Oak trees and acorns

red oak
Red Oak Leaf

There is a lot of myth and belief surround the oak tree and acorns, going back at least as far as Ancient Greece and I suspect much further.  It has long been considered a sacred tree and an oak grove was a temple of Zeus.  He was the god of thunder which is interesting given that there is a lot of folklore about the oak and storms which we will see later in this post.  The rustling of the oak tree in the temple was thought to be a sign of Zeus’s presence.

Moving to ancient Rome, we find crowns of oak leaves worn by victorious roman leaders as a symbol of power and conquest.  Elsewhere, the oak is dedicated to Thor.  Another important belief that I’ve found attributed to a variety of cultures, is that the oak was the first tree created and it in turn created man.  Long ago the acorn was an important food source and thus became a symbol of fecundity and immortality although with the rise in agriculture the acorn was no longer so important.

The oak is strongly associated with protection, especially protection in thunder storms, remember Zeus?  It was said that boats made of oak would be safe from lightening strikes at sea, that the tree would offer protection in a storm.  When an oak in Needwood forest was struck by lightening, people travelled to collect blackened chips to use as lightening charms.  By extension, oak leaves and acorns have protective power and are obviously much easier to carry around with you!  The sky god loved the oak and showed affection by descending as lightening and leaving mistletoe on the tree.

In terms of healing, you might use acorns to help with diarrhoea, you might carry an acorn to ward of rheumatism or to attract luck.  Carrying an acorn could also help you to preserve your youth and was said to be most successful for women.  If you have toothache, try driving a nail into an oak, the idea is then that you will leave the pain behind.

Having said all that, you should not hurt an oak tree.  If you tamper with them, or fell them, you will hear their scream and die within a year.  As they fall, you will hear them wailing and crying and the same is true if you remove branches from this revered tree.

Able to grow in almost any soil, the oak is a hardy tree which produces strong and durable timber.  It is an icon of endurance and survival and quiet determination.  It is grounded and stable and perhaps meditating on the tree or using it as the basis of a visualisation will help you too to feel secure and calm.

The celtic name for the oak is duir, meaning doorway.  In Germany, instead of babies being found in cabbage patches, they come from an ancient hollow oak.  The oak then is a doorway where potential and actual creation meets.  The point where ideas are birthed and the ethereal becomes tangible.  This is probably the first point in my writing about the oak where I feel feminine energy coming into play.  What lies on the other side of the door for you?  Which side of the door are you on?

The oak, and all its symbolism, are heavily masculine.  As well as Zeus and Thor, it is associated with the green man.  It is a symbol of male virility.  And not just any masculine symbol, the mighty oak is a king tree, ruling over the waxing year until midsummer solstice when power is relinquished to the holly tree.  The oak is used to honour warriors.  It is powerful and resilient.  It is strong and courageous.  This is a very no nonsense tree, deal with your stuff, learn from it and move on.  At the same time it is about inner peace and empowerment.  You gain insight as you reflect and that clarity is so important for helping you step into your power.

acorn

A bit of an aside: We have this sense of power as male and not necessarily a good thing.  Or at least I do.  And this idea has always made me veer away from power.  But power can be used to many different ends.  Owning my own power is empowering!  It makes me feel stronger and surer and feeling that makes me do things I wouldn’t do otherwise.  When I was working I managed a fantastic team and never once felt I had “power” (in the masculine, traditional sense).  Obviously I did but I used that position to collaborate with my team, to work together, to empower others.  It never felt like power, but on reflection, many people would have stepped into that position in a different way.  


None of the above should be considered medical advice, do not eat anything unless you’ve done your research. Plants go by different names in different places and have different properties at different times of year. Some of the possible uses of this plant have come from folklore and should not be taken as fact.

“Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure”

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.

It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? …

Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do…

It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

– Marianne Williamson

A lot of the time when you mention power, people think of authoritarian power, of dictators, of control but we all have power.  Power is not good or bad, it’s all about how you use it. You can use it to oppress people or use it to empower yourself and others. The key is you and your intention.

Side note: I have just been through this post and added in the word me where I had been using you or a general term.  This is one way I give away my power.  I distance things from myself.  I had a job interview a few years ago for a management position.  I spent the whole time trying to remember to say me instead of we.  As a team, us sharing the power instead of me claiming it worked really well but in the job interview, it was going to devalue what I had done.  Similarly, in this post, all about reclaiming my power, I need to speak specifically about me.

My short journey (so far) towards embracing my power

First step, acknowledge that I surrendered my power.

I surrendered it to my eating disorder, my depression, my pain, my mother, a lot of people around me, to my circumstances.  To be honest, I gave my power to whoever or whatever would take it.  I was not forced to give my power away.  I chose to.  Perhaps not consciously, but the key is that I surrendered it so I can reclaim it.  We all have power (except in very extreme situations), even if we’re in a difficult situation with lots of external forces at work and we have very little say in our lives, we have the power of our thoughts and how we approach a situation.

Second, consciously decide that I want to reclaim it, embrace it.  

Parts one and two happened for me during a new moon ritual which was going to be about letting go of bad relationships, including anorexia, and stepping into a world of creating, learning, of balance and rhythm, of logic and intuition. But I guess this was where I needed to go instead.

Third, how the hell do I actually do this?!

This step involved a tarot spread which turned out to be quite an intense, interesting spread with some super strong synchronicities going on.  I’m going through the process of writing it up and collecting journal prompts based on my observations and ponderings.

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The spread considers:

  • what my power is (ten of wands, wheel of fortune and the moon)
  • what holds me back from embracing my power (mother of cups)
  • what can help me overcome this (father of cups)
  • what can help me to embrace my power (two of wands)
  • what can I do right now (ace of wands)
  • what does owning my power look like (the world)

I think these would all work well as journal prompts on their own, without the tarot, although the cards do add a good starting point and help me think about things which I wouldn’t get to without them.

Uh-oh…

Then came a glitch. My mother visiting.

My reaction to her visit could easily been seen as disempowering; I hid a lot of what makes me who I am (tattoos, tarot, crystals, art work, reading material etc) and I became quite passive whilst she was here.

However both of these things are currently really important for my self protection. I know that I am not ready to have her pick my life and identity apart. Maybe one day I will be. In the meantime, I did make some small progress; instead of lying to avoid difficult conversations, I just didn’t respond to questions or comments that I knew would go down a bad route if I responded truthfully. And yes, she did say some hurtful things and I didn’t stand up for myself but I do feel I maintained more integrity that I have on previous occasions.  Small wins are still wins!

And life is full of times when it is harder to do the thing you want to do, ideally these are challenges which you can overcome, the thing which tests if you’re really embracing your power.  But it’s also ok if you aren’t ready to face that particular thing.  For me, I weigh up how far back doing something will set me.  Facing my mother would probably put me back to where I was pre-therapy right now.  Not a good plan.  Let’s keep building my foundations and once I have a more firm standing, then maybe we’ll try that.

Getting back on track…

See where my power currently goes.

For me, my power currently goes to my neighbours, my care agency, my disability, organisations/buildings etc which are not accessible, the government who are taking my money.  It still goes to my eating disorder, my anxiety and my depression but a lot less than it did.

Is your power going to your depression, to your partner, to your narcissistic mother? You can’t reclaim your power till you know where it is. Examine the relationships you have. It’s not always obvious when someone is sucking your power. It can be in the form of blatantly putting you down. It can also be treating you as if you aren’t worth much but in a much less obvious way. It can be through constant moaning or expecting you to be there but never reciprocating.

Tell my story (over and over again).

tell your story

In my case, and a lot of other cases I think, my eating disorder and depression kept their control and power by keeping me silent. Talking hurts. It makes you feel horrible and vulnerable. But it also is a huge fuck you to whatever it is that’s oppressing you.

And as yukky and self obsessive and whiney as you may feel, talking does help.  But part of talking is having to face the vulnerability hangover as well.  But that’s the sign that it’s working.  It’s the sign that your eating disorder or whatever it is for you is in panic mode.  They’re losing control or power over you and the nasty feeling is a way of stopping you from talking again so that they remain in control.

Brene Brown talks a lot about shame and vulnerability, if you’ve not come across her, do watch her TED talk.

Listen to my needs.

This means all my needs; emotional, physical, spiritual… We all have needs and shutting them off and not hearing them is a way of invalidating yourself. Meeting your needs is a powerful act. Especially in this world where we’re told what we should want or need and when and how and even if to meet that need.

What have you done today to make you feel proud?

Or good, or powerful.  Look at what makes you feel good or powerful and do more of it. Make it a regular part of your life.

For me, this can be advocating for someone or something. Sharing my opinions in consultations etc.  It can be finishing a piece of art or writing. Doing something which stretches me a bit. Doing something that I’ve tried to stop myself from doing.

I’m full of “valid” excuses (accessibility, weather, pain, energy) and I know I use them to avoid doing things. But I’m getting better at noticing and calling myself out on it. This doesn’t mean I always do the thing but at least I’m being more honest about why.

Look at what messages my surroundings are giving me.

Surround yourself with people, things etc which empower you. My Twitter feed is a mix of friends, activism, body positive people, eds people, tarot people and such. It’s not all sunshine and roses and I don’t want it to be. That would really irritate me.  But equally I didn’t want it filled with body shaming, gossiping, backstabbing and hurting people. The same goes for things i read and watch and listen to.

I talked a bit about this over in my post about peace including some examples of newsletters etc which I find support my re-embracing of my power.

I no longer have a TV license because I found I was watching anything and everything including a lot of programmes which made me feel bad about myself.  I now have to make a more conscious choice about what I watch on netflix etc because leaving the channel on and watching whatever comes up next isn’t an option.  I still watch a lot of mindless, cheesy stuff but I’m making the decision to.

“The more aware you are of what you’re absorbing and thinking, the less likely you are to burn out” – Girl Boss Woo

Embracing my power doesn’t mean doing everything myself. Indeed, I can’t do everything myself, I can’t dress or wash myself.  Embracing my power means being able to delegate, letting others help me and asking for help when I need it.

Whilst you’re looking around, take a look at your personal, emotional boundaries.  Are they there?  Are they too strong?  Too weak?  Find your own way to set, maintain or strengthen them. Maybe visualisation works for you, maybe not. We’re all different.  Again, I’ve mentioned this in a bit more detail in my post about peace.

Remind myself that I do not need permission from others.

I am giving myself the permission to do things, I don’t need other people to give me permission to do something, go somewhere or even to take up space.

Similarly, I don’t need external validation. This is a HUGE HUGE HUGE thing for me. But I don’t need external validation.  Instead I’m going to work on finding ways to be able to validate my own feelings, experiences etc.

And the obligatory self care mention…

Yes, I know, it’s the buzz word.  But it’s also genuinely important.  Take the time to look after yourself. Put your needs first. Without your needs being taken care of, you aren’t any good to yourself let alone others.

Self care isn’t just about having a bath.  It’s much much more and you need to find what works for you.

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For me, it’s about making sure I keep some balance in my life, plan in rest time, plan my meals ahead so I eat reasonably well (but also don’t stick rigidly to the plan, flexibility is good).  I know from a lot of reflection that I feel better if I have done at least one thing creative, one thing intellectual, something restful, gone outside and checked in with myself each week.  My friday check ins allow me to keep track and ensure I keep balance in my life.

Make yourself a self care checklist, make some of it habit, that way when things are tough, you’re more likely to the things on your list.  Some of the things on my body image post are ways I look after myself so that might give you some ideas if you’re looking for them.

Recognising who you are, your strengths, your beauty is a powerful act, especially in a world which is set up to make you feel bad about yourself* 

*so you then buy the magic fix…

Reclaiming power from eating disorders

My eating disorder, like most, was caused by a lot of different factors; a history of depression, a lack of coping mechanisms, a fear of feeling emotions etc.  But it was also caused by not knowing what to do with power.

When my eating disorder started I was rising through the ranks at work, I was heavily involved in running a feminist network and reading group, I was living alone, I was financially independent, I was embracing my sexuality.

All should have been great. But I had no idea how to sit with that.  I was unable to embrace my personal power.  This could be for many reasons including poor self worth and the patriarchy.

I retreated from my power.  

I rejected my power.

I got myself into a situation where I no longer had any power.

My eating disorder took my power and at the time I was grateful.  I didn’t want it.  I didn’t know what to do with it.  The eating disorder then used the power it took from me against me.  It controlled me and imprisoned me. It used my power to hurt me, to try and kill me.

But now, I am opening my arms to my power.  

I am embracing it.  

I am seeking it out.

For me, this means being me.  

All of me.  

Unapologetically me.

This means embracing all the different parts of me; the maths graduate, the feminist, the writer, the tarot reader, the slightly spiritual woo woo me who’s been waiting a long time to get any space, the poet, the artist, the activist, the photographer, the disabled me, the fighter…

I am reclaiming my power.