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Beith (pronounced ‘BEH’)
Represents letter(s): B
Divinatory meaning: Beginning, birth, starting over
Associated Tree/Plant: Birch
Healing Properties: An infusion of birch leaves can be used to break up kidney and bladder stones. Birch bark can be used as an astringent. Tea made from the inner bark of the birch and/or its leaves is a mild sleep aid. Birch sap can also be boiled down into a syrup, and makes a natural sweetener when used in this way.
Magical Uses: In Celtic lands birch is known as the White Lady of the Woods. It is a tree of feminine energy, equated with the White Goddess Brighid in all her aspects. Brighid is a triple Goddess of poetry, blacksmithing, and healing. Likewise the birch is a triple Goddess in that the birch is traditionally used to make Maypoles. Originally Maypoles were a symbol of Celtic shamanism, enacting the Great Rite on Earth, thereby uniting the three realms of earth, sky, and Middle Earth where humans and our four-legged brothers and sisters dwell. This triple aspect of the birch makes it an excellent wood for vision-seeking activities. Celtic shamans climb birch trees in order to commune with the sky Gods for this reason.
It is said that if a birch tree leaves a white mark on your forehead, that you will go mad. If a birch leaves a mark over your heart, you will die soon.
Birch is one of the nine firewoods to be added to the Belfire for the festival of Beltane (May 1). The Nine Sacred Woods of the Belfire are birch, oak, rowan, willow, hawthorn, hazel, apple, grapevine and fir. In The Way of the Druid, there are Three Pillars of Wisdom. These are represented by the birch, the oak, and the yew. Birch symbolizes the first degree of Druid learning.
Brooms of birch are often used to sweep out the spirits of the old year at Hogmanay, and to “beat the bounds” of a farm’s property lines in order to secure the blessings of the Goddess for the coming year.
Gods/Goddesses Associated with This Tree/Plant: Taliesin and Brighid
Luis (pronounced ‘LWEESH’)
Represents letter(s): L
Divinatory meaning: Protection, security, safety
Associated Tree/Plant: Rowan
Healing Properties: Crush rowan bark, boil it, and save the juice to be drunk as a cure for upset stomach. Rowan bark is an astringent. The juice of rowan berries can be used as a laxative. These berries are high in vitamin C and for this reason are useful in treating colds and the flu.
Magical Uses: Rowan is known as the “Goddess Tree” because if you slice a rowan berry in cross-section, you will reveal a miniature pentacle. Rowan is a tree of powerful feminine energy for any magic involving the Goddess. Rowan is one of the nine firewoods to be added to the Belfire for the festival of Beltane (May 1). Beltane honors the Goddess, and rowan’s energy contributes to the transformational power of the Belfire on this holiday. The Nine Sacred Woods of the Belfire are birch, oak, rowan, willow, hawthorn, hazel, apple, grapevine and fir.
Rowan energy is the energy of the Goddess in her shamanic, vision-seeking aspect. Because of this, eating rowan berries puts you in contact with Otherworld and the power of the unconscious mind. A tea made of rowan berries will help you to seek visions pertaining to dealings with the feminine energies of the universe.
The rowan tree is associated with the element of fire and with the Sun. Irish Druids sometimes called the rowan the “Tree of Life” for this reason, since Celtic mythology and legend sees the Sun as the source of all life. Rowan has been used to bless cows. First cut a rowan branch at dawn, then brush a cow’s back with it. After this, decorate it with white ribbons and eggshells, and fasten it to the barn door. This rite protects the cow. Planting a rowan tree on a person’s grave will keep that person’s spirit from wandering the Earth. Rowan energy is associated with divination and seeing the future, therefore a wand or staff made from rowan wood will help to enhance your powers of clairvoyance. Rowan trees are said to ward off lightning strikes. For this reason rowan may also be used in weather magic.
Fearn (pronounced ‘FAIR-n’)
Represents letter(s): F
Divinatory meaning: Endurance, perseverance, adaptability
Associated Tree/Plant: Alder
Healing Properties: Tea made from alder bark can be used to treat coughs, toothaches and diarrhea. Boil crushed alder bark and use the juice to relieve itching from poison ivy. A poultice of alder bark relieves swellings and sprains.
John Gerrard’s Herball published in 1597 tells us that: “…the leaves and bark are much used against hot swellings, ulcers and all inward inflammations, especially of the Almonds and kernels of the throat. The bark is much used of poor country dyers, for the dyeing of course cloth, caps, hose and such like into a black color, whereunto it serveth very well.”
Crushing alder leaves into a paste may be spread onto burns to help them heal, and a cloth bag filled with alder leaves and heated can relieve arthritis pain. The cones of the alder may be steeped in a tea to ease the pain of gout. Native Americans used juice from the inner bark, mixed with goose grease, as a salve to be spread on the chest to cure colds. Bark from the roots can be made into an infusion to use as an emetic and a purge.
Magical Uses: The alder usually grows near riverbeds, lakes and streams. Its roots reach for the water, its trunk dwells on the earth, and its branches reach into the heavens, therefore it has the magical power of existing in three realms at once and uniting them all.
The alder is sacred to the Faeries because it unites the three realms and gives them a gateway to enter our world. Its name comes from the word “elder,” and is derived from the Elder Kings; i.e., kings of the Fey. Since the alder is sacred to them, Faeries are said to protect it, and they may often be seen in the form of ravens in its treetops. Gateways to the Faerie realm are rumored to exist in the trunks of alders. Bran the Blessed’s staff was said to be made of alder wood. The alder is the tree of Ostara. Some traditions decorate alder trees with ribbons and flowers for this holiday.
Saille (pronounced ‘SAHL-yuh’)
Represents letter(s): S
Divinatory meaning: Intuition, hidden knowledge, introspection
Associated Tree/Plant: Willow
Healing Properties: Willow sap is effective in removing facial blemishes. The sap may also be used to treat dandruff. Willow bark is an effective pain killer, as it contains the active ingredient in aspirin. Chewing the bark or making an infusion of it releases this healing power. The bark is also an astringent, and may be rubbed on the joints to ease arthritis pain. The juice of the bark is also effective in treating heartburn, and as a diuretic.
Magical Uses: Willow is a tree of feminine energy, associated with the phases of the moon, and with any moon Goddess.
Willow is associated with the Death Goddesses, including the Morrigan, the Cailleach, and Macha. This association makes willow a great tree for delving into the deeper and darker mysteries of the unconscious mind. Willow aids in divining the powers of life and death, and for this reason willow wands are a favorite of not only Celtic shamans, but of many Native American shamans as well.
Willow is one of the nine firewoods to be added to the Belfire for the festival of Beltane (May 1). The Nine Sacred Woods of the Belfire are birch, oak, rowan, willow, hawthorn, hazel, apple, grapevine and fir. Willows are the sacred tree of the Moon Goddess. It is the tree of dreaming, intuition and deep emotions. Willows are linked with powerful moon magic, and with sexual energy of a feminine nature. The early spring festival of Imbolc is this tree’s time to shine.
Nuin (pronounced ‘NOO-un’)
Represents letter(s): N
Divinatory meaning: Wisdom, knowledge, learning
Associated Tree/Plant: Ash
Healing Properties: Ground ash bark can be used to build the immune system, and to purify the liver and kidneys. Cut ash leaves in the early spring and make a tea. This tea is a mild diuretic that helps with weight loss. The syrup of the flowering ash can be used as a laxative.
Magical Uses: The ash is a tree of divine feminine energy. It is the consort of the male energy of the oak. Oak and ash together symbolize the Heiros Gamos, or the Great Rite, in which the feminine and masculine energies of the world unite in perfect balance through sexual union. In Norse mythology, the ash is considered the World Tree (Yggdrassil). This tree was said to be the axis about which the world rotates. As the Axis Mundi, ash touches all three realms at once, making it the most powerful tree in the ogham for vision seeking and determining a life path. In the Welsh Mabinogion, Gwyddion carries an ash wand as a symbol of transformation and healing. Such an ash wand is especially powerful in magic concerning matters of fate and destiny. Use ash magic to determine your life path or the action you should take in a given situation. Wands of ash are particularly good for calming chaos. Ash is also good for repelling snakes. Use a branch of ash and brush the area lightly with it to keep them away.
Gods/Goddesses Associated with This Tree/Plant: Gwyddion, Brigantia
h’Uath (pronounced ‘OO-ah’)
Represents letter(s): H
Divinatory meaning: Results, consequences, repercussions
Associated Tree/Plant: Hawthorn
Healing Properties: The an infusion of the berries of the hawthorn has been used to treat irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, hardening of the arteries and chest pain. The leaves and blossoms of the hawthorn may be made into a tea to relieve anxiety. This tea also helps to improve the circulation and to increase appetite.
Magical Uses: Hawthorn is the original “clootie tree.” a Clootie is a small strip or ribbon of cloth tied to a tree branch, usually to ward off the faeries or to invoke the blessings of the Gods. The thick, shrublike properties of the hawthorn led it to be called the “poor man’s fencing” because those who could not afford to fence in their pastures planted hawthorns around the perimeter instead to keep their livestock in place and the faeries at bay.
Hawthorn is one of the nine firewoods to be added to the Belfire for the festival of Beltane (May 1). The Nine Sacred Woods of the Belfire are birch, oak, rowan, willow, hawthorn, hazel, apple, grapevine and fir. Hawthorn magic is the magic of protection, especially for the weak and powerless. Hawthorn branches are used in ritual purification. Hawthorn is another tree sacred to the faeries. It is said that if you find a spot where oak, ash and thorn (hawthorn) are growing together, you will see faeries there. If you weave hawthorn branches into a laurel, and leave them out under a full moon, it is said that the faeries will come and dance around them. Such a crown that the faeries have danced around will bring luck to anyone who wears it. Hawthorns have also been used to bless weddings.
Gods/Goddesses Associated with This Tree/Plant: Belenus, Aine
Duir (pronounced ‘DOO-er’)
Represents letter(s): D
Divinatory meaning: Power, strength, endurance
Associated Tree/Plant: Oak
Healing Properties: Oak leaf tea is an astringent good for treating kidney infections and hemorrhoids. Oak bark tea can ease a sore throat. A tea made from the bark of the white oak is an effective decongestant. You may either drink the tea, or inhale the steam from a boiling pot of bark. Crushed acorns relieve constipation, and may help ease the cravings of alcoholism.
Magical Uses: Oak is one of the Sacred Triad (sometimes called the “Faery Triad”) of Oak, Ash and Thorn. In this triad, ash is the tree of enchantment, oak is the tree of strength and wisdom, and thorn (hawthorn) is the tree of protection. Oak is also one of Seven Noble Trees of Ireland. It is the strongest and most durable of the trees of the ogham. In fact, the word “durable” probably comes from the Gaelic word “duir,” meaning “oak.”
Oak is one of the nine firewoods to be added to the Belfire for the festival of Beltane (May 1). The Nine Sacred Woods of the Belfire are birch, oak, rowan, willow, hawthorn, hazel, apple, grapevine and fir. Oak magic is the magic of strength, success and stability. The oak is known as the “King of the Forest” or “King of the Grove,” and the word “druid” may have come from the Gaelic word for “oak.” Oaks are especially sacred to the Druids, and the tree represents wisdom. Acorns are used to decorate altars for Samhain, as they represent rebirth. Carrying three acorns in your crane bag promotes health and long life, and prevents illness. If you catch a falling oak leaf in autumn, you’ll have no colds all winter. A statue of a God or Goddess statue carved of oak is especially powerful.
Tinne (pronounced ‘CHIN-yuh’)
Represents letter(s): T
Divinatory meaning: Movement, action, activity
Holly berries are poisonous, so do not ingest them! If decorating with holly for the holiday season, make sure the berries are well out of reach of children and pets. Unless you are a professional herbalist or a health care professional with training in herbalism, don’t attempt to use holly remedies. Any holly medicine is poisonous if used incorrectly, and the doses must be precisely measured.
Juice pressed from fresh holly leaves is used to treat jaundice. Tea made from dried holly leaves is used to treat fevers. It is also effective for gout, bladder infections and congestion.
Magical Uses: The Druids considered the holly second in magical power only to the oak. This is reflected in the pairing of the Holly King and the Oak King, who rule the year together. The Holly King rules the dark half of the year, from Summer Solstice to Winter Solstice, when his brother, the Oak King, will take over from him to rule the lighter half of the year, from Winter Solstice to Summer Solstice.
Holly has an amplifying effect on magic. To add extra power to your magical workings, incorporate a holly sprig or a holly wand. Spears and arrows made of holly are said to always find their mark. During a full moon, soak a branch of holly overnight in water. Sprinkle this water around the house for purification and protection. This water is especially helpful in protecting infants.
Green holly berries gathered at Lughnasadh may be used in any ritual for protecting of crops and insuring prosperity and abundance. They may also be used to bolster the success of any creative project.
Holly bushes are said to repel unfriendly spirits and negative influences. Plant a holly tree near the door of your home to repel evil energies and unwelcomed visitors. Holly is the traditional decoration for the Winter Solstice. To make your dreams come true, pick seven holly leaves while remaining completely silent. Wrap these leaves in a pure white silk or cotton cloth, then tie seven knots in the cloth. Sleep with this bundle under your pillow for seven nights. On the eighth day your dream will come to pass. Since holly’s aspect is masculine, it is especially powerful for males doing magic involving protection and endurance.
Coll (pronounced ‘CULL’)
Represents letter(s): C
Divinatory meaning: Inspiration, creativity, talent
Healing Properties: Shells of hazelnuts have been found in European cave dwellings that are at least 10,000 years old. Hazelnuts may be ground into a flour that is high in protein and vitamin E. Hazel twigs have been used since ancient times as natural toothbrushes and are said to leave your breath smelling sweet. Hazel twigs may reduce the bacteria that cause bad breath.
A tea made from dried and crushed hazel leaves may ease coughing. Crush hazel nuts still in the shell, boil them, and make a warm poultice to relieve arthritis pain. Apply the poultice directly to the affected joint.
Powdered hazelnuts can be mixed with honey or mead to help a cough. Tea of hazel leaves can ease a fever, and help to reduce menstrual cramps. Hazelnuts are a good source of vitamins and minerals.
Magical uses: Hawthorn flowers bloom as early as February, close to Imbolc on February 1. Because of this they are often associated with the Goddess Brighid, whose sacred feast day is Imbolc.
In his poem Battle of the Trees, the Bard Taliesin says that the hazel was a mediator at this great battle. Because of this hazel magic may be used to bring peace and for mediation between any two opposing forces.
Hazel is the tree of wisdom and knowledge. Several different volumes of Celtic lore and mythology mention the Sacred Well of Wisdom that is surrounded by nine hazel trees. The nuts from these trees fell into the sacred well and were eaten by the salmon who lived in it. These nuts were said to impart wisdom. For each nut a salmon ate, he gained a spot. The more spots on the body of the salmon, the more nuts it had eaten and therefore the more wisdom it had gained. Eating one of these sacred salmon of wisdom would transfer their knowledge to you.
According to the Fenian Cycle of Irish lore, this happened to Fionn mac Cumhaill when he ate of the salmon of wisdom. The knowledge thus imparted to him led him to become a great Bard, a great hunter, and leader of men.
Druids often make their staffs out of hazel wood in hopes of gaining wisdom through its magical powers. Hazel magic is strongly associated with divination and hazel twigs are often used in water dousing.
Qwert (pronounced ‘KWEIRT’)
Represents letter(s): Q
Divinatory meaning: Love, beauty, passion
Healing Properties: We’re all familiar with the saying, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” Apples are high in fiber and naturally cleanse the bowels, and are good for the heart. A tea made from the bark of the apple tree can reduce fever and serve as a stimulant. A poultice made of crushed and boiled crabapples can help reduce scarring and swelling. Crabapple tea can help cure hangovers. Apples are also high in anti-oxidants, which help to slow the aging process.
Juice from the fruit of the apple is used to make apple cider, which may be enjoyed in either fermented or unfermented varieties. Vinegar made from apple cider has a wide range of applications in folk medicine. The acid in apple cider vinegar is a potent antibiotic. Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, used vinegar to clean open wounds over 2000 years ago. It may also lower blood sugar, help with weight loss by reducing appetite, and improve blood circulation and give you a more healthy heart.
Magical Uses: The apple of the original ogham of the British Isles was the crabapple, but as ogham lore has spread throughout the world, qwert has come to represent any local apple variety. Apple is one of the nine firewoods to be added to the Belfire for the festival of Beltane (May 1). The Nine Sacred Woods of the Belfire are birch, oak, rowan, willow, hawthorn, hazel, apple, grapevine and fir. Apples are a symbol of eternal perfection and beauty. An apple cut in half will reveal a pentacle. For this reason, apples are considered to be sacred to the Goddess.
Cut an apple in half so that such a pentacle will be revealed, rub it on warts and blemishes of the skin, and bury it under a full moon to remove those warts and blemishes.
Apples are often used for predicting the future. Bobbing for apples, a favorite Halloween tradition, is a form of divination. Once you have your apple, if you put it under your pillow, you will dream about the person you will marry. It is said that an apple peel tossed over your left shoulder will form the first letter of the name of your true love. Apple magic is associated with shamanistic journeying and the Otherworld as well and ‘Avalon’ means ‘The Isle of the Apples.’
Muin (pronounced ‘MUHN’)
Represents letter(s): M
Divinatory meaning: Insight, introspection, contemplation
Associated Tree/Plant: Vine
NOTE: In the ogham of Northern Scotland, blackberry is usually used for muin. In Ireland, the grape is usually used. Both plants are discussed here.
Healing Properties: Grape leaves may be used to make a tea for treating hepatitis. Wines made from grapes aid digestion. Grape leaves may be used to make poultices for treating arthritis symptoms, headaches, and fevers. Wine may be used as a base for mulling various different herbs and spices for many healing purposes. For example, wine mulled with cloves relieves nausea and eases strep throat.
Blackberries are very high in vitamin C and antioxidants. The roots and leaves of the blackberry may be made into a decoction or infusion to treat stomach problems. The leaves have astringent properties. They also contain salycilate, the active ingredient in aspirin. This makes the leaves an excellent anti-inflammatory poultice.
Magical Uses: The vine is associated with the Pagan “thanksgiving” of Mabon (the autumnal equinox), which celebrates the birth of the Divine Child. Vine magic is therefore magic associated with imagination, inspiration, music and poetry. Using grapes in ritual and magic will attract prosperity and wealth.
Blackberry magic is the magic of the faeries. It is common to this day in Scotland to leave a few blackberries on the vine for the faeries. If you strip the vine completely bare, it is said that the faeries will seek vengeance, brining ill will and ill luck to the person who took the last berry. If you are fortunate enough to find a blackberry bramble growing in a natural arch, then passing underneath that arch has powerful magic to heal.
Vine is one of the nine firewoods to be added to the Belfire for the festival of Beltane (May 1). The Nine Sacred Woods of the Belfire are birch, oak, rowan, willow, hawthorn, hazel, apple, grapevine and fir. You may use either grapevine or bramble (blackberry vine) in your Belfire, as both have equal power and significance.
Gort (pronounced ‘GORT’)
Represents letter(s): G
Divinatory meaning: Change, redirection, metamorphosis
Associated Tree/Plant: Ivy
Healing Properties: An infusion made from ivy leaves can be used to treat yeast infections. Poultices of ivy leaves help infections. A salve made of ground tender ivy twigs aids in healing sunburn. Ivy is an antifungal that may be used to treat athlete’s foot. The steam from boiled ivy acts as an expectorant.
Gerard’s Great Herbal (16th century) had this to say about the healing properties of ivy:
“The leaves of ivy, fresh and green, boiled in wine, do heal old ulcers, and perfectly cure those that have a venomous and malicious quality joined with them: and are a remedy likewise against burnings and scaldings.”
Magical Uses: Ivy is tenacious and durable. It creeps and crawls into crevices where other plants cannot go. As such it is a symbol of perseverance. Ivy magic deals with rebirth and the cultivation of patience and tenacity. It may be used for banishing fear and other strong negative emotions. To insure a long friendship, make a bracelet or talisman of ivy and give it to your friend. If ivy doesn’t grow on a grave, the spirit of that departed person is said to be restless. Crowns for brides and grooms at weddings are traditionally made of ivy intertwined with holly. Ivy is considered to be a source of divine inspiration (the imbas), and for this reason, bards often wear crowns woven of ivy.
n’Getal (pronounced ‘NYEH-tal’)
Represents letter(s): NG
Divinatory meaning: Health, harmony, balance
Associated Tree: Reed (In Great Britain, the Reed is a variety of elm that doesn’t grow in North America. The Black Mountain Druid Order uses the slippery elm for this letter)
Healing Properties: In Britain the dwarf elm, which is the ogham reed, is known as the reed tree. In North America, the equivalent would be the elm tree. Powdered bark from the slippery elm tree can be made into a type of milk for those who are lactose intolerant. In a tea, this powdered bark is a mild sedative. It also eases an upset stomach. A poultice of elm leaves aids in treating poison ivy, and the inner bark of the slippery elm can be made into an infusion to reduce inflammation of the mucous membranes.
Magical Uses: The elm is the tree of the Goddess in her aspect as Crone. Elm is feminine and it is considered a tree of the fey. Since the faeries love to sing and dance, elm magic works for anything involving music. It is also a powerful magic for divination. Elm is associated with our darker impulses, and elm magic can be used to draw these out so that they may be dealt with in constructive ways rather than destructive ways. Twigs of elm worn in a bag around the neck are said to give the wearer the gift of eloquent speech. Tie a yellow ribbon around an elm twig and toss it into a fire to keep people from gossiping about you. Mix two parts dried elm bark with one part ground poppy seeds to make a powder that will give you the power of invisibility. Grind the ingredients together using a mortar and pestle at midnight during a new moon. When you have mixed the two into a fine powder, sprinkling a little on your head and shoulders is said to render you invisible.
An elm staff may be used to repel lightning and thunderstorms. Elm wands and staffs are also good for any magical working concerning rites of passage, especially when those rites concern passing from this world to the world beyond. This power makes it a favorite wood for psychopomps; those who conduct the souls of the dead to the Land of the Young to be reborn. Elm may be used for any type of faery magic and is good for coming of age ceremonies. It is especially good for croning or saging rites.
Straif (pronounced ‘STRAHF’)
Represents letter(s): Z
Divinatory meaning: Control, authority, manipulation
Associated Tree/Plant: Blackthorn
Healing Properties: Sloe berries of the blackthorn are used to make sloe gin. The berries stimulate metabolism, and are therefore useful in weight loss. They may also be used as a laxative and as a diuretic. Juice from sloe berries has astringent properties and may be used to tighten the skin or reduce swelling. An infusion or decoction of sloe berries may be used to treat indigestion, allergies, kidney stones and colds. The chemical properties of this juice allows it to disperse toxins in the blood. Applying the juice of sloe berries to the skin or as a poultice can reduce symptoms of eczema, herpes and dandruff and aids in eliminating some types of rash. Tea from blackthorn leaves is useful for a sore throat, tonsillitis and laryngitis. It may be taken to improve the circulation as well. A tea made from powdered blackthorn bark has a calming effect that helps to settle the nerves.
Magical Uses: The blackthorn is known as the Dark Mother of the Forest. This is because this tree is associated with the darker side of magic and the Otherworld. It is th e most sinister of the trees of the Ogham. It is believed that we get our word “strife” from the Gaelic name of this tree, which is “straif.” Seeing a blackthorn tree in your path is considered an ill omen. It is used for working dark magic, spells of revenge and curses. In Scotland, the Cailleach is said to have a walking stick made of blackthorn. She summons winter every year by striking the ground with this staff, causing it to freeze.
This tree has long been linked with battle, murder, and mayhem and is used in magic involved with binding or cursing. Such curses of revenge are accomplished using a “black rod,” which is a staff or wand of blackthorn with thorns on one end. It is considered the tree of the witches; especially of those witches who use the dark arts to achieve their purposes. Such witches often crafted poppets of their enemies and pierced them with thorns from the blackthorn. Such thorns when used in this manner were called “pins of slumber.”
In Irish mythological cycles the blackthorn was often used in spells of protection. A fleeing army could toss a sprig of blackthorn on the ground and it would instantly rise up as a thick and dense blackthorn forest, blocking the enemy’s path.
Gods/Goddesses Associated with This Tree: The Cailleach, Bellenus
Ruis (pronounced ‘RWEESH’)
Represents letter(s): R
Divinatory meaning: Conversion, transition, rebirth
Associated Tree/Plant: Elder
Healing Properties: Fresh elder bark can be used to induce labor, or to relieve headaches. Steep the flowers of the elderberry to make a tea for soothing sunburn pain. Inhaling the steam from elderberry flowers eases asthma attacks. A poultice of elderberry flowers has anti-inflammatory effects. Elderberries ease hunger pangs when dieting. They contain powerful antioxidants that can slow the aging process and invigorate the blood.
Gerard in his Herbal or General History of Plants had this to say about the leaves of the elder:
“The tender and green leaves of the elder tree with barley meal parched, doth remove hot swellings and is good for those that are burnt or scalded, and for such as be bitten with a mad dog and that they glue and heal up hollow ulcers.”
Magical Uses: According to the lore of the British Isles, Ellhorn the Wisewoman (The Elder Mother of the Elves) makes her shelter among the roots of the elder tree. If she stops to well in an elder tree on your property she offers nurturing and protection for all the land that surrounds the tree.
Elder magic is concerned with death and endings. The elder is helpful in magic involving the powers of reincarnation and communion with the Otherworld. Psychopomps conduct the recently departed to the Otherworld, and elder magic is an aid in this duty. A wand or staff made of elder wood helps in any magic involving psychopompic activities. Elderberries and elderberry wine are often used to seek visions; especially visions pertaining to the Land of the Young. Elderberry wine is drunk to aid in divination as well. If you make a flute of elder wood, Faeries will come and dance to your tune. Twigs of elder wood worn in a bag about the neck protect you from physical attack.
If you find elderberries on Samhain, these may be harvested and made into a powerful sacramental wine to be drunk on the following Samhain. Even a few drops of such a wine increases your powers of clairvoyance.
Ailm (pronounced ‘AHL-m’)
Represents letter(s): A
Divinatory meaning: Energy, power, intensity
Associated Tree/Plant: Fir
Healing Properties: The sap of the silver fir is a diuretic, and can stimulate mucous membranes if taken in small doses. Larger doses can induce vomiting, and may cause nausea. The oil can be used as a base for many essences used in aromatherapy.
Magical Uses: The ancient Celts and Druids noticed that the cones of the silver fir closed when rain was about to come, and opened when the sunlight returned. This power to predict the weather led the Druids to assign other prophetic powers to the Ailm. Because its trunk grows straight and narrow, it is a symbol of honesty and truth-saying. Since firs are evergreen trees they are also a symbol of eternity and immortality. Since they are green even in the depths of winter, they are a hopeful reminder that life shall return in the spring. And because it is able to thrive and remain verdant even in the winter, it is a symbol of endurance and perseverance.
The Silver Fir is associated with the Moon, and as such it is a feminine power related to any Goddesses with lunar powers and associations. Legend has it that fir trees were used to mark the graves of important people, as they are tall trees that can be seen for miles, sometimes growing to a height of over 100 feet. A wand made of fir or pine will help in matters of perseverance and change. Wands or staffs of fir are also useful in the invocation of the Goddess. The silver fir is especially useful for rites at the equinoxes because it is a tree of balance and stability. In its Crone aspect, the silver fir has power over shadowy places, dark secrets and the unconscious mind. Because of this, it may be used to tame these forces in your life.
The Silver Fir is used for magic involving power, insight, and protection. To the Druids the tree represents hope. Wood from the silver fir is used for shape-shifting and magic involving change and transformation. A wand of silver fir aids in this undertaking.
Wood shavings from the silver fir make a pleasant incense, and the wood of this tree can be used to make musical instruments with powerful magic. Silver fir branches are a popular Yule (Alban Athan) decoration that offer protection and blessings to the home.
Onn (pronounced ‘UHN’)
Represents letter(s): O
Divinatory meaning: Adaptation, transmutation, modification
Associated Tree/Plant: Gorse – Since the Gorse of the original Irish Ogham is not native to the Pacific Northwest region the Black Mountain Druid Order uses the native plant Jessamine, or Yellow Jasmine for this letter of the ogham.
Healing Properties: Most parts of the Jessamine are poisonous. In the past it was used to treat nervous disorders, but since the doses are so exacting it is not recommended that anyone use the Jessamine for this purpose. There are other more effective and less risky plants of the ogham that may be used for similar purposes. Jessamine or Yellow Jasmine as it is also known, contains two powerful alkaloids that can lead to total respiratory failure, causing the victim to suffocate and die.
Magical Uses: Jessamine magic is the magic of fertility and prosperity. A hedge of it around your home will protect from dark Faeries, who cannot pass through it. Its bright yellow flowers naturally repel dark forces, and its poisonous flowers do the same. Burning its wood protects you from curses and dark magic. The golden flowers are said to attract gold, so this is a plant that is good for money spells.
Yellow Jessamine is closely associated with the Sun God Lugh because of its bright yellow color. It tends to blossom fully by the vernal equinox. We often celebrate Lughnasadh by decorating with flowers from the Jessamine.
In our sacred fires we substitute Jessamine for gorse. For solitary practitioners, a torch made of jessamine may be used to smudge sacred spaces in order to protect hearth and home. Such a smudging at Lughnasadh also insures fertility and a fruitful harvest.
Jasmine has long been used as a perfume, and the flowers of the Jessamine have a particularly pleasant aroma. Essential oil of the jasmine can be used to attract sexual love of a spiritual, rather than physical, nature. Burn dried and crushed jasmine flowers in your bedroom before bed time in order to have prophetic dreams. Due to its association with fertility and the sun it is also a popular decoration at celebrations of the vernal equinox.
Gods/Goddesses Associated with This Tree/Plant: On-niona
Ura (pronounced ‘OOR-uh’)
Represents letter(s): U
Divinatory meaning: Dreams, feelings, emotions
Associated Tree/Plant: Heather
Healing Properties: A tea made from heather blossoms may be used to treat to treat insomnia, stomach aches, coughs and skin problems. Heather tea is also good for urinary infections. Ingesting the plant raises blood pressure and strengthens the heart. Heather is also a mild antiseptic. The Scottish Bard Robert Burns hailed the medicinal qualities of Moorland Tea, made by steeping the petals of heather blossoms. Heather healing is holistic healing, concerned with the wellness of the entire body.
Magical Uses: Heather blooms throughout the moors of northern Scotland and Ireland. Bees love the sweet nectar of heather blossoms. Since bees are psychopomps; that is, messengers from the Otherworld, heather magic is the magic of other realms of existence. Heather is used for magic involving maturity. Heather signifies a return to your roots. Just as salmon return to their birthplace to spawn, those who practice heather magic use it in the mature phases of their lives to honor their heritage and their ancestors.
Since heather magic is concerned with the whole person, it is useful for any magic that unites mind, body and spirit. It is also effective in rainmaking spells and water magic. Talismans made of heather can be used as lucky charms. If you place white heather on your altar during meditation, it is said that you will be able to hear the voices of those who have passed on while you are meditating. Heather magic is also good magic for doing inner work (meditation, dream work, shamanism). Heather mixed with mistletoe is a powerful healing charm.
Eadha (pronounced ‘EH-yuh’)
Represents letter(s): E
Divinatory meaning: Endurance, perseverance, persistence
Associated Tree/Plant: Some Orders use a species of poplar for this letter. In the Black Mountain Druid Order we use the Aspen.
Healing Properties: The sap of the aspen, is a diuretic in small doses. In large doses it induces vomiting, and may cause nausea. The bark may be used to treat headaches and fever. The bark also contains an analgesic, and tea made from this bark anti-inflammatory properties. In ancient times the leaves of the aspen were used to heal palsy. A tea made from the leaves may be used to ease menstrual cramps. This tea also helps to relieve symptoms of diarrhea and can help to clear up urinary tract infections. Chop or grind the root and make it into a poultice to help heal cuts and bruises.
Magical Uses: Aspen magic is used for invoking power and insight. It can be used to create a change in a situation. The aspen is sacred to the Druids, and represents the hope of rebirth and new beginnings.
Plant an aspen near your home to protect it from burglars. It may also be planted in gardens and fields to prevent the theft of livestock and vegetables. If you wish the gift of eloquence, place an aspen leaf under your tongue. Make incense of aspen bark and burn it at Samhain to protect your home from evil spirits. You may also release fears by writing them on a dried aspen leaf and burning the leaf.
If you are troubled with palsy, pin a lock of your hair to an aspen tree at midnight for three successive nights when the moon begins to wane. As you pin your hair to the tree, repeat the following three times:
Aspen tree, Aspen tree
I prithee shake
Instead of me
The wood of the aspen may be used to create magical flutes to be used in rituals. The music of such flutes brings about change and transformation, so only use such a flute if you want something different to happen!
Aspen magic is the magic of protection. As such, Celtic battle shields were often made of aspen in order to protect the bearer. If you are in need of protective magic, consider including aspen in some way.
Ioho (pronounced ‘EE-yoh’)
Represents letter(s): I, Y
Divinatory meaning: Deception, illusion, trickery
Associated Tree/Plant: Yew
Healing Properties: This plant is poisonous and should never be used in herbal medicine! The yew is so poisonous that even inhaling sawdust from a cut yew can cause sickness or even death. Since the yew is toxic, and since there are better herbal remedies in other parts of the ogham for the few things that yew can cure, it is better to focus on the magical uses of the yew and forego its use as an herbal medicine.
Magical Uses: The highly toxic nature of the yew earned it the nickname “Death Tree.”
The Yew is one of the Seven Noble Trees of Irish Brehon Law. These Noble Trees are Oak, Hazel, Holly, Yew, Ash, Fir, and Apple.
The yew is associated with death and dying. Its magic, like elder magic, is involved in reincarnation and contact with the spirit world. Yews are often planted in graveyards as silent guardians and protectors. Yew wood is sometimes used for wands; especially by those whose magical gifts involve reincarnation or the power of life and death. Incense made of yew wood is said to summon the dead when burned.
Yew is found planted in church yards all over the British Isles. The tree’s unusually long life, along with its highly poisonous nature, makes it a symbol of the transition between life and death.
Yew was a wood of choice for Celtic shields and longbows. Its unusually long life makes it a symbol of immortality, and as such Celtic soldiers believed that carrying weapons made of this wood transferred the properties of long life and immortality to the bearer.
In ancient times Celtic leaders were either buried beneath yew trees or had yew trees planted on their graves. At appointed times throughout the year members of their clans would gather around such yews and conduct rituals to ask for guidance from the departed leaders.
Yews represent connection with the ancestors for this reason.
Koad (pronounced ‘KO-ud’)
Represents letter(s): CH
Divinatory meaning: Achievement, accomplishment, victory
Associated Tree/Plant: The Black Mountain Druid Order uses the Tulip Poplar for this letter. Some Orders use the aspen for this letter. These Orders generally refer to the letter as EV-uth when Aspen is used. Koad is the 21st letter of the ogham alphabet and the first letter of the forfeda.
Healing Properties: Use tea made of poplar buds for treating fevers. This tea is also useful in treating arthritis. An infusion of poplar leaves helps treat diarrhea. Poplar buds exude a sticky substance. This sap can be used as a stimulant. Make a tincture of this sticky sap from the buds for chest complaints or rheumatism. It is also high in vitamin C, and may be used to treat scurvy. Make a balm of the sap to heal bruises and swellings more quickly.
Magical Uses: Black poplar aids in divination. A wand or ogham fews made of black poplar will help you to see the future. Rune sticks carved of this wood will be powerful. The abilities to protect, shield, and resist temptations are poplar’s magical gifts.
Poplar also aids in overcoming fear. Carry a dried tulip poplar blossom in your crane bag to ward off fears and anxieties or carve a walking staff out of poplar for the same purpose.
Poplar buds carried in a bag worn over the heart can help to heal a broken heart. A charm made of poplar wood eases stress in the life of the one who wears it. Poplar wood is traditionally used for carving statues of the Goddess. If using poplar for magic tools, never let the wood touch the ground once harvested. This discharges its energy and will make it useless for your purposes.
Koad stands within all three realms and sees the past, present and future all at once. Poplar magic is good for attracting the sweet things in life. It is concerned with seeing the bigger picture.
The magic of the poplar is the magic of the Earth Goddess herself. To work with poplar is to work with the Earth Goddess, uniting the forces of chaos and order in perfect balance and in infinite diversity in infinite combinations.
Oir (pronounced ‘OR’)
Represents letter(s): TH
Divinatory meaning: Talent, creativity, genius
Associated Tree: In Europe the tree used for this letter is the Spindle tree. It was so named because its wood was used for making spindles for spinning wheels. In the United States many Orders use the Arrowwood for this plant. Since the Black Mountain Druid Order ’s home is in the Pacific Northwest, we use the pink dogwood for this letter of the ogham.
Healing Properties: An infusion of the bark of the pink dogwood stimulates digestion in small doses. In larger doses, it causes stomach irritation and vomiting. This infusion is also a mild diuretic, and aids in promoting regular bowel movements. It is especially good for treating ailments of the liver. During Civil War times an infusion of the bark was used to treat symptoms of malaria. A tea made from the blossoms of the pink dogwood has astringent properties when used topically. It is also a stimulant and a tonic. Native Americans made toothbrushes out of twigs of dogwood by chewing on the end of such a twig until it developed a soft bristle on the end.
Magical Uses: Dogwood is an especially potent protector herb. It keeps writings and meetings secret. Because of this if you make an oil of the flowers and seal your letters with this oil its magic will keep your communications safe from prying eyes. Make a charm out of dogwood and carry it in your crane bag for added protection.
Dry the flowers and the bark then crush them together and use them as incense when crafting protective spells. The pink dogwood is the tree of balance. It helps you to understand your shadow side and to express it in positive rather than negative ways. Its magic helps you to communicate clearly with those around you and to avoid misunderstandings. It is a tree of endings. If you have difficulty completing tasks, a charm of pink dogwood will help you to see through to your objective. A wand of pink dogwood may be used in divination to help you to find a solution to a difficult problem. Dogwood’s magic helps you to put aside masks and pretentions and to find your true self.
Gods/Goddesses Associated with This Tree/Plant: Angus Mac Og, Ostara
Uilleand (pronounced ‘ULL-enth’)
Represents letter(s): P
Divinatory meaning: Attraction, enchantment, binding
Associated Tree/Plant: Honeysuckle
Healing Properties: Honeysuckle blossoms produce a very sweet sap that has the ability to purge toxins from the blood and the liver. A tea made of honeysuckle blossoms contains tannins that soothe a sore throat and ease fever symptoms. Make a balm with honeysuckle sap and apply it to skin rashes or mild burns. A note of caution: Honeysuckle leaves contain toxins, and if ingested the leaves could be poisonous, especially to small children.
The flowers of the honeysuckle can be made into a balm to reduce inflammation and swelling. This balm may also ease the pain of arthritis.
Magical Uses: Ostara’s temple was said to be covered with honeysuckle. As such, it is a symbol of new life, new beginnings, and rebirth. Any part of this plant would be helpful in any magic involved with starting over.
To protect your home and garden from negative energies, plant honeysuckle near your door. If honeysuckle grows over the lintels of your door, it will protect all who dwell within from fevers.
Honeysuckle clings tenaciously to anything it grows on. For this reason, it can be used in powerful love magic. It is often used at handfastings and weddings for this reason. Honeysuckle may also be used to insure fidelity between romantic partners, or in divination where infidelity is suspected.
Honeysuckle’s magical powers involve the realm of psychic magic. Weave a dreamcatcher of honeysuckle to chase away nightmares. A charm of honeysuckle worn about the wrist or neck improves the intuitive abilities of the one who wears it. Honeysuckle blossoms are used to attract money or financial success, and incense made of honeysuckle and burned on your family’s altar will aid you in achieving prosperity and security.
Phagos (pronounced ‘FAH-gus’)
Represents letter(s): PH, F
Divinatory meaning: Cleansing, purification, chastity
Associated Tree/Plant: Beech
Healing Properties: Beech leaves rubbed directly on the skin help heal frostbite and minor burns. An infusion of the leaves may be used to treat diaper rash or rashes from poison ivy. It also treats other skin inflammations. An infusion of beech bark has antiseptic properties. A poultice made of crushed beech leaves applied directly to the forehead helps to relieve headache pain.
Magical Uses: The beech is the Tree of Learning. It is also the guardian of thresholds. In Celtic lore and magic, the in-between places are the most powerful because they are neither one thing or another. The shore is neither land nor sea. The door is neither inside nor outside. Because of this ambiguity all things are possible. Likewise, the beech is the symbol of the gateway from one state to another. Beech magic is the magic of transition. Use beech whenever you need to change the way things are.
The blossoms of the beech help to keep intolerant people away. If you carve a wish on a beech stick harvested on the new moon, your wish will come true by the full moon. Once you have carved your wish on the twig, tie it to the beech tree from which it was cut. A fallen branch from a beech tree is considered to be an invitation from a Faerie to make a wish. Push this branch into the ground after carving your wish on it, and the Faeries will take it to the Sidhe for consideration by the Faerie Queen. Beech rods are favored by water dousers.
Gods/Goddesses Associated with This Tree/Plant: Sequana
Mor (pronounced ‘MOHR’)
Represents letter(s): X
Divinatory meaning: Destiny, surprise, unpreparedness
Associated Tree/Plant: Witch hazel
Healing Properties: Witch hazel is a powerful astringent available in most drug stores. Make a tea of equal parts powdered bark and leaves and gargle with it to relieve a sore throat. Drink two cups of this tea to cure diarrhea. It may also be used as a douche for healing vaginitis. A tea made of the leaves of the witch hazel may also be used for treating menstrual discomfort and cramps.
An infusion may be applied topically to skin irritations and rashes. This infusion may also be used as a topical treatment for hemorrhoids and sunburn.
Magical Uses: Unlike most other plants, witch hazel blooms in the autumn, right around Samhain. Its distinct yellow and red blossoms make it easy to spot in the forest.
Witch hazel is a popular plant for “water witching,” or dousing for water. Its pliable branches are used to point to underground water sources when looking for viable sites for wells. Charms made of witch hazel mend broken hearts and diminish attention from unwanted suitors. Witch hazel sprigs and blooms placed in a vase by the bed promote chastity. The blooms also offer protection in matters of love. Give your partner a charm of witch hazel to promote fidelity.
Witch hazel branches may be used to cure warts, scars, or blemishes by taking a hazel stick, cutting three notches into it in the shape of the awen, then applying some blood from the afflicted body part onto the awen carved into the stick. Now cast the stick into a source of running water. This works best if performed on the waning moon.
To protect your home and those within from illness, make a loop of a witch hazel stem and bind it with red thread, then hand the loop over the main entrance to your home.
Gods/Goddesses Associated with This Tree/Plant: Angus Mac Og, Branwen
The word ‘mistletoe’ (Old English mistiltan) may be related to German ‘mist,’ for ‘dung’ and ‘tang’ for branch, since mistletoe can be spread in the feces of birds moving from tree to tree. However, Old English ‘mistel’ was also used for ‘basil.’
Mistletoe was considered an herb too sacred to have a Celtic name.
On the Celtic Tree Calendar, the Night of Mistletoe is the day after Winter Solstice.
According to Pliny the Elder, Mistletoe was a very special and sacred herb to the ancient Druids, who called it ‘All-Heal.’ It was harvested, according to Pliny, with a golden sickle, and was not allowed to touch the ground after being harvested.(1)
History and Folklore of Mistletoe
European mistletoe, viscum album, figured prominently in Greek mythology, and is believed to be The Golden Bough of Aeneas, ancestor of the Romans.
In the 13th century Prose Edda, due to the scheming of Loki, the god Baldr is killed by his brother, the blind god Höðr, by way of a mistletoe projectile, despite the attempts of Baldr’s mother, the goddess Frigg, to have all living things and inanimate objects swear an oath not to hurt Baldr after Baldr had troubling dreams of his death. Frigg was unable to get an oath from mistletoe, because “it seemed too young” to demand an oath from. In the Gesta Danorum version of the story, Baldr and Höðr are rival suitors, and Höðr kills Baldr with a sword named Mistilteinn (Old Norse “mistletoe”). In addition, a sword by the same name appears in various other Norse legends.
In cultures across pre-Christian Europe, mistletoe was seen as a representation of divine male essence (and thus romance, fertility and vitality), possibly due to a resemblance between the berries and semen.
According to Pliny the Elder, the Celts considered it a remedy for barrenness in animals and an antidote to poison.
Mistletoe is commonly used as a Christmas decoration, though such use was rarely alluded to until the 18th century. Viscum album is used in Europe whereas phoradendron serotinum is used in North America. According to custom, the mistletoe must not touch the ground between its cutting and its removal as the last of Christmas greens at Candlemas; it may remain hanging through the year, often to preserve the house from lightning or fire, until it was replaced the following Christmas Eve. The tradition has spread throughout the English-speaking world but is largely unknown in the rest of Europe.
According to ancient Christmas custom, a man and a woman who meet under a hanging of mistletoe were obliged to kiss. The custom may be of Scandinavian origin. It was described in 1820 by American author Washington Irving in his The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon:
“The mistletoe is still hung up in farm-houses and kitchens at Christmas, and the young men have the privilege of kissing the girls under it, plucking each time a berry from the bush. When the berries are all plucked the privilege ceases.”
Mistletoe leaves and young twigs are used by herbalists, and it is popular in Europe, especially in Germany, for treating circulatory and respiratory system problems. Use of mistletoe extract in the treatment of cancer originated with Rudolf Steiner, the founder of Anthroposophy. He compared the parasitic nature of the mistletoe plant to that of cancer, and believed that cancer represents a faltering of the body’s spiritual defenses. Some anthroposophical mistletoe preparations are diluted homeopathically. Mistletoe extract is sold as Iscador, Helixor, and several other trade names.
The sticky juice of mistletoe berries was used as adhesive to trap small animals or birds. A handful of ripe fruits are chewed until sticky, and the mass is then rubbed between the palms of the hands to form long extremely sticky strands which are then coiled around small thin tree branches where birds perch. When a bird lands on this it gets stuck to the branch and is then easy to catch by hand.
(1) Ronald Hutton in Blood and Mistletoe: The History of the Druids in Britain says that Michael Drayton, in 1612, misinterpreted Pliny the Elder’s writings regarding mistletoe being called “All Heal,” so this may not be historically accurate. It has, however, become a part of the Druid lore for many contemporary Druids.