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Folklore: Oak Trees in Folklore

DigiTrad:
OLD OAK TREE


Related threads:
(origins) Origins: The old oak tree (29)
Lyr Req: The Old Oak Tree (4) (closed)
(origins) Lyr Add: Squire McCallian/Old Oak Tree (8)
Lyr Req: The Old Oak Tree (9)


GUEST 20 May 03 - 07:20 AM
masato sakurai 20 May 03 - 07:39 AM
Stilly River Sage 20 May 03 - 09:08 AM
BUTTERFLY 20 May 03 - 09:45 AM
MMario 20 May 03 - 09:50 AM
Stilly River Sage 20 May 03 - 10:16 AM
mooman 20 May 03 - 10:25 AM
MMario 20 May 03 - 10:30 AM
Peg 20 May 03 - 10:35 AM
Stilly River Sage 20 May 03 - 11:13 AM
GUEST,Q 20 May 03 - 12:52 PM
Nerd 20 May 03 - 12:58 PM
Nerd 20 May 03 - 01:04 PM
Stilly River Sage 20 May 03 - 03:45 PM
greg stephens 20 May 03 - 03:57 PM
Gareth 20 May 03 - 04:57 PM
GUEST,Q 20 May 03 - 05:01 PM
katlaughing 20 May 03 - 06:01 PM
greg stephens 20 May 03 - 06:47 PM
GUEST,Q 20 May 03 - 10:15 PM
Malcolm Douglas 20 May 03 - 10:30 PM
GUEST,Q 20 May 03 - 10:59 PM
diesel 20 May 03 - 11:46 PM
Peg 20 May 03 - 11:58 PM
diesel 21 May 03 - 01:26 AM
Nigel Parsons 21 May 03 - 03:14 AM
Wilfried Schaum 21 May 03 - 03:43 AM
Wilfried Schaum 21 May 03 - 03:50 AM
Jeanie 21 May 03 - 04:52 AM
ooh-aah 21 May 03 - 05:28 AM
GUEST,Ben A - from Hertford's Green Hills 21 May 03 - 09:39 AM
Peg 21 May 03 - 10:03 AM
GUEST,Keith A o Hertford 21 May 03 - 10:05 AM
Stewie 21 May 03 - 10:11 AM
Stilly River Sage 21 May 03 - 10:23 AM
*daylia* 21 May 03 - 10:43 AM
Peg 21 May 03 - 10:50 AM
katlaughing 21 May 03 - 11:06 AM
*daylia* 21 May 03 - 11:13 AM
MMario 21 May 03 - 11:20 AM
GUEST,Q 21 May 03 - 11:23 AM
*daylia* 21 May 03 - 01:05 PM
Nerd 21 May 03 - 02:20 PM
Nerd 21 May 03 - 03:17 PM
Stilly River Sage 21 May 03 - 03:36 PM
Nerd 21 May 03 - 04:28 PM
Stilly River Sage 21 May 03 - 04:48 PM
katlaughing 21 May 03 - 06:53 PM
Wilfried Schaum 22 May 03 - 02:53 AM
Kaleea 22 May 03 - 03:04 AM
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Subject: Oak Trees
From: GUEST
Date: 20 May 03 - 07:20 AM

Why does the Oak Tree figure so much in Folklore


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Subject: RE: Oak Trees
From: masato sakurai
Date: 20 May 03 - 07:39 AM

An article titled The Oak Tree: King of the Greenwood by Glennie Kindred may help.

~Masato


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Subject: RE: Oak Trees
From: Stilly River Sage
Date: 20 May 03 - 09:08 AM

It goes way back to the Goddess Diana (of Nemi) and probably earlier. She had an oak grove around her temple, and the fight that involved the warrior/protector of her grove and person led to the naming of James Frazer's expansive series (now distilled into one much smaller but still substantial) text called The Golden Bough. A "golden bough" tree limb was pulled off and used as a weapon.

SRS


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Subject: RE: Oak Trees
From: BUTTERFLY
Date: 20 May 03 - 09:45 AM

I am no expert on folklore, but I presume rather than having anything to do with the goddess Diana, the importance of the oak tree in folk music stems from the fact that in the British Isles and probably much of Western Europe, it tended to be the dominant tree in much of the countryside when it was better wooded than today, and as it can live a long time (several hundred years) and was very important for timber (for construction of buildings, shipbuilding, etc) it was inevitable that it would become important in folklore. However in certain areas, depending on soil, climate, altitude and history of land use, elm, lime, pine, hazel, ash, etc, would be the dominant tree.

In parts of Ireland hazel was more important, which possibly explains occasional reference to hazel in traditional songs, eg "Flower of the hazel glade" in "Eileen Aroon". However I can think of one song "The Old Oak Tree" apparently from the North of Ireland, based on a murder where the female victim was found buried beneath "an old oak tree". I have been trying to find the words of this song (which appeared on the first Boys of the Lough LP, but so far no-one has sent me the same version). Reference is made to a "Squire McCollum" as the murderer (the victim being only known as "Betsy") so perhaps it relates to a specific murder.

Incidently some people may associate druids with mistletoe and oak trees, but apparenty mistletoe is more associated with apple trees.


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Subject: RE: Oak Trees
From: MMario
Date: 20 May 03 - 09:50 AM

Don't foget that the oak woods also supplied a source of food - during better times as mast to fatten hogs and cattle, during lean times the acorns were used for flour.


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Subject: RE: Oak Trees
From: Stilly River Sage
Date: 20 May 03 - 10:16 AM

Butterfly,

Rather than contradict my scholarly contribution about Diana with your admitted inexpert speculation, you may add those remarks to mine as an addendum. Folklife reflects a spiritual existemce between man and nature, and the early spiritual beliefs that were involved in worship of Diana are so far reaching Frazer's text only begins to describe it. Much of the Diana belief system (later called a "cult" by christians who wanted to downgrade Diana, as they wanted to downgrade many other powerful spiritual or godlike beings as they colonized the world) borrowed from various local beliefs, and from other earlier and/or adjacent beliefs, such as Attis and Cybel.

Human ability to survive and thrive certainly has to do with the ability to recognize the beneficial plants and animals over others. Trees with an obvious function are going to be more important, and perhaps more enspirited, than those that offer no succor. Autochthonous religions (based on a place and it's resources) grew and merged, taking their symbols with them. Some eventually became the hide-bound modern industrial religions, seemingly removed from nature, but with vestigial elements that are there for resourceful theologians to draw from if they wish to promote a more environmental view of the world through religion. Folk music and traditions are all tied in with this process coming and going.

Mistletoe has a primary parasitic involvement with many members of the oak family, and of oak relatives such as elm.

SRS


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Subject: RE: Oak Trees
From: mooman
Date: 20 May 03 - 10:25 AM

I tend to agree with Butterfly.

Oak was (and still is in some parts) one of the dominant hardwood species in temperate woodland and the wood was extensively used in building, roofing, furniture, doors, shipbuilding and other important uses which would have made it economically important both locally and nationally and probably a common theme in folklore. In addition, Quercus suber, from Southern Europe and North Africa (and now also grown in the Western USA) is the principal source of cork.

moo


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Subject: RE: Oak Trees
From: MMario
Date: 20 May 03 - 10:30 AM

I think the two are probably so intertwined it would be hard to say - a "chicken and egg" situation. Anything that is that economically important to a society is going to get imbued with spiritual aspects


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Subject: RE: Oak Trees
From: Peg
Date: 20 May 03 - 10:35 AM

oh what a wonderful thread! I have thoughts on this but am only on a quick Mudcat break from writing a review for deadline; will weigh in later!

peg (erstwhile forest nymph, Celtic scholar and tree-hugger)


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Subject: RE: Oak Trees
From: Stilly River Sage
Date: 20 May 03 - 11:13 AM

If you haven't heard of it, it doesn't mean it doesn't exist. This isn't the kind of stuff you're going to hear in church. Unless maybe you're a Unitarian.

Here are a few links, both to Frazer, and to a discussion by a fellow who disagrees with texts that support Frazer. The Golden Bough was written a long time ago and a lot of conclusions have been masterfully reshaped by more recent scholars. But there are basics in his work that serve as an excellent starting place.


http://www.sacred-texts.com/pag/frazer/ That particular link comes from This page at http://www.sacred-texts.com/index.htm Very interesting site.
http://www.bartleby.com/196/27.html
http://www.und.ac.za/und/classics/98-16rab.html

SRS


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Subject: RE: Oak Trees in Folklore
From: GUEST,Q
Date: 20 May 03 - 12:52 PM

Although the interpretations in "The Golden Bough" have been improved upon, it still is wonderful reading on cold winter nights.


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Subject: RE: Oak Trees in Folklore
From: Nerd
Date: 20 May 03 - 12:58 PM

Nobody in any academic field takes Frazer seriously anymore, and the idea that there was a "Diana system" is overstating the case. In the areas where the Celts lived, for example, we have over 400 names of Gods and Goddesses, more than 300 of which occur only once in the historical record. In other words, people worshipped local Gods rather than wide-ranging ones. When the Romans described the area, however, they named any Goddess who remotely resembled Diana "Diana," which is why it appeared to scholars like Frazer as if Diana, Mars, Minerva, etc, were widely worshipped by ancient Celts. In fact, after the Romans moved in, they often added their own name to the Celtic name, and combined their mythology with the Celtic mythology, so we have Sulis Minerva, Mercury Artaios, etc. But this is certainly an artifact of Roman occupation, not a reflection of a wide-ranging cult of Diana (or anyone else) going back to before that occupation.

Stilly is certainly right that the importance of the oak goes back to before Classical times, in other words, before we have good descriptions of anyone's religion. This makes answering a "why" question impossible. The idea that the oak was so common is certainly a possibility, but isn't the rare item usually accorded special importance too?

The real question, it seems to me, is: is it really true that "the oak figures so much in folklore?" What examples of folklore do we have with oaks in them? What about other trees? Certainly in America, the pine features most heavily ("In the pines," "Piney woods," etc) In Ireland, Hazel and Yew seem to have been equally important as oak, and feature equally in folklore, so it depends where you go. I know of no study that actually compares the number of references to oaks versus those of other trees in the folklore of any region of the world, which would be a necessary precursor even to the claim that the oak figures particularly heavily in anyone's folklore.

It would certainly be accurate, however, to say that the oak figures heavily in commentaries on folklore by scholars interested in mythology and, especially, druidism; in other words, people like Frazer. Classical writers mentioned that the oak was particularly important to the Druids, and eighteenth century Druidic revivalists and other neopagans seized on this idea, making the oak central to their own belief systems. Meanwhile, Frazer's writings were in themselves widely influential. (The idea of the oak's importance to druids does not seem to have been universally true, by the way, but certainly in Britain, Gaul, and even Celtic Galatia we have some indications that it WAS true. In Ireland it's a different story).

By the way, "cult," when used by anthropologists and folklorists, does not necessarily have the negative connotations Stilly suggests. If we speak of a "cult of Diana" we mean beliefs about and worship of Diana especially, within a larger religion that also includes other aspects. Thus we also speak of the "cult of the Virgin Mary" within the Roman catholic religion. We don't mean people who program your kids to give all their money to the spiritual leader!


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Subject: RE: Oak Trees in Folklore
From: Nerd
Date: 20 May 03 - 01:04 PM

I should amend what I said. It is not true that no one takes Frazer seriously; what I meant was that no one takes him at face value. Obviously, his work is important a crucial historical moment in scholarship. But most of his claims have not been supported by later archaeology.


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Subject: RE: Oak Trees in Folklore
From: Stilly River Sage
Date: 20 May 03 - 03:45 PM

Interesting, Nerd--point well-made about the colonial appropriation of similar religious practices under the Roman umbrella of Diana. The period from which I'm picking up the term "cult" is how it was applied by the church in Rome at the time the Gnostics were crushed, and earlier. With admittedly sketchy reading about this period, I will note that there was a movement to squash religious impluse that allowed believers to practice without the supervision of an organized church. Such a movement was a threat because believers didn't have to pay (tithe) anyone to tell them how to believe and live and enrich the church in the process.

Jessie Weston's From Ritual to Romance dips into a number of these topics as it explores the various Arthur and Green Knight legends.

Oak and pines were both important in the Phrygian religion of Cybel and Attis. Pines moreso, I think. In the New World you will find any number of trees that had an equally huge religious significance. For example, the Western Red Cedar (Thuja plicata) of the Northwest was medicinal/spiritual as well as material for shelter and clothing, carved for boats, masks, poles, almost everything. You can light it under some pretty adverse conditions. The spiritual importance probably comes about because of all of the others uses.

A "tree" song my father used to sing often was named something along the lines of "the Madrona" (is it also called a "Rowan?"). It has been many years since I heard it, so I may be combining tree names. The young woman loves one man, but her father wants her to marry a rich noble. He tells her to undress for the nobleman, and she turns into the tree that peels its bark (the Madrona).

SRS


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Subject: RE: Oak Trees in Folklore
From: greg stephens
Date: 20 May 03 - 03:57 PM

The chorus"Down down derry down" which lasted well in England, long after the Celtic languages had fallen to English, is generally reckoned to contain some religious reference to oak trees. Derry or some veriation of it is Welsh and Irish for oak, I believe, but someone may correct me on that. Dari in Kurdish I think, as well: must be a widespread Indo-European word.
   I dont know that oaks turn up all that often in songs: not as much as willows, for a guess.


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Subject: RE: Oak Trees in Folklore
From: Gareth
Date: 20 May 03 - 04:57 PM

Translation from the true tongue OAK = derwen (s) derw or deri(p)
deri---- is a prefix to describe "oaklike".

Trust this helps.

Gareth


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Subject: RE: Oak Trees in Folklore
From: GUEST,Q
Date: 20 May 03 - 05:01 PM

The rowan (usually called mountain ash in N. Am.) occurs both in Eurasia (Sorbus aucuparia) and North America (S. americana)- different species, but the appearance is similar.
The Madrona tree of California and region (an Arbutus), however, is a native tree, growing over 25 feet, so the tale of a 'noble' has been transferred from another tree and another region (or did a noble 'red man' get changed into a 'noble'? It was planted in European gardens in the 18th century, and may have picked up the tale of the maiden and the noble there. There are Arbutus species in Europe, but nothing like the American tree.

The oak tree in much of the Rocky Mountain west is a scrub species, much disliked, forming thickets that are difficult to penetrate.
"Willow," depending on the region, has been applied to several plants, related and unrelated. Reading the old tales, it is often impossible to tell what plant they are talking about.


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Subject: RE: Oak Trees in Folklore
From: katlaughing
Date: 20 May 03 - 06:01 PM

The Madrone/a, or Arbutus of North America can be dramatic-looking trees! click for photo

Q, scrub oaks are one of the reasons my dad and granddad wore chaps when punching cattle in Western Colorado.


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Subject: RE: Oak Trees in Folklore
From: greg stephens
Date: 20 May 03 - 06:47 PM

Gareth: thanks for the Welsh information re Derry or equivalent. Can anybody give the irish word? I've also just been told that Daristan means forest in Kurdish, but it was a slightly confused discussion so I might have got this wrong.


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Subject: RE: Oak Trees in Folklore
From: GUEST,Q
Date: 20 May 03 - 10:15 PM

Quite a tree, Kat. I am more familiar with them inland where the peeling bark and reddish tints are easily seen.

Near La Veta, Colorado, overlooking what was once their homestead close to the Spanish Peaks, is my great-grandparents grave site. The slope has become infested by scrub oak, which has to be cut back from the monument every year.


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Subject: RE: Oak Trees in Folklore
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 20 May 03 - 10:30 PM

The Scots Gaelic is darach. MacBain (Etymological Dictionary of the Gaelic Language, revised edition, 1911) quotes Irish dair, darach and links the word to English tree. Chambers' 20th Century Dictionary additionally links tree to Greek drys (oak); dory (spear) and Sanscrit dru (tree).


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Subject: RE: Oak Trees in Folklore
From: GUEST,Q
Date: 20 May 03 - 10:59 PM

Widespread as Malcolm notes. Links to Russian drevo and the word for tree in other Slavic languages, Welsh derwen (oak)-see Gareth post, Lithuanian derva (pine-wood), Old Irish daur, Gothic, Norman, etc., Sanscit as noted by Malcolm.
The word for tree seems to be related throughout the Indo-European languages.
The name oak in its various spellings seems to be confined to the areas influenced by the Teutonic group of languages, at first referring to the European species, but later extended to all species of Quercus world-wide. OED


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Subject: RE: Oak Trees in Folklore
From: diesel
Date: 20 May 03 - 11:46 PM

Greg Not sure if this helps or confuses...
From the Irish:Taken from an online dictionary)

Darach
nm. g.v. -aich; pl. daraich, oak
Darag
nf. g.d. -aig; pl.+an, oak tree

And of what I did know already

The County of Derry in Ireland is known as the oak county, yet the county of Kildare is an anglicised from 'Cill Dara' or the 'hill of Oak'
County Mayo is named from the Yew tree (maigh-eo) Eo being Yew (though check the spelling here...

rgds

Diesel


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Subject: RE: Oak Trees in Folklore
From: Peg
Date: 20 May 03 - 11:58 PM

some have linked these language roots to the word "druid" and have even roughly translated it as "knower of the oak" but this is perhapos wishful thinking...

peg


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Subject: RE: Oak Trees in Folklore
From: diesel
Date: 21 May 03 - 01:26 AM

Of that Peg I confess I've never heard.
A quick search through the books brings this up :

Main Entry: dru·id
Pronunciation: 'drü-id
Function: noun
Usage: often capitalized
Etymology: Latin druides, druidae, plural, from Gaulish druides; akin to Old Irish druí druid, and perhaps to Old English trEow tree
Date: 1563
: one of an ancient Celtic priesthood appearing in Irish and Welsh sagas and Christian legends as magicians and wizards


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Subject: RE: Oak Trees in Folklore
From: Nigel Parsons
Date: 21 May 03 - 03:14 AM

Gratuitous link to Hob y deri dando continuing the mention of deri= 'oak' in Welsh

Nigel


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Subject: RE: Oak Trees in Folklore
From: Wilfried Schaum
Date: 21 May 03 - 03:43 AM

Thanks for the link, Masato. The same fits for the oak in Germany. The German oak is proverbial for strength and endurance in battle.

Wilfried


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Subject: RE: Oak Trees in Folklore
From: Wilfried Schaum
Date: 21 May 03 - 03:50 AM

An interesting link is in the thread Folklore: Fable and Phrase with some entries about the oak.

Wilfried


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Subject: RE: Oak Trees in Folklore
From: Jeanie
Date: 21 May 03 - 04:52 AM

What an interesting thread !   Information about the oak from a Germanic Heathen perspective can be found here:
http://www.ealdriht.org/herbms.html

-jeanie


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Subject: RE: Oak Trees in Folklore
From: ooh-aah
Date: 21 May 03 - 05:28 AM

I know that there is a strong link between oaks and the English God Thunor (Scandianian 'Thor') - apparently scholars think that this connection between the oak and thunder gods may have something to do with the frequency with which lightneing strikes them. On tree-lore in general its worth pointing out that Germanic heathens saw the worlds as being cradled in the branches of Yggdrasil, a vast ash (or possibly yew) tree.


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Subject: Oaks & Trees in Folklore
From: GUEST,Ben A - from Hertford's Green Hills
Date: 21 May 03 - 09:39 AM

Trees are an integral part of the ancient Pagan culture of the British Isles, which survives in many forms and particularly in our folk culture.

On Mayday in our villages Jack o' the Green, or the Green Man dances with the May Queen - an echo of the most ancient human religion. The Green Man is the Horned God. He is the sacrificial scapegoat draped with English Oak. He is Osiris, Mithras, Adonis, Dionysus, and even Jesus. He is the dying and rising God of nature and wild places who is born at the Winter Solstice (Christmas), arrives in the wilds at Imbolc, dies at the festival of the Goddess Oestre (Easter) and rises again three days later.

In other ancient European cultures the mask of Dionysis, Adonis and other equivalent dying-rising Gods were "crucified" on stakes or trees. Osiris himself was found by the Goddess Isis in a tree, whereupon she ressurected him.


Many trees are vital to our ancient culture. The custom of touching or knocking on wood comes from a time when our ancestors would awaken the tree spirits for help, a prayer or a spell.

Oak is the wise old tree of the Horned Sun God, the Green King of the Greenwood.

Willow is the moon/water tree of the Triple Goddess in her waxing (Maiden) and full moon (mother) phase - and the wood of the witches wand.

Hazel is the mystic wood of the wizard's staff and offers "Green Man" style invisibility to those who are initiated in the ancient ways.

Elder is another Goddess tree. Its wise, wizzened trunk is home to the Triple Goddess in her Crone aspect - the aspect of the waning moon.

These and others are trees of medicine and magic to Pagans and workers of magic.


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Subject: RE: Oak Trees in Folklore
From: Peg
Date: 21 May 03 - 10:03 AM

Oak trees are now somewhat "endangered" in forests in the Northeast. Actually, that word is somewhat inaccurate, it is that they face the possibility of not being one of the dominant trees anymore.

It seems that the reduced occurrence of forest fires (which oaks tend to survive, while other trees do not--another mysterious bit of their lore) has allowed other trees to grow faster and utilize nutrients the oaks would normally have access to while new trees grew in the charred earth around them. So the now-ubiquitous red maple has become much more prevalent than it was years ago, and since it grows faster then the oak, has tenbded to overshadow it and push it aside in recent years...and this is changing the composition of forests throughout New England and New York state...

according to the New York Times.


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Subject: RE: Oak Trees in Folklore
From: GUEST,Keith A o Hertford
Date: 21 May 03 - 10:05 AM

That's my boy!

Wilfried, I have visited the German war cemetry near Mons and it is striking how differrent to the British yours are. Where ours are laid out like a formal English garden, The German fallen lie in a recreation of a forest glade, with oaks the predominent (only?) tree.
Keith.


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Subject: RE: Oak Trees in Folklore
From: Stewie
Date: 21 May 03 - 10:11 AM

There are several references to the oak tree in L.C. Wimberly's 'Folklore in the English and Scottish Ballads': for example, the twining of arms about a 'guardian tree' to ensure easy delivery in the pangs of childbirth - 'The Cruel Mother'. Other references are to growing in fairy woods, association with enchantment, sanctity of, swearing by and the soul taking its form.

--Stewie.


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Subject: RE: Oak Trees in Folklore
From: Stilly River Sage
Date: 21 May 03 - 10:23 AM

Bearing in mind, of course, that the term "Pagan" is a pejorative christian term that was applied to the Other--and is a term meant to imply that the spiritual practices of non-christians was disapproved of by the church. It is a common human practice to give names to those who are Not Us and end up with those names being what Other(s) are called.

SRS


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Subject: RE: Oak Trees in Folklore
From: *daylia*
Date: 21 May 03 - 10:43 AM

Great thread, and wonderful links! thanks all ...

Here's a few interesting lines from the article "The Mighty Oak" in last year's "Witches' Almanac":

"The oak has long been held sacred, an awe reflected in the prodigious age and impressive height reached by the species. An average life span runs to 250 years, but some oaks in England's Windsor Great Park are over a thousand years old ...

Tales of many ancient European tribes reveal the belief that the oak was the first tree to be created. The Greeks dedicated it to Zeus, and his oracle at Dodona served in an oak grove. Under a great tree a priestess interpreted rustles of the leaves in answer to questions posed by supplicants. Romans believed the oak belonged to the great god Jupiter, and it's leaves were a badge of honor. Oak leaves and acorns formed wedding wreaths to assure fertility. The Teutonic and Scandinavian tribes associated the oak with Thor, god of thunder. Boughs of oak protected home and barn from lightening strikes. Celtic Druids ... so revered the oak tree that their teachings and many spiritual rites were performed in it's shade.

The essential veneration may be traced to the fact that the acorn ... was once a major food source to the wandering tribes of prehistoric Europe.

But look at the tree itself. It's giant twisted form reveals a brooding mystery. The way the branches reach out, turn and thrust against the sky shows it to be the tree a mystic mind would choose as its own. And the acorn in magical lore symbolizes the hightest form of fertility -- creativity of the mind."


The awesome oaks in Windsor Great Park - wow!

More pics of English/Westen European Oaks

And a bit rather painful "Oak-lore" gleaned at this site -- "Toothaches were cured in the 18th century by driving a nail into the tooth or gum until it bled, then driving the nail into an oak tree."

suddenlygratefulformoderndentistrydaylia


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Subject: RE: Oak Trees in Folklore
From: Peg
Date: 21 May 03 - 10:50 AM

Found this at a website called whitedragon.co.uk:


One etymology of the word Druid derives it from "dru-wid", meaning "knower of oak trees", but "deru" also means truth or troth and so could also give the meaning "knower of the truth".

In the Ogham, the Oak is given the word Duir. Duir comes from the Gaelic and Sanskrit word meaning "door" and there are many associations to be found linking the oak, not only to the doors of our houses but also as representing a doorway to inner strength and inner spirituality. The Oak will lead the way to the truth, especially where this is connected to part actions and this revelation will bring strength and vision, and a doorway to new understanding.

Sometimes the road for Oak in the Beith-Luis-Nion is given as Dair instead of Duir. The word dair describes a rutting deer and kingship, connected the Oak and the Oak king to the Beltane rites. It is also closely connected to the Daghdha who is linked to the Earth and the physical attributes of food, sex and crude raw physical energy, also uppermost at Beltane.

In the Beith-Luis-Nion system as described by Robert Graves the Oak, being the 7th tree, is central to the 13 moons and is linked to the Summer Solstice. "The lunar month which takes its name from Jupiter, the Oak-god, begins on 10th June and ends on 7th July. Midway comes St John's Day, 24th June, the day on which the Oak King was sacrificially burned alive. TheCeltic year was divided into 2 halves, with the second half beginning in July, apparently after a 7-day wake, or funeral feast, in the Oak King's honour."


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Subject: RE: Oak Trees in Folklore
From: katlaughing
Date: 21 May 03 - 11:06 AM

COINWOLF posted a neat little cat ghost story in the Mudcat name thread in which a peg of oak (no pun intended, Peg *bg*) figures slightly.


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Subject: RE: Oak Trees in Folklore
From: *daylia*
Date: 21 May 03 - 11:13 AM

Gads, I'm hooked on those venerable oaks now! Check out this picture of the Major Oak of Sherwood Forest!

In his article "King of the Wood -- an examination of the traditions and folklore concerned with the oak tree", Peter Bayliss describes the Major Oak":

"Of course, mention of Sherwood Forest immediately makes one think of Robin Hood and the Major Oak. This gigantic tree, 1000 years old, is still growing in Birkland Wood near Edwinstowe. It is said to have been the meeting place of Robin and his men, and that the entire band used to hide inside the hollow trunk. It seems to have derived its name from a naturalist and antiquarian called Major Haymana Rooke FSA."

For the rest of his article, click here

Enjoy!   daylia


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Subject: RE: Oak Trees in Folklore
From: MMario
Date: 21 May 03 - 11:20 AM

Robin and his merry men must have liked each other a *LOT* if the entire band hid in that oak!


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Subject: RE: Oak Trees in Folklore
From: GUEST,Q
Date: 21 May 03 - 11:23 AM

Perjoratives are common to every language. Pagan meant rural, rustic, but, as Stilly says, in Christian Latin it acquired the meaning of someone who preserved the old idolatry.
In Navajo, anaasazi, anglicized to Anasazi, meant an alien, an enemy, and it was applied to the people who had long before abandoned their settlements in what is now Navajo country. The archaeologists took up the word, and now the ancestral pueblo Indians (who these old peoples were) are known as Anasazi everywhere.

Whether the May-day 'survivals' have anything to do with pre-Christian festivals, or have evolved from medieval celebrations and have had 'pagan' attributes added to them by lovers of old fables is a fertile field for argument.


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Subject: RE: Oak Trees in Folklore
From: *daylia*
Date: 21 May 03 - 01:05 PM

"Robin and his merry men must have liked each other a *LOT* if the entire band hid in that oak!"

:>) MMario, have you gone and dug up the roots of Mel Brooks' "Robin Hood --- Men in Tights"? And now this silly song is playing in my head ...

"We're men! We're men in tights (real tight)!
We wander around defending the people's rights ..."


Typical Mudcat day ...


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Subject: RE: Oak Trees in Folklore
From: Nerd
Date: 21 May 03 - 02:20 PM

The problem with a lot of these interpretations, from a folklorist's point of view, is that they're so devoid of specificity:

"He is Osiris, Mithras, Adonis, Dionysus, and even Jesus."

What exactly does this mean? We already know that different mythical figures have life-stories told about them which follow similar patterns. This was noticed long ago. (Most recently Jospeh Campbell made a cottage industry out of pointing it out, and George Lucas made a major industry out of copying it for "Star Wars" movies.) So, theoretically, you could say that these figures are all the same as one another.

But what good does it do from the standpoint of understanding myths to say "Jesus is both Osiris and Mithras?" It's much more useful to say that Jesus's story is like Osiris's in this specific way, and like Mithras's in this other way, and then interpret the stories to try to see why that would be and what it might mean. The promiscuous equating of all mythic figures who bear some simlarities is a modern-day version of what the Romans did, calling all hammer gods Dis Pater and all sky gods Jupiter; it confuses the issue for people trying to get at the specificity of the stories or the beliefs behind them.

The Beth-Luis Nion alphabet is a great example of romantic wishful thinking transformed into neo-Pagan dogma (or the closest one can come to dogma in such a non-dogmatic set of religions!) It was first published in the 18th century, I think (I have the references on my other computer, so if you want them just ask and I'll try to post from there tonight). There was one single informant, a Scottish highlander with some reputation as a bard. He claimed it had been handed down to him orally and that it had existed since Pagan times. The collector, whose name escapes me, dutifully wrote it all down in a treatise on Scottish history. No historian or folklorist or anthropologist or Archaeologist ever believed it, at least not in modern times. There is no evidence for it independent of this one informant. The only person to pick up on it was (of course) Robert Graves, by profession a fiction writer and poet, whose word was uncritically accepted by many many people, but who Anthropologists and Folklorists think was essentially wrong about most things. So now there are hundreds of websites explaining the supposed "Beth-Luis Nion" alphabet as a truly ancient piece of lore, and the only reference they can muster up is to a twentieth century novelist!

The primary places in which we find the Beth-Luis-Nion alphabet now discussed are among neo-Pagan groups such as the "McFarland Dianics," started in 1971. So we aren't really talking about ancient British folklore, but modern neo-Pagan creative invention based on Robert Graves. Look at any sites or books devoted to Beth-Luis-Nion and you will find that all the references are to Graves and to modern Neo-Pagan books with titles like "The Celtic Tree Oracle."

Ogham itself cannot be proven to predate Christianity in any case. If it did predate the coming of Christianity, it was by barely a century. Almost all Ogham inscriptions are merely of the "X son of Y" type. So most of the later "wisdom" about ogham's connection to trees, calendars, pagan religion, druids, etc. is pure speculation, and the primary example is the usual explanation of "Beth-Luis-Nion."

Wimberley's book is another example of romanticism. The ballad "The Cruel Mother" simply refers to leaning one's back against an oak" in order to have something to push against in childbirth. The oak, we might conjecture, is used because it rhymes conveniently with the next line. There isn't much evidence that this refers to "twining one's arms around a guardian tree" unless one wants to find that. In other ballads with this motif, where a character is firing off some parting shots before dying (eg. Johnnie O Braidislea), it can be understood as a way to steady the character's aim. It's unnecessary to look for "deep" meanings outside of that.


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Subject: RE: Oak Trees in Folklore
From: Nerd
Date: 21 May 03 - 03:17 PM

I just remembered that the origin of Beth Luis Nion was Roderick O'Flaherty's Ogygia, which was seventeenth, not eighteenth century. It was O'Flaherty who claimed to have it from a bard, who in turn claimed it was ancient and pagan in origin...


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Subject: RE: Oak Trees in Folklore
From: Stilly River Sage
Date: 21 May 03 - 03:36 PM

Robin Hood is a historic figure who dates back about a thousand years, so one wonders about this tree in the photo. It would have been a sapling. I would suggest that the world "oak" in question in the quote is a metaphorical use of the word or perhaps a single word used in a collective manner (just as "deer" or "fish" can be singular or plural) to indicate that they hid in an oak forest or brake of some sort.

For texts that could provide something closer to an accounting of the role of trees, try examining texts that we know come from very early periods. Sappho and Aesop were contemporaries (may even have known each other) going back to about 600bc. Beowulf is another many are familiar with.

The argument against old texts is that they're translated. Words may have been cleaned up, missed, or mistranslated.

The argument for old texts is that they're translated. Most of us can't read the old forms, and the translators could. If they got it right, a lot of sub-text stuff came through, including everyday activities and the "furnishings" of the world in which the story takes place. Including trees, food, furniture, housing, etc.

SRS


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Subject: RE: Oak Trees in Folklore
From: Nerd
Date: 21 May 03 - 04:28 PM

Stilly River Stage makes a good point about the Major Oak, except that Robin Hood, if he existed at all, probably existed in the later twelfth or thirteenth centuries, so only about 7 or 800 years ago. How old is the tree, does anyone know? If Bayliss is right and he wrote recently, it could have been 200-300 years old already when Robin Hood was alive--if he ever lived! In any case, the tradition that associates Robin Hood with the Major Oak is relatively recent, I believe.


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Subject: RE: Oak Trees in Folklore
From: Stilly River Sage
Date: 21 May 03 - 04:48 PM

That was a shot in the dark on my part in placing a date on Robin Hood, but I think there is now pretty good evidence that a figure existed in history who the folkhero is based upon. As to whether he did any of the things purported to him, that's another story. An evil Abbess is said to have poisoned an ailing Robin she was supposed to be caring for, and I think his burial site has been documented.

Time for another Metacrawler search. . . I think I saw a biography of him on A&E or saw something on PBS.

SRS


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Subject: RE: Oak Trees in Folklore
From: katlaughing
Date: 21 May 03 - 06:53 PM

I haven't read all of this site's stuff, but it looks as though it might have some good info on several real "Robins:" clickety.


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Subject: RE: Oak Trees in Folklore
From: Wilfried Schaum
Date: 22 May 03 - 02:53 AM

Keith - I don't know the cemetery of Mons, but there are other types of German war cemeteries I have seen and worked at.
Damvillers near Verdun was a mayor centre of the rear area with an Army hospital; there the dead were buried in rank an file under recently planted trees in a regular pattern.
Near this town in Lissey every unit buried their dead in a small forest; there is no recognizable pattern. Some are buried in lines, some in circles around a stone with the units name, sometimes with no place to go between the single parts of the burying ground.
The trees were mostly no oaks.
Often single oaks are planted to commemorate a jubilee or an outstanding event. Around my house are two such oaks. The first planted to commemorate the birthday of Jahn, founder of the German Turner-movement, and the other at Oct. 3, 1990 - the day of the reunification of my divided fatherland. On this occasion I swung the shovel happily.

Wilfried


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Subject: RE: Oak Trees in Folklore
From: Kaleea
Date: 22 May 03 - 03:04 AM

Maybe the old timers just happened to like the Old Oak Tree 'cause of all the pretty yellow ribbons tied around it.


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