The Hedge Craft – OAK (Quercus robur)

OAK (Quercus robur)
Plant family: Beech family (fagaceae)
Parts Used: Bark, leaves, acorns, galls (“oak apples” created by gall
wasps on leaves and also acorn or knopper gall, on acorn).
Soil and Environment: Hedgerows, woods, parkland. Copes well in
moist and even poor soil. Interbreeds with other oak, such as sessile and
downy oak. Grows very slowly.
Description: 130ft-160ft (40m-50m). Lives between 400-1,000 years.
Circumference to approximately 30ft (10m). Lobed leaves in ovoid
shape. Scaled grey/green trunk with warty branches, scaly “capped”
acorns longer than American cousin. Male flowers in yellow-green
catkins, female flowers unassuming – both flowers grow on same tree.
Due to size, creates a greenish light around it when found in a forest, as
it opens up the canopy around it to let light in. Quiet tree, noble
stillness, grand presence. Irregular-shaped crown with branches starting
low down on trunk. Galls are smooth, globular, brown and perforated.
Acorn or Knopper gall wasp (Andricus quercuscalicis) became
established in the UK during the 1970s and is now widespread. Eggs are
laid during early summer in the developing acorns of Quercus robur.
Instead of the normal cup and nut, the acorn is converted into a ridged
woody structure in which the gall wasp larva develops. The gall is
initially yellowish-green and sticky but later comes greyish brown. The
next generation of wasp forms inconspicuous galls on the male catkins of
Turkey oak, Quercus cerris the following year, rotating each year
between the two tree species. Wasps know the concept of sustainability!
History: Used for building homes, ships, furniture, etc. Bark used in
tanning leather and dyeing fabric. Acorns used to feed pigs (and humans
when food was scarce). Galls used to make ink. The wood is good for
burning and for making charcoal. Oak trees have sheltered many famous
outlaws, including Robin Hood and Charles II. Oak is the second Ogham
in the aicme of Huath. Oak forests covered most of Europe in vast
expanses. It is one of the seven “nobles of the wood” in Brehon law.
Associated in Celtic lore with thunder and lightning, oak trees often
survive lightning strikes. Their roots reach as deep into the ground as
their branches reach high into the sky. Oak was the first tree species to
be protected by legislation. It is the chieftain tree of the Druids: Druid
means “wisdom of the oak”. The Oak King battles the Holly King at each
solstice; The Oak King is the god of summer. Lightning-struck oak trees
were important in Druid and Celtic magic. Sacred to the goddess
Brighid, her original sanctuary in Kildare was a grove of oak trees: Cill
Dara, the church of the oak tree. In Greece the rustling of the leaves and
branches was used for divination. Woodhenges of Neolithic or Bronze
Age were made of oak, such as Seahenge in Norfolk. Sometimes
considered the World Tree in certain cultures, it was an axis mundi.
Neolithic trackways of oak still exist in Britain. Oak used to be on
sixpences and shillings. King Arthur’s table at Winchester is cut from a
single piece of oak tree trunk.
Chemical constituents: Tannins, tanning acids, minerals.
Actions and Medicinal Uses: Astringent and good for tightening,
drying, binding and toning tissue, reducing excess discharge. Good for
diarrhoea, dysentery, eye, mouth and throat inflammations as well as
inflammation in the mucous membranes of the digestive tract. Good for
burns, sores, bleeding. Also, good for coughs and colds. Anti-microbial
and antiseptic. Good for sweaty feet, chilblains and anal tears (taken as
bark decoction in room temperature bath). Acorn coffee aids poor
digestion. Used homoeopathically for alcoholism. Helps reduce fever.
Beneficial hair rinse for dandruff and hair loss. Compresses soaked in tea
can shrink goitres and glandular inflammation. Anti-inflammatory.
Combinations: Oak bark decoction with nettle and yarrow make a
good women’s tonic. Bruised leaves when applied with comfrey leaves
help heal bruises and sprains.
Usage: Leaves for tea and tincture, bark as decoction, acorns ground
and roasted for coffee substitute. Tea and decoction internal use: 2 tsps
dried or 3 tsps fresh leaf/bark per cup of boiled water up to 3 times per
day. Tincture: 1 tsp three times per day. Leaf galls as tincture internally
for severe diarrhoea and dysentery. Use decoction as local astringent
externally for haemorrhoids. Bruised leaves for first aid treatment in
bruises, swelling and sprains.
Contraindications: Possible contraindication when used with
morphine. Possible antagonist to nicotine sensitivity.
Spiritual Aspects: Oak is sacred to many gods. The Proto-IndoEuropean word for oak, dorw, became the word for “door”. Oak is a
doorway between the worlds, as it lives between the worlds (high
branches, deep roots). Celtic priests ate acorns to aid in powers of
divination. Oak was popular in the funeral ceremonies of ancient Celts.
Acorns kept in the home or carried on a person bring good luck. Oak
teaches us about strength, even when the worst happens (as they often
survive lightning strikes). For Druids, they symbolise the ideal way of
life, with branches reaching towards the heavens while feet are rooted
deeply in the earth. Water found in the tree’s nooks and crannies can
provide a good vibrational essence for empowerment, fighting great
difficulties, loss of hope or the draining of energy. Oak helps develop
inner sovereignty. It leads to greater ability for kindness and
compassion. Promotes personal responsibility. Spirit ally to connect you
with other worlds. Oak is the doorway to new worlds and new
Oak is a wonderful ally in the Hedge Druid’s Craft. As the oak tree’s
roots extend as far down into the soil as the boughs reach overhead, it is
in the perfect balance between the worlds. Some oak trees in Britain are
hundreds, if not over one thousand years old. They can be great
teachers, but some can be very impatient with humanity, and want
nothing to do with us. We must respect this.

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