It was a no-brainer for me which tree I would choose to talk about. Actually, I take that back. As I sit here and write this another tree comes to my mind. Oh well, that tree will have to wait another day (and I won’t tell you which one it is, either!).
I am surrounded by very large Live Oak trees. I have one in my backyard. Each of my neighbors have at least one in their yard, and they are the staple of my neighborhood. These trees are very special in my area of Florida, so much so that they are given the nickname Grandfather Oaks. I can’t tell you how old they are, but I can tell you that they stand tall and proud as they surround us.
According to the University of Florida’s Gardening Solutions website (linked below), these live oak trees can grow up to 60 feet tall (18 meters) and have a branch spread of up to 100 feet (30 meters). Their branches usually grow in curves and twists, not more straight branches like you might see in other trees. They can have a six-foot (two-meter) diameter trunk of they are given space to grow that large. They are also often draped with Spanish moss, lovely little hanging things that make the tree look magical.
I know this is not a tree, but it is related to the live oaks in my area so I wanted to include some information about the Spanish moss here, too. According to the same source as above, Spanish moss isn’t a parasite as some people think. It is actually an epiphyte and gets all of its nutrients from the air and rainwater. It does no damage to the trees and actually provides protection and homes for many animals and insects.
If you know me, you would know that I would relate my studies back to Ireland because of the path I walk. The oak trees in my area, the Southern Live Oak, are not found in Ireland. Instead, the two types of oak trees I have found for Ireland are the Quercus robur (Dair ghallda or Pendunculate Oak) and the Quercus petraea (Dair ghaelach or the Sessile Oak).
According to The Tree Council of Ireland, Pendunculate Oak are considered to be native to Ireland and are genearlly associated with heavy lowland soils. On the other hand, the Sessile Oak is considered the traditional Irish oak tree. It is the main species found in Ireland’s woodlands and is more commonly found on poor acid soils.
In thinking about what species of oak tree the Tuatha de would have seen, I am going to go with these two. This is also because Lora O’Brien (linked below) has it written that among the 28 Principal Irish Trees, the Dair/Oak was among the most valuable and noble. They are called airig fedo – ‘lords of the wood’. Trees were so important to the ancient Irish that there was an entire legal system dedicated to them! It’s called Brehon Law and I will link a source below.
Let’s take for an example the mighty Oak. A mature Irish Oak (Quercus Robur) can live for more than 500 years, and grow 130ft tall. One of these trees supports over 250 species of insect, and over 300 different types of lichen, which form the food chain for a multitude of birds. Oaks grow acorns, a feast for many wild creatures, who can also make a home in the tree – whether they’re nesting in branches or curling up at the roots. Humans also benefit greatly from each and every tree, so it’s no wonder the oak is known as the ‘king of the woods’. In Irish it’s called dair, and shares a root with the word for magic and druid – draoí. The practical value of the oak in Brehon Law is said to be “its acorns and its use for woodwork”; the acorn crop was particularly useful for fattening pigs, while oak-timber is the finest for fences and buildings. Lora O’Brien, Sacred Irish Trees
Dair gets its own ogham fid, actually. It is the letter “D” in ogham and looks like this.
Screenshot from the digital version of Weaving Word Wisdom
I won’t get too much into the meaning of the ogham fid dair because I will cover it in its own post eventually. However, I want to include a few points here from the book Weaving Word Wisdom by Erynn Rowan Laurie regarding the value and purpose of Oak.
Oak is valued for many purposes and used for anything requiring strength, where weight is not an issue. Doors have often been made of oak to keep out intruders. The tree itself is long-lived and working with its wood takes effort, but what is made from it is frequently exquisite in craftsmanship and long-lasting, for less talented woodworkers use softer woods to practice their arts, graduating to harder and more valuable woods as their skill grows. Weaving Word Wisdom
As stated above, the oak tree has long been used for matters of strength and protection. Listed here are just a few of my personal correspondences for the oak tree.
Anyway, I didn’t know I could write so much about one type of tree but here we are! I hope you learned something new today
If you read it all, congrats! I now bless you in the name of the Dair!
Continuing the discussion from Weekly Witchy CHALLENGE - Sacred Trees and Wood