~Ralph Waldo Emerson~
The Latin name ~sambucus~ is derived from a Greek word for a wind instrument made from Elder. The pith can easily be removed from the small branches to make a flute. Considered magical, Elder was associated with death.
In Norse mythology, the Goddess Freya chose the black Elder as her home. In medieval times it was the abode of witches and it was considered dangerous to sleep under its branches or to cut it down. Sticks of Elder were used as magical horses by Witches. Elder indicates the end in the beginning and the beginning in the end, Life in Death and Death in Life. It has a strong association with fairies. The Welsh believe that dwarf elder will only grow where human blood has been shed, and their name for it means ~Plant of the Blood of Men.~ Elder tree symbolizes compassion and zealousness. Elderberries symbolize sorrow and remorse.
*See Elder ~flower meanings and legends~
Elm is associated with Mother and Earth Goddesses, and was said to be the abode of fairies. Elm wood is valued for it's resistance to splitting and the inner bark was used for cordage and chair caning. Elm adds stability and grounding to a spell. In the language of flowers the Elm symbolizes dignity and grace.
Evergreen Tree/Christmas Tree
According to legend Saint Boniface, an English monk who organized the Christian Church in France and Germany, came upon a group of pagans around a great oak tree, about to sacrifice a child to the god Thor. To stop the sacrifice and save the child's life Boniface felled the tree with one mighty blow of his fist. In its place grew a small fir tree. The saint told the pagan worshipers that the Fir was the Tree of Life.
Another legend tells us that Martin Luther, founder of the Protestant faith, walking through the forest one Christmas Eve, was awed by the beauty of the stars shinning through the branches of the evergreen trees. He cut a small tree and took it home. To recreate the same starlight beauty, he placed candles on all its branches.
Yet another legend tells of a poor woodsman who met a lost and hungry child on Christmas Eve. He gave the child food and shelter for the night. The next morning he found a beautiful glittering tree outside his door. The hungry child was really the Christ Child in disguise. He created the tree to reward the good man for his charity.
The origin of the Christmas tree can be traced back to the ancient Romans who during their winter festival decorated trees with small pieces of metal. Some say the origin of the Christmas tree may be the ~Paradise Play.~ In medieval times most people could not read and plays were used to teach the lessons of the bible all over Europe. The Paradise Play, which showed the creation of man and the fall of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden was performed every year on December 24th. Since it was performed in winter, apple trees baring fruit couldn't be found so a substitution was made. Evergreens were hung with apples and used instead.
The Greeks, the Spartans and athletes included figs as their staple diet, as it increased their strength and swiftness. In ancient Greece it was forbidded to export figs. In Latin mythology, it was dedicated to Bacchus (Dionysus) the ~jolly god~ who was supposed to have derived his vigor from the fig tree. It was used in religious ceremonies. Figs were held sacred by the Romans because the wolf that suckled Romulus and Remus rested under a Fig tree. Figs were offered as presents during the celebrations of the first day of the year by Romans. The inhabitants of Cyrene crowned themselves with wreaths of Figs when sacrificing to Saturn, as he was said to have discovered the the fruit. The fig was considered an antidote against poison.
The Old Irish name for Fir is ~ Ailm~ meaning ~that which goes forward~ and also ~will~ or ~desire.~ The spirit or ~Genii of the Forest~ is traditionally depicted holding an uprooted Fir tree according to Scandinavian folklore. The Fir tree has strong connections with the owner of the land where it stands. Should a Fir tree ever be struck by lightning or begin to wither, it is said that the owner will die.
When Atys was metamorphosed into a fir tree, Cybele sat mourning under the tree until Zeus promised the fir tree would remain evergreen. Fir cones respond to rain by closing and the sun by opening. Fir indicates high views with clear vision of what is beyond and yet to come.
Commonly known as ~Pandanus,~ or ~Screwpine. It is Hawaiian name is Hala. The Hala, a common polynesian tree is native to the Hawaiian and Pacific islands. According to legend, the hala tree is so abundant because of Pele's rage, whose canoe, on her first landing ashore, got entangled in the roots and leaves of the hala tree. In her anger she ripped the trees in pieces and threw them across the island, and the hala began to grow, wherever it touched ground. All parts of the tree had value.
The hala lei, is connected to death, and wearing it brings bad luck. The pollen of the male flower was believed to be an aphrodisiac, was used as a love charm. Hala was also used in perfume magic in old Hawaii. It is said that when children are like the many-rooted hala on the mountain side, a mother has devoted children.
The white bracts, which are leaves around the flower, were made into fine mats that only the chiefs could use. The tips of the young roots were used as medicine. The fruits resemble a Pineapple and were eaten by ancient Hawaiians.
Hawthorn is popular in England as a hedge plant. The word for this tree, ~Huath~ means ~frightful,~ suggesting an unpleasant aspect. Hawthorn tree is destined to bring bad fortune to the owner, as this is the thorny tree that some believe was made into the crown of thorns used at Christ's Crucifixion. To bring any part of the tree into a house especially the flowers, will result in someone in the house dieing. Cutting down a Hawthorn tree should not be attempted for the same reason. One contradiction to this belief is that to place a Hawthorn branch above the door will warn negative forces not to enter. Some believe that the Hawthorn is a holy plant which is why no negative energies will find peace by it.
The Hawthorn in ancient mythology is said to have been created from lightning and Germans used wood in funeral pyres as it was thought to assist the souls of the dead in ascension.
The Greeks and Romans saw the Hawthorn as symbol of hope and marriage, but in medieval Europe it was associated with witchcraft and considered unlucky. It was used for protection, love and marriage spells.
According to a Scottish legend the Hawthorn was a special place where Fairies met. A circle was drawn around an ancient tree by young boys that were about to plough a field. The plough was not to enter the circle inorder to preserve the tree. Suddenly a table covered with food appeared within the circle. Only one of the boys ate the food. It is said that after the incidence the boy became very wise and ploughed hard.
The Hawthorn, is a symbol of caution and also symbolizes hostility. One should not invoke the magic of Hawthorn. The flowering of the Hawthorn tree is a sure sign that winter is over and spring is underway, so it is an indicator of changes in the seasons. The wood from the Hawthorn provides the hottest fires known and its leaves and blossoms are used to make a tea to aid with anxiety, appetite loss and poor circulation.
Hazel is a food tree. According to Celtic legends the nuts of the hazel tree contained wisdom. Salmon of Knowledge is said to have eaten the 9 nuts of poetic wisdom dropped into its sacred pool, from the hazel tree growing beside it. Each nut eaten by the salmon became a spot on its skin.
An ancient belief says that God gave Adam the power to create any animal he wanted after being banished from Eden. To create the animal Adam had to strike the sea with a rod made of Hazel. The first animal that he created was the sheep. Eve created a wolf which attacked the sheep, and in order to control the wolf Adam created a dog. The dog overcame the wolf and harmony was restored.
In Europe and North America, hazel is commonly used for ~water-witching,~ the art of finding water with a forked stick. Hazel wood is used to gain knowledge, wisdom and poetic inspiration. Druids chewed hazelnuts for the same reason. Making a wish whilst adorning the hair with individual twigs or with ~Wishing Caps~ made of Hazel twigs, the wish would be fulfilled.
Hazel nuts were believed to possess mystical powers and could be used in divining. The nut is believed to be at its strongest on Halloween night, which was traditionally called ~Nutcrack Night~ in England. Lovers were recommended to use this to gain foresight into the relationship.
Holly wood has an almost invisible grain and looks like ivory, Holly is associated with the death and rebirth in Pagan and Christian folklore. In Arthurian legend, Gawain (representing the Oak King of summer) fought the Green Knight, who was armed with a holly club to represent winter. Holly is used in spells and has a powerful link to the spirit world.
* See Holly ~flower meanings and legends~
Also known as the ~Love Tree.~ It originated from Europe through the Mediterranean region into western Asia. It is an unusual tree. According to legend, this is the tree on which Judas hanged himself after betraying Jesus, after which the white flowers turned red with his blood and shame.
According to legend, the Juniper tree was used, when in the Flight from Egypt, the infant Jesus was saved from King Herod. It has been associated with being able to ward off illness, negative forces and evil.
Juniper was burned in ancient Sumeria and Babylonia as sacrifice to the gods. It was sacred to Inanna and to her later counterpart Ishtar. In Europe, Juniper branches were smouldered and carried around fields to protect livestock. A goblin of the Jupiter tree, called ~Frau Wachholder~ was invoked to make thieves return the goods they had stolen. This female demon could be approached if the person had lost something belonging to them. In Wales, it is believed that cutting down a Juniper tree will result in the woodcutter's death the following year. Juniper was widely used by different Native American groups. In the language of flowers Juniper symbolizes Perfect loveliness; Succour; Protection.
A light softwood, similar to spruce. Larch is one of the few conifers which sheds its needles in the winter. The larch plays an important role in Siberian mythology where it takes the place of the ash as the World-tree. Their Shamans use larch wood to rim their ceremonial drums. The smoke from burning larch is said to ward off evil spirits. Larch was used for protection and to induce visions.
Common Names: ~Bay Laurel~ ~Bay Tree~ ~Roman Laurel~ ~Sweet Bay
Bay leaves come from the evergreen Laurel tree. It's scienticfic name ~Laurus~ means ~praise~ and ~nobilis~ means ~famous or notable.~ In Christianity it symbolized the triumph of Humanity as represented by Christ. The laurel was sacred to the sun god Apollo in memory of the fate of Daphne, daughter of the river god Peneus. Daphne was fleeing from Apollo, but was about to be overtaken when her father changed her into a laurel tree.
* See Bay ~flower meanings and legends~
The name ~Lime~ and ~Lemon~ are derived from the Persian or Arabic name of lemon, limun. Limes, like lemons were originally given to British sailors who ate the fruit to reduce the risk of scurvy: Hence the name, 'limey'. The lime became the the symbol of wedded love in honor of Baucis, wife of the good old shepherd, Philemon. When Zeus and Hermes, disguised as ordinary mortals, had been denied admittance to every other house in the village, Philemon gave them shelter. Zeus rewarded them by taking them to a high hill while the village was flooded with water. He made them guardians of the temple on the hill. He allowed them both to die at the same time, and changed them into trees, Philemon into an oak, the symbol of hospitality and Baucis into a lime, the emblem of conjugal affection.
Sugar maple has the highest sugar content in its sap but all maple species can be tapped for syrup and sugar. It was a vital resource to early North American settlers.
A Swiss folklore tells us that a number of dwarfs who used to sit on the branch of a Maple tree watching the haymaking. One night those with nothing to do cut through the branch making it dangerous to sit upon. When the dwarves came to sit on the branch they fell to the floor. The people laughed at them and the dwarves never returned to the place.
To avoid the eggs of the stork being disturbed by bats or being killed whilst still in their shells, placing branches of the Maple would ensure protection against the bats. Planting a branch of the Maple tree in a house was also said to ensure that bats will not enter. Passing a young child through the branches of this tree is traditionally thought to encourage good health and a long life for the child. Maple is said to bring success and abundance.
Family: Fagaceae (Beech family)
The Oak is associated with the sun, the element of fire and is attributed to the Gods Dagda, Dianus, Jupiter, Thor, Zeus, Herne, Janus, Rhea, Cybele, Hecate, Pan, and Erato. It is imbued with the powers of protection, health, money, healing, potency, fertility, luck, wisdom and strength. Oak represents doorways to the other realms. The Ogham name for Oak, ~Arddam Dossa~ means ~highest or most exalted of trees.~ ~Dossa~ can also mean ~protecting chief.~ Oak gives shelter and protection to and from the otherworld. Oak groves are one of the most spiritual places on Earth.
Oak has been considered sacred by almost every culture. It was held in high esteem by the Norse and Celts because of its size, longevity, and nutritious acorns. The grandest meeting places for the Druids is within an Oak Grove for conducting rites for magical protection, power and stability spells. Oak represents the Druid's final stage of initiation, or the Class of Druid. The ~Holy Groves~ of the Druids' is located in Anglesea, Mona's Isle, Wales. Ancient remnants of Oak trees can be found here. A fortified garrison was later built in the same place to stop the superstitious practices. Druids carried an Acorn at all times to prevent from growing old.
It is considered to be the King of the forest in age and form. It is associated with Gods of thunder and lightening. Because it often gets struck with lightning, it displays the ability to attract the energy, inspiration, and illumination of the Sky father or thunder God Taran.
Oak trees have also been associated with the ~Wild Hunt~ in England and Germany. Two twigs tied with red thread like a solar cross will guard one from evil. Acorns placed in windows guard the house from lightning and harm. If one catches a falling leaf they will be free from colds all winter. Oak fires draw off illnesses. Carrying acorns will prevent illness, increase immortality, fertility, strengthen sexual potency, and preserve youthfulness. Planting an acorn in the dark will ensure money in the near future. Oak branches are often burned in midsummer fires and for making wands and staves. Oak represents the seventh moon - the moon of strength and is used for sacrificial rites.
According to a Christian legend it is said that when Christ's Crucifixion was announced all the trees met together and agreed that none of them would be part of the event. As the Jews began to chose the wood each piece began to split and break into many pieces making it impossible to use. Only the ~Evergreen Oak~ did not split and allowed itself to be used, seen by the other trees as a traitor or another Judas. As a result it is said that Grecians will not have any part of the Oak tree brought into the house, or allow their axes to come into contact with it. Another legend tell us that when Cain murdered Abel he had to carry his brother's body for seven hundred years and then bury him. To mark the burial place Cain stuck his staff in the ground. Seven Oaks immediately sprang forth in a row, now known as the announcement of ~The Seven Oaks of Palestine ~
An Oak tree shed it's leaves according to legend, when King Harold narrowly survived the Battle of Hastings and found himself at Rouen with William. He made the king swear an oath under an Oak tree but when the king broke the promise the Oak shed its leaves for all to see.
Insects make the ~ Oak Apples~ or ~Galls~ located on the Oak. It is said that to find this worm will provide the person with riches and prosperity. The Acorn has also been associated with couples and love divination. Dropping two Acorns into the same bowl of water will provide the inquirers with news. If the Acorns float together, the couple will marry, the reverse being true if the Acorns drift apart.
~Daedala~ was an Ancient Greek festival, taken from a woman that Zeus was going to marry. The festival was to remember a quarrel between Hera and Zeus. Zeus deceived Hera who then came down from Mount Olympus is a rage. Hera tore the wedding clothes off and saw the wooden image that he had made of ~Daedala.~ They reconciled later. The image for the festival was made from Oak wood. The actual tree was chosen by putting cooked meat at the bottom of a number of trees and waiting to see which one attracted the hungry ravens. Having seen the ravens eat the meat the tree was cut and carved into the image.
The Oak was thought to produce the first man and the trees themselves were called the first mothers. They actually called the Oak ~The Mother Tree.~ According to the Romans mankind was also created from an opening in the feminine Oak and fed by her Acorns. It was said that after Jupiter (or Zeus) killed ~Rhoecus,~ one of the giants, the Oak grew out of his body. In Germany a belief exists that children come from an ancient hollow Oak tree and are brought by the doctor.
A large Oak steeped in legend grows at Howth Castle, Ireland. The family of St. Lawrence, the Earls of Howth are associated with the Oak tree. It is believed that when the tree falls the Howth family direct line will become extinct, hence the branches are strongly supported on wooden uprights.
Oak has many medicinal uses and its flower essence prevents despondency and despair. Oak wood is considered to be the finest building material and is also unsurpassed as a heating fuel. Oak is great for tanning, dying cloth and fodder from the acorns for pigs. Acorns also make wonderful breads and other foodstuffs.
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