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"She seemed to come suddenly upon happiness as if she had surprised a butterfly in the Winter woods"
(edith wharton)


Friday, 23 November 2007

Elder lore - from a different perspective

"If verdant elder spreads
Her silver flowers; if humble daisies yield
To yellow crowfoot and luxuriant grass,
Gay shearing-time approaches."
DYER


following on from trying to bring folk lore into my very own life, I have decided to forego posting most of the celtic tree lore that belongs to the Northern Hemisphere... here is a great link if you would like to read more: ELDER
although I have Celtic heritage from way back when, probably even back to the Spaniards, living here in Australia, the tree lore doesn't really relate much to my life. However, I still absolutely love folk lore, it is part of my soul heritage so I am going to do my very own take on the monthly celtic tree calendar.. the calendar will run the same as the Northern Hemisphere, i just want to post about how I can bring the folk lore into my home & life here. I tried to work out what our equivalent calendar would be by reversing it but it was all just too hard and I became even more confused than I already am....it could be hawthorn for me now but I don't have any of that here so.. I will stick to Elder (are you confused yet?) - at least I can work out the solstice trees for me.. not that we have many of the Northern hemisphere trees growing here anyway... *sigh*
Leanne from Somerset Seasons does a wonderful job posting folk lore for the different trees... here is her post on The Elder
ELDER tree

Elder is the Lady's tree burn it not or cursed you'll be.

ELDER. It seems to be a member of the Sambuccus family... I wonder if this is where the drink Sambucca comes from and is Elderberry wine made from this ?.... I only know of elderberry wine because I grew up with Elton John in my later teenage years.. while I was hoppin' & boppin' to the crocodile rock....
All parts of the tree - bark, leaves, flowers and berries - have long enjoyed a high reputation in domestic medicine. From the days of Hippocrates, it has been famous for its medicinal properties. The bark can be used fresh for headaches or can be dried and powdered and used in small doses as a diuretic. The leaves and flowers can be made into drinks, poultices and salves and Elderberry flower water is useful for soothing sunburns. Washing her face in dew gathered from elderflowers was believed to enhance and preserve a woman's youthful beauty. The Romans made use of Elderberry juice as a hair-dye, and Culpepper tells us that 'the hair of the head washed with the berries boiled in wine is made black.'
The berries are safe to eat when eaten ripe, and they can be used to make wines, jams and teas.

If I had an Elder tree growing, I would love to make some tea and the Elderberry flower water would come in handy at this time of year with the inevitable sunburn that we all get at some stage of forgetting to slip, slop, slap.
I guess I could also set an altar up to honour the wisdom of the Elder tree for this celtic month..Nov 25 - Dec 23 , except that pretty much runs into summer solstice and then the dreaded christmas... so I think I will set up a little altar for a week or so, because I truly do want to honour this part of my soul heritage... The Elder is associated with the element of air, so I could perhaps use a feather to represent this element along with the gemstone dark green Malachite which is the appropriate gemstone. The bird associated with the month of Elder is the rook. We don't have rooks.. well I don't think we do but they do remind me of Daisy.. she had them near her, I think.
Elder is also called the "witch's tree" and certainly the village hedge-witch would have used the elder in healing and Magick. I guess I had one growing near me back when I lived in that past life.... these days, I don't heal with things like this... a smile and a cup of tea is healing, or even a kind word. Plus, if i tried to heal with Elder, I would have to take out insurance and go and study to get a certificate in herbalism.. inner wisdom doesn't count for much in this modern world of law suits and such...
The month of Elder includes the Winter Solstice, which is celebrated as the Sabbat of Yule, a day to mark the return of the Sun. see? definitely doesn't fit down here... our Sun returned awhile ago back in June...
The Elder has strong protective qualities. Tiny twigs of Elder or dried Elderberry can be worn in a bag around the neck as a charm for protection against physical or psychic attack. *I usually white light myself these days.. and ask the Angels to protect me* As a protection against evil Elder branches were hung in doorways of houses and cowsheds. *I like this idea, if I can find some, I am going to make myself a little twiggy thing to hang over my door and also one for my chook pen.* Elder can be used to bless a person, place or thing by scattering leaves and berries to the four directions, and over the thing or person being blessed. The wine made from the berries was considered the last sacred gift of the Earth Goddess, and was valued and drunk ritually to invoke prophecy, divination and hallucinations (I guess it is like red wine)

Standing under an elder tree at Midsummer, like standing in a Fairy Ring of mushrooms, will help you see the "little people ~ I just have to find some Elder... but I am sure if I stood under wise old eucalypt or even the coachwood at the Witches Leap, I would see the faeries...

17 comments:

kim said...

I think you should gather these different branches and sell them. With all the lore and history. I'll be your first customer!

You post the most interesting things!
XO

Gillian @ Indigo Blue said...

Elder! I love it. Especially that it is a witches tree. So gorgeous. All the history and lore surrounding trees, I've always felt trees were sacred. They hold so much power.
xoxo
Gillian

Gemma said...

Would love to wash my face in dew from the elderflowers. Such a beautiful post. Thank you. We don't have elders here either,that I know of....will have to find out.
Robyn you truely are a goddess.

Sacred Suzie said...

I know I've probably mention Elderflower presse here but I have to do it again, there is something so mythical and magical about it that me and my husband only drink it for special occasions. It's wonderful for someone like me who can't drink alcohol to have this as a substitute. I can see how it would inspire prophecy. I think I will grow an elder tree near my new home. I love that it is a winter solstice and a witch's tree, it doesn't get better than that.

peppylady said...

We have elderberry bushes growing wild here and lot of people make jelly and wine with it.
Actual it one of my favors for both Jelly and wine.

kate said...

I planted an Elder tree this past summer near the house - having read much folklore about it, planting an Elder tree is also supposed to ward off evil spirits.

It is a beautiful tree ...

Rowan said...

I have several wild elders growing at the bottom of my garden - they are wonderful trees. Everything that you write about the elder and the rooks being connected to Winter Solstice is really interesting and absolutely right for me of course. The rooks become more and more noticeable now as great flocks of them fly into the woods to roost in the evening and then fly out agin to their feeding grounds at first light. They do the same thing all year round of course but this is the time of year with the short days when you actually notice them.

Krissie said...

Reminds me of elderberry wine, popular in the UK. I also found a recipe for a yule log, I've never made one, or actaully tasted one! Are they nice?

Tracy said...

Very interesting, Robyn. I always learn something new when I visit! :)

A bird in the hand said...

This is just as fascinating as tree lore. As for sambuca (we were taught in Italy that the coffee beans floating on top must be an uneven number like 3 or 1) is made from Star Anise. Although your theory was understandable. xoxo

Pixie said...

You can make elder flower champagne if you pick them soon enough, rather than waiting for the berries to make wine.
And elderflower cordial is available most places over here.
pxx

Ruth said...

We have lots of elder growing near us and I have always found it a very magical tree ever since I learned how to make whistles from the twigs when I was a child. Country people here in the north of England still have great respect for the tree and if you walk along the hedgerows in winter you can sometimes see that that hedge-cutters have carefully gone round the elder trees leaving them well alone! We make bubbly elderflower champagne and then later on wine from the berries - this is good for coughs and colds.

solsticedreamer said...

elderflower makes such a lovely drink, i think it has to rate as one of the nicest in my drinks scale!
for some reason around here the elder did not flower so well...last year it went wild.

Moonroot said...

Perhaps you could make your own tree calendar, using native Australian varieties?

Sandra Evertson said...

Lovely post!
Sandra Evertson

Dandelion seeds said...

yeah, there is so much about spirituality/nature/ritual that I would like to explore and so much overlapping within the various cultures and such-I can get overwhelmed in trying to figure out what is important to me and what I would like to acknowledge and honor.

thank you for sharing this bit of lore-so interesting to find out the meanings of old!

Sweetpea said...

this made me smile, I remember being at school very young and having had some elderflower water the day before when my mum had explained it came from I was amazed as a child I could drink from a tree or flower. I went to school the next day to tell everyone that I had drank from a tree! I was so amazed! xxx