The Oaks of Avalon – Gog and Magog
The Oaks of Avalon is the collective name given to a pair of ancient oak trees, Gog and Magog, that stand in Glastonbury in Somerset, South West England. The trees were named after the ancient apocalyptic figures Gog and Magog.
The trees are believed to have been originally part of a ceremonial avenue towards the Glastonbury Tor, the avenue was cut down in 1906 to make way for a farm, with the timber being sold to J. Snow & Son, a local timber merchant.At the time of the 1906 felling of the avenue one of the oak trees was measured at 11ft in diameter and had more than 2000 season growth rings.A mythological belief has Joseph of Arimathea following the row of trees towards the tor upon his arrival in Albion
The names of Gog and Magog will be well-known to Old Testament historians as evil powers to be overcome in the Book of Ezekiel (38-39), and in the New Testament Book of Revelation (20).
Gog and Magog also figure largely in the British foundation myths, mainly in the Historia Regum Britanniae of Geoffrey of Monmouth.
According to Geoffrey, when Brutus, a descendant of the Trojan Aeneas, came to Britain in around 1130 B.C. his man, Corineus, fought a West Country giant named Gogmagog.
“The contest began. Corineus moved in, so did the giant; each of them caught the other in a hold by twining his arms round him, and the air vibrated with their panting breath. Gogmagog gripped Corienus with all his might and broke three of his ribs, two on the right side and one on the left. Corineus then summoned all his strength, for he was infuriated by what had happened. He heaved Gogmagog up on to his shoulders, and running as fast as he could under the weight, he hurried off to the nearby coast. He clambered up to the top of a mighty cliff, shook himself free and hurled this deadly monster, whom he was carrying on his shoulders, far out into the sea. The giant fell on to a sharp reef of rocks where he was dashed into a thousand fragments and stained the waters with his blood. The place took its name from the fact that the giant was hurled down there and it is called Gogmagog’s Leap to this day.”
(Geoffrey of Monmouth, Historia Regum Britanniae)
There are many other tales and places around England and Ireland associated with the giants, Gog and Magog.
In Glastonbury it is different.
The giants of which I speak are two ancient oak trees, tucked away In Insula Avalonia.
They are not war, or pain, or suffering. Gog and Magog represent the last of the great oaks of Avalon. They demand nothing of the wanderer, and yet they are revered.
The association with the giants only goes so far as the names of the trees, and their size.
The short walk to the oaks from the middle of Glastonbury town is one of the most beautiful walks in the area.
Cross Chilkwell Street, near the Abbey Barn, and head up Wellhouse Lane between the slopes of the Tor and Chalice Hill. Follow the foot path into the field where you will come to the ancient trail of Paradise Lane. At the bottom of Paradise Lane, you will find Gog and Magog waiting for you.
These trees are ancient, no doubt. When they come into view, you are drawn to them like to an ancient aged grandparent. You’ll find the odd ribbon tied to a branch, or a sheaf of wheat laid in offering among the sturdy limbs.
These two trees are friends to many in Glastonbury and beyond.
Gog and Magog are all that remain of an avenue of oaks that led to the Tor, and which was used as a processional way by the Druids in ages past.
Sadly, the avenue was cut down for farmland in 1906, and these two giants are all that remain.
Oak trees like Gog and Magog were sacred to worshippers of the Great Mother, and later the Druids.
Before Rome and mass farming came to Britain, the whole of the south of Britain was covered in forests from Hampshire to Devon.
Oak groves were sacred, the sites of the Goddess’ perpetually burning fires and the rites of the Druids who used oak leaves in their rituals.
The sanctity of the oak is not relegated to Celtic Europe either, but also goes back to ancient Greece. At the sanctuary of Zeus at Dodona, priests would glean the will of Zeus from the rustling of the leaves in the sacred oak groves.
At Glastonbury, Gog and Magog would likely have seen many a ritual or procession.
If they could only speak in a way we could understand, I’m sure they would have some fantastic tales to tell.
Taking the walk from town, past the Tor, and down Paradise Lane to see Gog and Magog was always one of my favourite walks. Because there are no roads nearby the sound of cars is absent, and all you can hear is the chirruping of birds and the whisper of the wind as it blows across the Somerset levels.
Someday, I look forward to making that walk again. I imagine the sound of my feet whisking through the dry field grass, or squelching through the mud, until I catch that first glimpse of the two giants.
“It’s good to see you again, after so long…” I might say.
Welcome back, they might reply, if I listen carefully. But you haven’t been gone long at all… will be their answer.
And they would be right. Gog and Magog are over a thousand years old, and I am just another admirer passing beneath their welcoming boughs like so many others before me.
Magical uses for Oak
Folk Names: Duir, Jove’s Nuts, White Oak
Powers: Fertility, Healing, Health, Luck, Money, Protection
Magical Uses and History: Oak lore fills most pagan traditions, including Greek and Roman traditions, and dates back centuries. Due to its versatile nature Indo-Europeans used the oak for shelter, warmth, and even as an early food source. Later they incorporated the oak into their religious practices, using it as a symbol of fertility, health, luck, and protection. Traditionally, the Druids would not meet unless an oak was present. They also fashioned their religious idols from oak wood (see Oak King).
The oak is a naturally long-lived and strong tree, making it ideal for protection magic. Biding two twigs with red thread to form of an equal-armed cross will protect you from evil. Furthermore, placing acorns in your home’s windows will safeguard it from lightning while carrying a piece of oak on your person will protect you from harm as well as bring you good luck.
For healing magic, the oak is burned to “draw off” the illness. Carrying an acorn is also said to ward off illness while catching a falling oak leaf will prevent you from catching cold during winter.
For prosperity, plant an acorn in the dark of the moon to ensure you will receive money in the near future.
Oak can be used in a number of spells including:
Protection Spells and Wards
Medicinal Uses: When using Oak for herbal remedies, only the bark is used, especially young bark. It is best collected in April and May and must be smooth and free from blemishes. Oak bark is an effective astringent and is used to treat diarrhea, dysentery, hemorrhoids, tonsillitis, and other throat infections. It is primarily used for acute diarrhea in frequent, small doses.
Preparation and Dosage: Internally- For an infusions, put one teaspoon of dark in one cup of water and bring to a boil. Simmer gently for 10-15 minutes. Can be drunk or gargled with up to 3 times a day. For a tincture, take 1-2 milliliters three times a day.