Sacred Celtic Trees by Helen Jordan
- April 8, 2017
- Posted by: Irish School Of Shamanic Studies
- Category: Shamanic Studies
Sacred Celtic Trees and their Meanings
by Helen Jordan
To the Celts and many other peoples of the old world, certain trees held special significance as a fuel for heat, cooking, building materials and weaponry. In addition to this, however, many woods also provided a powerful spiritual presence. Trees are living things, filled with the essence and energy and of the elementals of Mother Earth, with an aura of power which is visible to those who are in total balance and harmony. The lore which surrounds a particular tree or wood often reflects the power the old ones sensed and drew from their presence. My father had a deep love of trees and since his passing 12 years ago, many Mediums have told us that he lives among trees. When the wind blows and they dance in the breeze, I take great comfort myself that he is saying hello.
This tree was sacred to the Druids. The pith is easily pushed out of green shoots to make whistles. Several shoots bound together by cordage, can be trimmed to the desired length for producing the note you want and used to entice air elementals. The old superstition of “whistling up the wind” began with this custom.
A Druid sacred tree. Druid wands were often made of ash because of its straight grain. Ash wands are good for healing, general and solar magic. Put fresh ash leaves under your pillow to stimulate psychic dreams.
Known as Lady of the Woods, Paper Birch and White Birch. Carefully gather strips of the bark at the New Moon. With red ink, write on a birch strip: “Bring me true love. ” Burn this along with a love incense, saying, “Goddess of love, God of desire, Bring to me sweet passion’s fire.”
The specific name of a god/goddess may be added, or cast the bark into a stream or other flowing water, saying: “Message of love, I set you free, to capture a love and return to me. ” ***Remember*** It is unwise to use this incantation and ritual directed toward a specific person as that would violate the rule. If a love is to come to you, it must be of that persons free will to do so.
Blackthorn is a winter tree. Its white flowers are seen even before the leaves in the spring. It is black barked with vicious thorns and grows in dense thickets.
Also known as the Tree of Life, Arbor Vitae, Yellow Cedar. Ancient Celts on the mainland used cedar oil to preserve the heads of enemies taken in battle. To draw Earth energy and ground yourself, place the palms of your hands against the ends of the leaves.
A slightly fibrous, tan-colored wood with a slight sheen the Elm is often associated with mother and earth goddesses, and was said to be the abode of faeries. Elm wood is valued for its resistance to splitting, so the inner bark was used for cordage and chair caning. Slippery Elm, also made from the inner bark, is one of nature’s wonder cures.
It works on the digestive system as well as throat irritations, and is a natural detoxifier. The needles are a great source of vitamin C, the kernels can be used to restore good health after a long illness and inhaling the scent of pine can alleviate feelings of guilt. It regenerates quickly when it is cut down and it’s resinous wood produces a strong purifying flame, used in Celtic ceremonies of births and deaths.
The Fir is a tall slender tree that grows in mountainous regions on the upper slopes. The ancient Celts and Druids recognised the Fir as important for forecasting weather conditions, as fir cones respond to rain by closing and the sun by opening. It is a symbol of honesty, truth and forthrightness because of the way it grows on the “straight and narrow”.
They are also a symbol of friendship, simply by the fact that they are evergreens, never losing their green vibrancy, a reminder of our life long connections with partners or good friends. Furthermore, their evergreen nature signifies renewal and hope in the midst of the long winter months. In fact, the Fir has evolved in to what is commonly known of our modern Christmas tree with its tradition spanning back to ancient times. A very much loved tradition in our homes today.
The Celtic meaning of the Hawthorn tree deals with balance and beautiful blossoms. They are nestled tightly among its large and lethal looking thorns. Ancient Celts and herbalists understood the medicinal value of the hawthorn leaves and blossoms however, considered it a bad omen to bring its branches inside the home. This is largely due to the smell of cut branches being similar to decaying flesh.
The Hawthorn is imbued with male energy, yet it is historically a symbol of fertility and associated with female goddess aspects. This magnificent tree with all its contradictions, is a symbol of the union of opposites, to be more accepting of the unconventional and the epitome of the concept of Yin Yang.
Hazel (Ogham- Coll)
The Hazel’s unusual branch formations make it a delight to ponder and was often used for inspiration in art and poetry. It’s considered a container of ancient knowledge, as eating the hazelnuts is proposed to induce visions, heightened awareness and lead to epiphanies. The legend of Fionn Mac Cumhail tells of gaining the wisdom of the universe by using the hazel nut. The Salmon he was trying to catch was known to eat hazel nuts, as it lived in a sacred pond with nine hazel trees around it.
It was thought that these Salmon too had infinite knowledge from their diet of the nuts. While preparing soup for the Salmon, Fionn burnt his finger and instinctively put it in his mouth to soothe the burn, thus becoming enlightened. Some people make necklaces from hazel nuts to wear for protection or to bring on visions.
When all other flora have long lost their blush and gone dormant for winter, the holly can be found to still be brightly lit against the stark, dark winter landscape. The Celtic people of pre-Christian Ireland used holly extensively. Fresh, green holly leaves adorned their homes during the Winter Solstice, while the red berries were believed to symbolise the menstrual blood of their beloved Goddesses.
They placed holly leaves and branches around their doors and windows in Winter time they believed the holly would capture any evil spirits trying to get in to the house. As Christianity took hold in Celtic Ireland, the holly became part of Christmas traditions. The prickly, green leaves are a reminder of the crown of thorns that Jesus wore, while the red berries symbolised the blood of Christ spilled for the sins of mankind. Some say the berries were white before
This tree is also known as Mountain Ash, Witchwood, Sorb Apple and the tree of life. It has long been known as an aid and protection against enchantment. Sticks of the Rowan were used to carve Runes on. It’s lovely red berries feed birds in Winter. The berries have a tiny pentagram on them which is a symbol for protection and are especially poisonous.
The Rowan tree indicates protection and control of the senses from enchantment and beguiling. The Rowan was sacred to the Druids and the Goddess Brigit. It is a very magical tree used for wands, rods, amulets and spells. A forked Rowan branch can help find water. If the branches are gathered at Beltane (May Day) they can be tied with red yarn hung above openings to protect your house.
The berries and leaves are dried and burned to invoke/banish spirits, fairies, elements, and the Earth Mother. Rowan wood was burned by Druids of opposing armies to summon spirits-to take part of battle. The Silver Branch that is often carried in Druid rites and ceremonies, is usually made of Rowan, to celebrate and honour the Goddesses. If you were born under the Rowan energy (January 21 – February 17), you are likely a keen-minded visionary, with high ideals. Your thoughts are original and creative, so much so, that other’s often misunderstand from where you are coming.
Also known as White Willow, Tree of Enchantment and Witches’ Asprin, it is one of the seven sacred trees of the Irish, a Druid sacred Tree. For a wish to be granted, ask permission of the willow, explaining your desire. Select a pliable shoot and tie a loose knot in it while expressing what you want. When the wish is fulfilled, return and untie the knot. Remember to thank the willow and leave a gift.
Recognising these natural unions, ancient Celtic Spiritual leaders considered the willow a container for water/moon attributes and thus utilised its wood and branches to invoke deeper connections to their intuitive purposes. The Celts understood that the willow was instrumental in bringing about psychic visions that produced a clearer understanding of the world in which they lived. Other valuable traits of the willow include its flexibility. The willow is one of the few trees that can bend in outrageous poses without snapping. This is a powerful metaphor for those of us on a spiritual path.
The message here is to adjust with life rather than fight it. Further testimony to its adaptability, is the willow’s ability to not only survive, but thrive in some of the most challenging conditions. The willow is a prolific grower, often taking root from a single branch that has fallen into some marshy bog.
Also known as English Yew and European Yew. Another important tree to the Winter Solstice and the deities of death and rebirth. It is a beautifully smooth, gold-coloured wood with a wavy grain. The Irish used it to make dagger handles, bows and wine barrels. The wood or leaves were laid on graves as a reminder to the departed spirit that death was only a pause in life before rebirth.
All parts of the tree are poisonous, except the fleshy covering of the berry, and its medicinal uses include a recently discovered treatment for cancer. The yew may be the oldest-lived tree in the world. Ancient yews can be found in churchyards all over the UK, where they often pre-date even the oldest churches. The Yew may be used to enhance magical and psychic abilities, and to induce visions.