Oak God, bringer of Light, defeats the Holy God, of the dark, the cycle completing itself at Litha, when the Oak King is defeated by the Holy King. Just before Yule, Samhain has the acorn as one of its main symbols, representing immortality. Imbolg uses the oak to lend strength to the Goddess and the Newborn God, while at Ostara and Beltane it aids fertility.
Magickal Properties of the Oak
The oak tree is a symbol of strength and power and the primary tree of male qualities and the fire element. As such, it is ideal to carve any magical tool of male polarity, such as the athame, the sword, the lance, the wand, and other male symbols. The wand, in fact, is ideally made of this wood because it is thought that an oak wand increases the power of magick rituals.
The acorn in particular is a symbol of male fertility. It represents a penis and gives sustenance and immortality. You should gather it during the day and use it in fertility and prosperity rituals.
Placing an acorn on a window will ward off evil and attract prosperity and good luck. If you take an acorn with you it will bring health, longevity and youth. Another ritual involving oak acorns used to be a game played among girls who placed two acorns in a bowl of water and if they moved together the girl had found true love.
As for the leaves, you should gather them by night. They are a symbol of purification used in the bath to cleanse the body and spirit and burned in the house of sick friends to aid recovery. Carrying a leaf of oak with you, keeping it close by the heart, will protect you from evil, purify and keep illness away.
The wood and bark should also be gathered by night (preferably during April and May because the bark is easier to strip). They are used in protection and power spells. If you take a piece of wood with you it will protect you and the ashes specifically protect from lightening and fire and grant longevity. Another talisman is made by tying two twigs together with red thread to form a cross with equal length arms, a symbol of power over the elements.
Finally, the tree itself is magickal. Performing your rituals at an oak grove will increase their strength. If you only have access to one tree, embracing it in meditation or listening to the rustling of the leaves will provide you with the answer you seek. You can also leave a lock of your hair inside the tree for protection.
Medical Properties of the Oak
Beyond the magical properties, the oak also offers medical properties against illness. It is astringent, antiseptic and anti-inflammatory. Some common uses include:
- Distilled water of oak leaf buds to relief minor inflammation.
- Bruised oak leaves applied externally to help healing wounds and hemorrhoids
- A decoction of the bark is astringent and the bark itself is tonic and good for hemorrhages because it is anti-septic
- Powder the bark to arrest nose bleeding by inhaling it