A Mystery Reading for The Father Archetype

This is the fourth mystery reading in the Green Man series – brief texts that illuminate aspects of masculinity through nature while exploring the major masculine archetypes. 

Oak and Eagle

The oak, one of the most common trees in the temperate climes of the world, is also one of the sturdiest and tallest. Because of its strength and height, it’s often the model for the “family tree,” an image for showing the ancestry and descendants of a family line. A father, so inclined, would wish for his descendants to be as numerous as the branches of an old oak, for his seed to be as abundant as its outpouring of glans-shaped acorns, for his roots to hold as steadfast. The oak embodies the Green Man himself. Many forms of life—fungi, flora, fauna, humans—come to depend on the shade, the strength, the nuts or leaves or wood of the oak to aid in their own survival. One such life form is the eagle, which will often choose a high oak for its nest. Eagles mate for life and attempt to return to the same nest year after year, building it up continually. Male eagles help incubate the eggs, provide most of the food to the hatchlings during the first month, and are always on the lookout to protect the nest.

Father Collage. Clockwise from top right: a father and child; a Green Man sculpture; a variety of acorns; the Major Oak in Sherwood Forest; booted eagle.

Most new fathers would recognize the need for them to be like the eagle or the oak: steadfast providers and constant companions for their wives and children. Yet the eternal mystery of paternity—is this truly my child?—spreads doubt. The archetype of The Father calls us to magnanimous benevolence, calls us to reconcile our desire for bloodline descendants with the knowledge that it is not only through our blood and semen that we are fathers, but also through our words and actions. The Father must seek balance between what he offers in protection and what he allows in freedom; the oak supports the nest so that the eagle can ultimately fly away.

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