“This oak tree and me, we’re made of the same stuff.”
– Carl Sagan
In every part of the world where the mighty Oak stretches its branches, it stands as a symbol of constancy, strength and certainty. Nations like Germany so revered the Oak that they made it the national tree. Various states in the US have done likewise. When you stand or sit beneath a glorious Oak it’s easy to see why people held this tree in such high regard. There’s a peaceful spirit in those roots that seems to just know it’s exactly where it needs to be.
Meaning & Properties
Some of the most moving symbolisms and meanings for Oak Tree come from the Celts. A person wearing Oak leaves (real or in a decorative design) was always someone of status. The Celtic word for Oak is “duir” which many linguists believe is the source from which the term Druid. Duir also means door, implying that the Oak Tree opens a path to other realms and levels of awareness.
This proverbial King of the Forest has an inherent aptitude for attracting lightning. The Celts associated lightning with Dagda, the God of magic, wisdom, strength and fertility. Seeing an Oak struck by lightning was akin to having God, himself say, “LOOK HERE!” Even after a strike, many oaks live to be over 100 years of age (the oldest staying true until 200). Talk about the perfect emblem of longevity.
There is an air of nobleness about the Oak that’s reassuring. People gathered near oaks when they wanted to encourage goodwill, bless their warriors with strength and when seeking out the truth. Those people found lying faced punishment, the worst of which was banishment from the clan, never to return. So Oak symbolizes honesty and proper intent, particularly that which comes with oaths and promises.
In an odd bit of duality, the Oak’s strength is also a weakness. Because the Oak’s branches are not supple a storm can take them down. Here the Oak reminds us of the value of flexibility. Sometimes being stubborn ends badly.
The keywords and attributes associated with Oak include durability, strength, sagacity, grandeur, longevity, family ties, fealty, dignity, hospitality, truthfulness and distinction.
There are several different types of Oaktree, each of which has slightly different symbolism and meaning.
Black Oak: Tall and impressive, reaching to the heavens
Bog Oak: An Oak in early stages of fossilization. The Water Element
Chestnut Oak: Intuition, grounding, justice, success
English Oak: Stateliness, proper manners
Evergreen Oak: Prosperity, luck, the Sacred Feminine, the Air Element
Golden Oak: The Sun, happiness, being welcome. The Fire Element
Laurel Oak: Success, victory, the Sacred Masculine
Post Oak: Wishes, astral travel.
Red Oak: The Fire Element. Does not take well to iron, making it a very happy Fairy tree.
Turkey Oak: Protection. The Earth Element.
White Oak: Innocence and well-being.
Oak has many proven medicinal qualities. The bark acts as an astringent. When made into a tea it alleviates diarrhea. A tincture dabbed on inflamed gums eases pain and puffiness. A cream of the bark works wonders on eczema, minor blisters.
Folk remedials say that a healer should gather Oak leaves that remain on the tree all winter as a cure for frostbite. The instructions say to boil the leaves in water. Soak the frostbitten area for one hour each day over a week’s time.
In Europe, herbalists use Oak as an antidote for poison. Native Americans applied it to swelled limbs, tumors and bleeding areas. In some areas, Oak substituted for Quinine for allaying fever.
The parts on an Oak used in healing include the inner bark, leaves and acorns. Decoctions from the bark are good as gargles for a healthy mouth. Oak tea gets rid of worms. A powder of the inner bark has been used as wound treatment, protecting against infection. A compress made from Oak roots soothes bruises.
The recipe for an Oak decoction is easy. Use 1 teaspoon of dried inner bark in one cup of warm water. Simmer in a covered pot for 20 minutes. Strain and drink three times daily especially for digestive issues.
Modern studies into Oak confirm that this plant has many positive uses in healing including as an astringent, antiseptic, anti-inflammatory and anti-viral.
Metaphysically Oak comes under the rule of Jupiter, which is also Zeus’ domain. Interestingly enough Zeus is known for his lightning bolts that Oak seems to attract. Energetically Oak is very strong but rather cantankerous. It does not give way like the willow and is susceptible to damage as a result. The Oak’s lesson here is that we must learn to adapt and change with our environment.
Oak in the Celtic Tree Zodiac
Celtic Tree Astrology includes Oak as the symbol of stability. Those born between June 10 – July 7 bear the Oak Zodiac Sign. These individuals seem to have an unending flow of strength. They’re determined to make sure everyone around them is safe. People who cannot fight for themselves or find their voice will find Oak people make great advocates.
If this is your birth sign you have a heart of gold, always giving of yourself to others. Your upbeat attitude shines and lifts everyone’s’ spirits. The Oak knows who they are and where they stand. Self-confidence isn’t an issue. You have an affinity for history and sharing your knowledge with others. This is why you may feel drawn to a career in education.
One thing Oak people cannot abide is clutter and chaos. Order is the word of the day. Without structure, you feel out of sorts and a bit lost. You just have to take care that this trait doesn’t turn into you trying to control others’ every moment. Oak has stamina. That means you’re looking at a long healthy life filled with social events and loving gatherings.
Global Symbolism and Meaning for the Oak Tree
Much of the Metaphysical associations for the Oaktree come from global myths, lore, superstitions and beliefs. We begin with the Greeks and Romans who associated Oak with the Olympian Gods and Goddesses. One of the oracles in Donona was established with a black dove arrived from Egypt and made a home in an Oak tree there. This tree became the center of a temple where priests would come to listen to the rustling of the Oak’s leaves for answers to important community questions and judgements. This leaves us with the wonderful symbolism of the Oak as a divinatory wood (perhaps to frame a scrying mirror).
Here are some more highlights in Oak’s history:
- Jason of the Argonauts is said to have taken a branch from a sacred Oak and attached it to his ship before sailing in search of the Golden Fleece for protections.
- In the Odyssey an Oak oracle was consulted by Odysseus when determining if he should return to Ithaca secretively or openly.
- In Rome every Oak was precious to Jupiter. In Italy Jupiter equates to Zeus. It was common for people to worship Jupiter under the bows of an Oak. Additionally, upon their return from a successful battle, the troup Commanders were crowned with Oak Leaves giving the Oak the additional symbolism of reverence and victory.
- Norse myths connect Oak with the powerful god Thor, a thunder god (there’s that pesky lightning again!). Some feel that the Yggdrasil, the World Tree of the Eddas, was an Oak.
- Pliny the Elder wrote of Druids holding their rituals in Oak groves. The Druids also used acorns in divination. Any mistletoe growing on an Oak was regarded as highly magical. Once harvested a mistletoe elixir would act as a poison antidote and confer fertility.
The list could go on and on. What’s most important here is recognizing the impressive symbolism and meaning for Oak and how that resonates with New Age ideas and practices.
We are blessed to have a plethora of charming superstitions about the Oak that can be used in magical efforts. For example, catching a falling leaf in autumn acts as a charm against winter colds. So, add that Oakleaf to your next health spell in some manner.
Blessed acorns can be carried to protect you from sickness and pain. It also confers a youthful attitude and sexual prowess. That’s one potent little seed!
Carry Oak for good fortune. Use it in your Litha fire to honor the Sacred Masculine. Add oak ashes or sawdust to any spell as an energy booster.
There’s a belief that the roots of the Oak go as far down in the earth as its branches reach upward, representing the axiom of “as below, so above”. That makes an Oak tree a lovely option for personal or group ritual. Dance around the trunk (the tree will thank you!).
Use oak twigs fashioned into a pentagram as a decorative amulet that protects your home, car or wherever you place it. Witches who work with the Fey will find their efforts enhanced by using an Oak as a portal. Oak fairies are brave and strong, and if you ask respectfully they can confer endurance.
Oak is usually a light brown hue. It is hard, strong and open-grained, which is why it’s often used for high-quality furniture. There are over 600 species of oak, including evergreens.
There are two common Oak types in woodworking. First is the White Oak that’s very heavy and dense. Upon cutting it has a medium coarse texture. The grain pattern is tight and straight, which makes it hard for a stain to penetrate it. By comparison, Red oak is not as hard or heavy. Nonetheless, it’s good for carving and takes to both sanding and finishing quite well.
Oak has been a preferred timber for thousands of years. The wood resists fungal attacks, which aids in its longevity. Generally when finished Oak has a smooth feel. In caring for any Oak item it’s best to hand wash them in simple soap and water (do not soak). Oiling regularly also maintains the wood’s beauty.
Oak comes from the Indo-European “deru”. The Old Norse “eik”, High German “eih” and other early languages all really simply mean tree. So, effectively all trees to the ancients were Oaks!