Sacred to: Dagda, Dianus, Jupiter, Thor, Zeus, Heme, Janus, Rhea, Cybele, Hecate, Pan, Erato, Zeus (gave his oracles from the sacred oaks of Dodona)
Myth 1: Nymphai Dryades. Dryads or Hamadryads were Nymphs whose life force was irrevocably bound up with that of a tree, usually a mighty oak. At their birth, a symbiotic plant sprang up fully grown from the earth and when they died it withered away. The premature felling of the tree also brought about the death of the Nymph. (Source: Various)
Myth 2: Metamorphosis Byblis. Byblis was a Miletian princess who fell in love with her own brother. When the boy rejected her advances, she fled in shame, and cast herself off a mountainside. The Nymphs pitied her fate and transformed Byblis into a holm oak Dryad. Her tears became a spring which rose from the tree’s roots. (Sources: Antoninus Liberalis, Ovid)
Myth 3: Metamorphosis Philemon. Philemon and Baukis were a pious couple who hospitably received the gods Zeus and Hermes when they were travelling amongst mankind in disguise. The gods destroyed those who had turned them away and rewarded the couple by making them priests of the temple and transforming them into a pair of entwined trees at death: Baukis a linden, and Philemon an oak. (Source: Ovid)
Myth 4: The Golden Fleece. The golden fleece was nailed to the branches of an oak tree in the sacred grove of Ares at Kolkhis. The god sent a giant serpent (drakon) to guard it. (Source: Apollodorus, Apollonius Rhodius, Valerius Flaccus)
Myth 5: Sacrilege of Erysikthon. The Thessalian king Erysikhthon felled the holy poplars or oak tree in the sacred grove of the goddess Demeter, in order to build a roof for his feast-hall. The Dryad nymphs cried out in pain, and as punishment the goddess inflicted him with an unquenchable hunger. (Source: Callimachus, Ovid)
Myth 6: Hamadryas Balanos. The Hamadryad nymph of the acorn. (Source: Athenaeus)
Other Notes: It was believed that the Oak was the first tree created by God, and its fruit, the Acorn, the first food of mankind
It was once believed oak trees themselves marked the hidden doorways between spiritual realms.
The Man and the Oak – A Sioux Tale
There once lived a Sioux couple who had two children, a boy and a girl. Every fall this family would move away from the main camp and take up their winter quarters in a grove of timber some distance from the principal village. The reason they did this was that he was a great hunter and where a village was located for the winter the game was usually very scarce. Therefore, he always camped by himself in order to have an abundance of game adjacent to his camp.
All summer he had roamed around following the tribe to wherever their fancy might take them. During their travels this particular year there came to the village a strange girl who had no relatives there. No one seemed very anxious to take her into their family, so the great hunter’s daughter, taking a fancy to the poor girl, took her to their home and kept her. She addressed her as sister, and the parents, on account of their daughter, addressed her as daughter.
This strange girl became desperately in love with the young man of the family, but being addressed as daughter by the parents, she could not openly show her feelings as the young man was considered her brother.
In the fall when the main village moved into a large belt of timber for their winter quarters, the hunter moved on to another place two days’ travel from the main winter camp, where he would not be disturbed by any other hunters.
The young man had a tent by himself, and it was always kept nice and clean by his sister, who was very much attached to him. After a long day’s hunt in the woods, he would go into his tent and lie down to rest, and when his supper was ready his sister would say, “My brother is so tired. I will carry his supper to him.”
Her friend, whom she addressed as sister, would never go into the young man’s tent. Along towards spring there came one night into the young man’s tent a woman. She sat down by the door and kept her face covered so that it was hidden from view. She sat there a long time and finally arose and went away. The young man could not imagine who this could be. He knew that it was a long distance from the village and could not make out where the woman could have come from. The next night the woman came again and this time she came a little nearer to where the young man lay. She sat down and kept her face covered as before. Neither spoke a word. She sat there for a long time and then arose and departed. He was very much puzzled over the actions of this woman and decided to ascertain on her next visit who she was.
He kindled a small fire in his tent and had some ash wood laid on it so as to keep fire a long time, as ash burns very slowly and holds fire a long time.
The third night the woman came again and sat down still nearer his bed. She held her blanket open just a trifle, and he, catching up one of the embers, flashed it in her face; jumping up she ran hurriedly out of the tent. The next morning he noticed that his adopted sister kept her face hidden with her blanket. She chanced to drop her blanket while in the act of pouring out some soup, and when she did so he noticed a large burned spot on her cheek.
He felt so sorry for what he had done that he could eat no breakfast, but went outside and lay down under an oak tree. All day long he lay there gazing up into the tree, and when he was called for supper he refused, saying that he was not hungry, and for them not to bother him, as he would soon get up and go to bed. Far into the night he lay thus, and when he tried to arise he could not, as a small oak tree grew through the center of his body and held him fast to the ground.
In the morning when the family awoke they found the girl had disappeared, and on going outside the sister discovered her brother held fast to the earth by an oak tree, which grew very rapidly. In vain were the best medicine men of the tribe sent for. Their medicine was of no avail. They said: “If the tree is cut down the young man will die.”
The sister was wild with grief, and extending her hands to the sun, she cried: “Great Spirit, relieve my suffering brother. Any one who releases him I will marry, be he young, old, homely or deformed.”
Several days after the young man had met with the mishap, there came to the tent a very tall man, who had a bright light encircling his body. “Where is the girl who promised to marry any one who would release her brother?” “I am the one,” said the young man’s sister. “I am the all-powerful lightning and thunder. I see all things and can kill at one stroke a whole tribe. When I make my voice heard the rocks shake loose and go rattling down the hillsides. The brave warriors cower shivering under some shelter at the sound of my voice. The girl whom you had adopted as your sister was a sorceress. She bewitched your brother because he would not let her make love to him. On my way here I met her traveling towards the west, and knowing what she had done, I struck her with one of my blazing swords, and she lies there now a heap of ashes. I will now release your brother.”
So saying he placed his hand on the tree and instantly it crumbled to ashes. The young man arose, and thanked his deliverer.
Then they saw a great black cloud approaching, and the man said: “Make ready, we shall go home on that cloud.” As the cloud approached near to the man who stood with his bride, it suddenly lowered and enveloped them and with a great roar and amidst flashes of lightning and loud peals of thunder the girl ascended and disappeared into the west with her Thunder and Lightning husband.
The Oak and the Reeds – Aesop’s Fables
A very large oak was uprooted by the wind and thrown across a
stream. It fell among some Reeds, which it thus addressed: “I
wonder how you, who are so light and weak, are not entirely
crushed by these strong winds.” They replied, “You fight and
contend with the wind, and consequently you are destroyed; while
we on the contrary bend before the least breath of air, and
therefore remain unbroken, and escape.”
Stoop to conquer.
The Oak and the Woodcutters – Aesop’s Fables
The woodcutter cut down a Mountain Oak and split it in pieces,
making wedges of its own branches for dividing the trunk. The
Oak said with a sigh, “I do not care about the blows of the axe
aimed at my roots, but I do grieve at being torn in pieces by
these wedges made from my own branches.”
Misfortunes springing from ourselves are the hardest to bear.
The Oaks and Jupiter – Aesop’s Fables
The oaks presented a complaint to Jupiter, saying, “We bear for
no purpose the burden of life, as of all the trees that grow we
are the most continually in peril of the axe.” Jupiter made
answer: “You have only to thank yourselves for the misfortunes to
which you are exposed: for if you did not make such excellent
pillars and posts, and prove yourselves so serviceable to the
carpenters and the farmers, the axe would not so frequently be
laid to your roots.”