Ash (Fraxinus excelsior, F. americana)
Folk Names: F excelsior: Bird's Tongue, Common Ash, European Ash, Husbandman's Tree, Martial Ash, Nion, Weeping Ash; F americana: American Ash, Biltmore Ash, Cane Ash, Smallseed White Ash, White Ash
Description: Ash trees are deciduous members of the Olive family. They require cool, deep, richly organic soil. They prefer moist habitats, and rivers and streams are ideal. There are sixty-five species of Ash, including trees and bushes, but F excelsior and F americana are the two most abundant members.
F excelsior is native to Northern Europe and is found in altitudes of up to 5000 feet. The tree may grow up to one hundred thirty feet. The light gray bark becomes red-brown with age and cracks. The compound leaves are opposite and pinnate with seven to fifteen ovate-lanceolate, acute leaflets with toothed margins. The small flowers have two to six white petals but are without calyx or corolla. Some will have only purplish stamens while others only have pistils, but some flowers will have both. These appear before the leaves in spring from small, crowded panicles, growing erect at first, then becoming pendulous. The ash tree reproduces by wind-borne pollen and so have no need for attractive flowers to draw pollinating insects. The flowers each produce one seed with a wing called an Ash-key which hang from twigs in large clusters.
There are approximately seventeen American Ash species, but F americana is dominant. It is a native of North America, growing from Nova Scotia to northern Florida and west to eastern Kansas. The American ash tree may grow from eighty to one hundred thirty feet. The bark is scaly and dark brown to gray. Young branches are glabrous and glossy, and sometimes covered with bloom. The pinnate leaves are formed from five to nine pedunculate pointed oval leaflets with entire margins, which may be slightly toothed at the tip. The glabrous leaf is dark green on the upper side and whitish and downy on the underside. The leafstalk is yellowish-white and furrowed. The American ash produces a unisexual purplish flower with calyx but no corolla on separate trees. The male blooms every year, and the female blooms every two to three years. Like its European cousin, the American ash produces 1 small winged seed per flower, which is at most, one to two and one-half inches long. These hang in dense bunches. The leaves become purple or yellow in the autumn.
Planet: Sun, Jupiter, Mercury Zodiac: Libra, Sagittarius, Taurus, Aquarius
Element: Fire, Water
Associated Deities: Ares/Mars, Gwydion, Hel, Neptune/Poseidon, Thor, Uranus, Woden/Odin
Ash wood represents Yggdrasil, the World-Tree of Norse legend. One root is located in the underworld and is ceaselessly gnawed by evil dragon. Another is in Niflheim, the underworld home of Hel. Scandinavian legend also states that the first man (Aske) was formed of Ash wood and the first woman (Embla) was formed of Elm or Alder wood.
Traditionally, the handle for a witches broom is made from ash wood, and the root-wood is useful for poppets. The wood may also be used to make healing a wand, stave. Select your wood for its shape, remove the bark, and sand to finish. No extra wood should need to be removed. Used in sea rituals, ash wood represents the power of water
Ash wood is sacred to many deities. The wood may also be used for spear shafts sacred to Ares. It is also sacred to Thor, the Thunderer, and is said to attract lightning. Gwydion named his horse for the ash tree.
The ash, one of the seven sacred trees, alternates with Hazel. It is represented by the third letter N or Nion, of the druid tree alphabet. This letter corresponds with the green beryl and February eighteenth to March seventeenth. Ash is most sacred at Yule however and the wood has been burnt at this time for centuries. The Ash also corresponds with several runes: Eoh or Ehwaz, or gyfu or gebo, or Wyn or Wunjo, or Haegl or Hagalaz.
Ash leaves may be added to protective sachets and spells. Scatter the leaves to the four directions to protect your home or some designated area, and kept in the car, the leaves protect passengers from harm. A bit of ash may also be worn or kept in your home to protect from evil and witchcraft, and a garter of green bark protects from the power of sorcerers and conjurers. Wear or carry the seeds to protect you from the evil eye, and carve or tie two twigs into a solar cross to protect from drowning and vampires. An ash staff placed over the door also wards off malign influences.
Snakes are said to avoid ash wood. A circlet of ash twigs around neck was once used as a treatment for snakebite, and white ash bark tea was also a snakebite cure. The leaves may be applied directly to a bite in the form of a poultice to draw out any poison, but you should still seek medical attention.
Ash is used to remove spells and hexes. A few leaves in a bowl of water next to bed every night is said to prevent illness. Ash will also remove warts. Prick each wart with a new pin that has first been pushed into a tree. Once you have pierced the wart(s), place the pin back in the tree and say: Ashen tree, ashen tree, Pray buy these warts of me.
For prophetic dreams, place a few leaves under your pillow. If carried, the leaves will gain you the love of the opposite sex. The wood or leaves have traditionally been burned at Yule for prosperity. Bury the first nail clippings of a newborn under an ash tree to give the child the gift of good singing. A sapling, split down middle, will ensure the longevity of a child. The child is passed through the split tree and, then the tree is bound up. However, the tree and child will be dependent upon each otherís health thereafter, so take special care of the tree from there on out.
Medical Indications: Parts Used: bark, leaves, keys
Ash bark is a diuretic and febrifuge, and the leaves are cathartic. For an earache, place one end of stick in fire and place the sap that bubbles out in your ear (once it has sufficiently cooled of course). Connecticut Indians used the sap for external cancerous growths. A tea rinse of white ash bark is a good way to get rid of lice, and taken internally, it will expel intestinal worms and parasites or reduce fever. The leaf tea is also a mild purgative and is used for rheumatism, and the Penobscot prepared a decoction of leaves as internal antiseptic for use after childbirth. The bark tea was used for an itching scalp and sores, and the leaf tea acts as an external and internal vermifuge. The seeds are said to be aphrodisiac, but more often they are used as a diuretic or appetite stimulant.
Nineteenth century America doctors used ash as a styptic and emetic. Ancient doctors held the Ash-keys in more regard than any other part of the tree. These were used for flatulence.
At one time, ask-keys were pickled, much like capers, and used as a caper substitute in recipes. If gathered when ripe, the keys will keep all year long.
Ash trees are harvested for the commercial value of their wood. The trees are quick to grow, maturing more rapidly than oak, and the hard wood is tough and elastic, taking a high polish. It is in fact one of our toughest and most elastic woods, a detail that has led to its use in spears and bows since time immemorial. Ash wood is now valued more for furniture, especially with delicate work. It is used in buildings, baseball bats, ladders, carts, oars, walking-sticks, and axe handles. The bark and wood of F excelsior may be used for a green (bark) and brown (wood) dye. F Americana produces a yellow dye. Ash bark is also useful in tanning due to its astringent nature.