Oak Tree – Meaning and Symbolism

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Oak is a tree associated with Jupiter because of the ancient belief that it attracted lightning more than others of its kind.

The ray would be in this case the inverse aspect of the tree and both are related to the majesty of Zeus and to the axis of the world that unites Heaven and Earth.

There is a complementary relationship between the ray and the oak.

Oak Tree – Meaning

Oak Symbol Like the oak, whose symbolism is similar, the oak represents strength and durability, and both are invested with these attributes of the supreme divinity.

It is therefore considered a sacred tree – it can be said that the sacred tree par excellence and the most venerated since ancient times – both for the Celts and also for the Greeks, who say that the Hercules club was made of its wood.

The Scandinavians and Tetons called it the “Tree of Life of Thor” and also consecrated it to Donor-Thor, god of the tempest.

In The Odyssey, Ulysses goes to consult on two occasions the great oak of Zeus about his return to the homeland, and the famous Golden Fleece, guarded by a terrible dragon, is said to have been suspended from a huge oak that, in this case would have temple connotations.

Etymologically, the word druid could come from the Proto-Celtic dru-wid-s, which means the one who knows the oak. The relationship is symbolically valid in the sense that the Druids, due to their priestly and political status, possessed strength (dru) and at the same time wisdom (vid, which recalls the Sanskrit root vydia).

The oak indeed symbolizes both virtues, that is, wisdom and strength. In Ireland it was consecrated to Dagda, the Druid god who presides over atmospheric phenomena and is also responsible for sacred music: it has as attributes, in addition to the harp, a mace (supposedly made of oak, like that of Hercules) and a magical cauldron.

For the Druids, the oak embodies the masculine principle of strength as opposed to the feminine principle of resistance, associated with mistletoe, the latter symbol of fertility and regeneration.

The oak was also for the Celts, because of its large trunk, its broad branches and its dense foliage, the emblem of hospitality and generosity, since it is capable of welcoming and feeding mistletoe, which is a parasitic plant.

Pliny the Elder was surely a direct witness on some occasion of the ceremony of gathering mistletoe attached to oak in Celtic forests and writes: “The Druids have their sanctuaries in oak groves and do not perform any sacred rite without oak leaves. They believe that the mistletoe reveals the divine presence in the tree that so generously welcomes it. ”

For the Chinese, the oak also symbolizes masculine strength and vigor, in contrast to the apparent feminine weakness of the willow, which bows when the gale strikes, but is always able to recover and survive thanks to its flexibility and resistance.

In Christianity it is said that the cross of Calvary was made of oak, and it is also noted that both in Sikkim and in Hebron, it is near an oak or oak where Abraham receives the revelations of Yahveh, thus serving the tree as an instrument and axis of communication between divinity and men.

The Scandinavians and Teutons called the oak, Thor’s tree of life. In Norse mythology, this god was the most popular, since he was the guardian of order, protector of peasants and warriors, he traveled in a heavy bullock cart, which made the heavens resound with thunder.


He stood out from the rest of the gods for his strength, honesty and fidelity, attributes of the oak. For the Yakut people, who live in the cold basin of the Lena, the oak represents the axis of the world, its roots reach deep into the hard earth and its branches reach up to the white Siberian sky.

The golden fleece, a symbol of royalty, was given to King Aeetes, in the confines of the Black Sea, who placed it in an oak, guarded by a dragon. Across the Sea, Pelias promises his nephew Jason, to return the throne he took from his father, if he succeeds in retrieving the fleece. To achieve his goal, he summoned young strong and noble at heart, like oaks.

However, upon reaching the kingdom of the perfidious Aeetes, he makes a pact with the dark and magical powers of Medea. Jason managed to recover the fleece, but not the kingdom, because Jason did not understand that the ends never justify the means, by making a pact with everything that represents the opposite of his own mission: the hidden forces, the contempt for purity of soul.

In this way he fails to empty his heroic undertaking of content and thus annihilates both the feat and the ideal that drove him.

According to a passage from Pliny “the Elder”; Druid’s name comes from the Greek word drus, which means oak. But the true symbolic relationship with the Celtic Druids is due to their priestly dimension;

They possessed strength and courage, the oak represents both virtues. It was also consecrated to the Irish Celtic god Dagda, creator god incarnate of the masculine principle, father of the universe whose symbol is the sun.

Since ancient times, meetings were held in the Basque Country under the oldest oak in the area. Oak is not only the main tree of its forests, but it is the very essence of all trees, being the bearer of ancestral wisdom, in fact the Basque word aritz means oak, but also tree, because oak is the most tree of all trees, that is why the baztarrak or council of elders had to meet under the most oak of all, the oldest oak.

Lawsuits were settled under these trees, peasants were mobilized for war and the most solemn oaths were also taken, not only in the Basque Country, but also in Cantabria and Asturias, with the formula “… so el arbol de … “.

The Scandinavians and Tetons called it the “Tree of Life of Thor” and also consecrated it to Donor-Thor, god of the tempest.

Only after swearing “so the tree” is one lord; only by legislating “so the tree” is law made; only by summoning “so the tree” a man can be accused and convicted or acquitted in a legal way”.

The symbolic role of courage, strength, wisdom and as a mediator can be seen in the traditional mayoral rods, which feature two oak acorns.

Oaks famous for their role as mediator and host were those of Guerendiaga, Avellaneda and especially that of Guernica, around which the population grew. Representatives of the population and the surrounding towns attended these meetings.

The celebration of the sessions in Guernica took place under the tree, later in the hermitage of Nuestra Señora de la Antigua, located next to the traditional oak.

In 1826 the hermitage was demolished and the current Casa de Juntas was built in its place. To take possession of the lordship of Vizcaya, one had to swear to respect the privileges under these three oaks.

In 1876 these councils were abolished, with the reforms of the charters, after the bloody and internal Carlist wars.

Oak Tree – Symbolism

The Quercus genus comprises more than 300 species distributed throughout the boreal hemisphere, from the cold Atlantic forests to the equatorial forests of Colombia and Indonesia. In the Iberian Peninsula this genus is widely represented, with species as characteristic as oak, holm oak, cork oak, Aleppo and kermes oak.

In this genus it is difficult to delimit the species, due to the numerous hybrid forms. Lineé, when classifying the plant species, defined the common European oak as a single species, assigning it the scientific name of Quercus robur, currently this oak is considered as three different species

Sessile oak (Quercus pedunculata) is the largest, it can reach fifty meters in height and two in diameter, it is also the longest-lived and can live up to a thousand years. It is found in the wild from southern Scandinavia to Greece, Italy, and northern Spain.

Quercus sessilis, so named because the acorns are sessile (they lack a peduncle), it is very similar to the previous one, a little lower and coarser. It lives in the highlands and hills of France and Germany.

Black oak (Quercus pubescens), it is also known as hairy oak because of the hairiness on the underside of its leaf. It is the most rustic species, that is, the least demanding in terms of soil requirements, but on the contrary it is the least high and least long-lived of all oaks.

Its area occupies central Europe, Provence, large areas of Spain and North Africa. All oaks are characterized by forming dense forests, since the youngest members are heliophilous, to cover the clearings of the forests, but later they adapt to form dense forests.

It is typical of humid climates and little summer drought, they are usually on mountain slopes and mid-altitude moors. The most characteristic thing is its deciduous leaf, deeply lobed.

The ecological richness of oaks is immense, no other European tree serves as lodging and food for so many different species, only in nocturnal butterflies more than two hundred species have been counted.

Although its greatest contribution lies, as in the case of the holm oak, in acorns, which are the center of the life cycle of many insects and constitute an excellent source of nutrition for birds, squirrels and even large mammals.

In addition, these fruits perform another very important function, many animals bury them, for times of scarcity, and sometimes they are never collected, which allows the forest to expand or recover after a fire.

The oak facilitates biodiversity, developing curious strategies, such as the protection of the young leaves, which have just emerged, while other trees use aggressive weapons, such as the elaboration of poisons, the oak simply makes all the leaves come out at the same time and grow very quickly, so many leaves in such a short time, it is a low proportion that serve as food for its inhabitants.

However, those who participate in the feast are very diverse, as there cannot be a single species that feeds exclusively on young shoots, because there are few days a year that it could obtain food. All this biological diversity serves as a regulatory mechanism to prevent the appearance of pests.

Man appreciates the tree for its wood, which is of high quality, resistance and incorruptibility, which is why it is widely used in cabinetmaking, in the manufacture of barrels and in the naval industry.

In England, English oaks were owned by the crown, because in a country where navigation was so important for its commercial and colonial expansion, they considered or reserve their wood for shipbuilding a priority, an industry that required a large number of trees.

thus power create the enormous number of ships that were necessary for the maintenance and expansion of such a vast empire, a fifth of the total land area was under the yoke of the British colonial army.

The nationalist character of this tree still survives in its own name in that language “English oak”, which sports the English flag like a scandalous candle.

The conservative British society still celebrates every May 29 the Royal Oak Festival, which dates from the time of Charles II (1630-1685), who adorned himself, on such solemnity, with leaves from this tree. It is still kept as a commemoration of its former strategic importance.


For the Celts, the oak brought together strength and wisdom, being the real tree and the central point of their rites, both public and initiatory.

The Oak features more than 400 different species around the world ranging from huge trees to shrubs, both evergreen and deciduous.

The oaks are distributed mainly in the temperate regions of the northern hemisphere, although they also populate the mountain areas with warmer climates.

Oak trees usually form forests of great biological wealth, either pure or combined with other species. Oak trees are adapted to populate all types of soils and climates.

The most respected oracle in Greece was that of Zeus at Dodona, where prophecy was determined by the whispering of the wind through the leaves of a sacred oak.

The oak symbolizes strength and freedom, that is why in Guernica, an oak tree stands in its main square to symbolize the freedom of character of the Basque people. In each legislature, the Basque Lendakari swears in office with the oak as a witness.

In explaining the origin of many peoples, the oak is presented as the direct ancestor.

The Archdeacons believed that before they were human they had been oaks, and the Hellenes called oaks first mothers.