The Oak was the principal sacred tree of the Druids, symbolizing truth and steadfast knowledge as well as the turning of the year. During this time, Druids would carve a circle in the tree for protection against lightning. The Oak was representative of the trials that individuals experience in life while changing and becoming who they were meant to be. This tree represented the soul which, in Celtic terms, was the “Eye of God.” Doors made of Oak were believed to keep out evil. The word “door” derives from the Sanskrit “duir,” Ogham for Oak and a word which symbolizes solidity and protection. In the realm of the forest, the Oak is the King of Trees, standing mightily solid with great branches, matched only be even greater roots. Often struck by lightning, the force of the strike and the heat bursts the sap and stem of the Oak apart, leaving the trunk gnarled and withered…yet, the Oak still manages to survive for decades or even centuries. The growth of this tree is slow but sure and it is the forest’s marker point, cornerstone and refuge. The Druids often taught lessons beneath the shade of the Oak.
The Oak was long considered by the wise to be a guardian which opened doorways to self spirituality and granted the strength to progress onward which, in time, drew the individual closer to the self. The Oak provided the courage to overcome any obstacles which had to be resolved during the travels of an individual and, in time perhaps, to learn the ways of the wise. In Celtic mythology, it is said that the first tree was an Oak, known by the name of Bile, from which two acorns fell to the ground. These seeds rooted deep within the Earth and gave birth to the God Dagda and the Goddess Brighid…both famed for their patience and goodness. Folklore suggests that if the Oak blooms before the Ash, then there will be a good harvest and its acorns were said to offer protection from lightning…thus, carvings of acorns are often found on staircases in medieval buildings. Medicinally, the Oak was believed to heal gout and cure bleeding gums. The tree has always protected Britain by providing wood for the building of ships and as boundaries between one area and another. The bark of the Oak produces tannin, once used extensively in the leather industry for tanning raw hides. Its acorns may be used to make a powerful antiseptic and the juice from crushed Oak leaves can be applied directly to wounds for the same purpose. A gargle made from the inner bark is said to be useful in relieving sore throats and a decotion of the outer bark is believed to aid in the relief of sever fever symptoms.
It is symbolic of male potency in the form of mistletoe. Even in the dormancy of winter, this new life sprouts from its branches with berries of white that symbolise the semen of the Lord of the Forest.
Use the power of the Oak Moon to renew your commitment to your deities and spiritual path. For this ritual, you will need three acorns and six candles. Under the moonlight, charge the acorns to represent your body, mind and spirit. Light each candle to represent the six remaining moons of the lunar year call out to your deities and rededicate yourself to them and their service. Ask for the strength you need to continue on their path throughout this year, or to change the direction of your path to correct and error in your ways. Bury the acorns to symbolise the planting of your rediscovered commitment.
The Acorn has long been associated with couples and love divination. Dropping two Acorns into the same bowl of water is said to predict the romantic future…should the Acorns float together, then the couple will marry…the reverse being the case should the Acorns drift apart. The Ancient Druids believed that to carry an Acorn at all times would ensure prevention from aging, a ritual said to be most successful for women.
The Oak deity is Dagda, the Father of All Gods, also known as the “Good God” and the Irish Lord of the Land. Ancient with grey hair, Dagda was grounded and simple in every way. He is usually depicted as wearing a brown, low-necked tunic, a short hooded cloak and horse-hide boots with the hairy side outward. Dagda possessed a cauldron known as the “Undry,” which came from Murias…one of the four mythical cities of the Tuatha De Danaan…and which provided food to all according to the merits of the individual. According to legend, nobody ever left the “Undry” unsatisfied. His final resting place is said to be a small barrow near the River Boyne. This barrow has never been excavated. The animals associated with the Oak are the Wren, the Otter, the Hawk and the White Horse.
The Wren – Celtic King of the Birds, the Wren symbolized wit and sublety. Sacred to the Druids, the musical notes of the cunning Wren were used for divination. As with many other birds, the Wren was considered to be a messenger from the deities. Legend states that the Wren once competed with the other birds for supremacy and answered the challenge of the Eagle to race toward the Sun. When the Eagle could fly no higher, the Wren, which has been nestling within the Eagle’s feathers jumped upon the back of the Eagle and flew a few inches higher prior to proclaiming himself King of the Birds, and thus humiliating the Eagle. The Wren fell under the particular protection of Taranis, Celtic God of Thunder.
The Otter – Considered by the Celts to be extremely magickal creatures, travelers were often aided in their journeys by helpful Otters. It was believed to be strong protector who helped in the gaining of wisdom, finding inner treasures or valuable talents. The Otter was associated with faithfulness and the power to recover from any crisis. It symbolized the ability to enjoy rather than simply endure life.
The Hawk – Celtic tradition lists the oldest animal as the Hawk of Achill. As with many other birds, the Hawk is a messenger of the various worlds. However, it is noted as being more skillful and stronger than most others of its species. The Hawk symbolizes clear-sightedness and far-memory. To hear the cry of a Hawk during a journey is an indication that it would be wise to be alert to upcoming situations that require boldness and decisiveness in order to keep from being thrown off-balance. A noble bird that brought the Sun within his feathers and enabled recollection with the ability to progress. Merlin was said to have often transformed himself into a small Hawk…perhaps the reason why today, the smaller family member of the Hawk is known as a Merlin. Two knights who sat at Arthur’s Round Table carried the name of the Hawk: Gwalchmai the “Hawk of May” and Gwalch-Y-Had the “Hawk of Summer,” better known respectively as Sir Gawain and Sir Galahad.
The White Horse – A popular totem animal of the Celts, the Horse was considered to be a faithful guide to the Otherworld. It symbolized stamina, endurance and faithfulness and was sacred to the Goddess Epona. Even today, the White Horse is regarded as sacred and protected by gleaming brasses which ward off the “evil eye.” In Scotland, Kelpies would transform themselves into Horses in order to lure the traveler into their realm. Although predominantly connected with Goddess figures, the Horse is also a solar creature which suggests the finding of balance between the male and female. Both the Oak and the Holly were symbolic of the Summer Solstice when the White Horse of the Oak became the Unicorn of the Holly in transformation.