Winter Tree Lore
ELDER (Sambucus spp.) – The Latin name Sambucus is derived from a Greek word for a wind instrument made from the elder. Also known as Ellhorn, Elderberry, Lady Elder. Sacred to the White Lady and Midsummer Solstice. The Druids used it to both bless and curse. Standing under an elder tree at Midsummer, like standing in a Fairy Ring of mushrooms, will help you see the “little people.” Elder wands can be used to drive out evil spirits or thought forms. Music on panpipes or flutes of elder has the same power as the wand. The pith can easily be removed from the small branches to make a flute. Elder re-grows damaged branches with ease and can root rapidly from any part. A tea for purifying the blood can be made from the flowers and wine from the fruit, but in general, the tree is poisonous. In Norse mythology, the Goddess Freya chose the black elder as her home. In medieval times it was the abode of witches and it was considered dangerous to sleep under its branches or to cut it down. Sticks of Elder were used as magical horses by Witches. Elder indicates the end in the beginning and the beginning in the end. Life in Death and Death in Life.
‘Elder is the Lady’s Tree, burn it not or cursed ye be’!
Elder, 13th Moon of the Celtic Year – (Nov 25 – Dec 23)
To the ancient Greeks and Romans, trees were thought to be inhabited by female spirits called Dryad (in oak trees) or Meliae (in ash trees). In Greek, drys signifies ‘Oak’ from an Indo-European root *derew(o)- ‘tree’ or ‘wood’. In Scottish folklore, a friendly tree spirit, called the Ghillie Dhu, helps lost children find their way home. Japan is home to a rich tradition encompassing various tree spirits, generally called Kodama. Traditionally, foresters made offerings to the Kodama before cutting a tree down.
PINE (Pinus spp.) – The Pine tree is an evergreen, its old title was “the sweetest of woods”. Its needles are a valuable source of vitamin C and can loosen a tight chest. The scent of Pine is useful in the alleviation of guilt. The Bach’s flower remedies list it for dealing with feelings of guilt. Pine indicates issues of guilt within you. It was known to the Druids as one of the seven chieftain trees of the Irish. Mix the dried needles with equal parts of juniper and cedar and burn to purify the home and ritual area. The cones and nuts can be carried as a fertility charm. A good magical cleansing and stimulating bath are made by placing pine needles in a loose-woven bag and running bath water over it. To purify and sanctify an outdoor ritual area, brush the ground with a pine branch.
MISTLETOE: – Also known as Birdlime, All Heal and Golden Bough. It was the most sacred tree of the Druids and ruled the Winter Solstice. The berries are poisonous. Bunches of mistletoe can be hung as an all-purpose protective herb, also for kissing under. The berries are used in love incenses.
HOLLY (Ilex aquifolium) – Holly is associated with the death and rebirth symbolism of winter in both Pagan and Christian lore. Holly is also associated with magic for protection, prophecy, healing, animals, sex, invulnerability, watchfulness, good luck, Holiness and consecration. It is also said to have the ability to enhance other forms of magick. In Arthurian legend, Gawain (representing the Oak King of summer) fought the Green Knight, who was armed with a holly club to represent winter. It is one of the three timbers used in the construction of chariot wheel shafts. It was used in spear shafts also. The qualities of a spear shaft are balance and directness, as the spear must be hefted to be thrown the holly indicates directed balance and vigour to fight if the cause is just. Holly may be used in spells having to do with sleep or rest and to ease the passage of death. A bag of leaves and berries carried by a man is said to increase his ability to attract women.
BIRCH: (Betula spp.) – Long associated with fertility and healing magic, new beginnings, purification, protection, creativity, fertility & birth. It was known as ‘The Lady of the Woods’. Birch twigs were used to bestow fertility on cattle and newlyweds, and children’s cradles were made from its wood. Birch is one of the first trees to grow on bare soil and thus it births the entire forest. Criminals were at one time birched to drive out evil influences on them, to renew them for the new year. Birch is an incredibly useful tree – nearly every part of it is edible, and its sap was an important source of sugar to Native Americans and early settlers. The inner bark provides a pain reliever and the leaves are used to treat arthritis. Its bark was used for everything from paper to canoe hulls, and axe handles were also made from Birch.