- Latin Name: Ilex aquifolium, Ilex opaca (American Holly)
- Celtic name: Tinne (pronounced: chihn’ uh)
- Known as: Tree of Sacrifice
- Folk or Common names: Holly, Aquifolius, Bat’s Wings, Christ’s Thorn, Holm Chaste, Hulm, Hulver Bush, Scarlet Oak, Kerm-Oak, Holy Tree
- Meanings: Holly actually means “holy”.
- Ruling Planets: Mars and Saturn
- Element: Fire
- Ruler: Sun
- Stone: Ruby, Bloodstone
- Birds: Cardinal, Starling
- Color: Red
- Deity: Lugh, Tannus, Thor, Danu
- Other: The Holly is an evergreen tree.
- Magickal Form: Wreaths, berries, leaves, wood
- NOTE: Holly berries are poisonous!
- Powers: Protection, Anti-Lightning, Luck, Dream Magick
Holly, being evergreen and having red berries, is a symbol of enduring life, and consequently it is considered a lucky plant almost everywhere. It is very unlucky to cut down a Holly tree.
The Holly Tree is one of the Seven Chieftain Trees of the Druids, its very name means “holy.” A Christian myth says that the blood of Christ formed the red berries of the holly. Holly is also associated with unicorns, since the unicorn is one of the Celtic symbols for this tree – the other symbol is the Flaming Spear.
Holly berries represent the blood of the Goddess. Use Holly berries with your favorite spell for female fertility and sexuality. Holly tames wild beasts and wards off storms and bad weather. Since it is a masculine herb, it brings good luck to men. The Romans considered Holly sacred and used it as a decoration during their Saturnalia celebrations.
Holly is sacred to the Winter Solstice, when it is used for decorating. Decorating one’s home with holly was believed to bring protection and good luck to the inhabitants in the coming year. Holly was used for decoration throughout homes with it being used for boughs over entrances to peoples’ homes or formed into holly wreaths that were hung on doors.
The custom of bringing holly boughs into the home in the depths of winter has its origins in the original pre-Christian idea that its prickly leaves sheltered the fairy folk, who were delighted to come indoors at such a cold time of the year.
The wreaths are very popular around the Christmas / Yuletide season. Placing a ring of holly on doors originated in Ireland since holly was one of the main plants that was green and very beautiful with its red berries at this time of year and gave poor people a means of decorating their dwellings.
Unlike mistletoe, it appears in the Christmas Greenery of churches as well as ordinary houses. In some districts, when the rest of the decorations are burnt or thrown away at the end of the holiday, a holly-sprig is kept, to protect the house from lightning during the coming year.
- Planted near a house, holly repels negative spells sent against you.
- A bag of leaves and berries carried by a man increases his ability to attract women.
- Burn Holly leaves with Blessing Incense to protect the home and draw good luck.
- Place Holly above the door lintel for protection and to invite helpful spirits.
- Carry Holly berries in your pocket for protection.
The Holly tree (of which there are well over 150 species) can grow (albeit very slowly) to be as high as fifty feet and is native to most of Central and Southern Europe. Its white, star-shaped flowers bloom in the Spring and it bears shiny red berries in Autumn which last throughout the Winter season. The leaves of the Holly are shiny, dark green in color, elliptical in shape and have spiny points. In order to produce berries, both a male and a female tree are required. Only the female tree produces berries which, although lovely to look at, are poisonous.
Given its evergreen nature, the Holly represented immortality and was one of the Nine Sacred Woods used in Need-Fires (the others being Oak, Pine, Hazel, Juniper, Cedar, Poplar, Apple and Ash). In ancient Irish lore, it was also listed as one of the Noble Trees of the Grove (along with Birch, Alder, Willow, Oak, Hazel and Apple).
The Holly tree has a fine white wood which was once used in the making of inlays and for walking sticks as well as riding crops. Its leaves are a favorite food among deer and sheep during the Winter months. The wood of the Holly is hard, compact and beautifully white in color, being susceptible of a very high polish.
Magical History and Associations:
Each month of the Celtic Lunar calendar bears the name of a tree. Holly is the 8th Moon of the Celtic Year – (July 8 – Aug 4).
The Holly, a masculine herb, is associated with the element of fire, and is an herb of Saturn and Mars. The bird associated with this month is the starling, the color is green-gray, the gemstone is yellow caingorm, and the day of the week association is Tuesday. Holly is the first moon of the dark half of the year, and the Holly is sacred to both the Winter and Summer Solstices.
Summer Solstice is the time when in mythology, the Oak King is slain by his twin, or tanist, the Holly King, who rules until the Winter Solstice, when he in turn is slain by his tanist, the Oak King. Tanist is related to the tannin found in an Oak tree; Oak and Holly are two sides of the same coin, the end of one cycle and the beginning of the next.
Holly is one of the three timbers in the Chariot Wheel. It represents personal sacrifice in order to gain something of greater value.
The Holly is also sacred to the deities of Lugh, Habondia, Tina Etruscan and Tannus. There are special spirits that dwell within Holly trees: the Holly Man lives in the tree that bears prickly Holly, and the Holly Woman dwells within that which give forth smooth and variegated leaves.
The month of Holly is a good time to do magick designed to help bring about a successful harvest. The Holly has applications in magick done for protection, prophesy, healing, magick for animals, sex magick, invulnerability, watchfulness, good luck, death, rebirth, Holiness, consecration, material gain, physical revenge, beauty and travel.
Dreaming of Holly means you should be mindful of what is troubling you, and picking holly in your dreams means you will have a long life.
Holly also has the ability to enhance other forms of magic. As a symbol of firmness and masculine energy, Holly wood was used by the ancients in the construction of spear shafts, which were thought to then have magickal powers. Uses of Holly in protective magick includes hanging a sprig of Holly in the home all year to insure protection and good luck. Holly is also an excellent charm to wear for protection.
‘Holly Water’ can be made by soaking Holly overnight in spring water under a full moon. This water can then be sprinkled over infants to keep them happy and safe. Holly Water can also be used to sprinkle around the house for psychic cleansing and protection.
A “par excellence” protective herb, it protects against lightning, poison, and evil spirits. When thrown at wild animals it makes them lie down quietly and leave you alone. Holly leaves can be cast around outside to repel unwanted spirits or animals and a Holly bush can be planted close to houses to protect against lightning. Ensure that the Holly has a place in your garden because its presence wards off unfriendly spirits. Do not burn Holly branches unless they are well and truly dead, for this is unlucky.
Holly is considered the male counterpart to the female Ivy. Holly, intertwined with ivy, is traditionally made into crowns for the bride and groom at weddings/handfastings. Holly and Ivy also make excellent decorations for altars.
Holly is also a traditional decoration for Yuletide as in sung in the traditional Yuletide song:
“Deck the halls with boughs of Holly,
fa la la la la, la la la la.”
Even though Holly’s Yule festival greens are traditionally burned at Imbolg, a small sprig us kept for luck and to keep evil away throughout the year. Holly berries were used to predict winter weather. If there were a profusion of berries, that meant it would be a hard winter, because the Goddess was providing extra berries for the birds.
When harvesting the leaves from the Holly, remember to ask the tree if it will allow you to take the parts and be sure to leave the tree an offering of thanks when you are done. Holly favors red and yellow stones as gifts.
A north country charm to induce dreams of a future mate required the seeker to go out in silence at midnight on a Friday, and gather nine she-holly leaves (the smooth variegated variety). These had to be tied with nine knots in a three-cornered handkerchief, and laid under the pillow before going to bed. The future husband or wife would appear in a dream, but only if complete silence had been preserved from the moment of setting out to gather the leaves until dawn the next day.
The Deeper Meaning of Holly
It is during June that the light of the sun reaches its culmination, and then begins its descent into earth. The Holly speaks to the fierce capacity of the human soul to take the descent into the underworld, bringing inner light into darkness. Thus we can understand the signature of the tree, with its ability to germinate without sunlight, favoring dark, moist conditions that are more strongly related to the downward earth pole. Its stiff, pointed leaves are not unlike thorns or “spears.”
The Holly yields a hard, white close-grained wood that imparts a quality of solidity and impermeability, as it stands in the depths of winter, impervious to cold and darkness with its somber evergreen color.
The Druid initiates developed a sacred alphabet, called the Ogham, based upon the archetypal qualities of trees. The Holly, known in Gaelic as Tinne ruled the eighth moon of the year, or the month of June. The glyph for Holly is that of a spear, meaning literally, “I am a battle-waging spear.”
Of all the trees in the Ogham, the Holly and the Oak are most primordial—they are viewed as two “kings” who exchange leadership on a yearly basis by engaging in symbolic battle. The Gaelic name for Holly—Tinne—is related to the word, tanist, meaning “dark twin.” The Oak King rules from the time the light begins its ascent in December until the summer solstice in June. Holly is the “dark twin” who reigns during the waning light of the year, until winter solstice.
The Holly’s prominence at Christmas is actually meant to represent a culminating experience within the soul life. It is an awakening of the love forces of the heart achieved through a descent into the interior of the self and the earth that comes to fruition during this festival. This understanding is depicted in Rudolf Steiner’s Calendar of the Soul.
Steiner is a modern initiate who incorporated the mystery streams of earlier cultures, including Druidic wisdom. His calendar is a series of 52 runic verses for each week of the year. Beginning at summer solstice, the soul gradually finds its way into an interior reality, moving out of the great cosmic heights. The sense of self coalesces like a seed, with light working into the inmost being, as a purifying and strengthening force. Then, at winter solstice, this light is quickened and shines forth from the heart chakra:
To carry spirit light into
My heart is ardently impelled
That shining seeds of soul
Take root in world ground
And the Holy Word resounds
Through the darkness of the senses
Transfiguring all life.
In subsequent winter verses Steiner describes this activity of the soul as a “heart-high gladness”. It is the inner light of Self-containment gained by living in “spirit depths”—at one with the “world ground.” The soul is so solidly secure and anchored within itself that nothing can assail one’s sense of deep peace. When this consciousness is mastered, the journey inward of the Self is complete. The heart awakens with a streaming of love, gradually seeking its way outward into the sense world again to meet the expansive forces of the light in spring and summer.
We could say that the Holly flower which blooms in outer nature in late spring/summer, blossoms again in the human heart during winter as a force of love. Its nature is a sun force that lives, not in the heights but in the depths of the earth.
Perhaps the most profound archetypal picture of Holly is evoked through its symbolism as the Crown of Thorns. As the traditional Christmas carol proclaims, Of all the trees that are in the wood, the holly bears the crown.
Druid priests wore Holly in their hair while collecting the sacred mistletoe medicine in the winter, Holly was also worn as a crown to represent the Holly King in seasonal festivals. The Holly Crown was a sign of deepest respect and recognition that such an initiate had mastered the forces of nature in harmony with the human soul.
The Holly tree came to be known as Christ-Thorn in middle Europe, for it was recognized that this plant spoke to the archetypal reality of the Crown of Thorns as a soul initiation. The Crown of Thorns is also a kind of “beheading.” The false self must be pressed down with a Crown of Thorns until it finds a deeper truth in the human heart. The “battle waging spear” is thrust not outside, but within.
Holly teaches us that we cannot find love outside ourselves, if it is not anchored from within the human heart. Holly creates what is divine from within what is human. Holly helps the human heart know its own wholeness; its own holiness.
The powdered leaves were brewed into a healing tea for measles, fevers, bladder problems and bronchitis, and the ashes from burning the leaves in a drink soothed whooping cough.
Hot compresses made from the leaves and bark helped ease the pain of broken bones and dislocations. The juice of the fresh leaf is helpful in jaundice treatment. Holly can be used homeopathically as a substitute for quinine.
Note: Holly berries are poisonous!
Holly Folklore and Superstition
Male, or prickly, holly is lucky to men, as the smooth variegated type, known as the she-holly, is to women. If the First Foot on his rounds brings evergreens with him, it is usually holly that he chooses, but in this case it must be the male kind, for the other variety, being female, would be very ill-omened.
Holly branches must never be burned when green. To do this is extremely unlucky, and may cause a death in the family. It is also unlucky in some places to stamp on a holly berry, or to bring the plant indoors when it is flowering.
A well-known country remedy for chilblains is to thrash them with a holly bush “to let the chilled blood out.” This probably does some good by restoring the arrested circulation, but the choice of holly rather than anything else as a thrashing agent is made for magickal reasons.
According to the Celtic mythology of trees, Mistletoe is the tree of the day after the Winter Solstice (Aprox. December 23). In Druidic lore Mistletoe is an herb of the Winter Solstice and is the special plant for the day after Yule.
- Latin name: Viscum Album
- Celtic name: It is said that Mistletoe is too sacred to have a written word.
- Folk or Common names: Donnerbesen, Birdlime, All Heal, Golden Bough, Devil’s Fuge, Thunderbesom
- Parts Used: Leaves, berries, twigs
- Basic Powers: Protection, Love
Mistletoe is a plant of the sun and also of the planet of Jupiter. It is associated with the element of the air. The colors of Mistletoe are green, gold and white, and its herb is hyssop. The gemstones associated with Mistletoe are Black Quartz, Amber, Pearl and green Obsidian. Mistletoe has the immortal creature the Gryphon-Eagle associated with it and also the plain eagle is its bird association. There are many deities associated with Mistletoe: Loki, Blader, Hercules, Shu, Osirus, and Aeneas are a few of those deities.
Romans, Celtics, and Germans believed that mistletoe is the key to the supernatural. Mistletoe will aid and strengthen all magickal works but is best called upon for healing, protection, and beautiful dreams – dreams which will unlock the secrets of immortality. Mistletoe is a good wood to use for making wands, other ritual tools and magickal rings.
The Berries are used in love incenses, plus a few berries can be added to the ritual cup at a handfasting. Boughs of Mistletoe can be hung for all purpose protection around the house. Sprigs of Mistletoe can be carried as an herb of protection – plus amulets and jewelry can be made out of Mistletoe wood as protective talismans.
Hung over the cradle, Mistletoe will protect the child from being stolen by the fey and Mistletoe that is carried will protect the bearer from werewolves. Mistletoe stood for sex and fertility – hence our tradition of kissing under the mistletoe. It is traditionally hung in the home at Yule, and those who walk under it exchange a kiss of peace.
Pick on Midsummer’s Eve, or when the moon is six days old (six days after the New Moon). Wear as a protective amulet, or to help conceive. The wood is often carved into rings and other magickal objects. A good anti-lightning charm. The herb hung anywhere is an excellent all-purpose protective device. Extinguishes fire. Wear as an amulet to preserve against wounds.
Kissing Under the Mistletoe:
Kissing under the mistletoe seems to be a purely English custom, of which no trace has been found in other countries unless Englishmen have settled there at some time. Strange as it may seem to us now, the English were once much given to kissing. Foreign visitors in the 16th and 17th centuries frequently remarked with surprise on the way in which men and women exchanged kisses without self-consciousness, even slight acquaintances and newly-introduced strangers being thus pleasantly greeted.
The last shadow of this old freedom is now cast by the mistletoe bough at Christmas. If a girl stands under it, she cannot refuse to be kissed by anyone who claims the privilege. At one time, the young men had the right to pluck a berry from the bough for every kiss they took.
It was also thought that if a girl was kissed seven times in one day under the mistletoe, she would be married within a year. A girl who stood under the mistletoe but did not receive a kiss was doomed to remain without a husband for at least one year. A girl who gets married without ever having been kissed under the mistletoe will never have children.
Kissing under the mistletoe is not only for lovers. You should kiss anyone and everyone possible while the mistletoe is hanging. This brings good luck to everyone in the house for a whole year.
Mistletoe, the Golden Bough of classical legend, was a sacred and wonder working plant alike for the Celtic Druids, by whom it was ceremonially cut at the Winter and Summer Solstice festivals. Mistletoe is one of the Druid’s most sacred trees – as Ovid said, “Ad viscum Druidae cantare solebant.” (The Druids are wont to sing to the Mistletoe.).
The Druids gathered their Mistletoe at Midsummer or at the 6th day of the moon. The Druid priests or priestesses would wear white robes while gathering the plant and would use a golden knife to cut the plant from the tree.
The mistletoe was caught in their robes to prevent any from falling to the ground, where it would lose its magickal qualities, and so extreme care was taken not to let the plant touch the ground. Two oxen were often sacrificed for the harvest. The Druids considered that the Mistletoe that grew on Oak trees was the most potent and sacred.
For the Norsemen, it was the holy and terrible plant which slew Baldur the Beautiful when all things in Heaven and Earth had sworn not to harm him. But the mistletoe was forgotten because, rooting on trees and not in the ground, it was not in Heaven or Earth, but only between them. Consequently Loki, the trickster, was able to use it to kill the Dun God when all other things had failed him.
It was also the plant of peace in ancient Scandinavia. A bunch hung outside a house denoted a safe welcome within, and if enemies happened to meet under a tree that bore it, they had to lay down their arms and fight no more on that day.
It is said that if a branch or sprig of the mistletoe was cut with a new dirk on Halloween, after the cutter had walked three times round the oak sunwise, it was sure guard in the day of battle, and a protection at all times against glamour and witchery. A similar sprig laid in the cradle protected the child from being stolen by the fairies and replaced by a changeling.
Being a thunder-plant, its presence in a house protected it from thunder and lightning, as well as from witches and evil spirits. In Britain, it was anciently called All Heal, because it cured many diseases, composed quarrels, and was an antidote to poison. It brought good luck and fertility. For all these reasons it was, and remains, an essential part of Christmas decorations in almost every house, though not in churches.
Its strong pagan associations probably caused it to be banned from churches at Christmas or any other season. This prohibition still prevails in most parishes, and if a sprig or branch is accidentally included in the general greenery, it is usually removed as soon as the clergyman sees it. In one Oxford parish several years ago, permission was given to hang a bunch in the porch, but not inside the church itself.
An exception to this rule in the Middle Ages was at York Minster, where a branch was ceremonially laid on the altar on Christmas Eve and left there throughout the Twelve Days of Christmas. A general pardon and liberty throughout the city was proclaimed for so long as it remained there.
In Worcestershire, where it grows very freely, it is said to be unlucky to cut mistletoe at any time but Christmas. Until very recently (and perhaps still in some households), it was usual to keep the Christmas bunch throughout the year for good luck, and then to replace it by a new one on Christmas Eve.
In some districts, sprigs from such a bunch were given to the cow that calved first after New Year’s Day, to ensure the prosperity of the herd in the following twelve months. In Herefordshire formerly, it was unlucky to bring mistletoe into the house before New Year’s morning. It was not included in the Christmas decorations, but was brought in at the time of the Burning the Bush.
To cut down a mistletoe-bearing tree was once considered to be very unlucky. Many stories are told of misfortunes which fell upon those who did so.
A curious tradition relating to the Hays of Errol, in Perthshire, is connected with this idea. The continued existence and prosperity of that family was bound up with an ancient mistletoe-bearing oak growing near the Falcon Stone. So long as the tree stood and the mistletoe grew on it, they would flourish, but, as we read in the verses traditionally ascribed to Thomas the Rhymer,
… when the root of the aik decays,
And the mistletoe dwines on its withered breast,
The grass sall grow on Errol’s hearthstone,
And the corbie roup in the falcon’s nest.
Oak and mistletoe together have vanished now, and the estate no longer belongs to the Hays. Exactly when the tree was cut down is not now remembered, but local tradition says that it was before the lands were sold, and that it was because of that destruction they were lost to the family.
CAUTION: Mistletoe berries are extremely poisonous and have been known to cause miscarriage.
Mistletoe tea was widely believed to cure the falling sickness or epilepsy, and is still recommended by herbalists for that purpose. The plant was also used in folk-medicine for a variety of other ills, including St Vitus’ Dance, heart troubles and nerve complaints, sores, the bites of venomous creatures, and toothache.
Mistletoe can be used as a stimulant to soothe muscles and to produce a rise in blood pressure. It increases the contraction of the uterus and intestine. Mistletoe has been recommended as an oxytocic in postpartum hemorrhage and menorrhagia. It is also used as a circulatory and uterine stimulant. This plant can induce menstruation. It has shown effective in treating tumors in some animals. It is recommended that due to the toxicity of this plant that ingestion of this herb be avoided.
- Magickal Herbalism
- Encyclopedia of Superstitions
- Ruler: Saturn
- Type: Tree
- Magickal Form: Branch and Leaves
- Meaning: Complete change in life-direction or attitude
This is a dark tree, ruled by the Crone. It is used in spells to raise the dead. Yew is also used in ritual to help make the transition into menopause. According to Celtic tree mythology, the Yew is the tree of the day before the Winter Solstice (Approx. December 21).
- Latin name: Taxus baccata.
- Celtic name: Idho (pronounced: Ih’ huh).
- Folk or Common names: English Yew.
The evergreen yew, which lives to an immense age, extending over many generations of men, is a natural symbol of life everlasting, and seems to have been so regarded from time immemorial, alike by pagans and by Christians.
Because of its great longevity, the yew is a symbol of everlasting life. It grows in an unusual way, too, its new stems growing down the outside of the tree, giving the yew an association with rebirth and regeneration, as the new is born from the old. Adding to this symbolism is its habit of putting in a growth spurt when it is around 500 years old.
So sacred was the yew as a symbol that – to a pre-Christian society – wherever it grew was considered to be sacred ground. It was considered both immoral and illegal to chop down the tree. It is likely that the yew is often seen in churchyards because the church itself would have been built on this sacred ground in the presence of the tree, in an effort to align the incoming Christian belief system with pagan traditions.
The association of the tree with death therefore started to overlay its former meaning. Because the berries of the yew are poisonous, they can effectively carry people into the spirit world.
At English country funerals formerly, the mourners often carried branches of yew, which they laid with the dead man in the grave. Small sprigs were also inserted in the folds of his shroud in some districts, before the coffin was nailed down. These typified, not the end of life, but its continuance in the resurrection to come.
Similarly, yew-boughs are usually included today in church decorations at Easter, because they symbolize the triumph of life over death and so are fitting emblems of the Resurrection.
The hollow center of the yew tree is a symbol not only of the power that lies in empty space, but underlines the significance of this tree as belonging, in part, to a spiritual dimension. Recently, the yew as a symbol of life has been shown in a practical and unexpected way. One of the constituent chemicals of the tree, taxol, has been found to be efficacious in curing breast cancer.
Old Ideas About The Yew
In Elizabethan times it was considered an unlucky plant. The Elizabethans tossed sprigs of yew into graves to ensure that the spirits of the dead did not come back to haunt the living.
To cut down a yew tree growing in a churchyard, or to burn or damage its branches, is very unlucky. It is also said to be unlucky to bring yew branches into the house, and most people are careful to omit them from the evergreens used for Christmas decorations.
In the Scottish Highlands, in the days of clan warfare, there was a curious tradition which said that if a chief too a piece of churchyard yew in his left hand, and then denounced or threatened his enemy, the latter, though present, would hear nothing, though all around could hear quite clearly what was said. This presumably, enabled the speaker to claim afterwards that he had given due warning of his intentions, while at the same time retaining the advantages of a surprise attack on a totally unprepared victim.
Although at one time it was considered dangerous to carry a sprig or branch of yew into the home, in Herefordshire, a girl who wished to dream of her future husband went to a churchyard that she had never visited before and plucked a sprig, which she laid under her pillow at night. This would enable her to see her future partner in her dreams.
In the north-midland counties of England, lost goods could be found if the seeker took a branch of yew and held it out before him as he walked. He would be led straight to the place where the lost things were, and when he reached it, the branch would turn in his hand.
The yew is also renowned for protecting homes and other buildings from witches and evil spirits. It is believed that you are likely to die within twelve months if you trim or cut down a yew tree.
Magickal Associations of Yew
Bulls are associated with this tree, as are female goats. The bird associated with Yew is the eaglet, since the eaglet’s appetite is insatiable, and the bones of its nest are white like the snow on its cliff-ledge. The Yews colors are white and silver and it is associated with the element of water. The Yew is associated with the planet Saturn and with the metal lead. In Old England the Yew was known as “The Witches Tree” since it is associated with sorcery and magick.
The time of Yew is known as a time of death, and so on the day before Yule it said that is not a good idea to do actual spell work, instead it is suggested to do rituals of the season concerned with reincarnation. Because the Yew grows to such an old age, it has become a symbol of stability in Celtic areas of the world and so is often used as the central “World Tree” in ritual spaces.
As one of the three magickal trees (along the Alder and the Black Poplar) associated with death and funerals, the Yew has often been planted in graveyards. Yew sends up new trees from its roots, so is a powerful symbol of death and reincarnation.
Yew wood is appropriate for magickal tools such as wands and staves. In ancient times Yew sticks were carved with the Ogham characters as tools of divination. The Futhark features a 13th Rune, which is considered one of the most powerful Runes and represents a stave cut from a yew tree. This Rune is regarded as the stave of life and death. Yew can be dried and burned as an incense to contact spirits of the dead – and even to raise the dead.
If you are going to plant a Yew tree, it is best planted in the South-West corner of the property.
The name “Yew” is a corruption of the Anglo-Saxon word ‘eow’. The word ‘Taxus’ is from the Greek word ‘Taxon’, meaning ‘bow’. The 5000 year old “Ice Man”, discovered in the Alps, had a bow and axe handle made of Yew.
The Yew is known as the ‘Tree of Death’ through out Europe and is associated with the season of winter. It is sacred to many Dark Goddesses: Banbha, Amalthea (mother of the horned Dionysus), Morrighan, The Erinyes, Cailleach Beara, Berchta, and Hekate.
Shakespeare recognized the relationship of Yew and Heckate and referred to the contents of her cauldron as “slips of yew, silver’d in the moon’s eclipse…” (Macbeth) – and elsewhere Shakespeare makes ‘hebenon, the double-fatal yew’ the poison which Hamlet’s uncle pours into the king’s ear. Heckate’s sacred tree of death is said to root in the mouths of the dead and release their souls, and also absorbs the odors of death itself.
Yew wood is tough and durable and was used for making shields and spears, and also – using both heartwood and sapwood to gain extra strength – the famous English longbow that helped the English win the Battle of Agincourt in 1415, at which they were completely outnumbered. Hence the yew is also a symbol of the warrior.
This plant is poisonous and should never be ingested unless you are 100% sure that you know what you are doing. The needles and branch tips have been used to treat lung diseases and bladder problems. recently a new cancer drug, Taxol, has been derived from its bark and berries.
- Encyclopedia of Magickal Ingredients
- Encyclopedia of Superstitions
- Element Encyclopedia of Secret Signs and Symbols
Symbolizes purity, air, and used in initiations, psychic workings, and protection. Also viewed as a Mother tree, the gum from it symbolizing menstrual blood. Tree of the wiccan goddess Neith, Osirus, Astarte, Ishtar, and Diana. Alder: Sacred to the god Bran. Represents resurrection, rebirth, and fire.
Used in love Magic and also for peace, happiness, prosperity, perpetual youth, and healing. Represents water. Associated with Venus, Hercules, Diana, Apollo, Hera, Athena, and Idunn.
Represents water, the Universal Mother, and the source for unborn souls. Used in healing, protection, and sea Magic. Traditional Yule log. Associated with Poseidon, Neptune, Woden, Thor, and Mars.
Used for phyllomancy which is divination by leaf rustling. Used for protection.
Sacred to Cerridwen and represents beginnings and births. Used for purifications and blessings.
Used for purification, prosperity, and longevity. Represents earth, spirituality and self.
Used for Maypoles, easing losses, healing, past life workings, and protection. Represents earth.
A witch tree and often used to make wands. Used for healing, love, protection, and. Sacred to the goddess Hel. Represents air. Associated with Venus.
Represents primordial female powers. Used for protection.
Symbolizes youth and vitality. Used in prosperity magic.
Called the May tree. Represents water and the White Goddess Maia. Used for female sexuality, cleansing, marriage, love, and protection.
Sacred to witches and the Celtic sea god Manannan. Often used to make all-purpose wands and used in fertility, divination, marriage, protection, and reconciliation. Symbolizes female wisdom and air. Associated with Artemis and Diana.
Represents fire. Used for protection.
Used for prophesies and protection.
Used for love and divination.
Used for healing, strength, protection, masculinity and for fertility magic. Represents fire. Associated with Dagda, Dianus, Jupiter, Zeus, Cybele, Rhea, Janus, Cernunnos, and Herne.
Metaphor for Osiris’s penis. Used for male fertility, strength, and virility.
Symbolizes immortality and represents earth. Pine cones represent fertility. Used for purification, health, fortune, fertility, and prosperity. Associated with Pan, Attis, Venus, and Cybele.
Used for protection, healing, and strength. Represents fire.
Represents water. Used in moon, wishing magic, healing, protection, enchantments, and easy delivery of babies. Associated with Artemis, Persephone, Hecate, Ceres, Hera, and Circe.
According to Celtic tree mythology, the Silver Fir is the tree of the day of the Winter Solstice. The Winter Solstice. This usually takes place on December 20th or 21st, although it does sometimes occur on the 22nd or 23rd (check your calendar as it changes from year to year).
- Latin name: Abies alba.
- Celtic name: Ailim (pronounced: Ahl’ em).
- Folk or Common names: Common Silver Fir, Balm of Gilead Fir, Balsam Fir, American Silver Fir.
- Parts Used: Needles, wood, sap
Magical History and Associations:
The Silver Fir is associated with the moon and with the planet of Jupiter. Its colors are piebald and light or pale blue. Its birds are the eagle and the Lapwing, and its animal association is the red cow. Its stones are Tourmaline and Amber – and it is a feminine herb. This tree belongs to the triple aspect Goddess in Celtic lore, offering learning, choice and progress. The tree is sacred to many Goddesses: Artemis (the Greek Goddess of Childbirth), Diana and Druantia among them. It is also sacred to the Gods Osiris and Attis, both who were imprisoned in Fir/Pine trees.
Burn to cleanse a room of negative vibes. This is a wonderful incense for healing and strengthening the physical, emotional, and spiritual body. The scent opens the heart and increases endurance.
The Silver Fir is used for magick involving power, insight, progression, protection, change, feminine rebirth, and birth. The Silver Fir and the Yew are sisters standing next to each other in the circle of the year and their foliage is almost identical. However the Yew is known as the tree of death and the Silver Fir is the tree of birth or rebirth. The Silver Fir was a sacred tree to the Druids who felt that it stood for hope. The Silver Fir wood is used for shape-shifting and magic involving change, since it offers a clear perception of the present and the future.
The wood chips are sometimes used as incense and the wood can be used in the construction of magickal musical instruments. Burning the needles of the Silver Fir or sweeping around the bed with a branch that has been blessed will protect a new born baby and its mother. In the Orkney area of Scotland, the new mother and baby are ‘sained’ by whirling a fir-candle three times around her bed.
For a ‘Weather Witch’ the cones of the Silver Fir warn of wet weather and foretells when a dry season approaches. Charms made of Fir can be given as good luck tokens to departing friends. In its appearance (and in its current, and undoubtedly ancient, use) the Silver Fir is the quintessential Yule tree. Its branches can be used as decorations at Yule time either as wreaths or as garland, where it will provide protection for the household and its occupants.
- Year of Moons, Season of Trees
- Tree Medicine Tree Magic
- A Druid’s Herbal
- Celtic Astrology
- Glamoury: Magic of the Celtic Green World
- The Book of Druidry
The Poplar or Aspen is the sacred Tree of the Fall Equinox – (Aprox. September 22).
There is a bit of confusion about poplar, aspen, and cottonwood trees. The tree referred to here is the genus “populus” which includes true poplars, as well as related trees such as cottonwood and aspen).
Here’s a quick list:
- Balsam Poplar (Populus balsamifera)
- Eastern Cottonwood (Populus deltoides)
- Bigtooth Aspen (Populus grandidentata)
- Black Poplar (Populus nigra)
- European Aspen (Populus tremula)
- Quaking Aspen (Populus tremuloides)
- Black Cottonwood (Populus trichocarpa)
As far as I could discover, the Aspen and Poplar tree magickal lore overlap, and can be used interchangeably, unless otherwise indicated. The lore does not refer to the Yellow Poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera), or Balm of Gilead (Populus candicans) which have different attributes and magickal qualities
- Celtic name: Eadha (pronounced: “Eh’ uh”).
- Folk or Common names: All Poplar – Popple, Alamo, Aspen; Trembling Poplar – American Aspen, White Poplar, or Quaking Aspen; Balm of Gilead – bombagillia.
- Ruler: Saturn
- Type: Plant
- Magickal form: Buds
Carry poplar buds with you when seeking employment. Crush and add them to traditional money incense when you work on commission and need to attract more funds. The poplar buds may also be added to divination blends and make a great ingredient for psychics wishing to attract more business, as well as improving their powers.
The Poplar’s ability to resist and to shield, its association with speech, language and the Winds indicates an ability to endure and conquer. The Poplar is known as the “Tree that Transcends Fear”. Poplars symbolize the magick of joy, the aging of the year, resurrection and hope – and are connected to the Otherworld. Poplar can be used in magick done for success, passage and transformation, Hope, rebirth, divinations, shielding, endurance, agility in speech and language, protection, and love – and as an aid in astral projection.
Poplar can be used in protection charms of all kinds. Poplar is a good wood to burn in balefires and ritual fires since it offers protection. Shields can be made of Poplar since the wood is thought to offer protection from injury or death. Carrying Poplar helps to overcome the urge to give way under the burden of worldly pressures, and aids in determination. Poplar buds can also be carried to attract money and can be burned as an incense to create financial security.
Siberian reindeer-hunting cultures carved small goddess statues of Poplar (Aspen) wood. Groats and fat were then offered to the figures with this prayer:
“Help us to keep healthy!
Help us to hunt much game!”
Poplar buds are also sometimes added to flying ointments and was also used in astral travel. A medieval recipe for a flying ointment called for Cinquefoil, Poplar leaves, soot and bat’s blood obtained at the wake of the new moon.
The trembling leaves of the Poplar tree can be ‘read’ to divine messages from the God and Goddess, and also from spirits that drift into woods. The Poplar is the sacred World Tree of the Lakota nation. For the sun dance ceremony, a Poplar is carefully cut and lowered, then is re-erected in the center of the dance circle. While being carried the Poplar must never touch the ground. Green branches, a buffalo skull and eagle feathers were used to decorate the Poplar for this ceremony.
A country name for the aspen is the Shivver-tree, a name which in some districts is also given to the poplar. The leaves of both trees tremble at the slightest stirring of air, so that they seem to move without ceasing when all around is still. Because of this, both trees were formerly credited with the power to cure agues and fevers.
A very old magical tradition held that ailments could most efficaciously be treated by something that resembled their effects; and since ague causes the patient to shake and tremble, he was likely to be healed by the shaking tree.
In his Folk-Lore of the Northern Counties, William Henderson relates the story of a Lincolnshire girl who was thus cured of ague. She was advised to pin a lock of her hair to an aspen, saying as she did so:
“Aspen tree, aspen tree,
I prithee to shake and shiver
Instead of me.”
As was usual in such charms, her journey home had then to be made in complete silence, otherwise the magic would not work. She followed the advice given, and many years later, when she was an old woman, she told Henderson’s informant that she had never been troubled with ague again.
Another method was to bore a small hole in the tree trunk, insert the patient’s nail parings, and close the hole securely. As the bark grew once more over the opening, so the disease would disappear.
Two widespread legends are told to account for the aspen’s trembling. One is that it was condemned to shiver thus for evermore because it was the only tree that would not bow down to Our Lord when He passed through the forest. The other is that it shudders perpetually with horror because its wood was used to make the Cross on Calvary.
The poplar shares with the aspen the country name of Shivver-tree because like those of the latter, its leaves tremble. It also shares, and for the same reason, the aspen’s power to cure agues and fevers. R.M. Heanley records a Lincolnshire charm in which the patient cut off a lock of his hair and wrapped round a black poplar branch, saying as he did so:
When Christ our Lord was on the Cross,
Then didst thou sadly shivver and toss.
My aches and pains thou now must take,
Instead of me I bid thee shake.
He then had to go straight home, speaking to no one on the way, after which he would be free from ague forever. Heanley adds that some people considered it necessary to fast for twelve hours before attempting this charm.
The constant shaking of the poplar is often accounted for by the legend that its wood was used in the construction of the Cross. Medieval Legends of Christ (1934), mentions two explanatory legends. One is that it was under a poplar that Our Lord prayed during His agony in the Garden of Gethsemane, and that the tree has trembled in sympathy ever since. The other is that it was cursed because, alone among the trees, it refused to mourn at the Crucifixion, saying that Christ died for sinners, “but I am innocent, and His suffering is no concern of mine.”
Poplar leaves were supposed to be one of the ingredients of the witches’ flying ointments.
Magical History and Associations:
In Gaelic tongue the tree was called Peble and Pophuil in the celtic way. Poplar is generally a plant of Jupiter, Saturn and the Sun and is associated with the element of water. Its color is rufous (red) and the bird associated with Poplar is the Whistling Swan. The stones associated with Poplar are Amber, Citrine Quartz, Sapphire and Swan Fluorite. The Anglo-Saxon rune poem seems to refer to the Poplar as being associated with the rune “berkano”.
Heracles wore a crown of Poplar leaves in triumph after killing the giant Cacus (the evil one) and retrieving Cerberus from Hades. The upper surface of the Poplar leaves was thus darkened from Hades’ smokey fumes. Poplar trees are sacred to the Mesopotamian goddess Ua-Ildak. The Grass King of Grossvargula, who was seen as having fertilizing powers, went on horseback wearing a pyramid of Poplar branches and a crown. He led a procession of young men about the town and was then stripped of his branches beneath the Silver Lindens of Sommerberg.
Poplar (Aspen) is said to be the tree of the Autumn Equinox and of old age, and is known as the shield makers’ tree. The Black Poplar was a funeral tree sacred to Hecate as death goddess, to Egeria, and to Mother Earth. Plato makes a reference to the use of Black Poplar and Silver Fir as an aid in divination. The Silver Fir standing for hope assured and the Black Poplar for loss of hope. The Grove of Persephone in the Far West contained Black Poplars and old Willows.
In ancient Ireland, the coffin makers measuring rod was made of Aspen, apparently to remind the dead that this was not the end. In Christian lore, the quaking Poplar (Aspen) was used to construct Christ’s cross, and the leaves of the tree quiver when they remember this fact.
Poplar can be used as a tonic, chiefly used in treating fevers. The infusion has been found helpful in treating chronic diarrhea. The sap collected from the buds can be used to make a healing ointment and can be used as an external application in bruises, swellings, and some skin diseases. Teas can be made from the Poplar buds and are useful in helping treat arthritis and rheumatism.
- Planet: Mars
- Ruler: Sun, Jupiter
- Element: Earth, Air
- Associated Deities: Cybele, Venus, Attis, Pan, Dionysius, Poseidon
- Type: Tree
- Parts Used: Cone, Nuts, Needles, Oil
- Basic Powers: Fertility, Purification, Cleansing, Protection, Money
Cleansing, health, and energy are the magickal properties of the pine. Pine is a spiritual cleanser. A pine wand or pine cone kept on the altar wards off evil influences. Floor washes with pine oil cleanse a space of negativity and ward off illness.
The Iroquois burned pine chips or resin when moving into a vacant house to drive out spirits. If mixed with camphor, the result is stronger. The practice of bringing cut pine branches into the home during the winter holiday season is one that promotes clearing the home of negativity and illness during the winter months.
Burn the crushed and dried needles in the winter to purify the home. This is good when mixed with equal parts juniper and cedar. The cones are carried as fertility charms, and the nuts eaten for this same reason. Pine branches are sometimes used to sweep the forest floor before performing magick outside. Add the crushed needles to the bath sachet for a good cleansing bath. Fresh pine needles in a bath remove mental negativity.
The resin of Pine may be gathered, dried, and used as an incense. It has the quality of cleansing a space of negative energy. Pine is also very effective as a counter-magick herb, repelling evil energy and returning it to its source. Throw pine needles into winter fires for protection, or burn pine incense for purification and divination.
Pine is held sacred to Poseidon, and using the pitch of the tree to caulk a boat gives it magickal protection upon the waters.
To draw money:
Because it is evergreen, pine draws steady money. The scent of pine is also believed to attract money, it is stronger when mixed with cinnamon, bayberry, or nutmeg.
For health, fertility, and protection:
Keep a perfect unopened pine cone in the home for fertility, long life, good health, and warding off the Evil Eye. If it opens and begins to shed its seeds, plant it, and replace it with a new one.
Collected from various sources
- Other Names: Blood Palm, Sangre de Dragon
- Element: Fire
- Planet: Mars
- Parts Used: Resin – powdered or in chunks
- Basic Powers: Energy, Purification, Protection
Dragon’s blood is not the blood of some luckless lizard, but the resin of the palm calimus draco. Truly as red as the blood of dragons, this resin is a powerful herb of protection. Burned by itself on charcoal or added to other incense ingredients, it quickly banishes any negative energy or entity. Dragon’s blood also adds power and potency to any working.
- Use sparingly in an oil blend or in the bath – it will stain enamel scarlet and leave a stain on the skin.
Magically it is used for spells of protection, exorcism and sexual potency. On its own Dragon’s blood can be burnt at an open window to secure a lover’s return, and a piece of the resin placed under the mattress is said to cure impotence. In the past Dragon’s Blood was used medicinally to cure diarrhea, dysentery and even syphilis. Like many other resins it is also used to stop bleeding wounds.
Gravel-sized chunks and powdered Dragon’s Blood may be burned on charcoal. Folks claim that this cleanses the home and rids the premises of evil. It is said to be particularly good when moving into a new home, and may be mixed with Camphor resin for this purpose.
Add a pinch of the ground herb to incenses to increase their potency and effectiveness. Add to love incenses and sachets.
You can create your own pure dragon’s blood oil by crushing the resin into a powder and mixing in a light oil, such as safflower. Heat gently to melt the resin into the oil while stirring. Do not ingest.
Varieties and Variations:
A great degree of confusion existed for the ancients in regard to the source and identity of dragon’s blood. Some medieval encyclopedias claimed its source as the literal blood of elephants and dragons who had perished in mortal combat.
The resin of Dracaena species, “true” dragon’s blood, and the very poisonous mineral cinnabar (mercury sulfide) were often confused by the ancient Romans. In ancient China, little or no distinction was made among the types of dragon’s blood from the different species.
Both Dracaena and Daemonorops resins are still often marketed today as dragon’s blood, with little or no distinction being made between the plant sources; however, the resin obtained from Daemonorops has become the most commonly sold type in modern times, often in the form of large balls of resin.
Voyagers to the Canary Islands in the 15th century obtained dragon’s blood as dried garnet-red drops from Dracaena draco, a tree native to the Canary Islands and Morocco. The resin is exuded from its wounded trunk or branches. Dragon’s blood is also obtained by the same method from Dracaena cinnabari, which is endemic to the island of Socotra. This resin was traded to ancient Europe via the Incense Road.
Dragon’s blood resin is also produced from the rattan palms of the genus Daemonorops of the Indonesian islands and known there as jerang or djerang. It is gathered by breaking off the layer of red resin encasing the unripe fruit of the rattan. The collected resin is then rolled into solid balls before being sold.
Sangre de Dragon, more commonly know as Dragon’s Blood, is a wild crafted resin that comes from the Croton Uechleri trees found in the Amazon Rainforest of South America. The heart shaped leaves and the blood-like red sap speak to the abilities of this beautiful tree to heal wounds and cleanse the blood. The Flowers found high in the branches resemble the dragon’s head, thus the interesting name, as well as a symbol of its fierce healing ability.
Collected from various sources
Trees have from time immemorial been closely associated with magic. These stout members of the vegetable kingdom may stand for as long as a thousand years, and tower far above our mortal heads. As such they are symbols and keepers of unlimited power, longevity, and timelessness.
An untouched forest, studded with trees of all ages, sizes and types, is more than a mysterious, magical place – it is one of the energy reservoirs of nature. Within its boundaries stand ancient and new sentinels, guardians of the universal force which has manifested on the Earth in vegetable form.
As such, a forest is an excellent spot for magical workings of any kind, not only tree magic. But any tree, anywhere in the world, can be used for the spells and techniques discussed here. Since each type of tree has its own particular powers, these are outlined below.
All trees, save for the poisonous ones (such as yew and hemlock) are excellent for healing magic. Any tree can be used to take away a headache and give you energy, or to reveal the future. We are limited purely by our own minds and actions.
It is important to talk to any tree(s) you are working magic with. Tell them exactly what your need is. Explain to them why the need exists and its urgency. Trees are living entities with a consciousness which, while different from our own, is still capable of communication upon subtler planes of awareness.
So, even though old spells sometimes direct you to pound nails or bore holes into trees – please don’t. This is not only damaging and hurtful to the tree, it is absolutely unnecessary, for there are other techniques available. These include binding or attaching to, burying at the base, and writing on leaves or twigs.
Some spells require marking symbols on leaves. A stick which has been burned on one end is excellent, for the charcoal will act as the graphite in a pencil. Practice with this until you become proficient.
The trees with which you cultivate magical relationships are things to be treasured; visit them often, even if you have no magic to perform. When you can arrive at the point when you accept the trees as friends, you have achieved a powerful bond between yourself, the Earth, and even beyond.
This is a short, very basic list of common trees and their associated powers. Please bear in mind that tree magic needn’t be limited to these tree types, for every tree has its own inherent powers which vary from tree to tree. Experiment!
- Almond: Divination. Clairvoyance. Wisdom. Money. Loans. Business.
- Apple: Healing. Prosperity. Love. Perpetual Youth.
- Ash: Protection. Sea Magick.
- Apricot: Love.
- Aspen: Protection.
- Birch: Protection. Purification. Fertility. New beginnings.
- Cedar: Prosperity. Longevity.
- Coconut: Purity. Chastity. Healing.
- Cypress: Past life workings. Protection.
- Elder: Healing. Protection. Prosperity.
- Elm: Protection.
- Eucalyptus: Healing.
- Fig: Fertility. Strength. Energy. Health.
- Hawthorn.: Cleansing. Marriage. Love. Protection.
- Hazel: Divination. Marriage. Protection. Reconciliation.
- Hemlock: Astral Projection, Not recommended for healing spells.
- Juniper: Protection.
- Lemon: Divination. Healing. Chastity. Neutrality.
- Lime: Divination. Healing. Chastity. Neutrality.
- Linden: Protection.
- Maple: Divination. Love.
- Mulberry: Knowledge. Divination. Wisdom. The will.
- Oak: Healing. Strength. Money. Longevity.
- Olive: Peace. Fruitfulness. Security. Money. Marriage. Fidelity.
- Orange: Love. Marriage.
- Palm: Strength.
- Peach: Love. Divination.
- Pine: Purification. Health. Fortune. Fertility. Prosperity.
- Rowan: Protection. Strength.
- Walnut: Healing. Protection.
- Willow: Healing. Protection. Enchantments. Wishing. Easy delivery of babies.
- Yew: Dark Magick. Not recommended for healing spells.
From: Earth Power
Furze (also known as Gorse) is a druid Sacred tree, whose flowers are associated with the Vernal Equinox (Aprox. March 20).
- Latin name: ulex europaeus
- Celtic name: ‘O’ – Onn
- Folk or Common names: Broom, Frey, Furze, Fyrs, Gorst, Goss, Prickly Broom, Ruffet, and Whin.
- Parts Used: Flowers
Magical History and Associations:
Furze is a thorny shrub with bright yellow flowers that is associated with the Spring Equinox. This herb is a symbol of the young sun at the spring equinox and royalty. Furze is associated with the astrological sign of Aries, the planet of Mars, the element of Fire, and is a masculine herb. Furze is associated with Jupiter, Thor, Onn, and also with the Gallic ash-grove Goddess On-niona. The color for Furze is dun, and its bird is the cormorant.
Furze is a symbol of fertility and has the magickal uses of Protection and Money. Furze is also used in money spells; it attracts gold. Furze is a good herb to use as a proctectant against evil. In Wales hedges of the prickly Gorse are used to protect the home against dark fairies, who cannot penetrate the hedge. Furze wood and blooms can be burned for protection and also for preparation for conflict of any sort. There are two school of thought about giving Furze flowers as a gift. On one had the gift is supposed to be good luck, but on the other hand if you give them to someone that you love it means: Anger.
There is an old rhyme about Furze that refers to its all-year-round flowering habits:
“When Gorse is out of bloom,
Kissing is out of season.”