THE OAK (QUERCUS ROBOR) is deeply connected in our hearts as representing the very essence of England, and especially the power of the High King and his ancient and spiritual link to the land. It would be hard not to think of this tree as a masculine energy – mighty, strong, enduring and steadfast. The images we have of the Oak are buried deep in in our national psyche. Indeed, it is one of our longest-living trees, spanning generations upon generations. For this reason, old oaks were veneraged and used by the Druids, Ovates and Bards, and later by the Kings and the Church, for important meetings and ceremonies. They were planted to mark boundaries because of their longevity and strength to endure for hundreds of years.
The Oak Tree
The Oak will take 70 – 80 years before it begins to produce acorns. By then the trunk will be about 20 inches in diameter, but this will still be a young tree in the life of an Oak. After it has reached 100 years, it will only increase its girth by about one inch (2.5cms) a year, but this extremely hard dense wood is highly prized as a building material and firewood. Until men devised iron cutting tools, the Oak resisted all attempts to fell it. After this, ironically, Oak became the main wood for making the charcoal needed for the furnaces which separated iron from its ore. It later became the main construction material for houses, churches and ships as it was strong and durable and its twisted branches provided the right shapes needed. In Elizabethan times, a law had to be passed, protecting the Oak, to give the tree a chance to re-establish itself as so much of the great oak forests had been felled for building materials and fuel. After that, many oaks were coppiced to give a re-newable resource. The Oak woods we have now are a legacy from these times.
The rest of this article by Glennie Kindred, which was published in White Dragon at Beltane 1998, can be read on the White Dragon website.