In the forests of the ancient Northland there grew a giant tree branching with huge limbs toward the clouds: the Thunder Oak of the god Thor. Mistletoe sprang from the branches and blood fed the roots. No beasts of field or forest would lodge beneath its dark branches, nor would birds nest or perch among its gnarled limbs.
Thors priests held winter rites. Throngs of people hurried through the deep snow on White Christmas Eve to the mystic feast. In moonlight they gathered in the glade where the tree stood, pressed together around the great altar-stone under the overhanging boughs where the white- robed priests stood, and watched the sacred fire.
Human victims waited the blow of the priests knife. Saint
Winfred arrived, drew a shining axe from his girdle, struck the Thunder
Oak, and gashed the trunk. The bright blade of the axe circled faster and
faster around Saint Winfreds head, and the flakes of wood flew far and
wide from the deepening cut in the body of the tree. A whirling blast of wind
struck the tree, gripped the oak from its foundations, and pushed it over.
The oak split into four pieces. Behind it was a green fir tree. Saint Winfred
dropped his ax and told the people to worship the fir as a symbol of Christ.