We all pass by the oak tree every day, and we usually do not pay attention to those living organisms, which meant so much more to our predecessors. Oak trees were considered holy in many European cultures, and the worship spread in a large way to the US, leaving traces in American traditions we are usually unaware of.
But, let us start from the beginning. To the Greeks, Romans, Celts, and Slavs, oak trees represented connection with the holy spirit. This tree was associated with all the gods of higher ranks in the ancient pantheon: Zeus, Jupiter, Perun, Thor…and they were commonly held responsible for lightning, rain, thunder. The ancient Slavs, for example, looked up to the Oak tree as a place where rituals should be held. It was one of the first sacred places which later evolved into churches, once paganism diminished and Christianity took its place. This did not mean that beliefs relating to Oaks should withdraw from everyday life. Even rulers, such as Roman Imperators wore a crown made of Oak leaves. Why? Our guess is that they wanted to present themselves as rulers of all things alive and all land and natural resources. They wanted to be acknowledged as personifications of gods, especially the gods of thunder.
In the USA, we can frequently find the mentioning of mistletoes, which has always been considered a magical plant. It is interesting to know that a mistletoe is actually a parasite, growing mostly on branches of oaks, among other trees. Additionally, it can also grow on its own. The tradition of kissing below the mistletoe has roots in beliefs that it promotes fertility and new life, as well as scaring away evil spirits. Some of the tribes in Northern Europe used a mistletoe as a symbol of gathering and bringing truce among the enemies, while Vikings, for instance, thought that mistletoe possesses the power to bring the dead back to life.
Either way, mistletoe is a powerful symbol, especially having in mind the fact that it is usually not planted intentionally, but rather growing on its own, where it pleases. The old folks would say – there are no coincidences, only synchronicities. Maybe, featuring mistletoe on the biggest of all holidays is not a coincidence, although we take it for granted. The story of oak tree in American tradition does not end there.
Oak tree bark is believed to possess healing powers. If taken properly in early spring, it can be dried and used in tea making. Such tea is said to contain high amounts of tannin and hence becomes powerful antiseptic. Apart from the tree bark, oak nut is another amazing product of oaks. It is completely organic product, which does not require any chemicals during development, or storing period. Oak nuts fortify vigor, they build our cells and prevent oxidation.
Furthermore, we believe everyone has tried acorn bread at least once in a lifetime. It was everyday food for native Indians. And guess where it came from?
Although this is no longer the food used daily, acorns are often served in gatherings and celebrations. Through time, the symbol of oak tree has moved from everyday rituals and kitchen tables to logos and the official names of different businesses. However, it is good to remind ourselves every now and then about the importance of nature surrounding us, and about the fact we depend on it. Don‘t you think so?