Latin: Quercus petraea/robur
The oak is a symbol of Kings, strength, endurance, fertility, long-life, big ideas, and prosperity.
Oak woods are sacred to the Sidhe (fairy folk) and are said to contain doors to the otherworld. Whilst this tree is best associated with summer, indeed it is traditionally used to kindle the Beltane and Midsummer bonfires, however it is during Samhain when Oak woods come into their power as a gateway between realms.
Oak’s reputation for strength lends itself to protection magic. Indeed in the Scottish Highlands it was believed a circle drawn with an oak sapling around the body would provide protection from the fairies, whilst in Northern France oak was carried as a protective charm.
Here, in Ireland, Cúchulainn is said to have preformed a spell using an oak sapling, carving Ogham (early Irish writing) onto it and wrapping it around a standing stone to help defeat an opposing army.
In folk belief it is held that acorns should be carried for luck and placed in the window during storms to ward off lightning. Carry an oak leaf to always perceive the truth of a matter. And to catch a falling leaf will protect against illness all winter.
Derry is an anglicisation of Daire meaning Oak Grove, and the city was named after Saint Colmcille’s oakwood where he founded a monastic school.
The word for Oak in Irish and Welsh also means Chief and the Oak is often described as the King of the Wood, indeed this tree is said to rule the forest from the Winter to the Summer Solstice with the Holly tree reigning during the waning half of the year.
In ancient Irish law the Oak was considered one of the Nobles of the Wood and was protected as such. Its wood was used to build ships and buildings, the central post at Navan Fort is oak, as well as barrels and furniture. Its bark was also used to tan leather, create a black dye and has a strong astringent and antiseptic effect. The bark of the white oak can be used to create a tea to aid with arthritic pains, colds, fevers, coughs and bronchitis. It also stimulates the appetite and improves digestion.