Herbs And Trees
Articles in this section:
Articles in this section:
Writing my new book ‘Walking with Trees’ has been a joy and a profound and insightful journey with thirteen of our native trees. I called them my ‘Council of Thirteen’, and I have learnt such a lot from them. I can honestly say I am in love with trees. They fill me with delight and awe in equal measure. I collect their leaves, blossom and fruit for my medicine cupboard and they gift me with layer upon layer of medicine for my soul. Being in their presence nurtures me, and the more sensitive and open I become to their sentience, the more levels of interaction and communication we exchange. When I am walking with the trees beside me I feel complete. Their wild beauty opens my heart and moves me to profound joy, and their needless felling moves me to tears. When I stand with them I breathe more deeply and become more rooted, and more fully present in the here and now. They help me to slow down and to find my sense of inner stillness. This guides me to listen more closely to my intuition and the wild edges of my instinctive self. I am forever grateful for their blessed presence in my life.
My last book, Letting In the Wild Edges was an exploration of wild gardening with the native plants in my town garden, unlocking my own wild edges and finding a more present and fluid relationship with the interconnected natural world around me. I have since moved house and now live surrounded by large trees. They are living, breathing, mighty beings, who are constantly moving and changing, expressing their life-force, spreading their seeds, and expanding their green world into mine. Their deep roots fill the very ground beneath me. Their intrinsic tree-wisdom permeates my consciousness. They have a big presence and I am learning to live with them and to respect them deeply.
My new book, Walking with Trees grew out of my daily life, walking out from my house into the lanes, walking along the hedgerows, and walking in the woods. I practise Mindfulness as part of my spiritual practise and this has helped me to slow down and meet the trees from a place of deep inner stillness. Trees are beautifully present, complex beings, deeply interconnected with the natural world around them, and the flow of the year’s seasonal cycles. To meet with trees it is essential that you learn to slow down, settle your energy and breathe deeply with them. It is one of their many gifts to us.
Trees are totally intrinsic to present life on Earth. I find it easy to connect to them through my heart and my love, and to naturally value and revere them. These great water-lovers draw up water from below the ground, and fill our air with the circulating waters of life, bringing many beneficial nutrients and minerals to the surface from deep within the Earth. They store and utilise vast amounts of carbon from our atmosphere, and are the co-creators of our weather systems and climate. They generate the oxygen-rich air that all of us air-breathing creatures need to breathe. We breathe with them and because of them. Their out-breath is our in-breath. They literally give us life.
My love of trees has taken me on a great adventure, and I have deepened the already deep connection to them that began when I was young. I have always found it easy to strike up a relationship with trees, and this is something I have done since I was a child. Even though I was a city child, born and brought up in Sherwood, a few miles from the centre of Nottingham, I was always drawn to trees. I sought them out. I found them in other people’s gardens, in the nearby park and along the wild back ways and abandoned places, that as a roaming child I would always be drawn to explore. In my imagination I lived within the great forest of Sherwood and felt the presence of the great Oak trees that would have grown there in the past. Many trips to Sherwood Forest, playing ‘Robin Hood’, hiding out in the Major Oak and inside other enormous 400 year old Oak trees fuelled my imagination further. The story of Robin Hood and his merry men, living in the heart of the forest, taking from the rich to give to the poor, fuelled my sense of social justice that has never left me, and I give thanks for that.
When I was in my late twenties, I taught myself to draw by drawing trees. I would sit for hours with pencil and rubber, occasionally surfacing to become aware of deeper layers of understanding pervading my consciousness. This subliminal layer began to appear in my drawings, which added to my understanding of what I was ‘receiving’ from the trees as I drew them. An archetypal character or energy ‘signature’ began to emerge for each of the different tree species. Later I began to understand how their herbal uses also reflected this and how the folklore, myths and legends handed down from the past also revealed similar patterns of understanding. From that point on the trees became my valued life-coaches and guides. I learnt from them about adaptability and flexibility; about the Otherworld and the shifting of Time; about co-operation and community; when to let go of the old and why to rest in the winter. They opened doors to understanding myself as part of the Earth and her yearly cycles, and as I translated the tree’s wisdom to my own life, my understanding of our interconnectivity with the natural world and the subtle world grew.
This was the beginning of the journey that unfolded next, as I recognised my need to write down my understanding and then to share it with others – for the sake of the trees as much as anything. I was picking up their distress at being ignored and I wanted to raise awareness of them and put them back into people’s consciousness. I wrote my first handwritten book about trees, The Sacred Tree, in 1995, and filled it with my observations, findings and some of my drawings. This was followed by another handwritten book called the Tree Ogham, which was my journey through the Celtic system of the Tree Ogham, which deepened my relationship with the subtle world, the alchemy of change and healing.
I had no computer so I wrote the books out in pen and switched to drawing in pen and ink. I photocopied them at first, on A4 sheets and folded them to make a book. I didn’t have a stapler big enough to reach the middle so I sewed them together with embroidery thread. I took them to festivals to sell, with a note in the back about where to get them from, and eventually the demand took me to a printers for my first print run, paid for by a friend. I got them out into bookshops myself until a book distributor saw them and offered to distribute them. Altogether I have five handwritten books and each one brought together my my deepening journey with the natural world. To date those combined five simple handwritten books have sold over 65,000 copies and just keep selling… They represent what can happen when you do what you love and follow your own deep joy and your heart… Later, publishers invited me to write books for them, and this has enabled me to carry on doing what I love while being a busy mum, bringing up children and exploring my ever deepening relationship with the Earth and the trees. I feel very blessed and thankful for this.
I write to make sense of things, and each book is a sharing of where I am at in my understanding. I am fascinated by the journey we are collectively making to change and grow into a more integrated holistic consciousness. The movement towards caring for our unique and astoundingly beautiful Earth grows every day, and this gives me hope for the future. I know that I am just one of many people making this journey, and I align myself, my kinship and my heart with all the people who love the Earth as I do; who are redefining themselves as one of many interconnected complex intelligent life-forms sharing the Earth’s resources; who are filled with a deep desire to help the Earth restore and heal the damage we have done. Each one of us has our own strengths and parts to play as we collectively do what we can to bring about intelligent compassionate change. Together, our many actions, both overt and subtle, are creating the great transformation of our time.
Glennie Kindred 2019
Walking with Trees is my delight, my meditation, and my anchor. A daily walk with the trees (not a dog!) helps to deepen my relationship with the natural world around me, and opens my heart, my lungs and my mind… If I give myself the time to stand still with them, their intrinsic tree-wisdom permeates my consciousness. I feel the presence of their deep roots, filling the very ground beneath me, and become more aware of the Earth beneath my feet. I breathe more deeply and become more rooted, and more fully present. They help me to find my sense of inner stillness and this guides me to listen more closely to my intuition and the wild edges of my instinctive self. When I am walking with the trees beside me I see a bigger picture, break free of my old conditioning that would have me believe that I am separate from Nature. With the trees beside me I am reminded of my deep interconnectivity with all life here on our beautiful complex Earth, and I am made whole.
Trees are totally intrinsic to present life on Earth. They store and utilise vast amounts of carbon from our atmosphere, and are the co-creators of our weather systems and climate. These great water-lovers draw up water from below the ground, and fill our air with the circulating waters of life, bringing many beneficial nutrients and minerals to the surface from deep within the Earth. They generate the oxygen-rich air that all of us air-breathing creatures need to breathe. We breathe with them and because of them. Their out-breath is our in-breath. They literally give us life.
Trees are beautifully present, complex beings, deeply interconnected with the natural world around them, and the flow of the year’s seasonal cycles. They are a highly successful species, and have been growing here for a very long time. Early fossil remains of Yews have been found from the Triassic era, two hundred and fifty million years ago, and from the Jurassic era, one hundred and forty million years ago! Hollies originated in Europe and Northern Africa in the mid Pliocene era, an incredible three thousand million years ago! Humans have been evolving for only six million years and the present strain of human, Homo sapiens, for a mere two hundred thousand years. I find this a very humbling notion, and why I walk with the trees with respect and gratitude for all they give and all they have to teach me.
Trees work in partnership with each other and with the rest of the natural world around them. They are not in competition with each other as we have previously been led to believe but work together, help each other survive, and protect their environment. Trees are at the centre of many overlapping complex ecosystems, all working in harmony with each other. Over time, mycelia (the fine thread-like hyphae of fungi) attach themselves to the roots of trees and form a beneficial symbiotic relationship with them. The mycelia help the trees by providing nutrients from the soil, and in exchange the trees provide the fungi with carbohydrates and sugars they make from sunlight. The mycorrhizae (which literally means ‘fungus root’) networks can spread for miles and ultimately provides the trees with a vast communication network that allows trees to communicate over large distances. Through their partnership with the mycorrhizae, trees move carbon, water, nitrogen, phosphorous and other valuable nutrients around the forest so that the trees, and ultimately their environment, stays healthy.
Suzanne Simard’s ground-breaking research with Beech trees (and very accessible TED talk ‘ How trees talk to each other), shows without a doubt that trees are conscious of each other and their environment, aware of their interconnectivity and are able to work co-operatively together for the good of their forest home. This brings a fundamental shift in our thinking and helps us to become more aware of the sentience and deep intelligence of Nature. Our world expands. We move into a deeper reverence for life when we remember that the water in our bodies is part of the Earth’s water cycles, and our breath is an exchange with the trees and plants. Our shared interconnectivity becomes part of who we are and changes how we interact with the other life forms we share this planet with. Seeing ourselves as part of an Earth community restores our sense of belonging, and we come to recognise that our own healing and the health of the Earth are one and the same.
Walking the land at this time of year I become aware of new life stirring and the beginning of life returning. Many say that February is such a dark month, but for me, as I walk with the trees, I see signs of new life and new beginnings everywhere. The trees are responding to the small increase in daylight since the shortest day at Winter Solstice. Elders begin to unfurl their dark leaves in January, and the bright catkins of Hazels in early February; along with pussy willows; the glowing red catkins of the Alders along the canals and rivers; early bright yellow Willow leaves and Birch leaves, and Blackthorn blossom. These all provide food for insects and bees who are beginning to venture out on bright days. Life is on the move! From afar a purple or golden haze begins to form around some trees, as their buds begin to open a little. The trees are waking up! I am filled with excitement and anticipation, ready to stir from my winter rest.
The Earth festival Imbolc is celebrated around the beginning of February and this is a good time to have a daily walk with the trees, and experience these first stirrings. Imbolc is a celebration of the first stirrings of life after the winter, and we too feel that sense of new beginnings stirring within us at this time of year. Now is a good time to gather a clear sense of direction for the year ahead, to ask the questions ‘What have I learnt during this time of winter rest? What do I wish to take forwards as I emerge back into the world? This is a good time to plot and to plan, to awaken ourselves to what we want and need to do as we move forwards into a more Earth-aware, Earth-conscious future. What must we protect? What can we do to help the Earth restore damaged eco-systems? There are many solutions… and we are many. If we all pledge our lives to help the Earth then change will happen fast.
Birch Trees are just one of our many tree allies at this time of year. Their white trunks stand out in the grey winter woods, and call us to take notice of them. Birches are pioneer trees and catalysts for environmental change. They are the first trees to move into new ground, preparing the way for other trees to follow by improving the soil and changing initial conditions. They were the first trees to grow in the wake of the retreating ice after the last Ice Age, ten thousand years ago, and the forerunners of the great forests that followed. Birch grow quickly and have a short life span of seventy to a hundred years, much the same as ours, and in that time, if humans don’t interfere, they have the ability to transform an environment, and within their lifetime turn a piece of open ground into a piece of woodland. Birches teach us that environmental change can begin with a single movement, and that a shift in initial conditions is all that is needed to set in motion new directions, and to change the flow of the interconnected complex systems of life. They inspire us to recognise that great changes begin with small actions and their pioneering signature inspires us to take a chance, to initiate a change of heart, a change of direction or a change in our thinking patterns.
Birch trees shed their bark, teaching us to release old patterns of thinking and behaviour that no longer serve us, or our Earth home. Shedding the old is the first step to embracing the new, and will make space for new understandings to grow. Collectively it is time that we shed the old belief that we are separate and wiser than Nature, and widen our vision. When we see the Earth as an ancient interconnected complex system that is eternally wise and self-regulating, we joyfully expand into her vast network of interconnection, and see wonder and perfection wherever we look. We live our lives with a sense of belonging to the Earth and a consciousness of the integrated unity of life. This shift in perception informs all our actions and choices from this point onwards, and we are fuelled with the desire to give something back and to be part of beneficial change.
Trees are our wise teachers and our steadfast allies in these changing times, as we learn to walk this new path of co-operation and co-creation with all of life. By walking with trees, I invite you to dive in and deepen your roots, to arrive in the world of trees with a benevolence that creates more benevolence, a willingness for enchantment, and an openness to rediscover a sense of wonder for this precious gift of life.
Glennie Kindred. November 2018
Wayside Medicine is the long awaited companion volume to Hedgerow Medicine, which is my all-time favourite herbal, and is another triumph for Julie Bruton-Seal and Mathew Seal. If you loved Hedgerow Medicine, then Wayside Medicine will not disappoint you. The two books dovetail together so well. It presents us with a whole new exciting array of familiar herbs and trees to incorporate into our everyday lives. As with all their books, it is a treasure trove of herbal knowledge and understanding, and the enthusiasm that Julie and Mathew have for the plants shines out of every page.
The subtitle, 'Forgotten Plants and how to use them', inspires us to take a second look at some of the familiar plants and trees growing around us. Some of these can be thought of as garden weeds, when in fact they can become treasured allies and useful medicines.
This is a gorgeous book. It is filled with the most stunning array of photos of the plants, taken by Julie. Many are macro shots. They are sumptuous depictions, lifting the plants from the over-looked to the exotic! Every page is a delight to the eye – every plant presented to make us appreciate their perfection and incredible beauty. This is coupled with a rich text that informs and astounds.
The book follows a similar format to Hedgerow Medicine, with clear descriptions of the plants, their habitats and families. Their herbal uses are presented in a thorough and often entertaining way, with stories based on their own experiences and Julie's deep knowledge and understanding as a practicing herbalist. Each plant is presented with historical facts and folklore associations, and this is interwoven with what is known about the plant today. The dedicated section on modern research for each herb adds another layer to our understanding. Many tried and tested recipes are included and these encourage us to jump right in and use the plants and learn about them for ourselves.
I am already buzzing with new understanding and possibilities for plants I have known and loved without realising the extent of their herbal and edible uses. This book amazes and delights in equal measure. It is an inspiration for the herbalist, plant-lover and gardener alike. Wayside Medicine has it all! I can't put it down!
Review by Glennie Kindred 2017
Here on the Glastonbury site we are very fortunate to have many huge ancient Oak trees. Most easily found is the Kings Oak, or Druids Oak, up in the Sacred Space field right at the top of the Green Fields, but there are many more huge ancient Oaks hidden away if you look for them. Check out an enormous and beautiful Oak at the back of the Greenpeace field. Both this and the Oak in the Kings Meadow are probably over 400 years old... and that's a lots of history!
The Oak (Quercus robur) is deeply connected in our hearts as the very essence of England, and especially the power of the High King (King Arthur) and his ancient and spiritual link to the land, and Robin Hood, protector of the land and champion of the rights of the people. The Oak feels mighty, strong and enduring and is linked to courage, nurturing our sense of self and being rooted to the land.
In the ancient system of the Tree Ogham, the Oak is given the word Duir, meaning 'door'. The Oak is linked not only to the doors of our houses but also as a doorway to inner strength, healing and new understanding. For generations people have sat beneath the mighty Oak to gain perspective, to let new understanding surface. Sitting with an Oak will help you to make decisions from a place of stillness.
Traditionally, the Oak stands at the doorway of the great turning point of the year, the Summer Solstice, the longest day and shortest night of the year. (This year the Solstice dawn was on Tuesday 21st June). The Summer Solstice is the peak of our expressive and expansive energy, but it cannot last forever or we would burn ourselves out. So a new cycle begins, and as the days gradually shorten, the summer will wane. The Oak is central to the understanding that this change will affect us all and is part of our cycle too…. as we are also part of this great web of life...
So take some time out this festival for a quiet moment. Sit beneath one of the sites mighty Oak trees and let your inner wisdom come to the surface and bring you a deeper perspective. The Oak will help restore faith in ourselves, and with this comes the ability to go ahead and aim for what we most want in life. If we learn from our experiences now, we can begin to prepare for the new cycle that is about to begin.
Glennie Kindred 2016
The yew, taxus baccata, is an ancient tree species that has survived since before the Ice Age and as such as been revered and used by humankind throughout the ages. All races of the Northern Hemisphere, especially the Celts, the Greeks, the Romans and the North American Indians, have a right and powerful understand of this unusual and remarkable tree. Because of its longevity and its unique way of growing new trunks from within the original root bole, it has now been estimated that some English Yews are as much as 4000 years old, their presence spanning ages of time and history. No wonder the yew is associated with immortality, renewal, regeneration, everlasting life, rebirth, transformation and access to the otherworld and our ancestors.
There are about 10 different species of Yew in the northern temperate zones of Asia, Asia Minor, India, Europe, North Africa and North America. They are all thought to have descended from Paleotaxus Redivivia, which was found imprinted on a Triassic era fossils laid down more than 200,000,000 years ago. Recently more fossils of the Yew have been found from the Jurassic era, 140,000,000 years ago. So the yew has managed to survive the great climatic changes of our planet, adapting and finding ways to live longer than most species alive today. According to pollen counts taken from peat bogs of Europe the Yew trees grew in greater abundance at the time of the Ice Age than they do now. As the glaciers receded northwards, the great forests if Europe contained up to 80% or Yew trees, and since these times have been in continuous decline.
Ancient Yew wood tools and implements can be found in museums throughout Europe. Because it is a slow-growing tree, it is a tight-grained wood, tough and resilient, used in the past for spears, spikes, staves, small hunting bows and eventually the famous longbows of the Middle Ages. The arrows were tipped with poison made from the Yew. The entire tree is poisonous - wood, bark, needles and seed. The only part, which isn't, is the fleshy part of the seed. Be aware of the dangerous aspects of the Yew if you handle the tree or work with the wood. It is one of the reasons why it is known as the death tree.
The Yew is sacred to Hecate, and the crone aspect of the Triple Goddess; both are guardians of the underworld, death and the afterlife. A lot of our ancient Yews are found in churchyards but there is no doubt that they were there before the churches were built. Many churches and churchyards once stood in a circle of yews w, which were probably a legacy of the Druids' sacred groves. At Amesbury in Wiltshire, there are 14 Yews in a churchyard and 18 at Bradford-on-Avon. All are growing on blind springs. The 99 Yews in a churchyard at Painswick in Gloucestershire were also found to be on nodes or springs. It seems likely that the yews were planted with the intention of marking and protecting these powerful spots. A new system of dating Yews suggests that some of our ancient and protected Yews are 4,000 years old and not 1,500 years old as previously thought.
The Yew is considered to be the most potent tree for protection against evil, a means of connecting to you ancestors, a bringer of dreams and otherworld journeys and a symbol of the old magic. In hot weather it gives off regard as especially magical to the Celts, due to its connection with the dead and the ancestors, which were deeply respected. Archaeologists have recently found well-preserved Yew woodcarvings at ancient sites of spring and wells, which were probably votive offerings. Yew would have been idea for this purpose, as it was already magically associated with the Goddess and the Gods. It was the most durable wood of the European forest, and more practically it is said to sink, as is a dense and heavy wood. It is fairly easy to carve and the most beautiful of our native moods, a deep golden orange, with a deep red core which polishes up well. It was used in the past for making wheels and cogs, spoons, handles, bowls and any turned items, and the body of the lute, but it is a perfect wood to use for sacred carvings. It should be noted though, that even the dust produced from sanding Yew wood is poisonous and great care should be taken where you work and how you work.
The Yew tree is the last of the 20 trees in the Tree Ogham, a Celtic system in which Druids encoded their wisdom. Each spiritual insight is represented by a tree, the first letter of which creates an alphabet system. Each letter is written as a line on, or crossing, a central stem line. These symbols can be found on the edge of some standing stones in Ireland and Wales, but they were probably, for magical and communication purposes, carved on staves of Yew. It was used as a silent communication system by Druids, and is recorded in some medical manuscripts. The place of Yew, or Idho, I, was at the bade of the Mercury finger (the little finger) at the line which separates it from the palm. The connection of the mercury finger with the yew is made by mercury's conducting of souls to the place presided over by the death Goddess, Hecate, alias Maia, this mother, to who the yew was sacred. The Ogham symbol could also be communicated silently by using the shinbone as the central stem line and laying five fingers horizontally across it.
The yew wood, the tree Ogham Idho is the link to spiritual guidance through your ancestors, guides and guardians in the Otherworld. The Yew is here to remind us that there are other levels of existence beyond this material plane. By understanding the illusionary nature of the life we have created for ourselves, we can live our lives more consciously. Often death is fraught with a sense of loss, but the Yew can teach us to see death as a form of transformation and that it is never final.
The knowledge we gain for the yew makes it an extremely important tree for healing. It can help us overcome our fear of our own death and, by freeing us from this fear, bring us a greater stillness in our lives. Death heralds the ending of something. It may be a physical death, or the death or our old selves, an old way of life or an old way of looking at things. Each end, each death, is a new beginning, hope, future and transformation. Sometimes things need to end or die before new can begin, and understand rebirth always requires seeing beyond our limitations.
The Yew can be used to assist Otherworld journeys and to increase openness of communication with the otherworld, through an increased ability to understand and receive the messages, which are being given to us by our guides and helpers. By opening ourselves to intuitively interpreting these messages, and trusting our intuitions to act on what we receive, we can make some real progress as the wheel turns and the death of one situation heralds the birth of another.
Magically the Yew is used for summoning spirits and any Otherworld communication. It is linked to Samhain, when entry to the otherworld is easiest, dreams are most potent and access to the ancestors is most possible. The Yew is linked to the runes yr and eolh, both rules by Jupiter and the positive benefits of transformation. According to a modern encyclopaedia element of magic herbs, the Yew is feminine, its element is water and its planet is Saturn. However it seems tome the Pluto would be as much more appropriate planet as it is the planet of dearth and change, transformation and rebirth. The Yew also connects through Scorpio, ruled by Pluto.
Because the Yew is poisonous, there are no herbal remedies, although it was sometimes called the forbidden tree as it was used to stimulate abortions. In the north, the Yew was used for dowsing to find lost property (enlisting the help of the ancestors?). The seeker held a Yew branch in front of him or her, which led them to the goods, and turned his hand when he was near them. A strange belief in the north of Scotland concerning the Yew was that a person, when grasping a branch of Yew in the left hand, may speak to anyone he please without that person being able to hear, even though everyone else present can. This may have been useful if someone wished to prejudice the clan against a chief without receiving punishment for his insults.
Yew has long been part of funeral customs, which may vary from country to country and district to district. The mainly involve carrying sprigs of Yew which are either thrown in the grave under the body or being thrown in on top of the coffin. In Suffolk it was considered unlucky if some Yew came into the house with the Christmas Eve decorations and a sure sigh that someone in the family would die before the year was out. In Derbyshire, however, care was taken to include the Yew in the evergreens brought into the house at Christmas, although it was on no account to be taken from the churchyard, and to be used specifically as part of the decorations around the window. Yew is also put around the well-dressing pictures, a tradition of making pictures from petals and placing these by the old wells and springs, which is still practised in Derbyshire today.
With so much of our folklore there seems to be many layers of beliefs, superstitions and years, which are usually the result of Christian overlay. the Yew, with its ability to span the ages, seems to have sustained its intrinsic meaning of death and rebirth from the time of early man, though Celtic and Druidic teachings and the Christian church, to the Aquarian age. Perhaps it is because is has stood in the same spot, on the same sacred power point, for generations of human lives.
So many of the ancient Yew trees we have in our country are protected by the churchyards, and reports of their great girths, and therefore great ages, are documented in the landscape. Yew groves planted by the Druids were common by ancient ways, on sacred sites, hilltops, ridge ways and burial grounds. Tribal leaders were buried beneath Yew trees, in sure belief that their knowledge and wisdom would be joined with the Dryad of the Yew and therefore will be accessible to the tribe for generations to come.
So many of these ancient documented trees have gone now, but in recent years there has been and upsurge of interest in the Yew, and there are several books available now which are still with us. It is possible to make a pilgrimage to visit these magnificent trees and touch the awesome connection to ages long gone. A friend of mine's personal “crusade” is Yew trees, and planting as many as possible along the great Michael and Mary leylines which run from St Michaels's Mount in Cornwall, up through Glastonbury, Avebury, Bury St Edmunds and ending at Hopton on the Norfolk coast. If anyone knows of a protected spot where he could plant a Yew along this line, I will pass your name and number on to him if you write to me.
Yew trees can be propagated through cuttings, seed, grafting or layering. It is also possible to find small trees growing near bigger trees, which transplant well. They prefer a moist, fertile, sandy loam soil, but will grow well on chalk. They resist pollution and can flourish in the shade of taller trees, but little will grow in the shade they cast themselves.
Yew has been found to be beneficial in propagating other species. Cuttings soaked in an infusion of crushed Yew and water produce quicker and healthier root growth, though I have not tried it myself. Cuttings of yew taken from lateral branches generally produce a tree.
In recent years it has been found that taxol, a chemical found in the bark of the Yew, inhibits cell growth and cell division, and may have some promise in the fight against cancer. The biggest problem is that such a huge amount of bark is needed to produce even small amounts of taxol.
The Pacific Yew of North America has been founded to have the most taxol in its bark, but thee bark is only 1/8th of an inch thick. 1 2000-year old tree with a diameter of 10 inches will yield 6lbs of bark, which in turn will produce 1/5th of a gram of taxol. The average amount to treat one patient is 2 grams, so clearly the problem of supply would be impossible and could result in the Yew becoming extinct. Although they have tired, scientists have not been able to make synthetic versions of taxol. Now researchers are trying to find ways of extracting the taxol from the twigs and needles. Yew tree forests as a sustainable resource could be planted.
Branch trimming would probably stimulate growth of foliage and a continuous and potentially increasing supply of raw material. Experiments are being made with varieties, which grow faster and may produce higher levels of taxol. A sustainable solution has to be found in order for this potential to become reality. Already scientists in America have destroyed thousands of Yew trees in their research programme, and now the English Yew is being used for this valuable research.
In Britain, interest in the Yew tree over the last 10 years had raised awareness of these wonderful trees. We have about 2550 ancient Yews, which live very closely to humankind in our churchyards, and hopefully this contact with the ancient wise Dryads will help to protect the Yews worldwide, as they have offered their protection to us. Communication with trees is a very real phenomena to those who are open to receive. A huge Yew planting programme began in Britain in 1996 led by David Bellamy, encouraging the churches and villages to replant the Yew trees again.
Our ancestors revered the Yew above all trees, it has always been held sacred and understood as a link with death and rebirth. It was used by early man for making weapons, tools of death, and now thousands of years later it is providing a possibility of averting death for cancer patients. It is a powerful reconnection to humankind for this tree when you consider that each person with cancer has to face their own death, whether they are cured or not. One of the most valuable abilities of the Yew is to provide the opportunity for people to turn and face death, to progress beyond fear to a communication, which will bring understanding, clear insight, enriched by a deeper experience of life.
Glennie Kindred - Revised 2007
The Oak (quercus robur) is deeply connected in our hearts as the very essence of England, and especially the power of the High King and his ancient and spiritual link to the land. It would be hard not to think of this tree as a masculine energy - mighty, strong, enduring and steadfast. The images we have of the Oak are buried deep in our national psyche. Indeed, it is one of our longest living trees, spanning generations upon generations. For this reason old Oaks were venerated and used by the Druids, Kings and later by the Church, for important meetings and ceremonies. They were planted to mark boundaries because of their longevity and strength.
The Oak will take 70-80 years before it begins to produce acorns. By then the trunk will be about 20 inches in diameter, but this will still be a young tree in the like of an Oak. After it has reached 100 years, it will only increase its girth by about one inch (2.5cms) a year, but this extremely hard, dense wood is highly prized as a building material and firewood. Until men devised iron cutting tools, the Oak resisted all attempts to fell it. After this, ironically, Oak became the main wood for making the charcoal needed for the furnaces which separated iron from its ore. It later became the main construction material for houses, churches and ships as it was strong and durable and its twisted branches provided the right shaped needed. In Elizabethan times, a law had to be passes, protecting the Oak, to give the tree a chance to re-establish itself as so much of the great oak forests has been felled for building materials and fuel. After that, many oaks were coppiced to give a renewable resource. The Oak woods we have now are a legacy from these.
There are many famous old Oak trees. The most notable perhaps is the major Oak in Sherwood Forest, although it is a big disappointment to see it these days, held up with chains and a fence round it to stop all human contact. Other ancient Oaks can be found on village greens or in fields and would previously have been used as a boundary marker.
Many of the Oaks were called Gospel Oaks, related to the time when gospels were preached from beneath their might shade. Of course, this follows on from the custom and practice of the Druids who met in might Oak groves and beneath old Oak trees, for all their meeting and teaching were outside in the open and closely connected to the tree dryads.
One etymology of the word Druids derives if from 'dru-wid', meaning 'knower of the oak trees', but 'deru' also means truth or troth and so could also give the meaning 'knower of the truth'.
In the Ogham, the Oak is given the word Duir. Duir comes from the Gaelic and sanskrt word meaning 'door' and there are many associations to be found linking the oak not only to the doors of our houses but also as representing a doorway to inner strength and inner spirituality. The Oak will lead the way to the truth, especially were this is connected to past actions and this revelation will bring strength and vision, and a doorway to new understanding.
Sometimes the word for Oal in the Beith-Luis-Nion is given as Dair instead of Duir. The word dair describes a rutting deer and kingship, connected the Oak and the Oak King to the Beltane rites. It is also closely connected to the Saghda who is linked to the Earth and the physical attributes of food, sex and crude raw physical energy, also uppermost as Beltane.
In the Beith-Luis-Nion system as described by Robert Graves the Oak, being the 7th tree, is central to the 13 moons and is linked to the Summer Solstice. 'The lunar month which takes its name from Jupiter, the Oak-god, begins on 10th June and ends 7th july. Midway comes St John's Day, 24th June, the day on which the Oak King was sacrificially burned alive/ the Celtic year was divided into 2 halves, with the second half beginning in July, apparently after a 7-day wake or funeral feast, in the Oak King's honour.'
Traditionally, the need fire (a sacred fire which was kindled after all the other fires had been put out) was always kindled in an Oak log, and the fuel for the Midsummer mires was customarily of Oak. The Oak therefore virtually stands at the doorway of the great turning point of the year, the Summer Solstice. The sun reaches the height of its power and strength, and turns to begin a new cycle of its declining. The Oak is central to the understanding that this change will effect us, and is part of our growth which links us to the etheric web of the Earth. the Summer Solstice is the peak of expressive and expansive personal energy, but it cannot last forever or we would burn ourselves out. Strength and endurance can be gained if we learn from our experienced now, and begin to prepare for the new cycle which is about to begin.
Sitting with an Oak tree will soothe the nervous system and help you solve some knotty problems. It will bring deep calm and the will to survive/ the Bach flower remedy Oak can be taken by those who are struggling and fighting strongly and constantly in their daily lives, or desperately trying to overcome an illness. It will bring renewed strength and courage to any situation and restore faith, so that you can go ahead and aim for what you want in life. People needing Oak are usually strong and determined people, hard workers who will not complain and who will work relentlessly without a holiday. Sometimes this can be seen in mothers, who look after the family without a break and never admit to being overworked or under stress. Their enormous contribution is now always recognised or recompensed. This is partly the oak-type fault, as they feel inner reluctance to appear week in the eyes of others, and are worried about becoming dependant, and so do anything rather than ask other for help. Taking the Bach flower remedy will soften this attitude and bring new vitality, easing tension and brining a more easy-going element to life.
The Norse God Thor and all thunder Gods are connected to the Oak, which is often struck by lightening/ the force of this blast bursts the trunk apart, often leaving a hollow bole and gnarled and withered trunks. There lies a warning about stubborn rigid strength which resists and breaks ion the storm. Flexibility can be a strength in itself, which can balance the forcefulness of rigid thinking and actions. During the 7th lunar month the Druids carved a circle divided into 4 equal parts, on the oak for protection against lightning. This practicing Is said to be found even today amongst some old foresters in Britain, who continue to carve on banisters and blind-pill bobbins to ward of lightning striking the house.
Wands were made form oak wood from trees which had been struck by lightening in the belief that lightning would not string twice in the same place, and were used as talismans of protection. Very often, as acorn was carved at the end of a Druid's wand and oak leaved were worn or carried for protection, especially from disaster. A spray of oak leaves was carved on the old shilling and 6d coins, and many family crests and emblems carried the symbol of Oak leaves, showing allegiances to the Oak tree and its magical properties
Zeus/Jupiter, the Oak God was also armed with thunderbolts. The oracular Oak grove at Dodona in Greece was dedicated to Zeus and messages from the Gods were interpreted from the sound of the wind in the Oak leaves. A Graeco-Roman custom was to award a crown of Oak leaves for saving life and for victory in the Pythian games.
An Oak wand would be ideal to make if you need to get in tough with you inner strength and power. Make it out of any piece of Oak wood which suggests this use. You might easily find a branch which has been blasted off the tree in a storm and be able to remove a piece from this. Decorate your wand with anything which has power or meaning of power to you, such as a stone which a hole in it, a feather from a bird whose qualities you wish to draw strength from. Bind on crystals, jewellery, symbols, wools of a colour which make yo feel the power and the inner strength which is yours and will be forever part of you.
Carry a small touchwood talisman of Oak with you in your pocket, sanded smooth and good to feel. Hold it to gain inner strength whenever you need it. Place a small piece of oak wood in a pouch to wear round your neck at all times, until you feel you no longer need to draw on the Oak for strength.
The leaves and barj of the Oak are the main parts to be used medicinally. The juice from crushed Oak leaves can be applied directly onto wounds and the elaves can be soaked in boiling water, allow to cool and the liquid used to relieve tired and inflamed eyes. Use the same lotion for any cuts and burns and as a mouthwash for bleeding gums and for bathing piles (haemorrhoids), varicous veins and as a gargle for sore throats. A decoction of the bark can be used for reducing diarrhoea, dysentery, tonsillitis, pharyngitis, laryngitis and fevers. A decoction is made by adding 1 teaspoon of crushed bark per cup of cold water. Bring to the boil and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes. This can be drunk 3 times a day in a wineglass measurement.
The bark should be collected form the Oak in small patches in April and May. Make sure that what you collect is smooth and free from blemishes. Carefully pare it from smooth branches or from trunks less than 4” thick, but be sure not to ring the tree of it will die. The bark yields a tanning which was used extensively for preparing leather and twine.
Oak galls (formed by the gall wasp larvae) yield a black ink. Steep 8 ounces of galls in 4 pints of boiling water. Steep for 24 hours, strain and add a sweet-smelling essential oil (a few drops). Add one and then a half ounces (45g) of gum Arabic and then stir in 3 ounces (80g) of sulphate or iron (ferrous sulphate).
A coffee substitute can be made form acorn kernels. Chop them up and roast them to a light brown colour, then grind them up and roast them again.
The Druids made a distilled water from the flower buds to cleanse the internal body. They also collected the water found in the hollows of the trunk and used this ritually to cleanse the external body in time for the midsummer festival. It is a very magic thing to find a pool of water hidden within the boughs of the tree, and to know that this pure rainwater has been soaking up all the herbal and spiritual properties of the Oak. It is worth returning to the tree with a jar to collect the water in.
For generations upon generations, people have gone to sit beneath the mighty Oak to gain strength and spiritual renewal. The outside world can be forgotten and the inner world can slip back into perspective. The Oak can help you find a new understanding and vision, gained from your experiences. This in turn will bring strength and courage to face whatever life has to offer you. The Oak tree's mighty presence will help restore faith in ourselves and with this lies the ability to go ahead and aim for what we most want in life. It is well worth finding the time to go and sit with an Oak tree and to receive the qualities it has to offer us. Remember to thank the tree after each communication, not because the tree needs your thanks but to keep open you channels of love and respect for the tree kingdom and all of nature. This will enhance your ability to receive their qualities on the deepest level.
Glennie Kindred 2007
Once, not so long ago, the countryside in the United Kingdom was filled with flowers and native plants. Every hay meadow, every lane, roadside, and woodland had an intricate and astounding array of plants such as cowslips, mullein and self-heal. They have become so depleted that it is now illegal to pick wild flowers or dig up plants from the countryside. I am told that there is now a 96% loss of native plants in our countryside. This has shocked me into action.
Once we begin to learn about them, value them as essential to our eco-system and things we can eat, and begin to test and value their medicinal properties for, we can no longer dismiss these plants as weeds! We begin a journey of discovery and interconnection that connects us to our furthest ancestors and to the plants themselves.
Many of the native plants have a long flowering season and are essential food for our pollinators, our bees, butterflies, birds and wildlife. Many are the country plants of the old cottage gardens, the old fashioned plants grown before the current trend for exotics, hybrids and imports. I am always moved by their apparent frailness, and yet they are the survivors. They have adapted and evolved here for thousands of years and are filled with the life force of these lands.
We can all play our part in restoring our native plants by growing then in our gardens and by re planting them out along the lanes, footpaths, woodland edges and anywhere we identify as places they might grow.
Guerrilla Gardening is a movement that began in New York in the 1970s, when a group of activists and artists decided to 'green' their city. They took over abandoned pieces of land and grew flowers and vegetables. They encouraged anyone to get involved and together they created beautiful gardens in the middle of the city. The city authorities began to notice improvements in people's wellbeing and in the general look of the area as more people began to plant up planters and take a pride in their community. Eventually many of the guerrilla garden sites became permanent community gardens making the city a better place to live and work in. As a movement it has been spreading around the world ever since.
There are many different ways to guerrilla garden and many different reasons to want to do it. It may be that you simply love gardening; it may be that you have no garden of your own; you may want to get more involved in your local community and plant community vegetables and edible plants; you may want to improve the look of a neglected or run-down area; you may want to plant more trees or make more fruit trees available for all the community; you may want to help the bees and plant more of the native plants they love; or your passion may be to plant herbs and medicinal plants or to plant native fruit trees for the birds and for foraging from. You may work alone and unnoticed or be part of a larger more focused guerrilla gardening group.
Choose to grow native plants that are hardy and fit the places you are planting them out in. Choose to plant the one that have pretty flowers, so that passers by will appreciate them. Choose places to plant that you walk by often so that you can keep an eye on how they are doing.
Look for Suitable Places to Plant out Native Plants: Scout out and about for land that could be used for guerrilla gardening. Look for neglected corners or verges, forgotten town planters, neglected traffic islands, land beneath high-rise flats or abandoned pockets of land that have become waste ground. There might be pieces of land that are 'grey areas', with no one particularly interested in them. Playgrounds can often do with a bit of beautification - talk to young mums and see if any are interested in growing edible and medicinal herbs and wild flowers along the edges.
Make Seed Bombs: Children love making and throwing seed bombs! Using a mixture of sand, clay and compost, mix with native wild flower seeds and then add a little water and press them into balls. Leave to harden off a little in egg boxes, but it is good if they are still damp inside. It is always best to scatter them when it's likely to rain. The seed bombs can also be thrown along field edges, and any other place you can find in your locality where there is some soil and native flowers have a chance of growing.
Create your own Native Seed Clusters: Sprinkle native plant seeds into homemade cardboard tubes or loo rolls filled with peat-free compost or soil. This creates seed-cluster plugs, which are easy to transport for planting out. When the seed clusters have become established, put each one in a paper bag or wrap them in paper cones and stack them side by side in plastic food trays. Identify where you will plant them. Slice into the ground with a sharp thin bulb-planting trowel and slot in the seed-cluster, cardboard roll, paper bag and all. Take a bottle of water with you and water them in. Eventually one or two of the plants in the seed clusters will become dominant and grow to maturity. Once this happens the plant forms its own seeds and the cycle of growth can begin again, hopefully unaided by you!
After Care: Don't forget to go out with watering can or bottle of water to give the plants a drink if it is dry and in some cases weed around them while they become established.
This is a case of one small act having the power to create a big change. Nature is good at adapting and regenerating given half a chance. Your actions can transform an area, save the lives of many bees, butterflies and birds, or create a new environment for a new ecosystem to evolve and grow in... and on top of this, it is so much fun! Glennie Kindred writes about finding simple, heartfelt ways for us to make connections to each other, the Earth, Nature, the Elements and Spirits. How to grow native plants along with their extensive herbal and kitchen uses can be found in her book Letting in the Wild Edges.
My guerrilla gardening article in JUNO also ran with this inspiring story by Josie Gritten...... How I started my Seeds of Change by Josie Gritten, Snowdownia
It started with a seed-as all gardens do, the seed of an idea. We had been lucky to move from our cramped, moldy bungalow into a new, super-insulated, solar-paneled council house. With no garden. Well, technically there was a 'garden', but the tiny square of concrete and patch of boggy grass gave me no joy and I longed for the wild spaces of our previous home. I began to look further and my seed was sown. I heard talk of the council spreading slate waste on the wide verge opposite the four new houses, and my seed began to germinate.
I talked to the other residents and a group was formed; a 14-year old as co-chairman. We applied for grants and before long a tiny shoot was searching for the sun. We were given free wood from a barn conversion; we borrowed diggers and bought job lots of tools cheap at auction. Little by little our garden grew and our community with it. We planted seeds and as spring turned to summer our garden flourished. We picked flowers, vegetables and herbs; shared them with local families and watched with quiet joy as passers-by enjoyed our garden blossoming as they walked their dogs. My tiny seed was becoming a strong tree - growing and blossoming with each passing season, each gathering of families to weed, sow and reap.
One day I planted a cherry tree. A few children came to see what I was doing and next thing I knew we were turning a new patch of wasteland into a garden - planting apple and plum trees, flowers and veggies; the 'work gang' eagerly waiting for me with wellies, forks and spades when I'd get back from the school run. As we planted the last tree one of the boys said to an older girl; "It's your turn next to decide where to make a garden." She looked around, spotted another unused, council-mown patch of grass and said "What about there?" And I felt my tiny seed breath and blossom. There is vision here now - and excitement and a feeling of anticipation for the future. I can't wait to see how it will all look in 15 years' time when the village is full of fruit trees and anyone can come along and pick enough for jam, apple pies, cherries and cream. And so I pass this seed on to you, so it may become your seed too. Nurture it, grow it, share it and be blessed.
I have been growing trees in pots since my children were small, when every autumn excursion to the woods brought home pockets full of acorns and other tree seeds. We discovered that if you leave the acorns indoors they loose their glorious colours, shrivel and dry, but if you leave them outside, in a dish by the door, they remain delightfully glossy and eventually send out a root.... then a shoot.... and by planting this you help a new tree begin it's journey into life.....
Trees produce thousands of seeds, which are mostly spread by birds and the wind, but we too can help spread them about, carrying them in our pockets, scattering them about and poking them in the earth where appropriate. The Man Who Planted Trees is a story by jean Giono about a man who did just this and changed a whole ecosystem and the lives of all the people who lived there. A very beautiful and inspiring piece of animation of this story can be found on U tube.
The best tree seeds to grow are the seeds of our native trees. They have grown here for thousands of years, since the ice retreated at the end of the last Ice Age and the land bridge between ourselves and continental Europe was flooded - about ten thousand years ago. They have many symbiotic relationships with our native insect, animal and bird populations. They are also the easiest to grow, especially Oak, Hawthorn, Alder, Beech, Hazel, Holly, Birch, Rowan, Ash, Wild Plum, Crab Apple, Bird Cherry or Elder.
September and October are the best months to go tree seed collecting. Look for seeds from the healthiest and strongest trees. It is always best to collect seeds from the native trees growing in your own area, as they have adapted to the local climate and soil as well as the insects that live there. Pick the seeds directly from the tree or when they are newly fallen, but don't collect the first seeds that fall as the later ones will be better quality. Only take what you know you will use as these nuts and fruits are food for the birds and wildlife. Put the seeds in labeled paper bags and when you get home, sort through them and pick out the healthiest. Return the rest to the wild edges for birds and other creatures to find or maybe they will grow.
Scatter the seeds in pots of garden soil, compost or a compost and sharp sand mix, water well and leave outside for the winter in a sunny place. Don't forget to write the tree name on the pot! This can be done easily with permanent marker or white correction pen, but decorating the pots with acrylic paint is always a nice activity to do with children. The seeds should be sprouting by the spring, although some take two years so don't give up on them. Next autumn plant each tree in a pot of it's own, with plenty of room for it to grow.
Making tree cuttings is an easy way to propagate new trees and works best for Elder, Hazel and Willow. Older children can be taught to handle sharp secateurs safely. Cuttings can be made from the autumn through to the early spring. Simply cut lengths of twig into 20 cm lengths, cutting just below a bud with the bottom cut horizontal to the twig just below a bud, and the top cut at an angle just above the top bud. Push them into labeled pots with about 5cms showing or poke straight into the ground.
By late spring the cuttings will be sprouting leaves. Keep the strongest shoot, and cut the rest off. Cut off any flowers in their first year so they put all their energy into establishing their roots. Put the pots where you can keep an eye on them and keep them watered in dry weather.
During the autumn re-pot any trees you grew last year into bigger pots if they need it, giving them some fresh compost and some attention and care. Make sure that the root collar - the point from which the roots grow - is just at the soil surface. I like to move my trees in pots to a sunny spot for the winter (moving them back into the shade in the summer to stop pots drying out too quickly). Remove the bowls from under them in the winter months as they dislike having their roots in cold or frozen water.
You can encourage young potted trees to take on shapes and features that will continue as they become mature trees. A young tree can be raised slightly with a slightly bigger stone put under the roots each time you repot it to create a hole under them and expose the root bole. Also consider planting two or three trees together in a pot and weaving their trunks together while they are still pliant and young. They always want to untie them selves so you will need to tie them gently at intervals.
Sprinkle native plant seeds or plant native bulbs in the pots with them. This creates special partnerships that continue when you finally plant them out.
Most native trees can also be coppiced (not Birch) while in their pots, by cutting them down to their base, so that each tree sends up many single shoots. These can be used for creating hedges for gardens and allotments, making wind-breaks and to provide the gardener with an endless supply of straight sticks for bean poles and tying up plants.
Trees need to be planted out or moved between November and March while the sap is down and roots are growing. This helps them to get established before the sap rises in the spring. When planting out trees remember the size that the tree will eventually become and consider if it has enough space to grow and if the type and size of the tree is appropriate there. Trees in more confined places will be more stunted, and grow more slowly.
Public places, such as schools, colleges, churchyards, parks, and hospitals, often have space for trees and would welcome you asking them if they would like a wild life garden. Plant native plants and bulbs alongside the trees and you will create a lasting haven for birds, bees and other creatures; replace garden fences with a mixed hedge that birds can nest in; organise a community tree planting project; or find people who have land and are wanting to thicken or increase their hedgerows. Elder, Hawthorn, Rowan, Crab Apple and Hazel are all small hedgerow trees will provide more foraging opportunities for the future.
It may also involve a bit of guerrilla gardening, by planting them out in places that would benefit from a tree or two such as playgrounds; along walkways and trails and footpaths; by rivers; along hedgerows; canal sides; along roadsides and verges; in villages and towns - on the edge of any forgotten or unused piece of land. Bang in a stake and protect with a tree guard and chances are they will be treated as if they are meant to be there.
Water the potted tree well before planting out. Add a bucket of compost at the bottom of the hole before planting the tree and water it well. Keep an eye on them for their first year, until their roots get established. Keep them free of strangling grasses and take bottles of water to water them if the weather is dry.
A semi circle of Willow and Hazel saplings can be planted to create living dens, hideaways and arbors. The young whips can be pulled over, bent into shape, woven and tied to create places for children to play in. Weave new shoots in regularly to create a good shape and keep it trimmed during the summer to encourage a dense foliage to keep out the rain.
Trees can be planted to commemorate a family or community event. When planting commemorative trees, take a moment to pause and say a few words before and after putting the tree in, dedicating the tree with due ceremony and fully honouring the reason for planting it.
Our folk memory and country lore is rich with references to the virtues of the Apple tree. The Crab Apple (Pyrus malus) is native to Britain and is the wild ancestor of all the cultivated varieties of Apple trees (Malus pumila domestica) available today. The Crab Apple has thorns, which have been bred out in the cultivated varieties. This beautiful tree, in all of its varieties, provides us with abundant food, and has many uses both in the kitchen, as a herbal remedy and a healing energy. All the many Apple trees have the same herbal, energetic and healing properties as the native Crab Apple. In every country this generous tree grows, apples are regarded as sacred, magical, a symbol of the Earth's abundance and fruitfulness, a means to immortality, a cure for all ills and a gift of Love.
A wealth of legends and myths surrounding the Apple tree, indicates that there is a link between Apple trees and altered states, that deep trance states can be invoked while sitting in orchards. The Apple tree is honoured as an entrance to the Otherworld, the faerie realms, the land of the dead, paradise, the home of the Gods and Goddesses, for journeying to all the unseen worlds of the imagination that lie so close to ours.
The sheer extravagant abundance of apples on an Apple tree in the Autumn is the key to understanding what the Apple tree has to teach us. It shows us how to give all, in total trust that all will be replenished. The Apple tree is there to help us to keep our trust in times off lack, and teaches us our true power is built up by giving, in abundant openhearted generosity.
The Apple tree can help those who harm themselves by their own miserliness. It teaches us to open our hearts to the abundance in our lives. When we, like the Apple tree, give all of ourselves freely and openly, then our hearts are open and we are open to receiving more. Holding back is a symptom of greed or insecurity. Many feelings of bitterness, irritation and anger result from feeling a lack of worthiness. These negative feelings create a pattern of imbalance, which can significantly reduce the flow of the life force energy in your body. If you do not feel worthy to receive certain things, the way for them to come to you will be blocked, as you have believed it to be. The Appless message is to value and celebrate all you have in your life. By affirming and feeling thankful for what you have in the present, you open up the channels for your own abundance.
Apples are a natural remedy for the stomach, bowels and heart, the main organs of giving and receiving. Our folk memory is rich with such phrases as “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” and not without good reason. It is a very digestible food, and it aids the digestion of other foods. It is an excellent baby food. A ripe juicy apple eaten at bedtime every night will cure constipation. An apple before bed is also an excellent dentifrice, being a food that is not only good for cleaning the teeth, but also hard enough to push back the gums so the borders are clear of deposits. The valuable acids and salts exist to a special degree in and just below the skin, so to get the full value of an apple it should be eaten unpeeled.
The bark of the Apple tree is a tonic and a stimulant, bringing down the temperature in a fever. The bark contains phlorizin, which is used in its pure form in modern medicine. To use the bark, strip a small area in the tree taking care not to ring the trees, as this will kill it. Bark pieces can also be saved from the year's prunings. Dry the bark pieces in brown paper bags in a warm airing cupboard. They can then be stored in brown paper bags or a dark jar. Their herbal qualities should be potent for two years. Boil the bark pieces in water for 15 minutes and leave to infuse overnight. Dosage is 1-4 fluid ounces of the infusion daily.
The Crab Apple is a tradition herbal treatment for cleansing the body, for both internal and external wounds. It helps to heal skin tissue and is an anti-inflammatory and anti-septic - hence the connection in our folklore with beauty. A poultice made from the boiled or roasted fruit will remove burn marks from the skin. The same boiled fruit is good for sore or inflamed eyes.
An ointment mentioned by John Gerard in his Herbal of 1633 suggests mixing apple pulp with fat and rose water to make a treatment for rough skin. For a more magical beauty treatment, the following charm is and extract from Clair O'Rush's book The Enchanted Garden: "Gather May dew and steep apple blossom in it, heating all over a fire of ashen wood, bless the apple water and apply to the skin, letting it dry of itself. Ask a blessing of beauty and purity from a chosen deity and the tree spirit and it will heal the complaint and grant a lovely complexion."
Apples are also an old folk remedy for the cure of rheumatism by rubbing the affected area with a rotten apple. They were also a folk cure for warts by rubbing the warts with two halves of an apple and then burying them. The pectin in the apple is a good germicide and promotes the growth of new skin tissue, providing a medical basis for this old wives' tale.
This type of folk remedy is a form of Anglo Saxon sympathetic magic. Early medieval sympathetic magic depended much upon associations. It was common practice to write a holy name on an apple; eaten on three consecutive days it would cure all ills. The apple was considered effective against venom, or poison, a purifier and cleanser, all of which corresponds with the apple's known properties today.
Of all the Bach flower remedies, the Crab Apple is unusual because it is the only one that can be used directly externally, as it acts on the mental and physical levels as well as the subtle energies. Crab Apple will remove negative impression, for instance after a dirty job, or after a long and difficult nursing task. Ten drops can be added to a full bath. Some practitioners recommended Crab Apple when fasting, others recommended it to overcome the effects of a hangover (four drops every half hour). Wounds can be bathed in it if you have reason to believe it is infected with poison that needs to be drawn out. Five drops in a little cooled boiled water is sufficient for a compress.
People in need of the Crab Apple flower remedy tend to be more then usually sensitive, taking in much more, at subtler levels, than their general constitution can cope with. They can sometimes be a magnet for dark forces. This unconscious stress often gives them the feeling of being unclean, in need of cleansing. This can manifest is self-disgust, over-anxiety about physical cleanliness, fear of contamination. The flower remedy can be used whenever there is a poor self-image, especially if it relates to parts of the body.
Apples have a long history of being used for divination, especially to foretell the future in matters of love and prosperity. Because of the strong tradition behind many of the superstitions, many have survived, albeit in a degenerate form, as entertainment. The methods of divination are varied and include such things as counting the apple pips in an apple, with reference to a specific question; burning the pips after naming each one with a young man's name, and watching which ones explode in the fire; pressing the named pips with the finger to see which sticks the longest; apple bobbing ( trying to catch the apples with the mouth only as they "bob" about in a bowl of water); throwing the peel over the left shoulder to see it forms the initials of an individual when it lands; and putting an apple under your pillow to dream of your sweetheart. All of these games and folk customs are survivals of much older ceremonies in honour of the Apple.
Many of these customs are particularly performed at Samhain, as traditionally the Apple is linked to the Celtic Otherworld, where the tree is called the 'silver bough' and possesses magical properties. Samhain is traditionally the time of the year when the veil between the worlds is at its thinnest, a doorway opens between the seen world of matter and the unseen world of Spirit. It is the best time of the year to make shamanic journeys, to connect to the dead, to the Spirit Realms, to gain oracular knowledge and healing powers.
Within each apple is to be found the pentagram. Cut it widthways and the shape is revealed in the formation of the pips. This ancient symbol of knowledge is sacred to the Celtic death Goddess, Cailleach, the Crone, the Veiled One, and Samhain is her time of the year. The Apple is also associated with Venus, Goddess of Love and also linked to the five pointed star.
Verjuice, a kind of scrumpy cider, was ritually drunk at this time of year, to induce altered states and otherworldly experiences. Verjuice is made simply by gathering ripe crab apples, laying them in a pike and leaving them to rot and sweat. The rotten fruit is gathered into a bowl with the stalks removed, beaten to a pulp and pressed through a coarse cloth. The liquid is bottles and is ready to use a month later.
The Apple tree has close links with the shaman, the wise woman, and magicians. It is used when undergoing magical transformations or Otherworld journeys. Celtic/Arthurian myth names one of these other worlds as Avalon, the Apple Vale, the mythical paradise where the hills were clothed with Apple trees bearing flowers and fruit together. The word "Avalon" is derived from the old Irish 'avaloch' meaning 'a place of the Apples'. The old Irish name for the Isles of Arran in the Scottish Firth of Clyde was 'Eamain Abhlach' or 'Evain Avaloch', which means 'Holy Hill of the Apple Trees'. Eventually 'Avaloch' became pronounced 'Avalon'. The Isle of Arran was believed by the Celts to be a physical manifestation of an Otherworld paradise. From the Welsh poem 'Avellenau', the bard Merlin reveals to his lord the existence of his orchard, which he carried around with him always. It was borne from place to place by the enchanter on all his journeys. We all have this ability to link to other worlds and realities within ourselves through our imaginations, to create shifts in our perception, which will reveal fresh insights and understandings for personal healing and development.
Other legends tell of Otherworld visitors to our world who appear in the same guise as the shaman, carrying and Apple branch with bells on it. The Apple Tree also represents shelter, either in this world or as a place to rest when making Otherworld journeys.
Using an Apple wood wand would be the appropriate magical tool to use if you wanted to make shamanic journeys to the Otherworld. It is said that the Apple is used as a calling sign to the Otherworld that you wish to enter their realm. Making your own wand will also help you physically, mentally and spiritually connect to the Apple tree.
Finding the right piece of wood for a wand may take time. Go about this task in a magical frame of mind. There are many considerations such as: how do you feel about cutting a piece from a tree? Or are you going to wait for a piece that needs pruning? If you have your own Apple trees, this is easier, or you can ask friends or family to let you know when they prune their Apple trees so that you can find a suitable piece for yourself that will be cut anyway.
If you cut from a tree, remember to ask the tree, listen to the answer, respect your intuition and respect the tree. As always, thank the tree for its gift. I feel that asking the tree for a wand, is the beginning of a relationship between you and the tree, which is stronger than if you have a piece of wood from an unknown tree.
Another thing to focus on is the size of the wand. I personally favour pencil-sized wands, which I can easily carry around with me in my pocket, but meditation wands, talking sticks and ceremonial wands are usually bigger. If you want to take the bark off, it is easiest to do when the wood is freshly cut, before it dries hard onto the wood. You might not want to take the bark off. Focus on what the wand means to you and you will feel that is right to do.
Apple wood is traditionally used for carving, so you might try your hand at a bit of inspired carving. Rough carving is quite good to do while the wood is fairly fresh, and then leave it to dry out before finishing, but it is prone to splitting, so it is best not to carve when it is very fresh. It is a hard wood, so it is not easy to carve, but it is full of beautiful patterns and colours found in the wood. It doesn't have a regular straight grain and it is a wonderful orangey colour and smells wonderful too. The sweet smell is intensified when it is burnt, and it is worth saving every scrap for ritual fires.
How long it takes for your wand to dry out depends on its size. A thin pencil wand will only take a week or two, but a bigger piece may take a few months, depending on where it is left. Apple wood takes longer than most to dry out and is liable to split if it is not done naturally and slowly. If you take the bark off it is best kept inside a garage or a shed, in a cool, airy place. This way the wood will keep its colour. If the bark is kept on, it can be left outside where the wind, rain and sun can season it slowly, but the colour fades.
Use your Apple wand as an aid to Otherworld journeying. Find a nice quite space (under and Apple tree would be wonderful. In an orchard would be perfect!). Holding a piece of Apple wood or wand, close your eyes, and welcome the Spirit of the Apple into your heart. Do not try to predict what will happen but imagine yourself in a group of trees. If you can't actually sit with an Apple tree then imagine yourself sitting under an Apple tree, looking out at a group of trees. Take note of whatever comes readily into your mind, but let your thoughts and feelings stay fluid, staying focused on your link to the Apple. Then let your mind wander out to the other trees. Look at what trees your unconscious has chosen to be with you, and taking each in turn, what you feel about them. Try to notice if the tree's energy changes, in relation to the other trees that are next to it, also if there are any people or animals, and if so if they have anything to communicate to you. Notice if any tree species are more plentiful than other, as this might be a clue to an area of your life, which needs extra attention. Once you have established this place, then call on you Otherworld guide to meet you. This may be a tree spirit, animal, bird or person. It may take several attempts before you feel or notice that contact has been made. Don't worry about it; let things happen in their own time. It gets easier on repeat journeys.
If you wish to work with the energy of the Apple, you can aid the process by sitting with Apple trees as often as possible, get to know their vibrations, make friends with them. Old orchards are particularly potent places. Also, work with Apple wood, eat more apples, drink apple juice and cider, especially if it is organic and home made! Dry apple peel and drink it as a tea. Try cultivating Apple trees from the pips for some very special trees which you are closely linked with.
Plant Apple trees where ever you live, even if you know you will be moving on. Plant them for the future and for future generations. With the decline of the old orchards, many of the old varieties of apples are now lost to us. But there are many who are seeking to save them. If possible plant varieties that are known to do well in your area, taking into account the size of the future tree and the space available. Every garden has room for at least one Apple tree! There are dwarf varieties available for the small garden, or any variety can be trained to grow flat against a wall or fence. They can also be bought at garden centres already trained to grow flat. There are even varieties that can be grown in a container or pot, although these need a lot of care, feeding and watering. Planting an Apple tree helps you to build up a special relationship with the tree, as you care for it. You find yourself talking to it as you appreciate it's many virtues, especially the beautiful blossom in the Spring and of course, the joy of collecting and eating fresh apples in the Autumn.
Of all the native trees of the British Isles, it is the Elder tree, which evokes my deepest affection. Of all the trees, I talk readily to the Elder and feel the presence of its spirit in a tangible way. It is easy to be thankful for all its abundant herbal, magickal and culinary gifts and easy to feel and honour the wisdom of a wise elder, the wise woman spirit - the Queen of Trees, the Elder Tree Mother. The Elder is the Old Crone aspect of the Triple Goddess, a wise old energy at the end of the year-s cycle.
The Elder rules the 13th moon in the Celtic Tree Calendar, the ending of the old year and beginning of the new at the Celtic festival of Samhain. For this reason the message of the Elder is to honour the beginning in every end and the end in every beginning. Each death, each end, brings a new start, rebirth and regeneration. The Elder grows rapidly from any part, and so speaks to us of regeneration and the power of the life force. It is a powerful symbol of the life energy and creation at a time of the year when everything must return to the Earth for regeneration and renewal. Elder is a reminder of the never ending cycle of life, death and rebirth, bringing power and hope at his dark time in the year's cycle. The Elder is sometimes called the "death tree" because of this. Funerary flints found in megalithic long barrows were Elder leaf shaped, suggesting this association goes back a long way. It is also called the "witch's tree" and certainly the village hedge-witch would have used the Elder extensively, as herbally it is wonderfully rich and potent in all its parts - leaves, flowers, berries and the bark. The presence of the Old Mother energy of the tree probably also accounts for this name. It is said in Irish folklore that is it the Elder stick and not Ash ones, which were used by witches for their magic horses, which makes me, wonder whether the bark was perhaps used for inducing trance. Certainly it is a purgative and will induce vomiting and perspiration. Flutes made of Elder were used to summon spirits, and Elder was also a common wood of wands.
The earliest folk tales praise Elder's ability to ward of evil or malevolent spirits, and to undo evil magic. Elder blossom was worn at Beltane to signify witchcraft and magic and Elder twigs were woven into a headdress at Samhain to enable the wearer to see spirits. But there are two very different folktales associated with the Elder, with a later overlay of bad press imposed by the Church, in their need to eradicate the old Pagan religion from this land. These superstitions say that the tree itself brought death, that a malevolent spirit dwelled within it, that is was the tree from which the cross was made and the tree from which Judas hanged himself. These later overlays grew out of fear of the Old Ways and eradication of the village hedge witch or wise woman who would have used the Elder in many of her herbal remedies..
There are very strong superstitions about not cutting down the Elder. Maybe a fear of releasing that malevolent spirit or maybe born of a deep respect for this tree, which gives so much by way of medicines, food and drink. Early European folk tales tell of a dryad, Hylde-moer, the Elder Tree Mother, who lives in the Elder tree and watches over it. Should the tree be chopped down and furniture made of the wood, Hylde-moer would follow her property and haunt the owners. Similar tales tell that if a child's cradle were to be made of Elder, Hylde-moer would pinch the child black and blue and give it no peace or rest. Thus it is considered unlucky to make a cradle out of Elder wood - Birch being the proper wood for a cradle, signifying a new start or inception.
Other folklore customs associated with the Elder invoke its ability to drive away evil spirits. As a protection against evil (and later against witchcraft!) its branches were hung in doorways of houses, cow sheds, buried in graves and its twigs were carried at funerals.
Elder can be used to bless a person; place or thing, by scattering leaves and berries to the four directions, and over the thing or person being blessed, while and speaking invocations with heartfelt intention and imagry. The Elder is the Old Crone aspect of the Triple Goddess, and powerful indeed is her protection and blessing. She guards the entrance to the Underworld and death, the threshold of consciousness and the dark inner mysteries. She represents change and transformation at the deepest inner level.
At Samhain, the last of the elderberries were picked with solemn rites. The wine made from these berries was considered the last sacred gift or the Earth Goddess, and was valued and drunk ritually to invoke prophecy, divination and hallucinations.
Elderberry wine has curative powers of established repute. Taken hot at night it will help in the early stages of cold or flu, and is excellent for a sore throat and catarrh. This is due to the viburnic acids contained in the berries, which stimulates the immune system, induces perspiration and helps to 'bring the cold out'. It also had a reputation in the past as an excellent remedy for asthma.
Make it simply by stripping off the ripe berries with a fork until you have three gallons of berries. Pour over 2 gallons of boiling water, cover and leave in a warm place for 24 hours. Strain through muslin and press all the juice well out. Measure the juice and allow 3lbs of sugar, half an ounce of ginger and quarter of an ounce of cloves to each gallon (approx 5 litres). Boil slowly for 20 minutes, strain into a bucket, adding yeast when it is lukewarm. Pour into demijohns, standing them in a warm place while the yeast works through the sugar. Bottle when it stops. It's really best to leave it for at least a year, and after 2 or 3 years it improves greatly and is even better. An old cure for colds and coughs, and especially bronchitis was to make a 'rob' (a vegetable juice thickened by heat) from elderberries. Use 5lbs of fresh ripe berries, crushed with 1 lb of sugar and evaporate to the thickness of honey. One or two tablespoons mixed with hot water and taken at night will act as a demulcent to the chest and throat.
Elderberries are used for rheumatism, as well as being used to cool any swellings, such as piles. The can also be mixed with other seasonal fruits and used for pies, jams, vinegar, ketchup and chutney. Too numerous to go into here but some excellent recipes can be found in old herbals such as Mrs Grieves Modern Herbal.
Relearning to make and use these age-old cures for common ailments connects me to the Earth, its abundance and my power. I become a part of nature and I value and bless the plants and the trees for all their gifts to us. Medicines from the chemist invariably have all manner of unknown chemicals in them and are also very expensive. A wealth of cheap, effective, natural medicines are just waiting to be used and reclaimed, none more useful and abundant than the Elder.
The Elder has a powerful life force energy and has survived in the cities and towns and even manages to grow out of cracks in concrete. It flourishes near abandoned dwellings, in churchyards, canals, rabbit warrens and badger setts - in fact wherever the nitrogen content is high, where the soil has been broken down by organic matter such as dung, compost and refuse. It survives on the common lands, wastelands and along railways lines- so even if you live in the city it can still be found. Spot it in June when the abundance of its fine white flowers can be seen clearly. Remember where it is so that you can return to it at other times of the year when it may not be so recognisable. In the Autumn it has distinctive clusters of dark purple berries and the leaves yellow and drop early.
There are so many things to use it for that it is a valuable tree to have near. It makes a fast growing hedge, which can be clipped to thicken it. Like the Willow, it can be planted easily by pushing small sections of fresh wood into the earth or into pots of compost. This is best done in Autumn and Winter. In the Spring keep clipping off the flowers and all but the main shoot, to encourage the roots to grow during its first year. It is a useful small tree for a garden, but best grown in a back corner as not much will grow beneath it.
It is a good insecticide. Simply rub the leaves onto the skin or make an infusion of the leaves by pouring boiling water onto a jug of leaves. Cover it while it infuses, to keep in the goodness and then strain off the leaves and bottle. This can be rubbed into the skin frequently, and will prevent mosquitoes, midges and flies settling on you. (A mixture like this will be effective for a day or two but is best remade daily.) A sprig of the leaves worn in the hat also helps. The same mixture can also be sprayed onto other plants to keep off aphids and other small insects.
The leaves can also be made into an ointment as a remedy for bruises, swellings sprains, chilblains and wounds, bringing a cooling effect. Take three parts fresh Elder leaves, heat them up with 6 parts Vaseline or similar until; the leaves are crisp. Then strain and store.
The flowers, which are at their best at midsummer, also have many uses from eye bath to skin tonic, for colds and flu and catarrhal inflammation of the upper respiratory tract, such as hay fever and sinusitis. Gather the flowers on a dry day and dry them fast. They do discolour but are perfectly OK. I have found the best method is to hang the clusters upside down in paper bags, somewhere warm and dry. The bags catch the flowers as they dry and drop off. When completely dry, store them in dark screw-top jars.
A tea made from the fresh flowers makes an excellent Spring/Summer tonic, take fresh each morning to purify the blood. They can also be added to salads, cakes and made into wonderful summer drinks such as elderflower cordial and elderflower champagne.
The use of the bark as a strong purgative dates back to Hippocrates, but is rarely used nowadays. The Romans apparently used elderberry juice to dye their hair black. Culpepper suggests boiling them in wine first. The bark of Elder branches was used in the making of a black dye and also the root. The leaves, mixed with alum, make a green dye and the berries make a blue and purple dye (with alum) and violet (with alum and salt).
The word 'Elder' comes from the Anglo-Saxon word "aeld" meaning fire, probably due to the hollowed out stems being used to blow up the fire. Inside the stem is thick soft pith, which can easily be hollowed out, forming hollow tubes. These used to be used to make whistles and pipes, hence the Elder's country name 'pipe tree' or 'bore tree' as it is still called in Scotland. Other old names for Elder are Eldrun, Ellhorn, Hydlore and Hyllan tree.
The generic name of the Elder is Sambucus, this is apparently a musical instrument found in ancient Greece. It is said to be, a stringed instrument, a kind of harp, which I find hard to believe, when it naturally makes pipe. Many types of wind instruments have been made out of hollowed out stems of the Elder, including flutes, panpipes and a surprisingly loud reeded whistle. Italian country folk still make a simple pipe called a sampogna out of Elder. Throughout Europe, generations of country children have made pop-guns and pea shooters from the hollowed out stems of Elder.
The wood is white to yellow, with a fine grain. It is a hard wood, but it cuts easily and it polishes up well. Perhaps because of the superstitions about not cutting it down, and because it is a fairly small tree, it's wood was not used much in the past. It was used for small pegs, skewers, spoons, small turned items, combs and toys.
The hollowed out stems make natural beads, which are very easy and satisfying to make. Cut a young branch into bead-sized pieces with secateurs or saw them. Then scrape off the bark and sand, first with a rough sandpaper and then with a finer one. Wear the beads for protection and as an allegiance to the Elder and nature spirits.
I find that the modern farmer and modern methods of hedge cutting do not heed the old lore, and plenty of cut Elder is found along the hedgerows if you keep an eye open for it. It is best to use wood, which is newly cut, or 6 months to a year old. Do not use old wood. Many insects live inside the stems, as the pith is so soft and easy to hollow out. Perhaps this is why it is not considered good to bring it into your house to burn if it's full of ants and earwigs! I have heard that is not a good burner anyway.
If you do need to cut yourself some wood from the tree, approach the tree with respect; ask first, and listen with an open heart. Don't cut if you get a strong intuition not to. Some people like to leave a small gift of some kind - something practical like untangling ivy, watering the tree in dry weather or tidying up rubbish from around the tree. An attitude of gratitude and thanks to the tree is a positive act which all of nature responds well to. Others say is matters not to the tree but the very act of thanking opens up something in us, which is very healthy and necessary for our spirits. For this reason it is important to state your thanks simply and from the heart, each time you take nature's gift. I also find that it builds up a great bond with a tree, a friendship of great power and wisdom. The Elder, of all the trees, has much to teach us, through direct contact, communication and reconnection to past uses and country lore.
The Hawthorn (Crataegus mongyna), Whitethorn, Haegthorn, Quickthorn or May Tree, is one of the most wild, enchanted and sacred of our native trees. Known as the 'Faerie Tree' and the 'Queen of the May', this beautiful, often ancient and gnarled, thorny little tree can live to 700 years old, and can be found growing on ancient sites, marking old boundaries and growing in the wildest and harshest of spots. It grows all over Europe, Greece, North Africa and Western Asia and is rich in folklore and legend.
Even when it is found growing in a town, the Hawthorn retains the spirit of the wild, and some Hawthorn town hedges have probably been there for hundreds of years - long before the town build up around them. The beauty of this tree in the Springtime, when it is in full blossom, touches all our hearts and it holds a special place in our affections. In the Autumn, the red berries feed the birds and provide colour and beauty after the colourful Autumn leaves have gone.
Hawthorn has long been used as a herbal remedy that is beneficial to the heart. The etheric signature of the Hawthorn is said to have a pulsation that is similar to that of the human heartbeat. Before taking Hawthorn as a herb or as a flower essence, it is a good idea to tune into your heartbeat for a few minutes, to help you consciously align with the energy of the Hawthorn.
The Hawthorn will help release blocked energy, not only releasing stress, but creating an ability to trust and let go of fear. As fear is released, great psychic energy of Love is opened up. For this reason, the Hawthorn is particularly potent as a tool for healing affairs of the heart and has long been given as a token of friendship and Love.
This link to the heart and Love is reflected in its symbolism and its place in folklore and legend. It is linked to the Beltane festival of the Old Religion, which celebrated the fertility of the Earth and humankind. Later, when the Church tried to eradicate the Old Religion and replace it with Christianity, the Hawthorn became associated with misfortune, chastity and sexual abstinence. This later overlay is now being transformed again, as the Hawthorn is recognised as a positive symbol of the heart through its ability on a subtle level to open the heart to spiritual growth and Love.
Hawthorn has long been prized as a heart tonic and the leaves, the flowers and the berries can all be used medicinally. The berries especially are the most effective. They act in a normalising way upon the heart by either stimulating or depressing its activity, depending on the need, gently moving the heart to normal function. Hawthorn berries may be used safely as a long-term treatment for heart weakness, palpitations, high blood pressure and angina. It is perfectly safe for children and the elderly and for drinking daily over long periods. The Druids used the Hawthorn to strengthen the body in the frailty of old age. Drink an infusion of the berries three times a day during old age, during periods of stress, to ease pressure of work, or for any nervous condition. It improves the blood supply to all tissues and is good for improving circulation. Relieving stress and anxiety, it will bring a calm sleep if drunk at night.
Collect the berries in the Autumn before the frosts. Dry them in brown paper bags in the airing cupboard and store them in brown paper bags of dark jars. Their potency will last for two years. The dried berries are made into a decoction. Allow two teaspoons of the berries for each drink and soak in cold water over night. The next day, strain off the berries and drink the liquid cold or boil the liquid and the berries gently for 15-20 minutes and drink as a tea.
The blossom can be drunk as a tonic tea, which also has a beneficial effect on the heart and circulation. It is both necessary and safe to take it over long periods, as its action is very gradual. To make an infusion, pour a cup of boiling water onto two teaspoons of the dried flowers. Cover and leave to infuse for 20 minutes. If you collect the flowers, they need to be dried quickly in brown paper bags hung in an airy place and then sealed in an airtight container, as their potency tends to deteriorate quickly. Gather them fresh every year.
The Hawthorn's many names reflect its uses and properties; Haegthorn is Anglo-Saxon and refers to its use as a hedging plant, and Quickthorn also reflects its use as a quick growing hedge or boundary hedge. Whitethorn refers to the lightness of its bark, which contrasts with the Blackthorns black bark. In many olden tales it is simply referred to as the Thorn, as in the ballad 'Oak, Ash and Thorn'. This is a particularly potent combination of trees if found growing together. The Hawthorns thorns are long, straight and extremely hard. They were used as a kind of pin or brooch - for holding material together.
The most common folk name we have for the Hawthorn is the May tree. The May blossom appears on the tree at the beginning of May in the south of England, at the time of the Beltane or May Day celebrations, when people and houses were decked with May blossom. This was referred to as 'bringing home the May'. The popular rhyme "Here we go gathering nuts in May" may have originally been 'knots of May', blossoms from the Hawthorn for the May Day Celebrations (as nuts do not grow in May). These celebrations included a May Queen, representing the Goddess, and the spirit of the new vegetation, the Green Man.
May was known as the "Merry Month" and folk went about 'wearing green', decking themselves in greenery and May blossom. Everywhere at this time is bursting with life and fertility, and the old festival of Beltane is a celebration of this fertile force of Nature. The cutting of the May blossom had great significance and symbolised the beginning of new life, the onset of the growing season and potential of unions.
The ceremony of the maypole and maypole dancing is symbolic of renewed life and sexual union. The pole itself is a phallic symbol and the disc at the top, from which the ribbons are tied, represents the female opening. The maypole dance itself represents the union of the male and female and fertility. In some parts of the British Isles, it was the custom to plant a May tree outside every house, or for young men to plant a May tree outside the home of their sweetheart.
It was said to be common practice to fetch a living Hawthorn tree into the village from the woods every year. This living tree would still have a resident tree spirit or Dryad within the tree, and it would have been the tree-spirit itself who was central to the ceremony. The villagers would welcome it into the village and ask for its help and blessing, to bring fertility to the land and good luck to the harvest. This later became symbolised by a person dressed as the Green Man, or tree spirit, who would dance around the outside of the maypole dancers.
Another old folklore custom is that of tying of ribbons or shreds of clothing or rags onto May trees at this time, especially when they grew near wells. The rags were dipped in the spring water and tied on the tree with wishes for the future. As this is the fertile time, then this is the perfect time for this form of magic. The rags were also said to be gifts for the Faeries or Elementals that were thought to dwell near Hawthorn trees.
A twig of Oak, and Ash and Thorn, bound together with a red thread, was used as a protective charm, as was the use of bells (on the legs of the dancing Morris men).
In later folklore, the Hawthorn becomes a tree of misfortunes and bad luck. The power and potency of the old customs was defused by the Church, which tried in every way to make the people fear the old ways and reverse their own power symbols. In Rome, Greece and Britain, the Hawthorn became a tree of enforced chastity. What had been a time of revelry and celebration of sexual potency became a time of purification ceremonies. No marriages were allowed during the month of May and up to the Ides of June (mid June) as it was considered unlucky to marry in the Hawthorn month. The people were encouraged to abstain from sexual intercourse during the month of May, which is why it was considered not a good month to marry. People went about in old clothes, didn't wash or do anything to make themselves beautiful. "Ne're cast a clout till May be out" is not necessarily referring to the unpredictable British Climate, but meant instead "do not change you old clothes until the unlucky month is over". (I wonder here if the odd rough and tumble in the woods would then go unnoticed, and there was therefore an advantage in staying in ones old clothes!). There is a similar proverb in northern Spain, referring to his custom of wearing old clothes in May, which cannot be a reference to the weather, which is very settled there by then.
The Hawthorn then became a symbol of chastity, purity and cleansing. The May Queen became white, virginal, pure and untouchable. The May Eve night of the Green wood revelries of Beltain Eve that had previously lasted all night and included washing your face in the morning dew, became the May Day village event, where all were seen, and respectability was demanded by the puritanical expectations of the Church. This made it hard for the villagers to stay up all night for Beltain and, at the same time, be bright eyed and respectable for the daytime celebrations. And so the month of the May blossom became transformed from a celebration of the sexual and the fertile life-force, to its opposite - a period of restraint, waiting, and keeping oneself pure and respectable.
Another name for the Hawthorn is the 'Bread and Cheese Tree'. This refers to the young leaves and leaf buds which country folk and children would eat straight from the tree. They have a sweet nutty flavour and can be added to salads along with the flowers. A liqueur can be made from Hawthorn buds and brandy, and from Hawthorn berries and brandy.
Haw wine is made by pouring 1 gallon (four and a half litres) of boiling water over 4 pounds (2kg) of berries. Cover and leave this to stand for a week, stirring daily. Strain off the berries and add the juice and thinly peeled rind of 1 lemon and 2 oranges, and 2 pounds of sugar (1kg), melted in a little water. When the mixture is cool, add the yeast and leave in a covered bucket for 24 hours. Strain off the rind and transfer to a fermentation jar. When fermentation has finished, bottle and keep for a year. Hawthorn berries make a thick sherry type wine.
Formerly the timber, when of sufficient size, was used for making small articles, such as handles, and because of its hardness, it was used for engravers' blocks. The root wood was used for making boxes and combs. The wood has a fine grain and polishes up beautifully. It is a most desirable fuel wood as it burns very hot, but it was protected by folklore from being cut wantonly because of its association with Faerie.
The Holy Thorn of Glastonbury, a Hawthorn tree that flowers at Christmas time as well as in May, has been used as a talisman since if first appeared on the Isle of Avalon. It was said to have grown from the staff (magician's tool) of Joseph of Arimathea when he thrust it into the ground of Wearyall Hill at Glastonbury. Since then, many people have claimed that just touching this tree has helped them in their quest for deeper spiritual understanding, and the leaves are used as a talisman.
Talismans are a form of contagious magic, carried on the person. A talisman made from Hawthorn wood will enhance you ability to release Love, open the heart and align yourself to your spiritual development. The Ogham letter for the Hawthorn is H. Huath. Representing good fortune, spiritual growth and psychic protection. When you you're your self a talisman, state a phrase that expresses the purpose for which the talisman is made, as this will help focus its use. Wear your talisman round your neck, or as a brooch, or simply carry it in your pocket, to touch and gain strength from when needed ( the origins of 'touchwoods').
If you wish to cut yourself a piece from a living tree, be sure to do it with reverence and thanks to the tree. I always manage to find plenty of cut Hawthorn in the lanes rounds about, but I do keep my eyes open for it, as I don't like cutting it. It is a warm golden coloured wood that polishes up well and has such a lovely feel to it.
Carve off the bark while it is still fresh if you want to reveal the wood, as it comes of easily before it dries hard onto the wood. Keep the cut wood outside until you are ready to start working on it, as that will stop it from drying out too quickly. Hawthorn is an especially hard wood and carving is more easily done on green wood, although green wood is likely to split
Wands can be made in the same way, large wands for ceremonies and smaller ones for healing tools, which can be carried in a small pouch or pocket. Hawthorn is traditionally used for psychic shields, particularly for the innocent and vulnerable. It can be given to help protect a child from any harsh energies in the environment, and particularly at puberty when a child is particularly sensitive and vulnerable, and in need of psychic protection. This aspect is also reflection in its use as a hedging plant, not only as a thick impenetrable growth but also as a psychic shield.
A Hawthorn globe or charm ball can be made from twigs. Traditionally made at first light on New Year's Day (Samhain) from last year's foliage, and tied with white ribbon. Traditionally the old charm ball from the previous year was burnt on a bonfire of straw, Ash twigs and acorns. Ritually this is to represent your old self being transformed in the Fire. Your new self is forged anew in the new Hawthorn globe, which is kept until the next New Year's Day.
Whatever you make from Hawthorn be sure to state your intent, and treat the tree with great respect if you cut the wood. The traditions of it being under the protection of the Faeries, and the subtle wild energy of this little tree should leave you in no doubt of its power. It you wish you learn from the wisdom of the Hawthorn, choose an old tree of great maturity and make time to sit with the tree, opening yourself to it's wisdom. The many traditions associated with the Hawthorn, especially around spring and early summer suggests that its energy is strongest at this time.
I believe that the Hawthorn is a very much involved in humankind's evolution into the Aquarian age to evolve a more open-hearted and humanitarian attitude to life, Love and spirituality. I sense a willingness within the Hawthorn's energy to help us and be part of this transformation.
The Rowan (sorbus aucuparia), Mountain Ash or Quickbeam, has the ability, perhaps more than any other tree, to help us increase our psychic abilities and to receive visions and insights through communication with the Spirit Realms or the Otherworld. In the past it was valued as a protection against enchantment, unwanted influences and evil spirits. Sprigs of Rowan were placed over doorways and fixed to cattle sheds to protect the animals from harm. Similarly, farmers would drive their sheep though hoops of Rowan branches, and in Wales, Rowan trees were planted in churchyards to watch over and protect the spirits of the dead.
In the past Rowan was valued for its ability to provide us with forewarnings and foreknowledge. It brings an increased awareness of outside influences, which may be affecting us, which we may have been unaware of. This is why it is such an important tree to communicate with. It brings a quickening of awareness of all our senses and abilities, on many different levels of our existence. If you are working with the Rowan, the messages which are constantly passed to us from the Spirit Realms become more obvious, as we become more open to receiving and interpreting these signs in our everyday lives.
Meditation is greatly enhanced by holding a Rowan twig, wand or touchwood. Similarly, Rowan wood can be used to focus your intention to understand and receive messages from the Spirit Realms and your Spirit Guides. Wearing a Rowan talisman, or carrying a piece of Rowan touchwood, will also enhance these abilities.
Rowans ability to open up communication with the Spirit Realms is the key to Rowan energy. Its name is linked with the Norse word 'runa' meaning 'a charm', and the Sanskrit 'runa' meaning a magician. Rune staves are sticks on which the runes were inscribed and were often made of Rowan wood. In the Celtic Tree Ogham, Rowan is the second of the Ogham letters, and is named 'Luis'. It provides 'the quickening' of energy set in motion by the first tree, the Birch, and opens up communication with the Spirit Realms, which is so necessary for anyone wishing to work with trees, healing and energy pathways.
With clear intention and focus, use the Ogham symbol whenever the Rowan's qualities need to be invoked. It would also be an appropriate wood to choose for making a set of Ogham sticks if you wanted to make a set quickly without waiting to collect each stick from each of the relevant trees. Mark each stick with each of the 20 Ogham symbols and use for received messages or divination by interpreting each symbol in the light of the question asked. Rowan twigs are used for metal divining, just as Hazel twigs are used for Water divining. Rowan wood is also used for making magically charged staffs or spears, magically protective house timbers and posts, which are inscribed with runes or other symbols.
Rowan is the wood to use for making any magical tool that involves divining, invocation and communication with the Spirit Realms. It will help you to discriminate between what will do you harm or do you good, and help you deal with anything that threatens you. Rowan leaves and berries can be added to divination incenses.
If you feel you are in need of the protective qualities of the Rowan, perhaps because you have feelings of being oppressed by strong powerful forces or dark influences, or you feeling you are under psychic attack, then harness the power of the Rowan. Nail sprigs of Rowan across your doors and windows and wear a sprig of the leaves, flowers or berries in your hat. Carve yourself a brooch or a talisman to wear. Take a small piece of Rowan wood and sandpaper it smooth so that is it a constant pocket-companion for you to touch and gain strength from. Make a healing-pouch out of chamois leather by cutting out a circle the size of a teacup. Make holes all the way round the edge and thread a leather thong or plaited thread through the holes. In your pouch place a piece of bark or berries from the Rowan and wear it round your neck next to your skin if possible.
The Rowan berry has a tiny five-pointed star opposite its stalk. The pentagram, ancient symbol of protection, is an outward manifestation of the Rowans protective powers, but there is more to the picture than this. It is not just the Rowan that protects you, but you, yourself. An increase in psychic ability and life-force energy puts you in touch with your own power, thus breaking any victim consciousness, or malevolent influences, which may have entrapped and weakened you.
The Rowan grows higher up the sides of mountains than any other native tree, often sprouting and growing from the tiniest of crevices and growing in the most inaccessible of spots. Its life-force energy is strong and determined. It reflects a power, a vitality and tenacity, with a clear message that harnessing the power of the life-force will make any manifestation possible. Its message is not to give up, but to hold on strong to the highest good you believe in. What you believe will become manifest, as you have believed it to be. We need to keep aware of what thoughts and influences we ourselves set in motion for ourselves.
The Rowan strengthens your personal power. It is this aspect that makes the Rowan such a powerful ally. Strengthening your positive life-energy increases your personal power so that you can withstand any negative forces. This is how it acts as a protective influence.
The Rowan is associated with the planet Mercury, the principle of communication between the worlds of the seen and the unseen.
Rowan is associated with Imbolc, the Great Fire Festival of early February, which is held to mark the quickening of the year. Imbolc is connected to the powerful surge of new growth, which is stirring in the depths of the Earth. It also represents the rebirth of Spirit, the spiralling out of the light energy from within and the upsurge in personal energy with which this is linked. Imbolc is dedicated to the young maiden aspect of the Triple Goddess, she, like Rowan, is associated with divine inspiration, illumination, intuition and the binding power of poetry and healing. More then ever, we need to harness these qualities and to make them part of our everyday lives. Imbolc and the Rowan help us to tap into a true synthesis and integration of our physical and spiritual selves by helping us to receive and act upon our intuitive insights that rise from within us. Learning to trust these parts of ourselves brings us into balance.
Working with the Rowan tree at Imbolc facilitates a quickening of personal power and inner resources. Make time to link in with Rowan energy, to help transformation, inspiration and visions. Choose any method of divination, such as candle-gazing, scrying, meditation, inspired drawings or free-flowing poetry. Leave your conscious mind behind and allow the intuitive process to unfold. Stare into nothingness, stare into mandala patterns or Celtic knot work patterns, or simply sit and 'be' and daydream. These are all very good for you and help you receive understanding and insight on another level. Sitting with trees and receiving impressions from them, reading the patterns in their bark, in their branches or in the landscape, or seeing pictures in the fire - all can open the doorway to receiving messages from the Otherworld and our Spirit helpers and guides.
Plant a Rowan tree near your house, and build up a relationship with this very special tree as it grows. It has been planted near houses for centuries to ward off evil (and witches too it is said, but we all know that this is a corruption of the earlier tradition.) This small, beautiful tree is an ideal garden tree as it does not take up too much room and it's sparse foliage allows other plants to grow beneath it. In Spring it has clusters of white, starry flowers and in the Autumn the leaves turn red and orange and it is a mass of red berries, which attract the birds into your garden.
The berries can be made into a variety of drinks, jams and medicines. Cut the clusters of berries off the trees in October while they are still firm (leave some for the birds!) and dry them by hanging them upside down in brown paper bags. This is best done in a warm, airy place or airing cupboard. When they are completely dry, keep them in brown paper bags or dark jars. The juice from the berries is mildly laxative and makes a good gargle for sore throats and hoarseness. To extract the juice from the dried berries, soak one teaspoonful in one cup of cold water for 10 hours or overnight, strain and use as a gargle.
When made into jam, the fruit becomes astringent, which is good for mild diarrhoea. To make the jam, collect fresh berries in the Autumn, trim off the stalks and weigh the fruit. Boil the berries, strain off the seeds and skins and re-boil the liquid with 1 pound of sugar to each pint of juice until it sets. You may need to add some crab apples to the original boiling, to provide pectin to help it to set. It has a sharp flavour, which is good with cheese, salad or with meat.
The fruit can also be boiled, strained and made into wine, or gently boiled to make a vitamin C drink which was previously used for scurvy. The Welsh made a special ale using Rowan berries, but the secret of this is now lost. Perhaps with a creative, intuitive approach the ale-makers amongst us could create a new Rowan berry ale for feasts, rituals and ceremonies.
The Rowan yields a black dye used for tanning. The Druids used it for dying their ceremonial black robes, which they used for lunar ceremonies. The ancient Druids of Ireland also lit fires of Rowan wood before battles and incantations were spoken over the flames to summon spirits to take part in the fight and to combat evil forces. Bewitched horses and animals were controlled by Rowan whips.
It was noted by John Lightfoot in his Flora Scotica of 1777 that Rowans were planted in the neighbourhood of the ancient stone circles and great Rowan thickets were planted at oracular sites throughout Europe.
It was also known that the Druids built special platforms made from interwoven Rowan twigs known as 'The Wattles of Knowledge'. These were used as a kind of bed on which a Druid would lie as part of a ritual, which induced a trance to gain hidden knowledge.
The surnames MacCairthin and MacCarthy come from an old Gaelic word for Rowan and literally means 'Son of Rowan'.
Wands of all sizes may be made from Rowan wood, from a pencil thin wand for the pocket, to a large ceremonial wand, decorated with symbols and dedicated to the Rowan. Is also makes very good walking sticks if you can find a straight length. It is particularly good if you are intending to go night walking. The increase in psychic abilities is obviously enhanced by holding the wood for any long periods of time.
As always, only cut from a living tree only after you have asked the tree, told it of your wishes and waited to feel that the tree gives you it's consent. Making a deep connection of thanks to the tree is also very important and will ensure that your stick or wand does not carry any residue of unhappiness with it.
If you wish to take all or some of the bark off, it is best to do so soon after you have cut it, as it peels off easily at this stage. Rough carving is easiest then too and you can then leave the wood to dry out naturally before fine carving and sanding. It is an easy, softish wood to carve and can be used for small carved objects. Keep awareness of the sacred task you are undertaking while you work and feel your way into connection with the underlying energy of the Rowan, which you must honour. Be alert for an increase in your psychic powers, which your Rowan wand or stick will induce in you. Use your Rowan wand to help you find inspired solutions to your problems. Sleep with a piece of Rowan under you pillow to bring inner knowledge to the surface. Heed any portents or signs relating to future events.
Rowan energy should not be underestimated and its influence will bring about energy shifts on many subtle levels. For this reason, it has always been used by the wise, and respected and revered as a powerful energy tool, enhancing our ability to travel between the worlds.
The Willow tree is associated with the Moon, Water, the Goddess, and all that is feminine. It is the tree of dreaming, intuition and deep emotions. Symbolically it belongs to the beginning of Spring, when all of life is stirring from the depths and begins to shoot outwards once again. In the Ogham alphabet, the Willow's name is Saille, which became anglicised to 'sally', which means a sudden outburst of emotions, action or expression (to 'sally forth'). The Old French 'saille' also means to rush out suddenly and the Latin 'salire' means to leap. This is the underlying energy of the Willow, and the key to understanding the powerful spirit of this beautiful tree.
The early Spring Celtic festival of Imbolc, Oimelc or Imolg is one of the two great female Fire Festivals among the yearly cycle of four. Imbolc is celebrated at the beginning of February and, like the Willow, is sacred to Brigit, Brigantia, and Bride, being the Maiden aspect of the Triple Goddess. It celebrates her re-emergence as a young virgin from the mountain fastness of her mother Caileach - she who is of Winter, the Goddess of burial mounds and dark places. Cailleach, the Crone aspect of the Triple Goddess, drinks from the well of youth and is transformed into Bride/Brigit who is her other self. This is the Celtic version of the Demeter/Kore story of death and rebirth. Imbolc is sacred to women and the power of the feminine principles of inspiration, illumination and seer-ship. Bride is the Goddess of healing, poetry, the hearth and smith-craft. It is a time of initiation and of beginnings and celebrates the renewal of the potency of the Earth mother and the union with the male principle of the returning light. The Church transformed this festival into Candlemass but kept much of the Celtic/Pagan symbolism.
The Willow has much to teach us in its associations with our feminine aspects. By spending time with Willows, or using the wood to make a talisman or wand, by taking it herbally or as a Bach flower remedy, we can deepen this connection. Spending time with Willow trees at the full Moon will increase the potency of the insights and understanding to be gained from our dreams. Working with the Willow in the early Spring, when the Willow's energy and the Earth's energy are aligned, is also a particularly potent time to explore its aspects.
The Willow has always been known as a tree dreaming and enchantment, and it was associated in Celtic legend with poets and with spells of fascination and binding. This is the Willow Moon energy, which puts us in touch with our feelings and deep emotions. It is the ability of the Willow to help us to express these, let them out, own them and change them in fantastic leaps of inspired eloquence and understanding.
Our deep unconscious thoughts speak to us through our dreams. If you have lost touch with your dreams or wish to increase their potency, make your self a Willow wand and sleep with it under your pillow focusing on your intention to work with your dreams, before you go to sleep. You will find your dreams will immediately become more vivid and meaningful. Studying your dreams, writing them down, opening your intuition to interpreting them can lead to healing emotional problems and releasing tension in your life.
Movement on the emotional level, of allowing the emotions to come through to the surface, is the power of the Willow's essential energy. Deep emotional pain blocks the energy of the body and can cause many illnesses. The Willow will allow the person to move through the many levels of sadness, express the pain though tears and grief, and, by moving through these emotions, facilitate healing. The Bach flower remedy Willow is to be taken by those who have suffered adversity or misfortune in life and remain embittered by it. Willow will help the movement out of this negative state to a greater interest and in the present.
When you are either over-stimulated by your feelings or cut off from them, connecting with a tree with a Water attunement will greatly help. If you are attracted to a particular tree, then allow this and reach out to the tree with openness and a willingness to accept your intuitive responses. Physical contact with a tree will help balance your bodies' energy, and as you stand or sit with a tree you might receive some insight and inspirational thoughts. If you feel you have made a deep connection with a tree and want to end that communication, thank the tee and then move slowly out from it and focus some Love-light around the tree. It has been proven that the plant world is greatly enhanced by this. An attitude of thanks and gratitude for nature is also a sure way of opening up the channels of communication with tree and plants.
On a herbal level, Willow bark has been used for its pain reliving qualities for at least 2,000 years. The Willow contains salicin, which is converted to salicylic acid in the body. Salicylic acid is closely related to aspirin, the synthetic drug that has displaced Willow bark from popular use. Willow bark reduces fever and relives rheumatism, a common ailment in these damp isles. A decoction can be used for gum and tonsil inflammations and as a footbath for sweaty feet. The bark is collected in the springtime, being careful not to ring the tree or it will die. The decoction is made by soaking 3 teaspoons (15ml) of the bark in a cup of cold water for 2 - 5 hours. Then bring to the boil. Strain and take a wineglassful each day, a mouthful at a time. The bark can be dried, powdered and stored in any dark container, for it is light that will destroy its herbal properties.
Black Willow (salix nigra) is used in very much the same way as the White Willow, (salix alba). Willow bark tea is recommended for indigestion, whooping couch and catarrh. The same decoction can also be used as an antiseptic and disinfectant.
Culpeper says in his Complete Herbal "The Moon owns the Willow". Moon magic puts us in touch with our emotions and unconscious, which balances out our solar rational conscious mind. By working with the Moon and the cycles of the Moon, we reconnect to the duality of the Light (waxing) and the Dark (waning) and the tides, the seas, underground as well as surface Water. This puts us in touch with the healing energetic qualities of Water, which include flowing, surrender, harmonising, memory, intuition, change, reflection.
Willow was also known as the witches' tree and the tree of enchantment. Robert Graves suggests that witch, and wicker are derived from the word Willow. Willow rods ('withies') are certainly used for binding magical and sacred objects and the popular witches' broom (the besom broom) is traditional made with an Ash handle and the Birch twigs that make the broom are bound with Willow.
Willow wands are used for any ritual association with the Moon and as a protection on deep journeys into the Otherworld and the unconscious.
The Willow will always enhance inspired leaps of the imagination and is recommended to be used when seeking to assimilate the teachings of an elder, wise woman or master. Understanding another person's enlightened place is made easier through the Willow's energy. Also work with Willow energy when seeking to understand ancient ways, so that you can assimilate past levels of information and quickly move through the underlying emotions of the times, to appreciate humankind's patterns and move forwards, to utilise this information for change.
Willow is used for charms of fascination and binding, and during the Spring Moon we link to the myths and legends that tell of the power of the Spring Maiden who fascinates and binds the power of the young King. Aphrodite is associated with the Spring, the bright half of the Moon, courtship and Union, which blesses the land with fertility. British and Irish mythology is also rich with legends of the beguiling willowy Spring Maiden called Olwen, Niwalen, Gwenhyver, Cordelia, Blodeuwedd and many others, who initiate the young King into deeply sexual experiences.
Tree magic generally falls into the class of sympathetic magic, which operates through the 'Doctrine of Signatures'. This states that a plant will act on that part of the body that it most resembles. This can be sub-divided into homeopathic magic (the Law of Similarity) and contagious magic (the Law of Contact, using a magically charged object).
Homeopathic magic works on the principle that 'like begets like', and by using Willow wood for a wand or talisman it will be charged with the energetic properties of the Willow tree. The flexibility of the Willow's twigs inspires us to move with life and our feelings, rather than resist what we are feeling. It can also help you to let go of conditioned responses to life's experiences and to move towards a greater acceptance of self and others.
When one of the Willow's branches or twigs becomes disconnected, it will easily grow into a new tree if it finds some soil and Water, teaching us that contained within a loss, or a new direction, is the capacity for growth and healing. Willow is one of the best water-divining woods, along with Hazel and Birch.
Willow's weeping stance reflects its association with grief. By wearing a piece of Willow (as in the popular song "all around my hat I will wear the green Willow") a person will be able to access all the levels of grief connected with a loss, and be able to move through all these different levels, experience the whole deep emotional experience, to reach the place where they can gain healing and inner strength from it.
Homeopathic magic and contagious magic can be combined in the making of wands, talismans and any other objects made for personal or ritual use. Making a wand from Willow will help you connect to all the Willow's qualities, which are naturally contained within the wood. Although you may want to charge or empower certain aspects for specific use.
Willow wands are used whenever there is a need to connect with intuition, dreams, seer ship, visions, poetic and inspired writings or images, and whenever there is either an emotional numbness or emotional excess, or where there are negative emotional feelings, which need to be worked through.
I like to work with wind blown wood that has naturally broken from the tree, but it must be a piece that the tree has recently shed. Alternatively ask the tree for a piece to use and cut your wand in a respectful and intuitive way, thanking the tree in what ever way feels appropriate. You may like to use a penknife to take the bark off, or some of the bark off, and carve it and energise your wand with magical symbols. It is easier to carve fresh wood and then let it dry out. Small twigs dry out quickly in a porch, out house or shed but it is better to let larger pieces of wood dry slowly under a hedge, in the wind and the rain, to prevent cracking. When it is dry, after carving or working the wood, it can be sanded with varying grades of sandpaper, from rough to fine. Then it may be oiled or polished using a wood oil or several layers of beeswax to protect and feed the wood and stop it drying out.
Talismans may be made in the same way, perhaps using the natural shape of the wood to suggest and inspire a carving. Talismans may be worn round the neck or as a brooch, or carried within a pouch and kept close. They may be magically charged by the power of intention and carved with symbols relevant to their use.
Symbolism is not fixed, there are no correct versions of anything, and the Willow particularly stimulates our ability to follow our intuition and find our own meanings behind symbols that bring meaningful inspired leaps of understanding and personal insights. It is true there are traditional meanings associated with symbols, but traditions must evolve and include new insights and adapt to new circumstances. What was meaningful to people in one part of our evolution or history may no longer apply. Past interpretations may no longer speak to the conscious or the unconscious minds of our present age. New inspirations are waiting to evolve, if the old symbols are to have relevance and power. The patterns, which a seer unfolds, need to be potent and meaningful to our present spiritual evolution. We have been taught to regard our intuition as unreliable but we know that this isn't true and we must use it more in order to develop our abilities. Willow can enhance this resolve.
My favourite places to go foraging all lie within a few miles of my home in the hills and valleys of Derbyshire. I take paper bags with me when I go walking and see what I find along the way!
I am also building up a local map of where I can find what and at what time of the year so that I can find specific plants when I want them.
The best places are along the river banks and along the edges of the woods because these are largely uncultivated areas.
My very best place to go foraging for fresh edible native plants for salads is my own garden! I have introduced all my favourite edible natives. I have collected their seeds and grown them as plants or I have bought them as wild flowers from the local garden centre. I keep them in specific beds like any crop but being wild plants they find their own locations around the garden! These I weed out and literally eat my weeds!
Glennie Kindred 2007
One of the most positive and interactive ways we can rekindle our relationship with the Earth is through all the edible and medicinal plants that grow around us. Gardeners often look upon these plants as weeds, but in our not too distant past our common native plants were held in high regard and valued for their many uses. The women would collect, dry and store them in many different ways, and would know of their extensive uses whether for food or medicine. People had a direct relationship with the plants that grew around them. Families would pass down this knowledge, especially mother to daughter, although we are not bound by these gender restrictions nowadays, and I have taught both my sons as well as my daughter. Children love to learn plant names and especially what plants are edible. It encourages their observational skills and ensures that they recognise and learn which plants are safe to eat, and which plants can be used directly in first aid situations. This is knowledge worth knowing!
Through the native plants of our land, we hold a direct link to our past, and our development from hunter-gatherer, to living in villages and learning how to grow our own food. The plant knowledge a tribe or village held would have been of prime importance and would have been directly linked to their ability to survive.
Generally, we have lost touch with the many uses of the native plants, which they called herbs in the past. Fear, mistrust, superstition, the Industrial Age and the pharmaceutical giants have all played their part. I don't really want to go into all that here. I'm much more interested in how we can reclaim this knowledge for ourselves, and through this build up our trust and relationship with the natural world once again.
Much of the herbal knowledge, so discredited during the last 50 - 100 years has now been verified by modern scientific methods to have effective and deep acting properties, releasing us from the fears and superstitions that have steadily built up since Victorian times. Many excellent books have been written on the subject and with their help we are able to discover for ourselves what plants we can safely eat and those we can use as effective medicines. Mrs M Grieves published her 'Modern Herbal' in 1931, bringing together all the medicinal, culinary, cultivation, cosmetic, folklore and economic properties of our herbs, grasses, fungi, shrubs and trees, with their modern scientific uses. In my eyes it is still the most comprehensive guide to plant use you can buy today.
Working with our native plants, we are able to actively take part in our own healing process when we are ill, instead of relying on costly, harsh, chemically produced drugs, which often have harmful side effects.
The same plants that our distant ancestors would have used and eaten, still continue to grow all around us. Despite the harsh chemicals that the farmers have been using these last 50 years, seeds continue to grow wherever there is soil to grow in. If you wish to reclaim your connection with our native plants, begin first by identifying the plants that are growing nearest to you. These may be the native plants that grow wild in your garden (you may be calling them weeds!), growing out of cracks in walls or pavements, plants growing on wasteland or along the canal, or wherever you walk. If you haven't got a garden see if you can find places to put a few pots. Fill them with earth or compost and watch what arrives on the wind and begins to grow! Alternatively go to the garden centre and buy your favourite wild flowers or wild flower seeds and grow them in pots or your garden. This is a great way to begin to recognise the plants that you will later be able to identify in the wild.
It is always easiest to identify a plant when it's in flower and I highly recommend Roger Philips book 'Wild Flowers of Britain' as an excellent identification guide. He uses photographs that are logged season by season, so you can look at an example of a plant as it looks in flower in a given month. Another effective method of identifying plants is to ask other people! This not only opens up many an interesting topic of conversation, you also find out who knows about plants, and effectively opens up our connection to the age-old instinct for sharing knowledge by word of mouth.
Once you have begun to name and identify the native plants, and to see them, not as weeds to be removed, but potentially plants to be used and learnt about, you have begun a great and wonderful journey of discovery and delight!
I have actively encouraged and even introduced many of our edible natives into my garden. This means I can find green leaves for salad, lunchtime sandwiches, stir-fries etc, almost all year round. I can make fresh (organically grown of course!) herb teas instead of buying expensive packet teas and best of all I have all the pleasure and delight of watching them grow, both in the garden, and in pots outside my door and on the window ledges. It is so much nicer to use a fresh herb, and bursting with the vibrancy of life!
I know that some people worry about picking the wrong thing, and all I say to that is begin first by using the most familiar native plants, the ones we all know, the ones that cannot be confused with other things, such as Nettle, Dandelion, the Hawthorn tree, the Elder tree. All of these familiar plants have extensive medicinal properties and edible uses. People worry too about getting the dosage wrong. This too is very simple. Imagine a heaped teaspoonful of the dried herb to make a cup of herb tea. When using fresh herbs, you need three times this amount. I like to make a pot of herb tea, drink some hot and then put the rest in the fridge to drink cold. Some taste better than others of course! They can be sweetened with honey. Freshly squeezed Lemon orange juice can be added too. Generally it is recommended not to use a herb for more than 12 weeks at a time, (that's 3 times a day as a medicine) because of the dangers of certain chemicals building up in the body. Always consult a herbal, so that you are aware of what plants to avoid when pregnant, if you are epileptic, diabetic etc.
Another good route into this subject is to grow and work with the culinary herbs we are so familiar with, such as Sage, Rosemary, Thyme, Garlic, Lemon Balm, Lavender, Fennel. Again these have many medicinal properties and make fine herb teas. (Avoid Sage and Fennel when pregnant). Using familiar herbs builds up your confidence and helps you trust yourself and the effectiveness of the herbs.
The key is to actually USE the plants and then the knowledge builds up and is not forgotten. Just reading about them is not enough. Also, take your time! It's a process of slowing down, linking you in to Nature and her seasons. When I learn to identify a new plant, sometimes once spotted I keep on seeing it everywhere and it immediately becomes integrated into my life. Often it takes longer, and over a period of several seasons, several years sometimes, I gradually build up a relationship with a plant until I am sure enough of my identification and my knowledge to use it.
Herbs can be used fresh and also can be collected and stored for future use. If you know that you want to use a plant for a herb tea for example, you may want to gather enough to keep you going until the plant can be found growing again the following year. Also those that are effective as treatment for simple conditions such as indigestion, colds, sore throats etc, or those that you know will help any of your reoccurring weaknesses. If you have a garden, encourage them to grow here and then harvest your weeds! Herbs are best picked just before they come into flower.
If you gather from the countryside, be sure the area has not been sprayed with chemicals and only take when there is an abundance of a plant. It should not look any different after you have picked, assuring the propagation of the plant for the future. Pick leaves on a dry day and put then in a warm place to dry. They can be hung up or I prefer to put the leaves into brown paper bags and shake them every few days to encourage drying. When they are dry, they can be left in the brown paper bags, or store them in brown jars, or jam jars painted with dark coloured glass paint (a nice activity to do with children). Sunlight will destroy their properties so it is important to keep them out of the light. All leaves will need to be replaced every year. Fruit, bark and roots last two years. If you can't pick or grow them yourself, all the herbs can be bought dried from health food shops.
Before picking I always give thanks to the plant. It simply feels the right thing to do. The plants and the trees link us to our sensitive sides, our intuition, our unexplainable feelings and our sympathetic magical relationship with Nature.
The actions of herbs are slower than that of pharmaceutical medicines. This encourage us to take some time out for ourselves, to slow down, to listen to our intuition, to change our emotional patterns, and to look for ways we can improve our lifestyles to include Nature. Many of our most common conditions can be improved or prevented through the use of herbs, by drinking herb teas, by including them in our food through a diet that is rich in fresh greens and herbs, and by slowing down and reflecting on changes we could make to embrace a more simple and wholesome life for our families and ourselves.
Being out in Nature, sitting or walking in the woods, by rivers, and breathing clean mountain air, is a great gift of simplicity that is available to us all. Once out in Nature, there is huge pleasure to be found in identifying our native plants and finding out what we can use them for.
ELDERBERRY MEDICINE - Harvest elderberries in September, when they are black and juicy. Strip them from the stalks by rolling them through your fingers. (SO much nicer than using a fork!) Elderberry tincture is essential for the winter medicine cabinet ~ it boosts the immune system and will throw of a cold or flu if taken when the first sign of a cold or sore throat begins to show. If a cold or flu is already established, it will help the body fight the infection by encouraging sweating. Elderberry syrup is wonderful for chesty coughs and sore throats.
Elder will throw of congestion, whether it be physical, mental or emotional, helping us let go of the old and create space for the new to grow. It is a powerful ally, and a great tree to get to know.
GROWING ELDER TREES - It is an easy tree to grow: Simply cut six inch twigs of Elder and push half of this into the soil, in pots or directly in the ground. This is best done between July and November. When they are 2 years old, plant them out in the Spring, in existing hedgerows, along the edges of your garden, the edges of existing woods or on any bits of wasteland you can find. We need more Elder trees so we can make good use of this wonderful tree for medicine, elderflower cordials and champagne, and all of the elderberry recipes listed below!
ELDERBERRY TINCTURE - an excellent immune-system booster and very effective in throwing off sore throats, congestion, coughs, colds and flu: Fill a dark glass jar with elderberries, stripped with your fingers from the mesh of stalks. Cover with vodka or brandy. Shake everyday for a month and then strain through muslin, squeezing the juice out of the berries and store in clean dark bottles and label.
Take half to one teaspoon, three times a day.
ELDERBERRY SYRUP - Highly prized and praised, and well worth making! It does the same job as the tincture but without the alcohol, so it is good for children. Strip elderberries into a large pan. Add a cinnamon stick, chopped lemons, a few star anise, cloves, all spice, some slices of ginger……. Be intuitive with these! Stir it up and let the mixture stand overnight. The next day warm gently on a really low heat, bringing it up to boiling, and letting the juices flow. Then when cool, strain through muslin or a clean cotton pillowcase, squeezing all the juices out. Measure the liquid. You will need the same amount of clear honey to liquid. Return to a clean pan. Heat gently and when hot but not boiling, stir in the honey and when it has completely dissolved, pour into warmed dark bottles and label.
Dose is the same as the tincture.
It is particularly good for coughs and sore throats and as a preventative.
It can also be used as a warming and healing cordial by adding hot water.
Once opened it needs to be kept in the fridge, otherwise unopened it will last for a year until you are ready to make your next batch!
ELDERBERRY ROB - An old country favourite for winter colds and flu. Taken with hot water and a nip of brandy!
5lbs elderberries, stripped from the stalks
1 lb sugar
Boil the elderberries to extract the juice, squeeze and strain through a sieve and muslin. Return to clean pan with the sugar and simmer until the liquid reduces to the thickness of runny honey, stirring frequently so that it doesn't catch. Bottle into clear dark bottles and label.
ELDERBERRY WINE - Long used by country folk, and taken hot before bed to bring out a cold or fever, Elderberry wine is a rich dark wine that never fails!
1 gallon elderberries
4 litres of water
half ounce chopped root ginger
quarter ounce of cloves
1 teaspoon yeast
2lbs 14oz sugar
Destalk the elderberries and put in a plastic bucket with 4 litres of boiling water. Leave for 3 days, stirring every day so that no mould develops.Strain into a jam pan, with the finely chopped ginger and cloves and bring slowly almost up to the boil. Add the sugar to dissolve and return to the clean bucket. Let it cool to luke warm and stir in the yeast. Pour into a demi john, fit the fermentation lock and leave until it stops fermenting - and then carefully siphon off into clean dark wine bottles and label
ELDERBERRY CHUTNEY - In a large pan combine: 2lbs of elderberries (removed from the stalks) + 1lb apples (peeled, cored and chopped), + a handful of sultanas + I large chopped onion + 1 pint of vinegar + 3 tablespoon of sugar. Add 1 teaspoon each of salt, crushed peppercorns, chopped ginger, crushed mustard seeds and mixed spice. Bring to the boil and simmer until it thickens. Test the flavour and adjust to taste. Pour into warmed jars and screw on lids. Tighten the lids when cold and label.
ELDERBERRY AND APPLE JAM - make a pulp by boiling 2lbs of roughly chopped apples (use windfalls) in some water, and pass through a sieve to remove the cores, skins and seeds. Do the same with 2lbs of elderberries, removed from the stalks, with just a little water as they are so juicy. Combine the two liquids and measure. Add 1lb of sugar per pint of liquid. Bring back to the boil in a clean pan and boil for around 10 minutes until it shows signs of thickening. Pour into warmed jars and label.
This works best with: Elder, Willow, Hazel, Holly and Alder.
Take cuttings in late Autumn or early Winter. Find a new shoot as thick as a pencil, taking the cutting from just above a fork, using a pair of sharp secateurs (1). Cut into 20cm lengths and set upright in well drained compost or equal compost and sand mix (2, 3). Keep in a cool dark place such as a garage or shed. Keep damp and roots will begin to form. Early Spring, transplant each one into a large pot and place outside against a north-facing wall. By late Spring, cut off all but the strongest sprout on each plant and keep trimming off any flowers (4). Planting Out: Transplant into the ground in the following Autumn or Winter, making sure the tree has plenty of room to grow. Ideally a new tree needs planting with plenty of compost, watering in dry weather and keeping weed-free for 2 - 3 years.
Works best with Oak and Hazel. Remove the outer casing and sew directly into earth, Cover with mesh to keep out rodents and keep damp but not sodden.
STRATIFICATION mimics nature by exposing seeds to the cold of at least one Winter - works best with: Rowan, Hawthorn, Crab Apple, Yew, Holly, Blackthorn, Birch and Alder
Stratification mixture: Equal amounts of peat-free potting compost mixed with sand, perlite, grit or bark chips.
Wash the flesh from the seeds and mix them with an equal amount of the stratification mixture. Cover with wire and keep damp. Paint the name of the tree seeds on each pot. During the Spring tip out the mixture once a week and take out any seeds that are beginning to germinate. Plant these immediately in large individual pots. Put any seeds that haven't germinated back in the mixture. Some tree seeds take 2 years to germinate.
Keep newly potted trees damp and place against a north-facing wall or hedge. Plant them out in their second Winter.