In the hills above our village we are blessed with some wonderful old oak trees and there is truly something magical about them which has long been recognised. The heart of the oak is the strongest part of the tree and that phrase was used for the song which became the official march of the Royal Navy, the force that essentially built the British Empire in the 18th and 19th centuries using ships built of oak. But there are echoes of a veneration of the oak in our much more distant history.
The oak is associated with the spirituality of ancient religions, especially the Druids, although we know next to nothing about them – please discount the white-robed, hand-holding mumbo-jumbo promoted by modern Druidry which is essentially a pre-Raphaelite Victorian imagining of romanticised nonsense. Yet it is thought the Druids worshipped and practised their rites in oak groves (the word Druid was possibly a Gaelic derivation of their word for oak, Duir, and meant men of the oaks) and they had strongholds in the west of England and in Wales. Almost every hill top around here has an ancient hill fort on top so it’s easy to imagine a Druid powerbase being centred in this area.
I’ve always liked connections with the past especially when reinforced by these fundamental elements in the landscape and in nature.
And I’ve also got a more practical liking for oak as the house I live in is oak framed, the timbers evidently having been re-used from previous structures so who knows how old some of them might be…