Why Oak Trees Are Revered in Religion?
Oaks have been honored and worshiped by so many ancient cultures throughout the centuries, mainly in parts of Europe, associating them with the mythological gods, namely Zeus and Jupiter. Druids also worshiped oak trees. They got married under the spreading branches of oaks and carried acorns, believing those practices would bring them happiness and good health.
One reason oak trees were revered was because of their height. The top branches of the oak, it was thought, extended up into heaven where the gods resided. The roots, on the other hand, extended into the underworld. Some cultures even believed that their family ancestors’ souls lived in the roots of the oak trees.
Believed to be the largest yellow oak (scientific name: Quercus muhlenbergii) in the United States, this iconic tree located in Oley, Pa., dates back almost 500 years. The tree received its “sacred” attribution due to a native Indian legend that claims that the tree possesses the power to heal. This sacred tree was looked upon as the shrine tree of the Delaware Indians, who prayed for it whenever they needed help.
When Christianity spread across Europe and replaced the ancient mythological belief systems, the reverence of the oak tree did not diminish. Some beliefs about oak trees were adapted into Christianity. For example, in some of the stories, the cross on which Jesus was crucified was said to be made of oak.
Early Christian churches were constructed of oak, as were later cathedrals. Ireland’s Saint Brendan allegedly used a boat made of oak—not the traditional animal hide—when he voyaged to the New World, but that’s just smart construction.
The oak is considered a cosmic storehouse of wisdom embodied in its towering strength. It grows slowly, but surely at its own rate. Oak is often associated with honor, nobility, and wisdom as well thanks to its size and longetivity. Oaks are known to easily surpass 300 years of age making it a powerful life-affirming symbol. “The oak is a living legend representing all that is true, wholesome, stable, and noble.”
Oaks are the most important, the most widely distributed and the biggest genus of hardwood trees to be found in the Northern Hemisphere. There are also species growing in such places as Japan, China and Africa. Most oaks are deciduous, shedding their leaves during winter. However, some — such as the holm oak and the cork oak — are evergreen. All species bear acorns, although the shape and arrangement of these varies from species to species. Oaks are justly famous for their durability. Many species grow to a great age and produce wood which is used for a wide variety of purposes.
Throughout history the oak has provided humans with charcoal, and timber for ships, building materials and furniture. Not only humans benefit from the oak, however. The acorn is eaten by birds, pigs and many other animals. In addition, the generous spreading boughs of an oak tree can literally teem with animal and plant life. Birds, insects, spiders, mites, fungi, ferns and lichens — all these organisms and more feed on and among the oak tree. Perhaps this bountifulness is the reason why oaks have often been revered in religion.