June (Mensis Junius) is named for Juno, an ancient and complex goddess of love, marriage, motherhood and protection as well as the cycles of the moon. In Roman mythology, she and her husband Jupiter were the divine King and Queen of the gods. Juno and Jupiter were equated with Hera and Zeus in Greek mythology. Juno/Hera was often depicted holding an oak spear with a peacock nearby. Oaks trees were sacred to Jupiter and Zeus as well as Juno.
Juno incorporated attributes of the Etruscan Uni (union) and the Sabine Quiritis (oak). As Juno Sospita (savior), she protected numerous cities throughout Italy. As Juno Moneta (money) she watched and warned the city of Rome when trouble was coming. Juno was also known as Juno Lucina (light) and Juno Covella (new moon).
The ten-month lunar calendar of Romulus, created in 738 BCE, began in the month of Mars (March) around the Spring Equinox. The first day of the year, called Matronalia “festival of the mother”, was dedicated to Juno, the mother of Mars. The first four months were named for the divine family of Rome, while the remaining six months were named for the Latin numbers 5 through 10.
- March (Martius) – Mars/Ares, father of Romulus & Remus, founder of Rome. Son of Juno.
- April (Aprilis) – Venus/Aphrodite, lover to Mars/Ares. Daughter of Jupiter/Zeus & Juno/Dione.
- May (Maius) – Maia/Gaia, mother of Mercury/Hermes. Daughter of Atlas and Eldest Pleiad.
- June (Junius) – Juno/Hera, queen of the gods, mother of Mars/Ares. Grandmother of Romulus & Remus. Daughter of Saturn/Cronus and Ops.
King Numa Pompilius is credited with creating the first twelve-month lunisolar calendar in 713 BCE. It began when the waxing crescent moon appeared nearest to the Winter Solstice. He named this month for Janus (January), the god of beginnings and passages. Janus/Ianus (sun) was the male counterpart to Juno/Iana (moon). The first day of each month, Kalends (calendar), was dedicated to Juno Covella who birthed a new moon every 30 days. The 15th day, Ides, was dedicated to Janus when the moon was full and looked like the sun.
Juno (Iuno) and Janus (Ianus) were the namesakes for the “genius” of the Roman people, similar to the concept of a soul. The Latin word ingenio comes from the Sanskrit word janus, meaning “birth/creation” and the Indo-European root gen “to birth/begat”. A “genius” inhabited every person from their first breath to their last. A female genius was known as a Juno, while the male genius was named Janus. Genius is directly related to genus “origin”, which describes a category of species within a family. Oak trees belong to the genus Quercus, meaning “oak tree”. Juno, Janus and Jupiter were also known as Juno Quiritis and Janus/Jupiter Quirinus, the “oak gods”.
Oak trees often grow to be tall and expansive, living to be a 1000 years old and standing 100 feet tall. Their physical presence often caused them to be hit by lightning, yet most survived. This, along with providing edible nuts and shelter, made them seem invincible and mighty.
As humans began to shift their focus from earth gods to sky gods, oak trees were seen as conduits to the divine. For this reason many early gods and goddesses carried oak staffs as symbols of power and connection. As patriarchy began to take hold, oak staffs were replaced by thunderbolts, which became symbols of the masculine sky gods; Indra, Zeus, Perun, Jupiter, Taranis, and Thor to name a few.
In 392 BCE Juno became known as Juno Regina (queen of the gods) with her husband Jupiter/Jove (king of the gods). They were the “divine rulers” of Rome. Juno, Jupiter/Jove and Minerva/Athena (goddess of wisdom and war – daughter of Uni/Juno and Jupiter) were worshipped as the Capitoline Triad on the Capitoline Hill for over 400 years.
Juno was the most powerful and beloved goddess of Ancient Rome. As Queen of the Gods and the goddess of marriage, June was seen as the most desirable month of marriage.
The temple of Juno Lucina (Juno of Light) was built in 375 BCE, in a sacred grove of oak trees on the Esquiline Hill. The sanctity of marriage was celebrated during the annual Festival of Matronalia on March 1st, which was dedicated to Juno. Before the temple was built, women gathered in the oak grove on the hill to receive insights from the murmuring oak leaves who spoke for Juno. They often prayed for harmony in their marriage. Matronalia is thought to be the original “Mother’s Day”, which now occurs in May. June is the month of Father’s Day.
After the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BCE, Greek gods were merged with Roman gods. Juno was equated with Hera, as the wife of Zeus and mother of Ares. As the female counterpart to Zeus, Juno was also equated with Dione (the divine goddess). Some saw Dione as the daughter of Gaia/Maia (Mother Earth) and Uranus (Father Sky). She was revered as the ancient oracle goddess of the Oaks of Dodona in Epirus, Greece. She was also seen as the mother of Aphrodite with Zeus.
Based on archaeological evidence dating to 2000 BCE, the Oaks of Dodona were originally worshipped as the home of the great “earth mother” (Gaia, Maia, Rhea, Demeter etc.) These oaks “spoke” for the earth mother when the sound of wind rustled through its leaves. The Oaks of Dodona (evergreen Holm oak – Quercus ilex) are considered to be the oldest known oracles of Ancient Greece, preceding the Oracle of Delphi by 600 years.
Local farmers and shepherds gathered in its sacred grove for answers and insights to everyday concerns. As news of the oracle spread, the oaks began to speak for the “shining one” in the sky, known as Dione. Priestess’s, referred to as Pleiades (doves), began to translate the messages of the oaks.
The name Dione, shares the same etymology as Zeus and Diana. Their origins start from the Sanskrit word dev/div as the “shining one”, circa 3000 – 2001 BCE. In Sanskrit, Devi is the divine feminine, while deva is the divine masculine. The Proto-Indo-European (PIE) root dyeu, meaning “to shine”, was based on the sun, moon and stars, which collectively inspired the concept of “heaven”. When translated into Greek and Latin, deus/dios became Dione/Diana, and dyeus/diwos became Zeus. Dione predates Zeus as a “divine” mother goddess, yet her named is often interpreted as “she-Zeus”.
Homer was the first to reference Zeus in the Iliad as the “Lord of Dodona” around 750 BCE. Dione was identified as the “wife” of Zeus and mother of Aphrodite. Together, Zeus and Dione were worshipped as the divine rulers of Dodona for nearly 700 years.
Around 300 BCE, the King of Epirus officially proclaimed the Oaks of Dodona as the “earthly dwelling” of Zeus (his divine dwelling was Mt. Olympus). Dione was now identified as a Nymph (nature spirit), or more specifically a Dryad – a spirit that inhabits an oak tree.
In Mesopotamian mythology, (modern day – Iraq, Iran, Syria, Turkey, Lebanon, Jorden, Israel), Dione can be equated with the divine mother goddesses Elat, Athirat and Asherah. They were the female counterparts to El, Baal and Yahweh, whose origins can be traced to Enlil, the ancient Sumerian “Lord of Wind” and protector of forests. Enlil’s female counterpart was Ninlil. His breath was the air that formed words and commands. Enlil evolved into the gods El, Elohim, Elah/Alah and Elyon, meaning “most high, strong, almighty”, which were associated with oak trees.
In Canaanite religion, the mother goddess Asherah, also known as Elat (oak tree), was the wife of the father god El and mother of Baal. Together they were known as the Elohim, who created humans in their image. Oak trees, Asherah poles and sacred groves were places of worship. Small figurines of Asherah were placed in homes and in burial sites for comfort and protection.
When the Israelites began to emerge from the Canaanite culture, the worship of a god named Yahweh came into consciousness, based on the stories of Abraham, Moses and the Israelites. Several inscriptions have been found on pottery, tombs and walls in Sinai and Hebron that refer to “Yahweh and his Asherah”, implying that Asherah was worshipped as the wife of Yahweh. An Asherah pole once stood outside Solomon’s temple in Jerusalem as well as other holy places. Trees were planted in Asherah’s honor.
As the worship of Yahweh grew, Asherah, even as his wife, became forbidden along with all other gods and goddesses, divine or nature-based.
Exodus 34:13 – “Break down their altars, smash their sacred stones and cut down their Asherah poles.”
Deuteronomy 16:21 – “You shall not plant for yourself an Asherah of any kind of tree beside the altar of the LORD your God, which you shall make for yourself.”
As patriarchy blended with monotheism “one god”, oak trees became exclusive symbols of the masculine form of the Hebrew gods Yahweh/Elohim/Elyon/Elah. What’s interesting is that oak trees are monoecious, meaning they are “one” as both “female and male”. Interdependent, yet separate female and male flowers grow on each oak tree.
The word “mono” is Greek for “one“. In Latin it translates to “uni” as in “union“. Uni was also the Etruscan name for Juno before she was incorporated into Roman religion.
As the Israelite desire for a purely monotheist devotion to “one god” grew, they came under pressure produce a book of laws. These “laws” were recorded in the stories of Adam and Eve, Abraham, Enoch and Moses etc. Modern scholars place the actual composition of the Torah: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy, between 500 – 200 BCE. Even though Asherah and other nature based gods were forbidden, it was clear that trees, especially oaks, were connected to this god who spoke directly to Abraham (the father of Judaism, Christianity and Islam).
The Oaks of Abraham (also referred to as Terebinths) guided him on his journey out of UR (Iraq). The Oaks of Moreh and Mamre (Elonei Mamre) served as places of divine connection, where Yahweh spoke to Abraham and where Abraham set up altars to Yahweh.
Genesis 12:6 – “Abram traveled through the land as far as the site of the great Oak of Moreh at Shechem. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. The Lord appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built an altar there to the Lord, who had appeared to him.“
Genesis 13:18 – “Abram moved his tent and went to live near the Oaks of Mamre at Hebron, where he built an altar to YHWH/Elohim.”
Genesis 18:1 – “YHWH/Elohim appeared again to Abraham near the oak grove belonging to Mamre.”
Genesis 35:4 – “So they gave to Jacob all the foreign gods which they had and the rings which were in their ears, and Jacob hid them under the oak which was near Shechem.”
Just as oaks “spoke” to the people in Mesopotamia, Greece and Italy they also spoke to the people in Northern Europe. The oaks voice was heard when the sound of wind rustled through their leaves. Oak trees were sacred to the Celtic culture and the Druids who saw them as doorways to the three realms of existence. The name Druid is based on the Sanskrit words daru “tree” and vidya “knowledge”, meaning “knowledge of an oak.” In the Ogham tree alphabet, oaks were named duir “door”, in reference to Druids traveling through the doorway of an oak. Druids exchanged acorns as a way to “know” each other, they also ingested acorns to merge with the wisdom of an oak.
The first documented account of the Germanic and Celtic culture in Gaul came from Julius Caesar, who was a Roman general in 54 BCE. Pliny the Elder, c. 77 CE, wrote about Druids in his book Natural History. “The druids hold nothing more sacred than the mistletoe and a tree, on which it is growing, provided it is a hard-timbered oak”. Druids believed that the mistletoe’s white berries captured the essence of the “shining ones”, especially if the tree had previously been hit by lightning.
Tacitus, a Roman historian, c. 100 CE, wrote the Germania and named the region east of the Rhine River, Germania (Modern day – Germany, Northern France, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Belgium, Poland, Austria and Alsace) and its people Germans. “The Germans, however, do not consider it consistent with the grandeur of celestial beings to confine the gods within walls, or to liken them to the form of any human countenance. They consecrate woods and groves, and they apply the names of deities to the abstraction which they see only in spiritual worship.”
These Germanic people saw trees as divine beings who lived among them. Their language evolved from the Phoenician and Greek alphabets into the runes of the Elder Futhark (150-800 CE).
Ansuz, the fourth letter in the Elder Futhark (which correlates to the letter “A”), represented the “divine breath” or “mouth” of Woden/Odin, the Germanic tree and sky god who spoke when the air rustled through the leaves of an oak tree. The Anglo-Saxon’s later split the Ansuz rune into three vowels: “o” (mouth), “ac” (oak) and “ae” (ash). This essence of divine breath was also known as Od (Odic force).
By 380 CE, the Holy Roman Empire had embraced Christianity as its state religion. Worship of the ancient Roman gods and goddesses was deemed “pagan” (to be from nature) versus the “one almighty god”. This shift in ideology created a wave of destruction. Temples, sculptures and scrolls that represented the wisdom of nature and the stars, were destroyed or defaced. The veneration of trees such as Abraham’s Oak, was forbidden. The last Oak of Dodona was cut down and the temple looted.
During this tumultuous time, the Wulfila Bible was translated from Latin into Gothic German. The original names of El, Elohim, Elah and Yahweh were consolidated into one word “god”. This word was based on the Proto-Germanic word gudan, and the PIE root ghau, meaning, “to invoke” or “to call”, which was originally a gender neutral word. As it entered the Christian vernacular it became a strictly masculine word used to describe the “one god almighty”. This sense of god as a verb versus a noun, offers insights into its origins as an oracle oak that “spoke” when the wind blew through its leaves.
The Roman Catholic Church had tried unsuccessfully to convert the tree-worshipping Saxons of Germania since 380 CE via war and bloodshed. Many fled to the British Isles, where they became known as Anglo-Saxons. Between 700 – 800 CE religious warriors such as St. Boniface and Charlemagne began to force the remaining Saxons to convert by chopping down their sacred oaks. After felling these sacred trees and Irminsuls (sacred tree poles) and not being struck by lightning, they proclaimed that their Christian god was more powerful than the Saxons pagan tree gods.
As Christianity spread throughout Europe, the ancient agricultural celebration of the Summer Solstice was converted to the feast day of John the Baptist. According to the Gospel of Luke, the birth of St. John occurred six months before the birth of Jesus. When the birth of Jesus was placed on the Winter Solstice in 337 CE, John the Baptist’s birthday was placed on the Summer Solstice, as the one who prepared the way for Jesus.
Prior to the Roman adaptation of Christianity, the Summer Solstice was an important astronomical marker for the seasons and one of the cornerstones of agricultural calendars, which inspired the creation of math, astronomy etc..
Solar observatories such as Stonehenge in England, c. 3000 BCE, were built to capture the exact moment of sunrise on the Summer Solstice and the exact moment of sunset on the Winter Solstice. By observing the rhythmic balance between summer and winter, as well as light and dark, people felt more secure as they went about their daily lives.
June (Juno) is the month of the Summer Solstice or Midsummer. It marks the longest day of the year, when the sun reaches its still point as the north pole points toward the sun before reversing course. The Summer Solstice also falls between the planting and harvesting of crops and has been the traditional month of celebration, marriage and unity for thousands of years. In Sweden, a pole is erected and covered in vines and flowers to celebrate Midsummer. The two rings represent unity.
In Europe, the full moon in June was called the “Honey Moon” because honey was collected on that night to be turned into mead for weddings the following year. This “honey moon” also inspired the idea of a “Honeymoon” as a time of rest and recuperation after the wedding celebration. In North America, native people named this full moon the “Strawberry Moon”, because it signaled the perfect time to pick strawberries.
While the Northern Hemisphere celebrates the fullness of the sun’s life-giving energy, the Southern Hemisphere honors the Winter Solstice on the longest night of the year. This continual balance between north and south, summer and winter, light and dark reflects the unity of “opposing forces” as sacred and whole. In Taoist philosophy, the continual process of balancing Yin (dark/feminine/earth) and Yang (light/masculine/sky) is understood to be complimentary and dynamic. The Summer Solstice is a time of intense Yang energy, when sunlight is at its fullest. It is also a time of honoring the feminine yin energy of Earth where life is thriving. The acceptance that “one” cannot exist without the “other” allows for flow rather than resistance.
In Celtic lore the Oak King represents the fullness of life, when it’s fully cloaked in lush green leaves. The yearly transition between the evergreen Holly King on the Winter Solstice and the deciduous Oak King on the Summer Solstice was a metaphor for the changing of the seasons. When the Oak King dropped its leaves in fall, the evergreen leaves of the Holly King symbolized hope for continued life during the dark days of winter. The Oak King is quietly reborn on the Winter Solstice and begins to sprout new life in Spring. Holly was the sacred tree of Saturn, father of Juno.
Gemini, the third sign in the Zodiac, governs from May 21 to June 21. Gemini is the sign of the “twins” which were identified as far back as Sumerian and Chinese astrology. In Egyptian astrology they were seen as a pair of goats, in Arabian astrology they were a pair of peacocks. Both goats and peacocks were sacred to Juno.
In Greek and Roman mythology, the “twins” were named Castor and Pollux. Their mother Leda, Queen of Sparta, gave birth to four children. Pollux and Helen (Helen of Troy) were the immortal children of Zeus. Castor and Clytemnestra were the mortal children of Tyndareus. Castor and Pollux, became inseparable and looked like twins. Together they joined Jason and the Argonauts in search of the Golden Fleece. The Argos, a mighty ship, was fitted with a large oak beam from the Oaks of Dodona, which spoke and offered advice on the trip. Castor and Pollux were immortalized in the stars by Zeus. These mythic stories hold hidden “seeds” of wisdom and history.
The “seed” of a mighty oak begins with an acorn. The word “acorn” comes from the Celtic words “ac” for oak and “korn” for kernel. “Ac” is based on Ansuz, in the Elder Futhark. “Korn” originated in the Eleusinian mystery schools of Ancient Greece. Kore, also known as Persephone, was the daughter of Demeter (Goddess of Agriculture) and Zeus (Sky God). Since oak trees were sacred to Zeus, acorns represented the seed of the mighty oak “god”. In Norse legend, Thor sought shelter under a large oak during a thunderstorm. This in turn led to the tradition of placing acorns on windowsills to prevent a house from being hit by lightning. Acorns were commonly worn as amulets of protection and abundance.
Acorns appear on adult trees starting at the age of 20 to 50 years old. A mature oak can produce more than 2000 acorns a year, but only one in 10,000 acorns will grow to become an oak tree.
There are over 500 species of deciduous and evergreen oaks in the Quercus genus worldwide. All oaks belong to the Beech family, Fagaceae, which also includes chestnut trees. Oak trees are the national tree of countries such as France, Germany, England, the United States, Poland, Lithuania, Moldova, Serbia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Estonia and Wales.
June is the month of sacred unity and love. It is a magical time of celebrating the fullness of life by honoring the magic that has brought us to this moment.
Ideas for June:
- Identify an oak that lives near you and acknowledge it. Share a few deep breaths.
- Find an oak that you can sit with and enjoy a picnic or read a book, journal or dream.
- Listen to the sound of the wind as its rustles through the leaves of oaks and other trees.
- Listen to the sound of your breath as you inhale and exhale.
- Light a candle or have a bonfire on the Summer Solstice. Write things you want to release and what you want to bring in on small pieces of paper. Gift them to the fire one at a time with intention.
- Go outside and enjoy a cup of tea with honey on the eve of the full moon.
- Pick or purchase strawberries after the full moon and savor the sweetness.
- Open your heart to become a conduit between earth and the cosmos.
- Imagine yourself as an oak tree, roots reaching down from your feet deep into the earth and your arms extending up to the heavens. Stand firm in the present moment of who you are, where you have been and what you are becoming.
- If you are feeling resistance in any area of your life, try shifting your perception to one of receiving insights on how this is informing you to help you move forward.
- Honor the fathering essence within you and in all those you love.
- Be aware of bringing balance to the sacred masculine by also honoring the sacred feminine in all.
- Feel loved by nature and heard by the trees.
- Listen with your heart instead of your eyes.
- Trust that life flows in a continual state of balance. Always remember that sometimes the swings are larger than others.