Gaia’s Great Oak at Dodona

Every Olympian has their tree, a timber to call them patron, and for Zeus, king of gods, there could be no other than the oak, king of forests, to pay him fealty. Every oak was his charge, but one in particular bore the Cloud-Gatherer’s interests: the acorn he had planted in Dodona for his dear grandmother Gaia. During that eons-long Summer we call the Golden age, when the gods walked among men, Zeus would tend to the oak himself, teasing out its branches, treating its leaves. He would not be alone; mortals would come to him beneath the canopy to ask the Father of Gods and Men for inspiration or explanation. And, as was his way, he might answer, but only ever in riddle; the minds of mortals were not accustomed to the truth as he understood it: singular, severe. A chapter of acolytes and priestesses grew to interpret these riddles, to debate prosody and lexicon, to accommodate pilgrimage and prophecy. 

But what of Gaia’s great oak now? Even as the Golden age tarnished, come to Silver and now Bronze, even as the Olympian’s shed their material forms and became wind and shadow and forces fundamental, Zeus would not see his grandmother’s tree untended. A deal was struck with the chapter: if the acolytes and priestesses continued to care for Gaia’s great oak, Zeus would continue to reply to their questions. His answers would come as the breeze. A tinkle among those chimes of bronze and lead, those votives of sea-shell and bone that drip from the branches of the oak like dew. Riddles still. And so the chapter continues its occupation of interpretation, though their debates have changed: acoustics, anemology, matters arboreal. 

And the pilgrims flow.