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Oak trees - Folklore Friday

Oak trees have long been venerated trees.

They are often called the cathedrals of the natural world.

Oaks have an exceptionally long natural life span and are only officially considered ‘old’

when they reach 700 years of age. Oaks reign supreme in terms of supporting biodiversity.

Up to 2300 species are known to be directly associated with oak, and that doesn’t include all of the fungi, or any of the bacteria and other microorganisms which create a symbiotic home with the oak. There are around 500 species of oak worldwide all providing important habitats. The species has been on the planet for around 65 million years, appearing around the point in time that dinosaurs were wiped out.

Seen as a symbol of strength and an emblem of the gods like Zeus, Jupiter, Dagda, Perun and Thor. The Greeks, Romans, Celts, Slavs and Teutonic tribes have all held Oak to be supreme amongst their revered trees. All these gods also had dominion over rain, thunder and lightning. Oak trees are more prone to lightning strikes than most other trees. This is due to the tree’s high water content and the fact that they are frequently the tallest living things in the landscape. The word Druid may derive from a Celtic word meaning “knower of the oak tree”. The Gaelic word for oak is darach and remains in place names such as Glac Daraich (oak hollow/small valley) in Glen Affric. Druids frequently worshipped and practised their rites in oak groves.

Mistletoe grows on oak trees. Its presence was believed to indicate the hand of God having placed it there in a lightning strike. Vikings saw mistletoe as a plant of peace. If enemies met under a tree containing mistletoe, they were obliged to stop fighting for at least a day. Traditionally, a branch of mistletoe is hung over the doorway of one's home for peace and good luck. We also use it as a symbol of love at Christmas time.

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