Oak is the tree of the sun, sacred to sun gods in many cultures, and clearly in charge of the weather for the Walking with Poets project in Edinburgh this July so far. Until this afternoon! I tied yellow ribbons around old oak trees, wrote poems on them, read poems out to them and dangled titbits of folklore from them, in the hope that this might bring the sun back out, but the oaks remained resolutely shady. The ribbons, poems and titbits of lore are still there for people to enjoy, I don’t know how long for, but if you are in the Botanics in Edinburgh do go along to the Oak Lawn and enjoy them.
Oak is Lord of the Woods in the sunny months, joining birch, the Lady of the Woods, in their governance of the fortress. But when the year wanes (in many traditions at harvest time) birch switches her allegiance to holly, who becomes Lord of the Woods, watching over us through the dark times while the oak goes dormant. Tomorrow, it will be Holly day. I find it interesting that the Gaelic tree alphabet puts these two great rivals next to each other.
We had some discussion today about why the trees have such definite genders in the folklore: birch, rowan, hawthorn are always female, while ash, oak, holly are always male. Any ideas out there?
This morning I spent with a distant relative of the oak, a nothofagus tree from Chile, which stands head and shoulders above its neighbours, looking out across the city. I have been reflecting a lot on the long evolutionary path, over millions of years, that has brought us to this point of life on earth. The trees are all joined in a giant conceptual family tree, and the Botanics is a great gathering of the tree clans, just as it brings together human families and acts as a repository of their memories (I’m remembering Grandad Brian, whose Redwood I sat beneath a few mornings ago).
Sorry about the lack of pictures today, but WordPress is being unco-operative.