Oak by Ajoj.

OAK (Indo-European *perkwus)

similarly to other trees, it was a variant of the materialized world axis (axis mundi); compare with Barnstokkr at the house of ➚ Völsung (see SIGMUND). First of all, oak was the tree (plant hypostasis) of the ➚ Thunderer. Indo-European core *perkw – appears in theonyms indicating the god of thunder (such as ➚ Perkunas, ➚ Perkons) as well as in the dendrology terminology (compare with Latin quercus “oak”, Celtic hercos “oak forest”, Gothic faírguni “hill covered with oak forest”; see FJÖRGYN). In the Epirote Dodona oak was the holy tree of the thundering ➚ Zeus with the agnomen Phēgonaĩos (probably from phegós, phagós “oak” [1,2]; see BAGAIOS); compare also with the oak of ➚ Jupiter (Capitoline), of ➚ Perun, of ➚ Donar and ➚ Sajigor’s connection with the mountain oaks. Using its branches Romans wove corona civica awarded for special war achievements [3]. Oak club, widely spread weapon of the Thunderer hypostases (e.g. ➚ Heracles or ➚ Rustam), directly corresponds to the lightning, as well as the ➚ phallus, which in turn correlates with the patronage of the thunder god over fertility and fundamental plant symbolism (trees; compare with DRYADS).

Oak related mainly to the masculine aspect of the widely understood fertility (in the tree-code the feminine aspect was symbolized with ➚ linden): it was believed in Lithuania, and probably also in Phrygia (see PHILEMON and BAUCIS) that men descend from the oak, while in Rome the whole mankind was derived from this tree [4]; compare also with Greek ethnonym Drýopes (from drỹs “oak, tree”). Arcadians considered the oak as the first plant on Earth [5] and the acorns as the oldest food of humans [6,7]; in connection with fertility compare also with Polish żołądź “oak fruit; and part of phallus” and etymological coincidence of Greek mḗdea, médea, médzea “genitals” and medieval Irish mess “acorn”. In the Celtic calendar oak is connected with the spring equinox (21st of March) i.e. the beginning of the vegetation cycle. Irish holy oak Eo Mugna yielded acorns, nuts and apples that feed the society every year. Oak branches were used during Roman wedding rituals, and the Golden Fleece – symbol of fertility (see ARGONAUTS) – was hanged on the gigantic oak at Colchis [8,9]. In Arcadia priest used to throw an oak branch to a spring in order to bring the rain [10], and Arcadians associated oak with ➚ Pan and ➚ Demeter [11].

Connection of oak with fertility includes the tree in the chthonic circle (compare oak and ➚ mistletoe) [12] expressed by longevity [13] and superhuman wisdom: the name of Celtic priests – druids (old Irish singular drúi, druí, genitive druadh) – can be derived with high probability from druvid- “masters of trees/oaks”, oak was associated with ➚ Brigit, oak plates were used for prophecies in the temple of ➚ Fortuna Primigenia (compare with CLITUMNUS), and Dodonian oak was famous of its prophetic qualities. It was also quite common to conduct courts under the oaks.


[1] S t. B y z., s. Dōdṓnē; [2] Schol. Hom., Il., XVI, 223; [3] P l u t., Quest. rom., 92; [4] S e r v . de Verg., Aen., VIII, 315; [5] P l u t., Quest. rom., 92; [6] A u l. G e l., V, 6; [7] L u c r e t., De rer. nat., V, 939 f.;
[8] A p. R h o d., IV, 123 ff.; [9] A p d., I, 9, 16; [10] P a u s., VIII, 38, 4; [11] P a u s., VIII, 54, 4 f.;
[12] V e r g., Aen., VI, 190 ff.; [13] A r t e m., Onirocrit., II, 25.

B. C o o k, Zeus, Jupiter and the Oak, “Classical Revue” 1903; T.  K a r w i c k a, Dąb w wierzeniach i praktykach magicznych, „Rocznik Muzeum Etnograficznego w Toruniu” 1, 1978; G.  J.  I w a k i n, Sviaschennyi dub yazicheskih slavian, „Sovetskaia etnografia” 2, 1979.