Trees have for a long time inspired my friends and I, they are an abundant source for tales of Mystery and Magic; trees have been and will continue be our allies in the realms of Magic and the Wilderness. Trees provide the air that we breathe, they are a home to a multitude of creatures; indeed they are the foundations to our very lives in so many ways!

Many a story has been told about the trees in our glorious Green Island and I shall share some of them here, in particular those which related to the material I use. I shall also say a little about Ogham, for example where it comes from and how it can be used.

 

Ogham... 

Ogham was first recorded in the six century by monks recording spoken traditions and ancient written languages of Ireland, then later in the 14th century in the book of Ballymote. It is supposed that Ogham is the earliest form of written language in the British Isles, first used as a finger sign language, and later adopted by the druidic traditions. It has been attributed with being an alphabet based on trees, having a tree that represents each Glyph or letter. This language has by its nature formed to become sacred languages often used to aid divination, initiation and healing. In Irish mythology the development of Ogham is attributed to Ogma, an Irish deity and member of the Tuatha De Dannan. 

So in this context I use Ogham to accentuate the identity of individual woods, bringing their magical and healing properties into focus.

 Attached below is a list of the alphabet and the assigned dates and trees, some further development has been made on the alphabet to include beech and heather amongst others, these trees were not present in the original recording of the tree alphabet.

Ogham Alphabet

According to the writer Robert Graves, (author of the white goddess) a tree calendar is associated also.

Beth (Birch) December 24 to January 20

Luis (Rowan) January 21 to February 17

Nion (Ash) February 18 to March 17

Fearn (Alder) March 18 to April 14

Saille (Willow) April 15 to May 12

Uath (Hawthorn) May 13 to June 9

Duir (Oak) June 10 to July 7

Tinne (Holly) July 8 to August 4

Coll (Hazel) August 5 to September 1

Muin (Vine) September 2 to September 29

Gort (Ivy) September 30 to October 27

Ngetal (Reed) October 28 to November 24

Ruis (Elder) November 25 to December 22

December 23 is not ruled by any tree for it is the traditional day of the proverbial "Year and a Day" in the earliest courts of law.

 

 

 The Trees

Using wood I have found is a joy to me! I use only wood that I find and gather myself from local woods and magical and sacred places that I visit, or that which has been given to me by friends. The wands I make are mainly Ash and Hazel, as those woods often present an attratctive and characteristic twisting which occurs naturally when woodbine climbs the branches and constricts the growth, sometimes these twists occur in other woods like Hawthorn and Blackthorn.

I make handles and other items from appropriate trees, depending on physical properties of the wood and what I need, each tree being so different.

 

Ash:

Ancient Ash Tree

Fraxinus excelsior. Deciduous.

Irish/Gaelic - Nuin

Metaphysical properties and inspiration, outer and inner worlds linked, clarity and quick intellect. "Aquarian Age" energy.

Element- Water

Season - Summer.

"Burn Ash wood of Green, tis fire for a queen."

 

The tree has many physical uses from medicine to bows, it makes the best handles for tools and has a beautiful grain for use in furniture.

The northern tribes of Europe found Ash to be the finest wood for spears and weapons that needed wooden handles, as it was the best wood for magical protection, their lives literally depended upon their weapons! The ancient practice of swearing on weapons is probably Germanic in origin. If your oath was broken your weapon could fail at a bad moment and turn against you! Magic is intrinsically wound up in the creation of weapons, therefore smiths and weapon makers were considered magical people.

 

In northern European legend the Ash tree stands supreme as the World tree.

 

Hazel:

Corylus avellana. Deciduous

Irish/Gaelic - Coll

Ruling planet, Mercury (nuts) Sun (plant).

Metaphysical properties, Intuition, divination, Dowsing, wands, individuality, the power to find that which is hidden.

Element - Air.

Season - Spring (Imbolc) Autumn.

 

Considered by the ancients of these isles to be the tree of knowledge, its nut were held as the ultimate receptacles of wisdom! In the Fenian Cycle of the Irish myths Fionn Mac Cumhaill was charged with cooking the Salmon of Wisdom which fed on nine hazel nuts and absorbed all the knowledge in the world! He who ate of its flesh (the salmon) would gain all this knowledge. Fionn was asked to prepare and cook the salmon for Finn Eces to whom he was apprentice, while doing so he burnt his finger and to sooth it he put it in his mouth and unwittingly gained the knowledge.

 

Yew:

Yew Tree

Taxus baccata. Evergreen.

Irish/Gaelic - Ioho

Ruling planet - Saturn.

Metaphysical properties - Guardian to the door of rebirth, rest after the journey of life.

Element - Earth

Season - Winter.

 

The Yew tree helped form the great primaeval conifer forests which covered the Earth long before the advent of broad leaved trees.

Yew trees can live for over a thousand years , some trees like the Fortingall yew in Perthshire are said to be 9000 years old! Close to my home in Compton Dundon, is a Yew tree which has been dated as 1500 years old, I have had many a magical dream sitting beneath its ancient boughs. 

Many tales exist about the Yew, it is well worth researching! 

 

Bows are traditionally made from Yew and you will find many Yews in churchyards.

 

Rowan:

Rowan Tree

Synonyms - Quick Beam; Mountain Ash.

Sorbus aucuparia. Deciduous. 

Irish/Gaelic - Luis

Ruling planet - Sun

Metaphysical properties, Protection against enchantment,  divination, protection from the unseen magical realms. 

Element - Fire.

The druids made fires of Rowan wood to discover hidden knowledge. Legends tell that if you eat three berries it can make a man of a hundred years into a man of thirty, however, eating the berries can turn your face inside out as they are so sour, on account of the tartaric acid, malic and citric acid present in the fruit. The seeds contain 22% fixed oils which can be poisonous to children, although I don't imagine a child would eat enough Rowan berries to poison them as they really are exceptionally sour! A decoction of the fruit can be used as a gargle for sore throats, and Rowan berries can also be used to make an excellent jelly to go with game. 

 

Growing next to moorland streams and on rocky crags the rowan has long been a love of mine, I consider it a faerie tree as did our ancestors. Trees sporting red berries have been associated with the little people both mythologically and historically, and so today the rowan is as magical little tree as it always was.

 

Hawthorn:

Synonyms - May, white thorn.

Crataegus oxyacantha. Deciduous.

Irish/Gaelic - Huathe.

Ruling planet - Mars

Metaphysical properties - Fertility, guardianship and doorway to the other world; happiness and cleansing.

Element - Fire.

Season - Spring (beltain)

 

Hawthorn is another of the Faerie trees, in Ireland there are still trees that the local people are wary of and leave well alone as they know that only harm can come from interfering with them; indeed a respect for faerie trees is well established in the isle of Erin.

In days of old the young spring shoots were called bread and cheese and can be added to a salad to bring a nutty taste, only the young shoots are advised as older ones are more leathery and tougher to eat. Hawthorn berries make a nice wine and can also be used as a heart tonic (under the guidance of a herbalist), lowering high blood pressure and raising low blood pressure. 

Hawthorn trees are often bedecked in ribbons as wishing trees, many of these can be found around the British isles, one such is the famous Glastonbury thorn, a relative of hawthorn it is said to have been grown from the staff of Joseph of Arimathea on one of his visits to Britain, perhaps when he brought the holy grail.

 

Apple:

 

Pyrus malus or communis. Deciduous.

Irish/Gaelic - Quert

Ruling planet - Venus

Metaphysical properties. - Healing, Love, Poetic inspiration and works of destiny foundation.

Element - Water.

Season - All

 

The apple has always been regarded as the possessor of amazing healing and magical qualities. to walk through an apple orchard in full bloom, bees buzzing and birds singing is an absolute delight to me.

The apple has often been regarded as a symbol of purity, love and friendship: "You are the apple of my eye!". Apples are seen as sacred and magical in most countries, in many being seen as a cure-all or the way to immortality! The apple symbolises abundance and generosity seen in its bounteous fruiting; the apple gives all trusting that more will come! 

Apple trees to this day are sung to (wassailing) and revered as beings in their own right. The Crab Apple is Britain’s only indigenous Apple, hybrids have suffused the country side and make a beautiful addition to the rural idyll.

The Isle of Avalon has its genealogical root in apples, Avalon is the Isle where King Arthur is said to be resting, waiting for the day he rises for his second coming. Glastonbury has been given the name Avalon rather spuriously as the only reason I can see for this was the discovery of Arthur’s supposed grave! In 1189 King Henry II gave the monks of Glastonbury the location of Arthur's Grave after he was informed of the location by an unnamed Welsh bard. Acting on the information given, the Monk made the discovery after digging down 16 feet to find a hollowed log containing two bodies; that of a man and a woman. Before finding the coffin at around 7 feet the monks found a stone slab on the underside of which was a crude cross bearing a Latin inscription saying that the bodies were the renowned King Arthur and his Queen Guinevere! Due to the varied reports of the discovery and their inconsistencies some suspicion has arisen over the authenticity of the find. Further evidence for this supposition was the poor financial situation of the Abbey, due to its destruction a few years before and the loss of the oldest church in Christendom (the wattle chapel founded by Joseph of Arimathea). National interest in all things Arthurian, the discovery brought many pilgrims and raised the local economy.

Whatever the truth of the Arthurian burrials, the present traditions surrounding Glastonbury are many and varied and bring an eclectic cultural mix to the place. I believe that regardless of the validity of Arthur's various myths and legends Glastonbury is a wonderfully interesting magical place and I find the Arthurian links fascinating.

Glastonbury was a name given to the Isle by the Saxons, it means Isle of Glass, the older version of this name is Yiniswitryn. Having lived on the Isle for many years now I understand the place to be one of deep reflection and introspection, hinting to the original and deeper spiritual meaning of the place I now call home.

 

Oak:

Ancient oak

 Quercus robur and Quercus petraea. Deciduous.

Irish/Gaelic - Duir.

Ruling planet - Jupiter.

Metaphysical properties - Courage and strength, solid protection, the door to mysteries and inner spiritual strength.

Element -Earth.

The Oak is an icon, when we think of trees and their relationship to humans we often think of the Oak: reliable, strong, useful. I am often asked "how does one relate in a metaphysical or spiritual way to trees?" I ask the questioner to think of an Oak, then I ask them to name the qualities it inspires, the answers come steady and quick: Strength they say, resolve, steadfastness, endurance. This is how we can relate to trees on a spiritual level, simply and with a tangible sense of the underlying consciousness of the trees.

The Oak is called in some parts of the country "a garden and a country" this is because the Oak supports such a huge variety of life in and around its roots and branches, thousands of species rely on the Oak for life.

 

The nations supremacy at sea was largely due to the number of Oak trees available to build and maintain the countries navy. Ancient doors and Oak pillars still stand in use in old houses and churches, testament to its endurance.

Oaks once growing by bogs thousands of years ago still remain preserved by the peat in the form of Bog Oak (Morta) this material is written about on this website. 

The Druids get their name from the Irish/Gaelic word Duir, and use the Oak at all major Occasions on the Druid calendar. 

A huge amount of deities are associated with the Oak, Gods of northern Europe, Greek goddesses, Roman and Celtic. 

There are countless modern and ancient uses for and from the Oak, from ink to tables,doors to handles, boats to tanning leather, the list is endless.

Odin is said to have been tied to an Oak to await the opening of wisdom to him, the runes followed after a fast and sightlessness. 

The Pagan deity "the Green Man" is depicted with Oaken leaves around his face.

It truly is a tree of inspiration and wonderment.