Mighty Oaks from Little Acorns Grow
Why, in the middle of one of the largest financial services shake-ups in Australia’s history are we writing about Oak trees and acorns? You’ll have to read on to find out.
Oaks and Acorns
The Oak tree is often referred to as the “king of trees,” and a symbol of strength, endurance and knowledge. The 14th century proverb; ‘mighty oaks from little acorns grow’ speaks of great things that can come from small beginnings.
The King of Trees
Playing a vital ecological role, the acorns feed more than 100 species of wildlife and the oak’s huge structure and lush canopy shelters countless birds and mammals. The Oak’s massive limbs have also been known to provide a safe place to hang a swing for outdoor play.
Symbolism of the Mighty Oak Tree
Often surpassing 300 years of age, the Oak is a powerful life-affirming symbol. Throughout history, the Oak has been represented in different mythologies and linked to powerful gods in Greek mythology, such as Zeus, the God of Thunder. In ancient Celtic culture, the Oak was considered a storehouse of wisdom in its towering strength. Thanks to its size and longevity, the Oak is often associated with honour, wisdom, and nobility. Wearing oak leaves was a sign of special status amongst the Celts, as well as ancient Greeks and Romans.
Ancient Celtic Culture, Druids and the Oak Tree
The name ‘Druid’ can be traced to ‘duir,’ the Celtic term for the Oak. Interestingly, the actual translation of ‘duir’ is ‘door’ and the spiritually advanced Celts believed they could access the planes of higher thought by ‘opening the door.’
In ancient Celtic culture around 1,000 BC, a Druid was a member of the high-ranking professional class, including legal authorities, lore-keepers, medical professionals and political advisors, as well as religious leaders. The Druids existed in Ancient Britain, Ireland and France (Gaul). Although records aren’t clear, Druidism is believed to have died out around 1,000 AD, following the Roman conquest and was replaced by religions, such as Christianity.
While the Druids were reported to have been literate, they are believed to have been prevented by doctrine from recording their knowledge in written form, transmitting their lore (body of traditions and knowledge) by word of mouth. Druidic lore consisted of a large number of verses learned by heart, and Julius Caesar remarked that it could take up to twenty years to complete the course of study.
Some of the Druid rituals took place in Oak forests where both the Oak tree and mistletoe were held sacred. The Oak represented durability, purity and constancy. Mistletoe that grew off Oak trees, symbolized life and fertility and protected against poison. Eating acorns was believed to give them prophetic powers.
Oaks, Acorns and the Ancient Order of Druids
Referencing the ancient Druids of Britain, who “practised the sacred arts of benevolence, truth and morality,” Henry Hurle and William Jones together with some friends met at ‘The King’s Arms’ tavern in London to form a Society in 1781. This became a modern social and benevolent Society called the Ancient Order of Druids (AOD) that eventually spread across the world, including to Australia.
The first Australian Druids Lodge was established in Adelaide in 1850 and shortly after in Victoria in 1851. The NSW Ancient Order of Druids came into being shortly after, and in 1861, it became one of Australia’s earliest insurers.
Friendly Societies were formed for mutual benefit purposes, developed to provide help to members where it was most needed, including sick pay, funeral benefits, and supply of medical attention and medicines.
Across the world, the Societies carried on the tradition of referencing the Oak, which included the representation of leaves and acorns in their regalia and medals for recognized service.
The NSW Ancient Order of Druids went on to become the United Ancient Order of Druids (UAOD) Friendly Society of NSW in 1868 and an established mutual society in 1877, which abided by the motto ‘United to Assist.’ The UAOD Friendly Society of NSW was demutualized in 2011 and became NobleOak Life Limited.
NobleOak and its Heritage
Today, the Oak is used as the logo representing NobleOak, a powerful symbol that is a strong reminder of yesteryear. It harks back to a time when the Oak was honoured for its strength, endurance and noble presence.
Standing the test of time, the Oak continues to be honoured by NobleOak.
Some rituals continue today within NobleOak in the form of team meetings conducted around an image of an Oak tree on the wall where our team results are presented and our values stated and reinforced. Monthly awards are presented, which are titled ‘Tough Nut,’ in recognition of our staff members who have excelled in upholding the values that are integral to NobleOak. These include Nobility, Simplicity, Adaptability and Delivery.
With a history dating back over 140 years, NobleOak is one of Australia’s oldest life insurers, echoing an ancient Druid past that was guided by principles underpinned by integrity and during a time when the noble Oak tree was revered. This legacy lives on.
Druidism Under the Southern Cross (1982) – Research by P.G.P. Bro. Laurie Newlands, Edited by Meg Swords.