Oak Tree

n many ancient civilisations a tree was a symbol of the Universe, of the world around them. A tree, with its large and round tree top, invisible roots and a trunk with its growth rings at its cross-section, with leaves that fall off and bud again – what else it could mean that constant regeneration of all things? So many trees – a lime tree, a hazel bush, an oak – were considered as sacred and worshiped as such. An oak was related to a cult of the Slavic mythological god of thunder – Perun. Sacrifices were offered at an oak tree. All the groves and woods had religious meanings for our ancient pre-Christian forefather. Since they did not build temples, Serbs performed their religious rituals in sacred groves, where idols, wooden statues of fictitious deities were built. When Christianity was adopted, the idols were rejected, but also many of the old customs took over a Christian meaning. So a ‘sacred tree’, an oak became a tree where a cross is carved on. A sacred tree protects a place, prayers are said under it, popular gatherings or court trials are held by an oak tree, it “protects from thunder” and must never be cut down. In the period of Turkish rule, a sacred tree took over a role of a church – liturgy was held under it. So the custom of cutting an oak branch, Badnjak, to be burnt in order to be born again, was given a Christian meaning. In folk tradition, when one has to cut a Badnjak, one speaks directly to the tree, apologizing for the action.