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Celtic Tree Lore

The Elder Tree - Ruis - December

Elder Tree - Celtic Moon month Nov 23rd - Dec 22nd

Latin name - Sambucus Nigra

elder treeThis is the time of the Elder moon associated with the Elder tree. This tree marks the dark time, the time of the Winter Solstice. In ancient times this tree symbolised eternity and was sacred to the Crone, the wise woman aspect of the Triple Goddess. Today, often it’s associated with the dark time as this is the tree of the month of 23 rd November to the 22nd of December. This is the tree of the cycle, birth and death, continuous growth from the cycle of rebirth. The Elder has strong connections with femininity and The Great Goddess, this tree was often known as Our Lady.

The Elder flowers in June and July giving us fruit from August to October. A note of caution, Elder berries are poisonous when raw but safe when they have been cooked.

The Elder is a great healing tree and its bark, leaves, flowers and berries are all used. It can be used for bruises, colds, hay fever, breathing difficulties and fevers. The flowers and fruit can be used for jam, wines and tea. A tea, using flowers has a purifying effect on the blood. Fresh leaves can be applied to wounds as a compress. Elder flower is used for the eyes and also as a skin cream. The Black Elder is used as an insecticide as a repellent or in the garden. Fresh leaves are used for this in a simple infusion. The berries can be also used as a mild laxative.

Elder wine was sacred and used for clairvoyance and divinatory purposes, the berries used for this sacred purpose were the ones left on the tree in December. They were gathered with great care and ceremony and considered a gift from the Earth Mother Gaia.

The elder tree also has uses as a dye, green from the leaves, shades of blue from the flowers and black from the bark. The Elder is a member of the honeysuckle family, Caprifoliaceae. The Elder usually remains as a bushy shrub with many stems at ground level. It can also grow into a small tree up to nine meters tall (30ft). It likes a high nitrogen soil where it can flourish. It can be found growing near abandoned dwellings, churches and around rabbit warrens and badger sets. It will quickly colonise an area as it will root and grow from many parts. It grows abundantly at all altitudes.

Elder has been connected with fairies and aiding a link to them. It was believed making a flute or whistle from Elder wood would call the fairies close. The wood was used for protecting against enchantment and curses. It was also thought to protect from lightning. The wood is good for carving but not for burning on the fire as it will shoot out burning embers. In Ireland the Witches broom would have a shaft made from Elder instead of the more traditional Ash.

In Megalithic long barrows flints in the shape of Elder leaves have been found and this has given us the connection with the Elder and death. There has also been found Elder leaf shaped portals between slabs of stone, showing that this association goes back beyond the Ancient Celts into pre history. Rooks are linked to the Elder, death, wisdom and prophecy. Rooks are birds of habit and will stay in their chosen tree for life but they seem to know when a tree with be cut down and leave a few weeks before. The colour blood red is also linked to the Elder tree.

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Written by SpiritDancer, Designed by Sol Mystic Familiar 2008

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