There’s something magical and wise about ancient woodland and some of the oldest trees in Britain which is why I used them in the final Moon Stealer book (The Children of the Light). Nature has a way of fighting back.
There are several ancient forests that are found in Britain, and within them there are trees which are hundreds of years old. This includes large oaks that were used as meeting places, scenes for worship and areas of shelter and protection. They are called ‘Druid Oaks’ because of those that would meet under their shelter and were familiar with the secrets of the oaks. The word originates from ‘dru-wid’ meaning ‘knower of trees,’ and the oaks were believed to be the most powerful of all trees in Britain, due to the longevity and strength.
The druids would perform all their religious rites, and healings, in the oak-groves. They also did rituals associated with the trees, including gathering mistletoe from them using a golden sickle. This plant grew in abundance under the trees and was used in spells. In addition, the druids of Gaul ate acorns to be able to see into the future.
Many of the stories told about Druid Oaks revolve around specific trees, probably because of their size and influence. These include:
Mog and Magog – These two ancient oaks are named after the last male and female giants that roamed Britain. They are in Somerset and are the last remaining trees of an oak lined route to Glastonbury Tor.
The Major Oak – Located in Sherwood Forest, this tree is now a popular tourist attraction and is said to be where Robin Hood, and his band of merry men, would keep their meetings and lay their plots.
Sacred Oak in Scotland – Located on the island in Loch Maree, the legend of this tree says that it once held the spirit of the pagan god ‘Eilean-a-Mhor-Righ’ meaning the ‘Island of the Great King.’
Gospel Trees – Many parishes would have a prominent tree, where the gospel would be read during the Beating of the Bounds ceremonies. These large oaks were also known as ‘Holy Oaks,’ by the Christians who used them.
The ancients trusted that the oaks also had many healing qualities. Herbalists believed that the other plants that grew on the oaks, such as mistletoe, also developed these special qualities and would be used in healing spells. One English oak became the salvation of many children born out of wedlock and their mothers. It was so revered that once the mother gave birth under the tree, the stigma associated with bastards was foregone and they were welcomed into the community. The tree also attracted those with ailments, as its healing powers were believed to be so great that diseases could be cured by the person affected walking around the trunk wishing for it to be carried off by the first bird to alight on its branches.
Other parts of the country also had traditions that involved oak trees and their healing. This included:
Cornwall – It was believed that a nail driven into the trunk of an oak tree would cure any toothache.
Wales – Rubbing an oak with the palm of your left hand on Midsummer’s day, was believed to keep people healthy all year long.