Merry we meet - Merry we meet - Merry we meet
In Worship of Trees
Written and Compiled by George Knowles
The Oak Tree
The Oak tree (Quercus robur) is one of the sacred trees of Wicca and Witchcraft, and is associated with the month of June (10th - 7th July). June is also the month of “Litha” and the Summer Solstice, which is one of the 4 lesser Sabbats of the Witches celebrated on the 21st June. In the early age of mankind the Oak tree was thought to have been a primary focus of worship before the ancient Druids gave equal significance to other trees. It was believed that the Oak was the first tree created by God, and its fruit, the Acorn, the first food of mankind. The English or Common Oak was for many centuries the main forest tree of England and is intimately bound up in its history and culture. As an emblem of Britain a spray of the Oak was engraved on the sides of the old sixpence and shilling pieces, before the British Lion emblem replaced it. The Oak tree today is widely cultivated and distributed across Europe and the Northern Hemisphere, but while British forests are somewhat depleted, it is still regarded as a quintessential English tree.
Over the centuries the Oak tree has been subjected to a good deal of variation and now there are over 400 hundred species. Oak trees can now be found as far a field as Java, in the Mountains of Mexico and in South America. In Britain our once proud parks and forests are slowly being eroded and re-planted with a growing number of Oaks from foreign origins. The two principal varieties of Oak trees native to England are the English or Common oak (Quercus pedunculata) and the Sessile or Durmast Oak (Quercus sessiliflora). The Common oak is distinguished by having acorns in ones and twos attached to its twigs by long stalks, the leaves having scarcely any stalk at all. The Sessile’ leaves are bigger and are borne on long stalks while its acorns are attached to the bough instead of stalks. The Sessile variety of Oak is generally found in the lower parts of Britain and North Wales, and doesn’t live as long as the Common Oak. Its wood has a straighter fibre and finer grain, and is generally thought to be less tough and less resisting than the Common oak.
Of the many foreign Oaks now grown in Britain, the longest established variety is the Evergreen or Holm Oak (Quercus ilex), which is common to the south of England and Europe. The name “Holm” is thought to be Anglo-Saxon for “Holly”, for it can often be found growing in close proximity to it, as well as sporting Holly shaped leaves. The Turkey Oak (Quercus cerris) is the most prolific of the foreign Oaks introduce into Britain. This is a beautiful tall tree, which when fully grown produces abundant acorns in mossy cups.
The Oak in general is a slow growing tree of imposing stature and lives to an incredible age. On average the tree will reach heights of 110 feet (33 meters) with girths of some 30 – 40 feet (9 – 12 meters), but there have been some notable exceptions down through the centuries. The most famous perhaps is the Major Oak, located in Sherwood Forest and once associated with Robin Hood. Still standing today, although it requires support to prevent it collapsing, it measures 64 feet (20 meters) around its girth. The Fairlop Oak in Hainault Forest measured 36 feet in girth, the spread of its branches extending above it reach out to some 300 feet in circumference. The trunk of the Newland Oak in Gloucestershire measured 46 feet 4 inches, while the Courthorpe Oak in Yorkshire reportedly had the extraordinary girth of 70 feet. In folklore tales from history, one story has it that King Arthur’s Round Table was made from a single slice of Oak, cut from an enormous bole.
Of old, the strength and elasticity of the Oak made it particularly valuable for house building and shipbuilding. The “Wooden Walls of England” is an old phrase of many connotations; one meaning refers to the stately homes of England, which gave rise to another phrase “Hearts of Oak”, for the Englishman literally made his home from Oak. Many of the surviving old Manor Houses were constructed using huge oaken beams, walls were decorated with fancy Oak carved panels, and large solid Oak doors secured the house from intruders and unwanted visitors. Oak was also used in the construction of Churches and Cathedrals; indeed the roof beams of Westminster Abbey are made from Sessile Oak.
The “Wooden Walls of England” is another phrase associated with the Oak and refers to forts and castles constructed from Oak built around the coast to defend us from invasion, as well as the “ships made of oak” used in our defense against the Spanish Armada. The Oaks of the Forest of Dean provided much of the material used for this, and Philip of Spain is said to have declared: “that all the Oaks of the forest must be destroyed if victory is to be achieved”. This he failed to do but some two centuries later, so many of the Oaks had been felled and dispatched to naval dockyards for use in ships building, that Nelson drew up a special petition to the Crown advising the need to replant all the forests with Oaks.
After the Oak has passed its first century, it’s growth increases by less than an inch a year. This slowness of growth matures the wood in such a fashion that it becomes practically indestructible. As a timber, the most valued qualities of the Oak are its hardness and toughness. While the Ebony tree may be harder, and the Yew and Ash tree tougher, none of these trees possess both these qualities to such a degree as the English Oak. Although no longer used for building of ships of war, it is still in great demand for other purposes, sharing with Ash in the making of railway carriages and other forms of transport.
As well as its strength for building purposes, the Oak is much prized for the beauty of its grain and texture, and the richness of its colouring after polishing. As such it has always been a favourite wood of carpenters and cabinetmakers for use in panelling, doors and furniture. Beautiful cupboards, chests, tables and chairs were made of Oak, and due to the woods durability many of these have survived down through the centuries. Initially pale brown in colour, Oak wood darkens with age.
Other uses of Oak were the fighting clubs of ancient man, the hammers and long boats of the Vikings, and the hafts of daggers and knives made from its roots. Barrels and casks were also made from Oak and used to store liqueur, wines and spirits, it being impervious to the effects of alcohol. Coffins were made of Oak by using large sections of the trunk, these were split lengthwise and hollowed out to contain the body, but this was only done for state funerals or people of great stature and importance. The shrine of Edward the Confessor in Westminster Abbey is of Purbeck marble, but the tomb-chest or coffin (circa 1510) is of Oak, which has outlasted the changes of some 700 years.
Folklore and Myths:
Since time began the Oak was revered by many cultures, the Greeks held it sacred, the Romans dedicated it to Jupiter, and the Druids venerated it. The Greek historian Herodotus 484 - 424 BC (often called the “father of history”.) reported that the sacred Oak grove at Dodona had the greatest reputation for the gifts of prophecy. Situated at the foot of Mt. Tomarus, Dodona was the oldest and most hallowed sanctuary in Greece. An ancient legend tells of two black doves that flew from the Egyptian city of Thebes, one flew to the Libyan Ammon and the other flew to Dodona. Each alighted on an Oak tree and so began the oracular Oak cults dedicated to the Gods and Goddesses. The cult at Dodona was dedicated to the goddess Dione (Diana) but was later seized by Zeus who claimed it for his own, though he retained the services of her priestesses to read his oracles. This they did listening to the cooing of black doves, the rustle of the Oaks leaves in the wind, or the clanging of pots and pans hung in the trees branches to produce sound. They claimed that within the sounds could be heard the voice of Zeus.
The most famous of Zeus’ interpreters was an old priestess called Pelias, who prophesied Zeus’ messages from a sacred spring at the foot of a giant Oak in the grove at Dodona. The voice of Zeus was also heard in the sounds of thunder, and it was believed that more thunderstorms raged over Dodona than anywhere else in the classical world. The Oak tree due to its enormous size and low electrical resistance, attracts and is struck by more lightening than any other tree species, and so the Oak became associated with the Gods of Thunder. Zeus’ Roman counter part Jupiter was also worshipped as a God of Thunder, and was able to control rain, storms and lightening. It was said he revealed the future to mankind by the flight of birds. Birds were known as the “Messengers of the Gods” and the Oak with it massive frame and huge limbs is a natural resting place and home to many types of birds, as such the Oak became associated with Protection, Strength, Stability and Comfort.
In ancient times great Oak forests covered much of Britain and Western Europe and many sacred holy groves were formed in them for worship, dedicated to the gods by the many different cultures that inhabited them. Growing in close proximity to each other, the Oaks of the forest were often struck by lightening and visibly hit by the “fires from heaven” as it cracked and flashed overhead. To the ancients this was a channel through which the power of the thunder gods reached down to mankind and so the Oak became associated with the element of Fire.
The God most associated with the Oak tree is Thor (also known as: Thorr, Thunor, Thonar, Donar, Donner, Thur, Thunar, or Thunaer), who in Norse mythology was the supreme God of Thunder and the Sky. Thor was the eldest son of Odin, and was second only to him in the hierarchy of the Norse pantheon. He was also one of the most popular of the Gods due to his relationship with mankind. Thor is often depicted as a tall, muscular and vigorous man with a red beard. He had an enormous appetite and his ability to eat and drink great quantities is featured in several of his legends. Thor was the principal champion of the Gods and the chief protector of humans against giants, trolls, demons and other evil beings. His booming voice and flashing eyes could incite terror in his enemies. He was thought to be good-natured, courageous, benevolent, valiant and always ready to fight to help mankind, but he was also easily irritated and when roused to anger was apt to smash his adversaries to death with a single blow from “Mjolnir” his magical hammer.
Thor was widely worshiped by Norse warriors, but because of his capacity to create rain for the crops, he was also revered by farmers and peasants. Mjolnir the magical hammer was reputedly made by dwarves from the wood of a sacred Oak tree, and not only represented the destructive power of the storms, it was used by Thor to create “the fires from heaven”. The image of “Thor’s Hammer” has been used as a fertility symbol in marriages (in its connection with rain and crops), in funerals (as a symbol of death and rebirth), and for accepting newborn children into the community (as a symbol of strength and protection). Such was Thor revered that the fifth day of the week 'Thursday' (Thor’s day) was named after him.
When travelling Thor rode in a chariot made from Oak drawn by two goats, Tanngnjostr (Tooth-gnasher) and Tanngrisnir (Tooth-grinder), and when moving across the heavens dispensing weather, it produced the rumblings of thunder and sparks of lightening from its wheels. Thor and his followers undertook many expeditions to Jotunheim (Iceland) the land of the frost giants, and there erected high-seated pillars made of Oak. Within these they created hallowed ground from where the assembled Gods could protect their people in new lands.
Thor fought many legendary battles against the frost giants defending and protecting mankind as well as the Gods. His greatest adversary was the World Serpent called “Jormungand” whose many coils encircled the world. After many battles between them which neither won, they were destined to meet and fight for a final time at “Ragnarok” (the mythical end of the world). At that fatal meeting Thor, the best fighter amongst the gods, succeeded in killing the serpent. However being busy with his own fight, he was too late to aid his father Odin who died fighting the fierce wolf Fenrir. After killing the serpent Thor stepped back and died himself from poison the serpent had spat at him.
Oak through the ages was revered by many cultures particularly for its protective qualities, and in Britain it still stands proud as the “King of the Forest”. In early Celtic times certain Oaks were marked with a protective symbol, a circle divided into four equal parts (symbolic of the four elements - Earth, Air, Fire and Water), this was probably a forerunner of the magic pentacle (an up-right five pointed star in-side a circle, symbolic of the four elements plus “spirit”). Most likely this was an old Druidic custom, for the Druids revered the Oak above all other trees, believing it hosted the energy, power and strength of their Gods. Due to its size and longevity the Oak was known as the “Garden in the Forest”, for it attracts the growth of various forms of plant life. Normally the trunk of the Oak is covered in fungus, particularly stinkhorn and lichen, which grow alongside tendrils of Ivy, but just occasionally Mistletoe will also grow on it. When this happened the Oak became especially sacred, for the white berries of the Mistletoe were thought to represent the sperm of the Gods, and so the Oak became associated with the males procreative qualities and fertility.
Other myths and legends involving the Oak include “Merlin” the mystical wizard, magician and seer who helped King Arthur. It was believed that Merlin was born in Carmarthen in Wales, from where he worked his magick in a grove of Oaks, and supposedly used the topmost branch of an Oak tree as his wand. An old Oak that used to stand in Priory Street was credited to him and called “Merlin’s Oak”, but this has since been removed. Robin Hood the outlaw, another legend, together with his followers reportedly roamed the green depths of Sherwood Forest near Nottingham. There they lived a carefree life passing away time playing games of archery, and hunting the King's deer. Any rich people passing through the forest were robbed of their riches, the spoils of which they shared with the poor. The “Major Oak” a massive tree still standing today is said to have been the meeting place of his Merry Band of Men.
According to history, the Oak tree was a place of worship where the people could be preached too, the trees used for this purpose became known as “Gospel Oaks”. Edward the Confessor is said to have preached from under a Gospel Oak in Hampstead in order to gain support for his kingdom. During his reign Edward was noted for his weakness as a ruler and his piety as a man, but his greatest legacy to England was Westminster Abbey, the roof beams of which (and still are) made from Sessile Oak. Also according to history Charles II hid in an Oak tree after his defeat by Cromwell during the Battle of Worcester in 1651, thereafter the Oak was given the name “Royal Oak”. On his return to the crown after ten years in exile, Charles made his birthday a public holiday and called it “Royal Oak Day”. The people celebrated, Oak sprigs and leaves were gathered and used to decorated hats and clothing, boughs were tied to the doors of houses symbolically bring back luck, prosperity and fertility, and an Oak Man was dressed up Oak leaves and danced around the streets before claiming his May Queen. Today many of these traditions have been absorbed into the Mayday celebrations, and are still enacted each May around the country.
In Ireland, “St Bridget” (circa 453? - 523?) is one of the three patron saints. According to Celtic lore she founded Ireland's first nunnery for Holy women at Kildare, called the “Cell of Oak”. It is thought that St Bridget evolved from the Goddess Briget (also known as Brigid, Bridhe, Brigantia, Bridgadu), a solar Goddess who prophesied and healed by virtue of the waters of inspiration. The nuns of Kildare were said to have burned acorns on perpetual fires for food and heat. Back in England, the spirit of “Herne the Hunter” is believed to inhabit an ancient Oak tree. He was the Oak-God of southern Britain (often depicted wearing antler-horns) who leads the legendary Wild Hunts. His spirit is said to haunt Windsor Forest.
In the mythology of the Sabbats, Litha symbolizes the end of the reign of the Oak-King. As the sun nears the peak at the summer solstice (represented by the Oak King) and begins its decline back to winter (represented by the Holly-King), the two do battle. This time the Oak-King is defeated by the Holly-King who then rules over the second half of the year until they meet again and do battle at the Winter Solstice. This in essence is an enactment of the annual cycle of life, growth and death in nature. The Oak King is the growing youth who reaches his peak in mid-summer, while the Holly King is the mature man whose life declines into winter, from where he is again re-born of the Goddess.
Oak bark is grey-brown in colour and distinctly gnarled and furrowed. It contains some 15–20 per cent of tannin, and is used universally for tanning leather as well as making dyes. The bark is collected from the tree normally during April and May it being easier to strip at this time before the leaf buds open and its sap begins to flow again. For dyeing purposes an infusion of the Oak bark mixed with a small quantity of copperas yields a dye of a purplish colour, and was used by Scottish Highlanders to dye woollens and yarn. Mixed with “alum” it produces a brown dye, with “salt of iron” a black dye, and with “salt of tin” a yellow dye.
In North America the (Quercus tinctoria) species of Oak produces (Quercitron Bark), which is used for dyeing yellow, and the bark from the (Quercus prinus) species produces a red dye that Native American Indians used to dye their skins red. Oak sawdust was once used for dyeing corduroys and velveteen’s, and also for tanning, but it was found to be inferior to the bark for these purposes. After the Oak bark has been used for tanning, gardeners then use it to make a decoction called “Tan”. Tan is used to cover new plantings, which encouraging them to grow through the warmth it generates. However care needs to be taken for it sometimes favours the growth of fungi, and this can be harmful to certain plants. Tan is also used as a cover for racetracks and circus rings, and as an adulteration of chicory and coffee. In Brittany, tan compressed into cakes was used as fuel.
Leaves, Fruit and Flowers:
The Oak tree can takes some 60 years to mature and produce its first full crop of fruit. Depending on seasonal conditions, tufts of pale green leaves appear on short stalks (English or Common oak) during April or May, which by June turn dark green and thick with a strong central vein and deeply lobed edges. Should the young leaves be damaged by frost or destroyed by insects, the Oak has a canny ability to re-leaf itself. In August at the height of the summer when most other trees are wilting from the heat, the Oak tree produces a new leaf called “Lammas shoots”, which adds new colour and freshness to the tree. These new leafy shoots are golden-pink when young, turning from pale to dark green as they harden. In autumn the Oak tree is at its most majestic as its leaves change colour again turning from dark green to various shades of yellow, orange, russet and a pale golden brown. The leaves sometime stay on the tree until the following spring or until the new buds forming for the next year push them off.
In April together with the leaves, the flowers of the Oak form in clusters of male and female catkins. By May the males have grown in size to 1-3 inches, becoming long and pendulous and filled with pollen. At this stage the female catkins open as upright flowers awaiting pollination from the males. Each has cup-shaped scaly involucres containing seed vessels, which produce as fruit an acorn 1/2 to 1 inch long. The acorn ripens in the autumn changing colour from green to pale yellow to dark olive brown. Once ripe the Oak drops its fruit providing food in abundance for many of the forests animals. Left uneaten, the acorn will sprout tiny shoots and root in any fertile earth, thus producing a new sapling tree and the cycle of life and growth begins again.
In times of old the acorn was a valued source of food for livestock, and particularly for feeding swine. There was also much famine in England during those times and the starving peasantry were thankful for their share, even making bread from it. This naturally depleted the crops resources and as land was measured and valued for its swine feeding capabilities, by the end of the seventh century special laws were enacted called pawnage or pannage, relating to the feeding of swine. This was later recorded in the Domesday Book, (the record of a survey ordered by William the Conqueror (1086) to determine economic conditions in England). Acorns contain a substantial proportion of carbohydrate and fat, and in many country districts are still collected in sacks and given to pigs, but they must also be mixed with other vegetable food to counteract their binding properties.
Most parts of the Oak tree are used medicinally and their healing effects are many and varied. The distilled water of the Oak leaf bud can be taken internally or used externally to relieve minor inflammations. Bruised Oak leaves applied externally to wounds and haemorrhoids will also help reduce and ease inflammation. The bark of the Oak tree is the part most used in medicine, it being a tonic, astringent and antiseptic. As with other astringents it is also recommended for use in agues and haemorrhages.
The medicinal qualities of the bark can be extracted both by water and by spirit. As a decoction it has a strong astringent and bitter taste with a slightly aromatic odour. To make it, collect some bark (best in the spring April or May) from some young trees and dry it in the sun before chopping it. Use 1 oz. of bark in a quart of water and boil it down to a pint. It can then be taken in a wineglass measure or dose, and used as a gargle mouthwash for chronic sore throats, or applied locally to bleeding gums and piles. It is also used in hot baths for chilblains and frostbite or as a hot compress for inflamed glands, hernias and haemorrhoids. A stronger decoction taken by the spoonful is useful in chronic diarrhoea and dysentery.
Oak bark when finely ground and powdered makes a remedial snuff that can be inhaled to arrest nosebleeds. It has also proved beneficial in the early stages of consumption. Sprinkled onto bed sheets it will help to alleviate bedsores. A pinch of powered Oak bark mixed with honey and taken in the mornings will help and aid ladies with menstrual problems. Ground and powdered acorns taken with water was considered a useful tonic for diarrhoea, and a decoction of acorns and Oak bark made with milk, was used as an antidote to poisonous herbs and medicines. In old times, the thin skin of the acorn was used to cover open cuts or wounds, and ground and powdered acorns taken in wine was considered a good diuretic.
Due to the Oak trees many associations and characteristics, it is used symbolically on many ritual occasions, for instance in February during the festival of Imbolc, the spirits of the Oak tree can be invoked to aid and lend strength to the Goddess as she sleeps having given birth to the new God. It can also be asked to aid and acknowledge the new God as he grows in strength to become the new light of the year. In March at the festival of Ostara (the Spring Equinox), the Oak tree can be invoked to aid the Goddess as she blankets the earth with fertility bringing new life to the lands and pastures, also to lend strength to the new God as he stretches and grows to maturity inducing all living creatures out of hibernation to mate and reproduce.
The Beltane festival in May marks the courtship of the Goddess and God and the renewal of the ancient marriage of polarity. The oak tree is invoked for its associations with weddings and fertility. In June, Litha the Summer Solstice festival embraces the beginning of summer when earth is awash with the fertility of the Goddess and God, at this time the Oak tree is again invoked for its associations with the Gods of thunder and rain to aid the growth of crops. At the Lammas festival in August it’s the time of the first harvest and the time when the plants of spring begin to shrivel and die. This time the Oak tree is called for its regenerative powers, for as the other plants begin to wither and die, so the Oak tree produces its Lammas shoots in conformation that the cycle of life will continue.
September (Mabon) is the Autumn Equinox and completes the harvest begun at Lammas. Nature declines and draws back its bounty in readiness for the winter, and it’s a time of rest. At this time the Oak tree drops it own harvest of acorns, these then feed and nourish the forest animals as they stock their larders in readiness for hibernation and the bleak cold months of the coming winter. In October (Samhain) the God dies as a willing sacrifice and descends into the earth to the Underworld, there to await his renewal and rebirth by the Goddess. The Oak trees spirits can be invoked and all its attributes called upon to ease the Gods decent with strength, courage and comfort while aiding the Goddess with its male procreative qualities and powers of fertility.
The protective qualities of the Oak were well known and used in magick, and many of the old customs are still practiced in country villages. Carrying a small piece of Oak on your person will bring about a sense of security and well being, as well as protecting you from harm. Two twigs of Oak tied together with red thread to form an equal armed cross is an age old talisman that can be worn or hung up in the home for protection, strength and security against evil. Acorns placed on window-ledges will guard against lightening strikes. As the Oak tree is so firmly planted and deep-rooted it symbolizes permanency, and as our feet are constantly in touch with the ground this symbolism can be used magically to aid our feet. Before going on a long journey, be it in your own country or abroad, soak your feet in a footbath infusion of Oak bark and leaves. This will not only relieve weary feet, but also guide you on your journey and ensure your safe return.
To catch a falling Oak leaf will bring you luck and prosperity, and you shall suffer no colds throughout the winter. If someone is sick or poorly in the home, place an Oak log on the fire to warm the house; it will help to “draw-off” the illness. Carrying an acorn is thought to guard against illness and pain, it is also thought to aid longevity and preserve youthfulness. The acorn with its symbolic representation of the “glans penis” was much used in love magick and fertility rites, for which use phallic shaped wands were made and tipped with an acorn. In olden days young women would place two acorns in a bowl of water to find out if she had found true love, if they moved together “yes” if they moved apart “no”.
The ancients and Druids of old used the Oak tree for divination purposes when planning the next seasons farming work. By carefully studying the leafing sequences of different trees, they could determine when to plant the next season’s crops. An old proverb relating to this has been passed down through the centuries and is still used to predict the weather in many country districts:
“If the Oak's
before the Ash,
Then you'll only
get a splash;
If the Ash before
Then you might expect a soak.”
Another more precise method of divination is the use of “Oak galls” or “Oak apples” as they are commonly known. I can do no better here than to quote a paragraph from one of the many books I have used to compile this writing, a brilliant book called “Tree Wisdom” in which Jacqueline Memory Paterson quotes from John Gerard’s “Herbal or General History of Plants” who states:
“Galls were broken into at specific times of the year (probably spring and autumn) and what was found in them foretold the sequence of the coming seasons. If an ant was found inside the gall it foretold plenty of grain to come, if a spider, there would be “a pestilence among men”, if a white worm or maggot, there would be a “murrain” of beasts or cattle. If the worm flew away (presumably found at its metamorphic stage of becoming a gall-wasp or flying insect), it signified war, if the worm crept, it foretold scarceness of harvest, and if it turned about, it foreshadowed the plague”.
Such a record also gives us an indication of the concerns people had about the weather and other conditions (plague and illness) of earlier times.
The longevity of the Oak tree and its statuesque nature makes it a veritable “garden in the forest”. Animals, birds, plant life, fungi and insects of all kinds find and make a home within its massive frame. Of all the insects that find sanctuary, the most persistent and harmful is the “gall wasp”. The gall wasp (Cynipidaie) is a tiny hymenopteran insect that attacks the tree and lays its eggs. The eggs develop into larva, which in turn produces the galls. The galls (commonly called Oak apples) appear sometime on the leaves but mainly on the bare branches of the tree during winter. Looking like hard brown balls at the end of its twigs and feeding on the sap of the tree, they do much damage and mischief to the tree by checking and distorting its growth.
The larva that hatches from the eggs secrets a peculiar fluid, this stimulates the defensive mechanism of the tree to produce an abnormal growth resulting in the knotted knees and twisted elbows typical of the tree we see today. The larva now enclosed in a knotty spherical mass produced by the trees defenses, begins to feed off the trees natural resources such as starch and other nutritive material. The growth of the gall continues so long as the egg or larva lives, or reaches maturity and passes into a chrysalis from which the fully developed gall wasp emerges and escapes into the air through a hole bored with its mandibles in the side of the gall.
Galls are used commercially in the preparation of gallic acid and tannic acid, and are extensively used in tanning and dyeing as well as for the manufacture of ink. The best galls come from Asiatic Turkey, called Aleppo galls from the (Quercus infectoria). They are also known as Mecca Galls or Sodom Apples, “the fruit that never comes to ripeness - the fruit so pleasant to the eye and so bitter to the taste”. In commerce they are simply known as blue or green galls. The main constituents of Aleppo galls are 50 to 70 per cent of gallotannic acid, 2 to 4 per cent of gallic acid, mucilage, sugar, resin and an insoluble matter called lignin. Other commercial galls are imported from Persia and to a lesser extent from Greece.
If collected before the insects escape, those of good quality are hard and heavy and without perforations. They are dark bluish-green or olive green in colour and nearly spherical in shape, measuring 12 to 18 mm in diameter. These are the blue and green galls known in commerce. If collected after the insects have escaped they have a pale yellowish-brown hue, are spongy and lighter in weight and are perforated near the center with a small hole. These are known in commerce as white galls. White galls contain less gallotannic acid than the blue or green galls. The English Oak galls or Oak apples are smooth, globular and brown. They are usually perforated and much less astringent than Aleppo galls, containing only 15 to 20 per cent of gallotannic acid. As such they have no real commercial value.
Medicinally galls are the most powerful of all vegetable astringents. It is used as a tincture internally in cases of dysentery, diarrhoea and cholera, and as an injection in gonorrhoea and leucorrhoea. Preparations of galls are usually applied as a local astringent externally, mainly as a gall ointment (1 oz. of powdered galls and 4 oz. of benzoated lard) and applied to painful haemorrhoids. It can also be used to arrest haemorrhages from the nose and gums. An infusion may be used as a gargle for inflamed tonsils etc.
The Oak is known by many folk names such as: Father of the Woods, King of the Forests, Royal Oak, Tree of Britain, White Oak, Duir, Jove’s Nuts, Gospel Oak and Juglan. Its deity associations are with: Hecate, Dione, Diana, Rhea, Cybele, Circe, Athene, Demeter, Bridgid, Bridhe, St Briget, Blodeuwedd and Cerridwen. Zeus, Hercules, Pan, Jehovah, Esus, Odin, Thor, Dagda, Herne and Janus. Its planet ruler is Jupiter, with close associations to the Sun. Its associated element is Fire. It is used to attract the powers needed for: Protection, Health and Healing, Fertility, Luck, Money, Joviality and Potency.
Astrologically Oak people (i.e. those who are born during the month of June) are robust, courageous, strong, unrelenting, independent and sensible. They do not like change, keep their feet on the ground, and are people of action. Even when faced with over riding stress, hurt or pain, Oak people come out on top better and stronger and more grounded than before. Instead of bending under stress, hurt and pain, they adapt and grow until they overcome it.
Cunningham's Encyclopedia Of Magical Herbs - By Scott Cunningham.
Encyclopedia of Wicca & Witchcraft - By Raven Grimassi.
The Encyclopedia of Witches & Witchcraft - By Rosemary Ellen Guiley.
Tree Wisdom (The definitive guidebook to the myth, folklore and healing power of Trees) - By Jacqueline Memory Paterson.
AA Book of Britain's Countryside.
The Penguin Hutchinson Reference Library (CD cassette).
Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia (CD cassette).
Encyclopædia Britannica 2005 Ultimate Reference Suite DVD. Copyright © 1994-2003
Plus many websites to numerous to mention.
First published the 18th January 2002, 13:41:02 - Updated the 07th June 2008 © George Knowles
Best Wishes and Blessed Be.
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The Wiccan Rede / Charge of the Goddess / Charge of the God / The Three-Fold Law (includes The Law of Power and The Four Powers of the Magus) / The Witches Chant / The Witches Creed / Descent of the Goddess / Drawing Down the Moon / The Great Rite Invocation / Invocation of the Horned God / The 13 Principles of Wiccan Belief / The Witches Rede of Chivalry / A Pledge to Pagan Spirituality
Traditions Part 1 - Alexandrian Wicca / Aquarian Tabernacle Church (ATC) / Ár Ndraíocht Féin (ADF) / Blue Star Wicca / British Traditional (Druidic Witchcraft) / Celtic Wicca / Ceremonial Magic / Chaos Magic / Church and School of Wicca / Circle Sanctuary / Covenant of the Goddess (COG) / Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans (CUUPS) / Cyber Wicca / Dianic Wicca / Eclectic Wicca / Feri Wicca /
Traditions Part 2 - Gardnerian Wicca / Georgian Tradition / Henge of Keltria / Hereditary Witchcraft / Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn (H.O.G.D.) / Kitchen Witch (Hedge Witch) / Minoan Brotherhood and Minoan Sisterhood Tradition / Nordic Paganism / Pagan Federation / Pectic-Wita / Seax-Wica / Shamanism / Solitary / Strega / Sylvan Tradition / Vodoun or Voodoo / Witches League of Public Awareness (WLPA) /
Other things of interest:
Gods and Goddesses (Greek Mythology) / Esbats & Full Moons / Links to Personal Friends & Resources / Wicca/Witchcraft Resources / What's a spell? / Circle Casting and Sacred Space / Pentagram - Pentacle / Marks of a Witch / The Witches Power / The Witches Hat / An esoteric guide to visiting London / Satanism / Pow-wow / The Unitarian Universalist Association / Numerology: Part 1 / Part 2 / Part 3 / A history of the Malleus Maleficarum: includes: Pope Innocent VIII / The papal Bull / The Malleus Maleficarum / An extract from the Malleus Maleficarum / The letter of approbation / Johann Nider’s Formicarius / Jacob Sprenger / Heinrich Kramer / Stefano Infessura / Montague Summers / The Waldenses / The Albigenses / The Hussites / The Native American Sun Dance / Shielding (Occult and Psychic Protection) /
Sabbats and Festivals:
The Sabbats in History and Mythology / Samhain (October 31st) / Yule (December 21st) / Imbolc (February 2nd) / Ostara (March 21st) / Beltane (April 30th) / Litha (June 21st) / Lammas/Lughnasadh (August 1st) / Mabon (September 21st)
Rituals contributed by Crone:
Animals in Witchcraft (The Witches Familiar) / Antelope / Bats / Crow / Fox / Frog and Toads / Goat / Honeybee / Kangaroo / Lion / Owl / Phoenix / Rabbits and Hares / Raven / Robin Redbreast / Sheep / Spider / Squirrel / Swans / Wild Boar / Wolf / Serpent / Pig / Stag / Horse / Mouse / Cat
In Worship of Trees - Myths, Lore and the Celtic Tree Calendar. For descriptions and correspondences of the thirteen sacred trees of Wicca/Witchcraft see the following: Birch / Rowan / Ash / Alder / Willow / Hawthorn / Oak / Holly / Hazel / Vine / Ivy / Reed / Elder
Rocks and Stones:
Stones - History, Myths and Lore
Articles contributed by Patricia Jean Martin:
Apophyllite / Amber / Amethyst / Aquamarine / Aragonite / Aventurine / Black Tourmaline / Bloodstone / Calcite / Carnelian / Celestite / Citrine / Chrysanthemum Stone / Diamond / Emerald / Fluorite / Garnet / Hematite / Herkimer Diamond / Labradorite / Lapis Lazuli / Malachite / Moonstone / Obsidian / Opal / Pyrite / Quartz (Rock Crystal) / Rose Quartz / Ruby / Selenite / Seraphinite / Silver and Gold / Smoky Quartz / Sodalite / Sunstone / Thunderegg / Tree Agate / Zebra Marble
Wisdom and Inspiration:
Articles and Stories about Witchcraft:
Murdered by Witchcraft / The Fairy Witch of Clonmel / A Battleship, U-boat, and a Witch / The Troll-Tear (A story for Children) / Goody Hawkins - The Wise Goodwife / The Story of Jack-O-Lantern / The Murder of the Hammersmith Ghost / Josephine Gray (The Infamous Black Widow) / The Two Brothers - Light and Dark
Old Masters of Academia:
(Ancient, Past and Present)
(Departed Pagan Pioneers, Founders, Elders and Others)
Abramelin the Mage / Agrippa / Aidan A Kelly / Albertus Magnus - “Albert the Great” / Aleister Crowley - “The Great Beast” / Alex Sanders - “King of the Witches” / Alison Harlow / Amber K / Anna Franklin / Anodea Judith / Anton Szandor LaVey / Arnold Crowther / Arthur Edward Waite / Austin Osman Spare / Biddy Early / Bridget Cleary - The Fairy Witch of Clonmel / Carl " Llewellyn" Weschcke / Cecil Hugh Williamson / Charles Godfrey Leland / Charles Walton / Christina Oakley Harrington / Damh the Bard - "Dave Smith" / Dion Fortune / Dolores Aschroft-Nowicki / Doreen Valiente / Dorothy Morrison / Dr. John Dee & Edward Kelly / Dr. Leo Louis Martello / Edward Fitch / Eleanor Ray Bone - “Matriarch of British Witchcraft” / Eliphas Levi / Ernest Thompson Seton / Ernest Westlake / Fiona Horne / Friedrich von Spee / Francis Barrett / Gavin and Yvonne Frost and the School and Church of Wicca / Gerald B. Gardner - The father of contemporary Witchcraft / Gwydion Pendderwen / Hans Holzer / Helen Duncan / Herman Slater - Horrible Herman / Isaac Bonewits / Israel Regardie / James "Cunning" Murrell - The Master of Witches / Janet Farrar and Gavin Bone / Jessie Wicker Bell - “Lady Sheba” / Johannes Junius - "The Burgomaster of Bamberg" / John Belham-Payne / John George Hohman - "Pow-wow" / John Gerard / John Gordon Hargrave and the Kibbo Kith Kindred / John Michael Greer / John Score / Joseph John Campbell / Karl von Eckartshausen / Laurie Cabot - "the Official Witch of Salem" / Lewis Spence / Margaret Alice Murray / Margot Adler / Marie Laveau - " the Voodoo Queen of New Orleans" / Marion Weinstein / Matthew Hopkins - “The Witch-Finder General” / Max Ehrmann and the "Desiderata" / Monique Wilson / Montague Summers / Nicholas Culpeper / Nicholas Remy / M. R. Sellars / Mrs. Maud Grieve - "A Modern Herbal" / Oberon Zell-Ravenheart and Morning Glory / Old Dorothy Clutterbuck / Old George Pickingill / Paddy Slade / Pamela Colman-Smith / Paracelsus / Patricia Crowther / Patricia Monaghan / Patricia “Trish” Telesco / Philip Heselton / Raymond Buckland / Reginald Scot / Robert Cochrane / Robert ‘von Ranke’ Graves and the "The White Goddess" / Rosaleen Norton - “The Witch of Kings Cross” / Ross Nichols and the " Order of Bards, Ovates & Druids" (OBOD) / Rudolf Steiner / Sabrina Underwood - "The Ink Witch" / Scott Cunningham / Selena Fox - founder of "Circle Sanctuary" / Silver Ravenwolf / Sir Francis Dashwood / Sir James George Frazer and the " The Golden Bough" / S.L. MacGregor Mathers and the “Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn” / Starhawk / Stewart Farrar / Sybil Leek / Ted Andrews / The Mather Family - (includes: Richard Mather, Increase Mather and Cotton Mather ) / Thomas Ady / T. Thorn Coyle / Vera Chapman / Victor & Cora Anderson and the " Feri Tradition" / Vivianne Crowley / Walter Brown Gibson / William Butler Yeats / Zsuzsanna Budapest /
Many of the above biographies are briefs and far from complete. If you know about any of these individuals and can help with additional information, please contact me privately at my email address below. Many thanks for reading :-)
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