Life and Death of the big old Bear Oak Tree

10 years ago this week I bought this little house out in the woods by the stream at the base of the mountain. It and the Nature around it has probably been the only thing keeping me sane, besides a few good friends.

Across the stream in an area of mountain fed seasonal streams, at the base of the mountain, stood a great old oak tree that was alive but had seen better days. A friend who knows trees estimated it to be 300+ years old. Many of the lower branches had fallen off leaving only a few branches at the crown that still produced leaves. The tree was hollow with a hole big enough to climb into if you were not claustrophobic, and this hollow went up to the crown that opened to the sky. I called it the Bear Oak Tree because it had a nob on it that looked exactly like a bear head looking up to the sky, and we do have black bears around here.


Here is a pic of me standing a few feet from the base. It would take around 4 people to put their arms around it.


Here is a picture looking up to the crown in Autumn.

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Here is my favorite picture easily showing the Bear head.

For about 6 years i honored this tree as my God tree of the land, matched by a Goddess tree of a hollow beech tree that grows by the stream and truly looks like a Goddess. I never saw any acorns around it and assume it may have been past that age, putting all its energy into survival. Though i do have a row of hundred year old oak trees along the north end of the property that do produce alot of them. Back in the day they used to plant trees and pile up stones to delineate borders, and these match the land survey. On the south side is a row of fairly old maple trees, also with a pile of stones on the back edge.

So one summer whilst honoring and blessing the old Bear Oak Tree i said to it “May you live longer than me”, thinking it still had maybe 50 years of life, more than i have. I may have eaten those words later in an inadvertent reverse magickal working.

Four years ago we had a fairly bad gypsy moth infestation on the mountain which did not totally kill many trees but did come down far enough to eat the last leaves of the highest live branches of the Bear Oak tree. It was its final blow. Next spring i looked for months for new buds and leaves 200 feet up and they never came. The old Bear Oak tree had finally died, though it still stood. Another branch broke off the top and this spooky form remained with an eye hole aimed at the sky.

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Spooky tree skeleton with detail below.


We get little high winds in this steep valley with a mountain to the south and high hill to the north, so the tree remained. But three summers ago it was really wet and the base of the mountain turned into an eternally water bogged swamp. One calm night the tree came down, silently to me because it is across the stream and because the inside was mostly rotten mulch. I did not hear or feel it fall buth when i got up the next day and looked out something looked out of place and i went out and found it laying all broken apart. Amazingly when it fell it only bend one other tree, and missed my neighbor’s outbuilding.

bear oak fallen 13Bear Oak tree down with lots of knots spread around, and my curious Shadow cat.

oak hole 5mouse brigette burial 2Like i said there were lots of knots of good wood that would have made good bowls, and i had a guy out who spun down such works of art, but he moved out west and i did not have the energy, skill or tools to make it so.

Needless to say i was not only sad about losing this tree, but also kinda freaked out about what i had said to it as a blessing and vow. Fact is between the time of the tree’s death and its fall i developed a mysterious rare degenerative neurological condition that made me disabled for work. So like the witch i am i had to go out the “re-bend” back death to life in case i did fuck myself. I concentrated on the oak trees and others that could now get more light and planted some evergreen plants like a holly tree and more bamboo which liked the increased light from the southeast. Also within the carcass of the tree was this beautiful red mulch i called “red oak blood” which i hauled out by the bucket full for two years to mulch my scrubs and garden plants, so the tree was recycled into my living plants.

A couple of other weird things is that the hole at the base of the tree continued way down into the earth.

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Where the tree broke off there was reproduced that same eye like structure that one winter i got a good pic of the Midwinter Sun through. And the base had some weird almost animal like forms in its convoluted wood.

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At this time of year as we move towards All Hallows Eve let us all learn the lesson of life and death and life. What was once healthy and glorious will eventually deteriorate and fall, and in the beauty of its fall will grow new life. Let us all take to heart this lesson and incorporate this lessons in our ever growing ever changing lives.

I leave you with a piece i wrote called The Story of Le Petit Mouse Brigette which incorporated the tree as a grave for a little critter. And a poem of hope from Lorna called Oak Man. I think the base of that old fallen tree would be a good place for a Druid Witch to die and be reborn from. Blessed Be!

All photos Copyright 2013 GLHoke

9 thoughts on “Life and Death of the big old Bear Oak Tree

  1. Thank you for sharing this. It’s especially evocative as Samhain draws closer and closer. It’s always sad to see a majestic old tree such as that fall but even more so when you had a magical tie with it. It’s good that you were able to gather some of the mulch from the fallen tree and add it to your living shrubs and plants in a way letting it live on in them.

  2. Very poignant tale of life death – and the Bear Oak will be home to plenty of wildlife in death as well as in life so it just shows that nature doesn’t stand still.

  3. A moving tale, I was awe struck by the silent fall. I think your red oak tree mulch appeared in my Oak Man poem. I recall reading a little about this story in your ‘Fey in the Woods’ post. Frightening how magic can bind us in such strange, complex and unexpected ways to the land and the gods.

  4. That was a beautiful piece. A magical tree with lots of personality, even after death… and still giving life. Lot’s to meditate and think about there. Lovely photos too.

    • Yes Nature, when acknowledged, talked to and listened to, has many tales to tell to those who have ears to hear. If i had not lived here this story would not have been told.

  5. Lots of … depths in this story. We say these things lightly, but we are so intertwined with the land spirits in ways we can only glimpse. And, so poignant.

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