OAK BARK Quercus robur
Oak trees are an image of endurance, vigour and sturdiness. Naturally, our ancestors associated it with the king of the Gods, Jupiter/Zeus/Thor, the God of thunder and lightening, a deity that embodies the qualities of strength, power and potency. The majestic Oak trees were considered his earthly abode. Oak trees are said to extend as far below the ground as they reach up into the heavens, thus they encompass Underworld and Heavens alike. In Norse/Germanic mythology Thor/Donar/Wodan is a shamanic God, who traverses these realms on his eight-legged stallion 'Sleipnir'. When he passes, we hear his mount's thundering hooves as he gallops through the skies. Throughout northern Europe Oak has been revered as one of the most sacred trees. Oak tree groves were deemed as sacred as churches are today. In the Celtic Tree Calendar the Oak month is the midpoint of the year, which marks the annual climax of the sun. Its Celtic name 'Duir' means 'door' and represents the threshold between the seasons. The sacred midsummer-night's fire was stacked with oak logs, thus signifying the sun at its zenith.
Oak has always stood for honour, power, virility, victory and strength. In Roman times a wreath of Oak leaves carried as much distinction as a laurel wreath. The Teutonic tribes held all their important meetings and oaths were sworn beneath Oak trees. The God who manifest therein demanded absolute truth and honour and nobody would dare to lie under his watchful eyes.
But Oaks also have a generous and compassionate side - the mighty trees provide a home for a myriad of species, while their acorns not only provide food for wildlife, but also for livestock - and, in times of famine, even provide sustenance for people. In the middle ages the value of a piece of woodland was measured by the number of pigs that could be fed on its acorns. Ham that had been 'fed' on acorns was especially highly prized, for it was firm, lean and very tasty. Last, but not least, Oak wood is one of the most valuable hardwoods of our climate zone. It is extremely dense, strong and durable and has thus been much used in building and construction. Ships were built with Oak wood, and railway sleepers were made from it, not to mention heavy duty furniture. Even submerged in water it is virtually indestructible, which is why most of Britain's ancient Oaks have been sacrificed to build the Navy and merchant fleets, back in the era of the great sea voyages. Thus, one could say, that the British Empire was built on Oaks. More than 500 000 trees were cut for shipbuilding alone! Sadly, ancient Oaks, let alone ancient oak forest has become a rare sight indeed in Britain.
Oak bark is one of the most powerful astringents in the herbal materia medica. It can be used for chronic diarrhoea, dysentery and mucous discharge or excessive stomach or lung catarrh. It is also used for gastritis and for stomach and duodenal ulcers, but should be avoided in nervous stomach and intestinal complaints. An infusion is useful for all types of internal and external haemorrhages, such e.g. ulcerated bladder or stomach, in tuberculosis or liver inflammation. As a gargle it is useful to staunch bleeding gums and to soothe a sore throat, for tonsillitis, laryngitis and pharyngitis. Externally it can be used as a sitzbath or enema for hemorrhoids and prolapsed colon and as a douche for leucorrhoea. Used internally and externally at the same time it is a useful remedy for varicose veins. Externally it can also be applied to burns, chilblains and nappy rash, skin irritations, weeping eczema, contact dermatitis and insect bites, sweaty feet and putrid wounds and ulcers. A liniment may be applied to goitre, swollen glands and hardened swellings or tumours. A snuff made from the powdered bark is a preventive remedy for consumption, a decoction made from the bark and acorns with milk is considered an antidote and best first aid remedy for poisoning, whether from plants, mushrooms or nicotine.
Oak is sacred to Jupiter/ Zeus/Woden/Thor and all the great Thunder Gods that hurl their thunderbolts and lightening flashes as they fertilize the moistness of the earth's womb. Acorns are a symbol of fertility and an amulet of Oak is used in transfer magic: It is hoped that the virile attributes and vigour of the mighty tree will prop up a less well endowed or feeble member. Oak can also be used in pledges of honour and truth or to invoke the powers of steadfastness and endurance towars any magical commitment or intention. It may also be used as a magical charm for fairness and mercy when dealing with legal matters and to invoke the protective powers of this deity.