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Gary R Varner

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The Folklore of Trees
by Gary R Varner   
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Last edited: Wednesday, March 11, 2009
Posted: Wednesday, March 11, 2009

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An excerpt from Gary R. Varner's book, The Mythic Forest, the Green Man and the Spirit of Nature.

Forests and trees in particular have a great deal of folklore and mythology associated with them. Folk medicine is one component of this lore that continues to thrive. Some of the medicinal folk practices associated with trees call for treatments, such as transference, that are also common at other sacred sites around the world, such as at holy wells and megalithic complexes. “Spirit-caused” diseases were diagnosed by taking the clothes of the victim to certain trees associated with spirits, such as willows, blackthorns, or roses. The clothing is left at the tree, as are offerings, and a prayer is said. The next morning the clothes are checked and if found to be disturbed, the victim is known to have been enchanted.

A rather elaborate ritual to “diagnose” disease comes from Ontario, Canada. An immigrant “conjure doctor” living there was reported to perform the following:

“First she went into the orchard and cut off nine small rods from the ends of the twigs of nine different apple trees. These she put into a basin filled with water, and if they all sank to the bottom the disease would be fatal, but if a few remained on the surface, it was not so serious and could be cured.” (2)

Apple trees have long been associated with magic and the Tree of Life. Apples were at once symbols of fertility and, at least for the denizens of the Other World, everlasting food. Davidson notes that the Síd would carry a branch of an apple tree with them when venturing into the world of humans, the leaves “made tinkling music which could lull men to sleep or banish pain.” (3)

It was common through the end of the 19th century for people, children in particular, to be “passed through” holes in stones and trees to effect a cure for certain diseases. A news article appearing in an 1876 issue of Report Transactions of the Devonshire Association (vol. viii, p. 54) said:

“Passing lately through a wood at Spitchwich, near Ashburton, a remark on some peculiarity in an ash sapling led to the explanation from the game keeper that the tree had been instrumental in the cure of a ruptured infant, and he afterwards pointed out four or five others that had served the same good purpose.” The disease was “transferred” to the tree by squeezing the person through the opening and “wiping” the illness off.

Other forms of transference included hammering nails into trees to transfer the pain of toothache and tying pieces of cloth worn by an ill person to a tree to transfer the illness. The custom of hammering nails into trees to treat illnesses or pains is an old one dating back at least to ancient Roman times. Czech writer Josef Cizmár noted, “the custom was practiced in Slovakia up to the most recent times.” (4)

In England, it was custom to place coins, needles and pins in the bark of certain trees as offerings to the local spirit or Fairy. This occurred most often when a holy well was nearby. Reportedly, in 1877 Queen Victoria placed silver coins in the bark of a tree growing beside a holy well dedicated to St. Mourie on Loch Maree. The leaving of offerings on sacred trees in exchange for healing was a practice spoken of in the Odyssey as well as by Ovid in Metamorphoses.

These rituals are not confined to the Old World. The Salish Indians in the Bitterroot Valley, Montana have similar traditions associated with the Medicine Tree, a giant Ponderosa pine. According to tribal lore, Coyote tempts an evil bighorn ram that had killed everything within its view to knock over a little tree. When the ram smashed into the tree one of its horns had penetrated the trunk and stuck out the other side—trapping the ram. Coyote then cut the ram’s head off and threw it high up on a rocky hillside where, according to custom, it left the profile of a human face. Coyote said that the face “will be a sign of my doings here” and “this tree will be a place for human beings to leave offerings of their prized possessions, and to give thanks, and to pray for their well-being, for good fortune and good health.”(5) Today the tree is over 350 years old and Native Americans still leave offerings of tobacco, clothing, photographs and other items hanging from the tree’s limbs or affixed to the bark.

Novelist Craig Lesley writes of a different version of this tale in his fictional account of a modern Nez Perce community, River Song. In his version Coyote planned to eat the ram while it was stuck in the tree, however “while he worked up his appetite traveling around the country, some Indian people freed the sheep. One of its horns remained embedded in the tree, and the sheep promised the people good luck and freedom from evil spirits if they hung bright strips of cloth, wampum beads, or other adornments from the horn.” (6) After the tree had grown around the horn, the people continued to hang offerings. Lesley wrote that the Medicine Tree was adorned with brightly colored ribbons, beads, and strips of cloth, and in addition coins had been left in the bark and cracks as offerings.

Mackenzie (7) tells us that in England and Scotland it was believed that each person had a “double soul” that existed within a tree. Traditionally a tree was planted upon the birth of a child and the child’s soul was intimately linked to that tree. In these cases a person may die if their tree is cut down or likewise the tree shrivel up and die when the individual dies. Similar stories come from the United States where “birth trees” of oak were planted after a child was born. The belief was that as oak grows to be strong so will the child and the child would be protected throughout its life. An associated bit of folklore recorded in Cleveland, Ohio in 1958 indicated that the clothes of a “weakly child” should be hung on “strong” trees, such as the oak, to give some of the tree’s strength to the child.

A Japanese tale speaks of a young man who greatly admired a willow tree that grew in the center of his village. One day the man met a beautiful girl under the willow tree and fell in love with her. In time, they married and were very happy. However, one day the Emperor ordered the willow tree to be cut down to make room for a new temple. The young man attempted to save the tree but was unsuccessful. As the tree was felled, according to the story, “his wife told him that it housed her spirit. He held her tightly, but neither physical nor spiritual love could keep her with him, and she died as the tree crashed to the ground.” (8)

There are many stories of Old Europe that tell of particular trees linked to particular royal families. In each case when the tree died the head of the royal family or the royal house itself suddenly died as well.

In German lore, babies came from hollow trees—the hollowed areas possibly representing a pathway to the underworld that allowed the spirit from this mysterious realm to grow as a baby in the tree situated in the upper world. In many cultures, human beings were said to have originated as trees, or trees as human beings.

Nineteenth century folklorist J.H. Philpot noted “…an Italian traveler of the fourteenth century was assured by the natives of Malabar that they knew of trees, which instead of fruit bore pigmy men and women. So long as the wind blew they remained fresh and healthy, but when it dropped they became withered and dry.” (9) In India, it is still customary today for childless men and women to worship in sacred groves and to pray for children. (10)

Ancient Akkadian literature indicates that the belief in the powers of certain trees and plants to produce human offspring is a long one. The incomplete myth of Etana, one of the first kings of the Sumer city of Kish, tells of his search for “the plant of birth” to help him obtain offspring. According to the myth, this mystical plant grew only within the bounds of heaven. (11)

In the South Pacific, an abundance of oral lore tells of sacred trees that become the “roadway” of the souls of the dead to traverse from the physical world to the underworld. Usually the tree stretches from a cleft of rock on a high bluff, which is regarded as the “leaping off” or “casting off” place where the soul takes its first leap from the land of the living. By climbing onto, and carefully following the tree branches, the soul is finally able to reach heaven and one’s ancestors. By grasping the wrong branch, the soul may fall into the world of the dead.

Lore from around the world speaks of trees that were either the abodes of spirits or souls waiting to enter the bodies of lone females walking by. The Semang of the Philippines say that the dead journey to a miraculous island where the Tree of Life, the Mapic Tree, is located. Here “the newly deceased become real spirits and may eat the fruits of the tree. This, of course, is a miraculous tree and the source of life; for at its roots are breasts heavy with milk, and there too are the spirits of infants—presumable the souls of the yet unborn.” (12) It is assumed the the new spirits await here to also be born again. The Yupa Indians of Venezuela tell of a time when “most trees were human beings. However, these soon split into two groups which quarreled–for the one did not wish to let the other live in the plains. After a long struggle both groups gave up and the mountain trees let those in the plains live in peace.” (13)

It is a custom in present day Scotland, as it was in years past, to nail branches of rowan over the doorways of homes and barns to protect the inhabitants from evil witches, and travelers from fairies who had evil intent. Rowan was so effective that it was, and still is, carried by travelers to keep them safe on their journey. Another protective wood against witches, ghosts and evil is elder. The Druids made their wands from rowan and yew wood.

Rowanberries were said contain magic properties to “abolish sickness and renew youth”.(14) Mackenzie wrote that the red rowanberries “contain in concentrated form the animating influence of the deity” that cured disease and restored youth or protected one who possessed them as charms against evil. (15) The rowanberries were “luck-berries.”

Another tree with magical fruit is the hazel. Hazelnuts eaten from the tree growing next to the Well of Segais, near the source of the Boyne River, gave the gift of poetry or prophecy. The wood of the hazel tree has been the preferred source for divining rods. Druidic Bards carved their poems onto hazel wood.

Hunting “superstitions” recall ancient taboos and practices. One hunting custom from Kansas recorded in 1965 says that each animal species hunted has its own type of tree. “When a hunter shoots an animal, he is to break off a twig from that tree, dip it in the animal’s blood, and put it in his hat.”(16) This practice is similar to the Native American tradition of offering a prayer of thanks to the animal before taking its life, although in this case the ritual is completed after the fact.

While the withering of trees may signal the death of an individual, it was also believed that one could see the soul of a deceased person appearing as a small, clear flame near large, holy trees.

As has been mentioned earlier, the Druids exacted a particularly gruesome punishment for anyone who peeled the bark from the holy oak trees. In later years, it was also a death sentence for any who should cut down a tree—any tree. Such an act, it was said, “was held to offend the Tree Spirits, which were worshipped (and of which, incidentally, the May Day revels are a survival). A man who cut off a branch of a tree”, wrote the Radfords “would lose a limb of his body.” (17)

The Karok Indians of California would cut limbs from the fir or pine tree to use as “sacred fuel” in “assembly chambers”. This act was not completed, however, without ritual or caution. Nineteenth-century anthropologist Stephen Powers wrote:

“The Karok selects a tall and sightly fir or pine, climbs up within about twenty feet of the top, then commences and trims of all the limbs until he reaches the top where he leaves two and a top-knot, resembling a man’s head and arms outstretched.

“All this time he is weeping and sobbing piteously, shedding real tears…” (18)

The intentional arrangement of the limbs into a “man’s head and arms outstretched” is an obvious attempt to recognize the spirit of the tree and the tears were offered in sorrow for the desecration.

Fourteenth-century knight, Sir John Mandeville wrote of the Trees of the Sun and the Moon in his famous travel-log, The Travels of Sir John Mandeville. Located in the Middle East, possibly around the present day islands of Bahrain in the Persian Gulf, these trees were said to have spoken to Alexander and warned him of his death. “Some say’, wrote Mandeville, “that the people who look after those trees eat the fruit of them and the balm that grows there, and live four or five hundred years…” (19) Other intelligent, speaking trees appear in folklore around the world.

The Cherokee, according to 19th century ethnologist James Mooney, believed “trees and plants were also alive and could talk in the old days…” (20) The belief that trees possessed souls resulted in a further extension of that concept to include speech. “Naturally, when a soul was given to a tree,” Porteous wrote, “it was likewise endowed with the power of speech. This speech is often in a mysterious, emblematical, or silent language, which, however, often makes itself heard…Many trees have even taken human speech…” (21) The Indians of British Columbia had similar beliefs. Porteous noted, “among some of the Indian tribes…the belief prevails that men are transformed into trees, and that the creaking of the branches in the wind is their voice.” (22)

In Yaqui mythology, a story is told of a talking tree that appeared to the original race of Little People that inhabited the earth. According to John Bierhorst, “One day a tree began talking in a strange language. None of the surem [dwarves] knew what it was saying except one little girl. She explained that the tree foretold the coming of the whites, who would bring new weapons, railroads, and bloodshed….dismayed at the prospect of so much violence, the surem went underground to live, and they remain there to this day.” (23)

At times, the spirits of humans and trees evidently are able to interact and communicate with one another. In The Spirit World by the editors of Time-Life Books a Lenape (Delaware Indian) herbalist called Touching Leaves Woman experienced such a connection when she was a young girl. “She was riding a horse with her aunt through deep woods, when the older woman fell unconscious on the ground. It was evening, and the little girl was terrified by the deepening forest shadows. Suddenly, she saw the trees become almost human. As a breeze gently stirred their leaves, they smiled and spoke kindly to her, promising no harm would befall her. They kept their pledge. The girl and her aunt were soon found, and the older woman recovered completely.” (24)

Philpot tells us “the spirits inhabiting the three trees of the Hesperides gave advice to the wandering Argonauts. Philostratus (25) relates that at the command of Apollonius a tree addressed him in a distinct female voice. When Rome was invaded by the Gauls a voice from out of the grove of Vesta warned the Romans to repair their walls or their city would fall.” (26) In addition, of course, we have the oracular trees at Delphi and Dodona, which the gods spoke through to humankind.

In many cultures, it was traditionally believed that heaven is reached by climbing certain sacred trees. This is true of Indian tribes in South America, Polynesians and certain groups in India. D’Alviella wrote in 1894 “the Khasias of India take the stars to be men who scaled heaven by climbing up a Tree, and were obliged to remain in the branches, their companions, who had stopped on earth, having cut down the trunk.” (27) In the Samoan Otherworld, the Tree of Life stood which provided all of the needs for the residents of the underworld. A tree also stood on the shores of the Water of Life in the Melanesian Land of the Dead. From the tree, the soul was able to dive into the subterranean sea of life. (28)

The Trees of the Ogham

There are fifteen different species of trees that figure in European folklore and which also make up part of the Celtic tree-alphabet known as “ogham” or “ogam”. Ogham is the earliest known form of Irish writing and was probably inspired by Latin script sometimes between the 1st century BCE and the 3rd century CE. There is no evidence that this form of writing survived past the 8th century CE. Celtic mythology says that the ogham was the creation of the god of eloquence and literacy, Ogma. Each of the ogham “letters” is named after a tree and each was created in a series of lines at different angles to a vertical line. Ogham script is mentioned in many of the Celtic myths and was probably used for divination, record keeping and magic by the Druid class. R.J. Stewart, however, notes that Ogham “seems to have been reserved for important funerary inscriptions or for god names, and occasional permanent statements.” (29)

While the majority of ogham letters are found carved into stone, it may be that they were also used on wood tablets that no longer exist. Peter Berresford Ellis, perhaps the foremost expert on the Celts, noted, “we hear that in earlier times Ogam was used to write ancient stories and sagas; it was incised on bark or wands of hazel and aspen. These ‘rods of the Fili’ (poets) were kept in libraries or Tech Screptra.” (30) Unfortunately, the libraries and the “rods of the Fili” no longer exist. Evidence exist from a book written around 1400 CE (Yellow Book of Lecan) that Patrick had 180 of these ancient books burned in his effort to eradicate the Druid influence. While ogham marks are found on stones in Wales and Scotland the vast majority are located in Ireland and a full one-third are found in County Kerry alone. (31)

The trees which are reflected in the ogham alphabet are the birch, rowan, ash, alder, willow, hawthorn, oak, holly, hazel, elder, dwarf elder, silver fir, heather, white poplar and the yew. The vine, furze (a cereal grain), and ivy, while certainly not trees, are part of the group. The ogham alphabet consists of thirteen consonants and five vowels. The vowels are the silver fir, furze, heather, white poplar, and yew.

The folklore associated with each tree is rich. Each one, other than the oak, which is covered in detail in Chapter Three, and the three non-tree species, are discussed below.

The Alder

The alder is associated with death, the power of evaporation (and the smith’s fire) and in Celtic lore; alder is closely tied to the Fairy, divination and resurrection. To the ancient Greeks the alder was associated with Spring and fire festivals and was an emblem of Pan. (32) Porteous states in the Tyrol area the alder was a favorite tree of sorcerers who could use the wood to make the dead come back to life. (33)
The alder has long been prized for resisting the “corruptive power of water”, being the foundations for many cathedrals and used by the Romans as causeway piles in marshes. In Ireland, alder wood was the source of milk pails and whistles. Alder appears in the Odyssey as one of the three trees of resurrection that protected the cave of Calypso. In ancient times, the alder was highly valued for the three dye colors it would produce, red from the bark, green from the flowers, and brown from its twigs. These colors represent fire, water and the earth.

An alder branch, at one time, was tied to the cradle of newborn boys to protect them from being kidnapped by fairies. This is rather odd since the alder is under the protection of water fairies. Another example of the many dual aspects of nature and the folklore of nature.

The Ash

Like the oak, the ash is regarded as a “progenitor of mankind.” (34) In ancient Greece, it was said that the first of humankind originated from a vast cloud-ash created by the Nymphs of the Ash, these Nymphs were cloud-goddesses. The ash was also the sacred tree of Poseidon. Three of the Five Magic Trees of Ireland, the Tree of Tortu, Tree of Dathi, and the Branching Tree of Usnech, all ash trees and all sacred to the Druids, were cut down in 665 CE by the Christians. The felling of these trees symbolized the conquest of Christianity over Paganism. Writer and folklorist Robert Graves noted that “a descendent of the Sacred Tree of Creevna, also an ash, was still standing at Killura in the nineteenth century; its wood was a charm against drowning…” (35) Irish emigrants to America brought pieces of the tree with them for its protection.

The power of the ash is represented in a ritual Druidic wand, with a spiral decoration, made of ash found in Anglesey dating back to the 1st century CE. The perceived negativity of the ash by the Christians resulted in various legends. Scandinavian lore says that the ash was the favorite tree of witches and that they were ogres or became the habitation of ogres. (36) Porteous notes that the Askafroa, “wife of the Ash”, was an evil spirit and very destructive. “To propitiate her”, Porteous wrote, “it was necessary to make a sacrifice on Ash Wednesday.” (37) It is interesting to point out that Ash Wednesday was originally a Roman Pagan festival, derived from Vedic India. During this festival people would bathe in ashes as they had the power to absolve all sins through the power of the fire god Agni. These ashes were said to be the “purifying blood of Shiva” and, by bathing in them, one could wash away sins. (38)

Other traditional festivals around the world indicate that Ash Wednesday is far more an ancient Pagan tradition than a Christian one. Frazer wrote of the Ash Wednesday ritual held at Braller, Transylvania:

“…two white and two chestnut horses draw a sledge on which is placed a straw-man swathed in a white cloth; beside him is a cart-wheel which is kept turning round. Two lads disguised as old men follow the sledge lamenting. The rest of the village lads, mounted on horseback and decked with ribbons, accompany the procession, which is headed by two girls crowned with evergreen and drawn in a waggon (sic) or sledge. A trial is held under a tree, at which lads disguised as soldiers pronounce sentence of death. …he is…handed over to the executioner, who hangs him on a tree.” (39) The death sentence was given to the straw man “because he had done them harm, by wearing out their shoes and making them tired and sleepy.” (40)

We must also recall that the World Tree Yggdrasill, sacred to Odin, was an ash.

The leafing of the ash has figured in weather lore over the years. “When the oak comes out before the ash”, a 19th century saying in the English Midland Counties went, “there will be fine weather in harvest; but when the ash comes out before the oak, the harvest will be wet.” (41)

The ash, according to J. C. Cooper, “also typifies adaptability, prudence, modesty.” (42) In Welsh folklore, the ash leaf provides for prophetic dreams (such as dreaming of a future husband) and if worn as a garter will provide protection against witches and the devil. (43) In the Scottish Highlands the sap from the ash tree was believed to protect newborns from witches, fairies “and other imps of darkness”. (44) Anna Franklin notes that “ash buds placed in the cradle prevent sfairies exchanging a changeling for the child.” (45)

The ash was also used in an ancient “passing through” cure. Children in particular were passed through an ash, which had been split down the middle or had natural openings in the trunks as a treatment for “rupture”. They were “passed through” at least three times at sunrise. The tree was then bound with clay and mud plastered over the split. If the tree healed so did the child. In another version the child was passed through the split three times three (nine times) each day for nine successive days, attended by nine persons who took turns passing the child. As noted earlier about “birth trees” these “passing trees” were intimately connected with the children that had been passed through them—“that should the tree die, the child, also, would die”. (46) The danger lasted throughout the individual's life.

Natural holes in the trunks of trees were also believed to be the doorways to the spirit world and were often used to cure certain diseases because of the tree’s link to the spirit world. As Thompson noted, “…the pine and pollard ashes were regarded with special veneration when a hole was found in them, and in Somersetshire and Cornwall it is still believed…that a rickety child passed through the aperture would be made strong and healthy.” (47)

Similar beliefs and rituals have been observed as well in Latin American traditions, according to folklorist Wayland D. Hand. (48) Such a widespread practice, from Britain to Latin America, would indicate that this is an ancient and universal bit of folk medicine.

The ash was also used as a cure for diseased livestock. An ash rod was passed over the animal to affect a cure for whatever ailed them. The ash was especially regarded as a “neutralizer” of snake venom. John Fiske, a “Lecturee on Philosophy” at Harvard University in the 19th century, wrote of the powers of the ash against the serpent:

“The other day I was told, not by an old granny, but by a man fairly educated and endowed with a very unusual amount of good common sense, that a rattlesnake will sooner go through fire than creep over ash leaves or into the shadow of an ash-tree. Exactly the same statement is made by Pliny, who adds that if you draw a circle with an ash rod around the spot on the ground on which a snake is lying, the animal must die of starvation, being effectively imprisoned as Ugolino in the dungeons of Pisa. In Cornwall it is believed that a blow from an ash stick will instantly kill any serpent.” (49)

The Birch

Sacred to Thor, Donar and Frigga, the birch is associated with fertility and light, protecting against witches and evil spirits. In Teutonic myth, the last battle in the world will be fought around a birch tree. (50)
Birch twigs and rods were used in the “Beating of the Bounds”—a possibly Pagan survival into early 20th century Britain. During this ritualized festival, a group of men would rove from boundary to boundary and “capture” any newly appointed parish officer who was turned upside down and placed head first into a newly dug hole. His “latter end” was “saluted with the shovel.”

Reportedly, “it was also usual to flog a boy at certain points of the parish boundary.” (51) The reasons for these actions were entirely vague but it is suspected that they were remnants of ancient sacrificial rites.

To the Siberian Yakuts the birch was the Cosmic Tree. On the eight branches of this tree nested the children of the creator, Ai Toyon, the “Creator of Light”. (52) Each Yakut shaman is connected spiritually with a sacred birch and his life is dependent on that tree. Living at the top of this cosmic tree is a sacred eagle that is a representation of the Lord of the World, and on its branches lives the souls of future shamans.

It was not shamans but Forest Devils that lived in the tops of birch trees in the Russian forests. They were believed to reside among clumps of trees and could be invoked with certain rituals. Alexander Porteous described such a ritual:

“…very young Birches are cut down and placed in a circle with the points towards the centre. They then enter and invoke the spirit, which at once appears. Then they step on to the stump of one of the cut trees with their face turned towards the east, and bend their heads so that they look between their legs. While in this position they say: ‘Uncle Lieschi, (53) ascend thou, not as a grey wolf, not as an ardent fire, but as resembling myself. Then the leaves tremble, and the Lieschi arises under a human form, and agrees to give the service for which he has been invoked, provided they promise him their soul.” (54)

Another Russian tale speaks of the Mother of God seated at the top of a birch tree and another birch, both of which saved a young girl from a witch. Obviously, the sacredness of the birch has a complex and contradictory meaning to many people. Its symbolism is not one of contradiction for the people of Estonia however. The birch tree is the state emblem of the nation.
Through the nineteenth century, “ritual towels” were hung on the branches of birch trees by Russian peasants—left as offerings to the Mother Goddess who was closely associated with the birch.

The Dwarf Elder

The Dwarf Elder represents the 12th letter of the ogham alphabet. It is an important tree, not because it has magical properties, or because it is inhabited by spirits, but because it was this tree that the reed scepters were made for the pharaohs of Egypt. It was also the reed of the dwarf elder that was placed in Jesus’ hand when he was draped in scarlet and the crown of thorns placed on his head. (55)

The Elder

The elder, long associated with magic and witchcraft, was the thirteenth letter of the ogham script. Even though the elder has been linked to witchcraft (56) and the powers of ghosts, it has many supernatural powers because it was also believed to be the wood that the cross was made of and the tree from which Judas hanged himself. Because of these traditions, Christian lore regards the elder as the “ultimate in evil.” Because of the elder’s association with supernatural powers, the leaves of the elder in Scotland were scattered about doorways and windows to protect against witches and evil. (57) This is contradictory to another bit of folklore. According to Richard Inwards, “witches were thought to produce bad weather by stirring water with branches of elder.” (58) And some folklore indicates that an elder could actually be a witch in disguise. However, in Germany hair and nail clippings were buried under an elder to keep witches from obtaining them for evil purposes. In the Baltic countries, those who placed offerings to him at elder trees honored Puskaitis, god of the underworld and fairies. (59)

A charm, Lady Wilde tells us; made from nine twigs of elder and worn around the neck of a patient was a safeguard against epilepsy and convulsions. (60)

Seventeenth century belief held that if boys were beaten with elder sticks their growth would be checked and that elder leaves gathered on the last day of April and applied to a wound would ensure that the wound would heal. However, as already indicated elder had a dual nature—one of protection and one of evil. Another bit of folklore said that elder wood burned in a fireplace would cause a death in the family. (61)

The elder, in Scandinavian folklore, has the “unpleasant habit of taking a walk in the twilight and peeping in through the window at the children when they were alone.” (62) In other parts of Scandinavia, such as Copenhagen, this bit of lore was evidently unheard of as each house had its own elder tree, called a Guardian Tree, for protection. According to tradition “any baptized person whose eyes were anointed with the green juice of [the elder’s] inner bark, was able to see witches in any part of the world.” (63)

In Denmark the Elder Queen, Hulda, lived at the roots of the elder—she was the mother of all elves. Hulda is also the guardian of the elder and her permission must be obtained before any berries are taken or any branch cut from the tree.

The Hawthorn

Unlike most of the trees in the ogham script, the hawthorn was known for being unlucky and potentially harmful. This may be because the hawthorn was also associated with the Fairy. Both spirits and fairies met at the hawthorn in Europe. However, as is typical with sacred symbols the hawthorn also symbolized virginity, chastity, and the “miraculous virgin conception.” It also reportedly protects against sorcery and is sacred to Hecate (which is interesting in that she is the goddess of witches and the underworld), Flora, Hymen and Maia. (64) One of the traditions associated with Walpurgis Night was to place branches of hawthorn and other thorny plants on the thresholds of barns to keep witches out. (65)

The thought that the hawthorn caused harm or was unlucky may also be associated with various traditional taboos associated with the tree. An Irish saying “to cut down a hawthorn tree is to risk great peril” evidently was backed by suitable anecdotal examples. The Radford’s tell of two brothers named Bergin who cut the entire grove of hawthorn trees down on their property, one of the brothers became “fairy stricken”, and he was untreatable. (66) Another farmer at Garrglass cut down one hawthorn with dreadful results. He lost all of his cattle, his children died, and he was evicted from his farm for non-payment. “Two generations of successors at the farm”, the Radford’s wrote, “are said never to have prospered.” (67)

The hawthorn symbolized chastity because it was prohibited to marry in the month of May, which was the hawthorn month in the ancient world. It was also the month of purification when all of the temples of Vesta were swept clean. In time the hawthorn, and the month of May, became associated with the goddess Flora, Maypole dancing and sensuality.

The Glastonbury thorn, or hawthorn, with its Christian tale of Joseph of Arimathea striking his hawthorn staff in the earth and the staff turning into a grown tree was probably the result of the Church canonizing the tree “as a means of discouraging the orgiastic use of hawthorn blossoms…” (67)

Certain folk medicinal lore has come down through time in association with hawthorn as well. In the 1920’s some people in Utah believed that to bring a flowering hawthorn into a home would also bring death to the family.

However, to those in Arkansas to wear hawthorn around your neck was believed to be a certain cure for rheumatism.
An almost universal piece of folklore throughout the west and southwest of the United States in the 1920s and ‘30s said, “If you want to be beautiful, you must wash your face in the dew of the hawthorn on the first of May”. (68) Such ties with Mayday are significant.

A truly ancient ritual was reported in Canada, also in the 1920s. For “rosy cheeks”, it was prescribed to sit next to a hawthorn with a red silk ribbon at dusk, to touch the painful cheek with the ribbon, and then walk three times around the hawthorn reciting a certain “formula.” (69)

Hawthorns growing on hills or near certain holy wells are said to mark the boundaries to the fairy world.

The Hazel

Hazel was the sacred tree in the Druid grove, representing wisdom, magic, divination, inspiration and chthonic powers. In England, the hazel was associated with fertility and divination. It was the Celtic Tree of Life and was associated with the Mother Goddess. Hazel nuts would bestow wisdom to those who ate them but only the sacred salmon were allowed to eat them. “All the knowledge of the arts and sciences”, wrote Graves “was bound up with the eating of these nuts.” (70) The “nine hazels of poetic arts” grew next to the Connla’s Well near Tipperary, said to produce both fruit and flowers at the same time. In Scandinavia, the hazel was sacred to Thor. Sacred hazel groves at one time existed near Edinburgh and Glasgow. (71) Hazel was valued for forming powerful wands as well. Called the Wishing, or Diving Rod, it was used in magic and for locating hidden springs and treasure.

The hazel was also regarded as a “lightning shrub”, acting as a lightning rod it was often attached to door or window frames for a bit of added protection during storms. (72) “Wishing Caps” were once made of hazel twigs and if worn “it is possible to obtain any wish”. (73)

Ship captains would wear them, as they believed that by doing so their ship could weather any storm.

The Holly

The holly was sacred to the Roman god Saturn and was a symbol of health and happiness. It is also an attribute to the sun gods and in Christianity, it has been the symbol of the tree used to build the cross, “its spiked leaves signifying the crown of thorns and the passion and its red berries being the blood of Christ.” (74)

To the Druids holly was the plant of death and regeneration and sacred to the goddess of the Underworld, Hel. The practice of decorating the home with boughs of holly and ivy dates back to the Dionysian solstice festivals and was condemned by the early Church when the Christians continued the practice. The Council of Bracara, in 563 CE, also condemned it saying that no Christian should bring holly into his or her house, as it was a custom of “heathen people.” (75)

Walker writes that the “holy” holly “was linguistically linked with Hel’s yonic ‘hole’ (Germanic Höhle, a cave or grave).“ (76) The red berries, contrary to Christian tradition, represent the female blood-of-life color. Holly, like many other sacred trees and plants, has a dual nature. It is said that German witches often favored holly wood for ritual wands, but other folklore suggests that holly was used to protect property and animals from the doings of witches. “No witch or fairy,” according to Franklin, “can cross a threshold made from holly wood, and a holly hedge keeps them off the property.” (77)

“That witches hate it,” wrote Ronald Millar “is a strong indication that it is a Druidical charm far older than its Christian association.” (78)

The Rowan

The very name “Rowan” comes from the old Norse word “runa”—meaning “a charm.” Like the hawthorn and several other sacred trees, rowan placed at the entryways of homes and barns was believed to keep witches away. In Germany, for the boughs to be effective against witches, the rowan must be cut on Ascension Day. In Scotland it was gathered on May Day (Beltane).

There are a variety of folklore traditions associated with the rowan as there are for all of the other sacred trees and plants. In Nordic traditions, the red berries had magic powers to prolong life. The berries, according to lore, contained the “animating influence of the deity”. (79) American folklore from the Midwest said that if a woman shook a rowan branch over her bed three times and then tossed it under the bed she would not conceive. However, Finnish lore states if the rowan berries are prolific in the fall many illegitimate children will be born the following year. The rowan also healed wounds and was used to transfer illnesses. This bit of transference was not ambivalent however for the illness was not transferred to the tree but to rowan berries which were then hung on bushes along a walkway where anyone who touched them would receive the disease—freeing the original individual who had been ill. (80)

The Druids utilized the rowan as a way to compel demons to answer questions and it was widely used throughout Britain as a protection against lightning and the charms of witches. (81) In Ireland, its uses were many including being hammered through a corpse to pin the ghost in the grave.

In Scotland, rowan wood was the most potent and general charm carried through the land and used to keep the Evil Eye from cattle, people and homes as well as diseases, witches and fairies away from the livestock. Rowan wood was also made into shepherds’ crooks in Estonia and Sweden. (82)

“Flying rowan” found growing on a wall, high mountain or between limbs of other trees—produced from a seed dropped by flying birds—was especially effective against witchcraft because it does not grow on the ground and witches are powerless against it. (83)

The rowan was sacred in many Slavic countries and the sun-goddess, Saule, was said to perch on top of a birch or rowan tree. (84) Millar notes, “That rowan is frequently found growing near standing stones is considered significant but that rowan gave protection against witchcraft might be a factor here.” (85)

The Silver Fir

The fir was sacred to Pan and Odin, and the Moon Goddess Artemis. It is important to know that the fir was a sacred tree to Artemis as she was the goddess of childbirth; the fir was regarded as the prime birth-tree throughout Northern Europe.

Like many of the other trees described in this chapter, the fir was believed to have certain healing properties. Part of the rituals utilized the ancient technique of transference. In Germany, those who suffered from gout would go to a young fir tree, tie a knot in one of the twigs, and say: “God guard thee, noble fir tree, I bring thee my gout.” (86)

A more nefarious tradition observed by poachers was to swallow seeds from a fir cone found growing upwards before sunrise on St. John’s Day, thus rendering the poacher invisible. (87)

The White Poplar

The poplar is “a tree of the waters.” (88) In Greco-Roman mythology, the white poplar (also known as the aspen) represents the Elysian Fields, while the black, according to some, represents Hades, the underworld land of the dead. To be more generous of the black poplar we may say that it was sacred to Mother Earth and was the funereal tree of pre-Hellenic Greece.

Robert Graves wrote that the white poplar is “the tree of the autumn equinox and old age.” (89) Philpot also reminds us that the goddess Rhea gave birth to Zeus beneath a poplar in Crete. (90)

The aspen has taken on certain legends in Christian lore due to its “trembling leaf” characteristics. Porteous noted that the most popular legend “is that which says that the Aspen was one of the trees chosen to furnish wood for the Cross, and that its leaves have trembled ever since.” (91) In the early attempts of the Christian Church to minimize the sacred symbols of Paganism, it is common to find many of the sacred trees of Pagan traditions listed under those that provided wood for the Cross. Not only the aspen, but the oak, mistletoe, fig, ash and the elder have similar legends attached to them.

The Willow

The willow was one of the symbols of the goddess Hecate in her virgin form. It is an enchanted tree sacred to the Moon Goddess, Europa, Kwan-yin, Artemis, Hera, Tammuz, and Esus. A willow was the Cosmic Tree of Accadia. Willow wands figured prominently in the rituals of several Middle Eastern religions, including that of Dionysus, and were incorporated in the Day of Willows feast, later known as the Feast of the Tabernacle. (92) Willow was also favored as a source wood for the construction of divining rods due to the magical properties it supposedly contained. These rods not only led one to hidden treasures but also drive away the “powers of darkness, serpents, and other evils.” (93) Cooper notes that it is especially sacred to the Ainu “since the spine of the first man was made of willow.” (94) The village hedge witch used willow bark to treat fevers and arthritis, which was effective due to its aspirin qualities. However, according to lore, animals struck with a willow rod “will be seized with internal pains” (95) and children struck with it were said to stop growing.

The willow is also associated with magic. Because it naturally grows near water it is believed to mark the entrance to the underworld. Its ancient ties to the witch are indicated by the origins of the name. “Willow” is a derivative of the Old English word wicce, whereby “wicker” is another derivative. Contemporary witches are often called “Wiccans.”

The Yew

The last tree of the ogham script is the yew. The yew is also sacred to Hecate in Greece and Italy and has been known as the “death tree” in all European countries. The yew may also figure in the creation of the Green Man. “In Brittany,” Graves writes, “it is said that church-yard yews will spread a root to the mouth of each corpse.” (96) The yew was also one of the Five Magical Trees of Ireland.

The yew is not a death tree in that it causes death, although some lore does suggest that death will soon follow if certain yews are irreverently plucked, rather it is regarded as a “gentle guardian of the dead”. The yew has been a common churchyard tree for this reason. In Wales, it was sacrilegious to burn or cut down a yew. (97)The yews association with death made it an unlucky tree that was not to be taken into the home.

The yew is another of those trees with a dual symbolism. While it represented mourning and sadness, it also symbolized, for Christians and Celts, immortality. As researcher Gale Owen writes, “The yew-tree can be either an optimistic or a pessimistic symbol; as an evergreen its branches might be used in winter fertility ceremonies as a reminder of rebirth. Yet its leaves are very dark…to the Romans the yew was associated with poison and death.” (98) The yew was also one of two trees that the Druids utilized for their wands—the other being the rowan. The usage of yew in the making of power wands was common around the world. The “power sticks” of the Tillamook shamans along the Oregon coast were also made of yew.

The yew, as with the other sacred trees and plants, was utilized in treating illnesses and injuries as well. Seventeenth century treatments for heart palpitations and included the use of yew berries. Czech folklorist Josef Cizmár noted in “some regions, blessed twigs of yew-tree are used in smoking cures of eye ailments,” (99) and the sawdust of yew was used as a cure for rabies. Another remedy for rabies involved a rather complex ceremony involving cooking and ritual:

“One has to boil savory and yew, to mix in the extract rye flour (after cooling), and cut in the dough a little bit of window lead. Then three cakes should be baked of the mixture, and the ill one should eat them on an empty stomach. After prayers (Lord Prayer and Ave Maria said five times; Credo, one time), he should offer everything to the Five Wounds of Jesus Christ”. (100)

I have not determined if yew was regarded as a cure for lead poisoning!

Other Sacred Trees

The Cedar

The cedar, while not part of the Celtic ogham script, was a sacred tree in many lands and many cultures. The cedar was closely associated with the Accadian-Chaldean god Ea, whose name, tradition says, was inscribed on the core, or heart, of the tree. To the Chaldeans the cedar not only represented the god Ea, “the god of wisdom”, but also reflected the divine power actually inherent in the tree. (101) To the Chaldeans the cedar of Ea was a divine oracle. In India, the cedar was believed to be a great aid in the fertility of cattle and women alike.

To the Sumerians the cedar was the Cosmic Tree and the Tree of Life. It was also sacred to the Green God Tammuz and, as all sacred trees do, had magical properties. The cedar represents strength, nobility, and incorruptibility. (102)

Native Americans also universally regarded the cedar as sacred. It was an important part of the Ghost Dance religion of the Sioux in the late 1800s, standing tall as the sacrificial pole in the rituals of that religion. The Ghost Dance, a Native American revivalist-messianic movement, itself was performed around a small cedar tree planted in the ground specifically for that reason. “The selection of the cedar”, wrote ethnologist James Mooney in 1896, “…is in agreement with the general Indian idea, which has always ascribed a mystic sacredness to that tree, from its never-dying green, which renders it so conspicuous a feature of the desert landscape; from the aromatic fragrance of its twigs, which are burned as incense in sacred ceremonies…and from the dark-red color of its heart, which seems as though dyed in blood.” (103)

According to Mooney, the cedar incense was so potent that malevolent ghosts are unable to endure it and are driven away by its fragrance, even though “the wood itself is considered too sacred to be used as fuel.” (104)
In Cherokee mythology, the red color of the cedar is from the blood of a wizard slain and decapitated by a Cherokee warrior. The wizard’s head, according to the myth, was hung from several trees but continued to live. A shaman told the people to hang the head from the topmost branches of a cedar, where it finally died. (105) In this way, the cedar became a “medicine tree”.

The cedar is sacred to the Lakota as it was a special tree of Wakinyan, the Flying God, or Thunderbird. In Lakota lore, “the cedar tree is the favorite of Wakinyan, and he never strikes it with lightning. The smell of the cedar is pleasing to him.” (106) The Lakota lit the cedar incense to propitiate Wakinyan and to keep thunderstorms from causing damage.

The Egyptians also considered the cedar a holy tree. On the Obelisk of Thutmose III, hieroglyphs speak of the creation of the sacred barge of Amun-Ra made from cedar cut down by the pharaoh himself. The barge was ceremoniously sailed down the Nile for the annual river festival. (107)

The cedar tree, like most other sacred trees, has a dual nature. It is at once healing and deadly. Native Americans used cedar to treat asthma, arthritis and even relieve persons in coma. Other American folk-cures used cedar to stop night sweats (accomplished by placing cedar bark or leaves under the pillow), and if one carried a “double cedar knot” in his or her pocket rheumatism was certain to be cured. (108)

On the other side, cedar was often regarded as a source of evil and danger. It was commonly believed in the mid-west and southern parts of the United States that if a planted cedar tree died, so did the owner. Canadian Indian shamans also used cedar as a “soul trap.” A piece of netting, made of cedar, was constructed three feet square with a quarter inch mesh to trap a “wandering soul.” (109)
Frazer notes that a girl was sacrificed each year to an old cedar in the Kangra Mountains of India. Frazer further noted, “the families of the village taking it in turn to supply the victim.” (110) The sacrifice was to appease the spirit of the tree.

It is, however the evergreen nature of the cedar that invokes its true value—it symbolizes eternal life, and victory over the bindings of death.

The Laurel

The laurel, the last tree that we will examine, is another of those trees regarded around the world as sacred. The laurel was Apollo’s tree and the original Temple of Apollo at Delphi was constructed of laurel branches. Philpot wrote of Apollo’s laurel:
“No sanctuary of his was complete without it…No worshipper could share in his rites who had not a crown of laurel on his head or a branch in his hand. As endowed with the power of the god…the laurel assumed an important and many-sided role in ceremonial symbolism.” (111)

There is considerable agreement that the laurel was sacred at Delphi long before Apollo’s temple was constructed there. A sacred laurel grew at the site when the earth goddess Gaia was the dominant deity there and the laurel was regarded as an oracular tree.

The laurel was also sacred to Dionysus, Juno, Diana and Silvanus, its leaves crowned Dionysus’ head and, in Christianity; it represents the crown of martyrdom. The laurel continued to be regarded as “the surest way to the gods’s protection and favour” (112) into the 3rd century CE when it was used to gain the protection and favor of the Christian God as well.

Native Americans valued laurel for the valuable tools that were made from the wood. The leaves were important medicinally as well. However, it was never burned “as it is believed that this would bring on cold weather, and would furthermore destroy the medicinal virtues of the whole species.” (113) Evidently, the leaves, when burned, make a hissing noise similar to the sound of snow falling.
However, burning laurel leaves was one way to treat rickets in Spain. According to Spanish medical folk lore, if a child comes down with rickets due to a young girl’s “spell” the child should be “fumigated” nine times with the smoke from burning laurel branches, which have been blessed. For this cure to work it must be done on Saturday with a specific charm recited at the time of the fumigation. Another Spanish cure, this one for fever, called for the placement of a cross of laurel on the stricken person’s chest while a priest reads the Gospel. This treatment required a Sunday application in order to receive the promised “instant cure”. (114)

Other illnesses treated with laurel leaves include headache, arthritis, eye ailments, kidney stones, stings, herpes and lameness. In 19th century California, insanity, the “sudden fit” kind, was treated with a poultice made of laurel leaves, nutmeg, cinnamon and olive oil. The poultice is placed on the person’s head which immediately creates perspiration. After several applications, the person awakens from a deep sleep cured.

A bit of 1950’s folklore from Utah called for the rubbing of laurel leaves on the legs of any newborn child if they are born feet first. It was believed that the child would meet with an accident later in life that would make it lame unless the legs were rubbed with laurel leaves within four hours of birth. (115)

Modern medicine has replaced many of these practices today but these rituals and beliefs are still held valid by many people who continue their age old ways of life in the face of encroaching cultural change.

Notes

This article originally appeared in the book The Mythic Forest, the Green Man and the Spirit of Nature by Gary R. Varner and published by Algora Publishing, New York 2006
1. Wintemberg, W. J. Folk-Lore of Waterloo County, Ontario. Ontario: National Museum of Canada, Bulletin No. 116, Anthropological Series No. 28, 1950, 22
2. Davidson, H.R. Ellis. Myths and Symbols in Pagan Europe: Early Scandinavian and Celtic Religions. Syracuse: Syracuse University Press 1988, 180
3. Cizmár, Josef. Lidové lékarství v Ceskoslovensku. Vol. 1. Czechoslovakia: Melantrich, A.S. 1946, 158
4. “Medicine Tree Needs Powerful RX” in Montana Magazine, Sept-Oct 1999
5. Lesley, Craig. River Song. New York: Picador USA 1989, 127
6. Mackenzie, Donald A. Ancient Man in Britain. London: Senate 1996, 190 (A reprint of the 1922 edition by Blackie & Son Limited, London)
7. Piggott, Juliet. Japanese Mythology. New York: Peter Bedrick Books 1982, 71
8. Philpot, Mrs. J.H. The Sacred Tree in Religion and Myth. Mineola: Dover Publications, Inc. 2004, 74-75 (A reprint of the 1897 edition published by Macmillan and Co., Ltd. London and New York)
9. Sahi, Jyoti. The Child and the Serpent: Reflections on Popular Indian Symbols. London: Arkana 1980, 151
10. Ringgren, Helmer. Religions of the Ancient Near East. Philadelphia: The Westminster Press 1973, 75
11. Eliade, Mircea. Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy. Princeton: Princeton University Press 1964, 281
12. Wilbert, Johannes. Yupa Folktales. Los Angeles: Latin American Studies Volume 24, Latin American Center, UCLA 1974, 143-144
13. Rutherford, Ward. Celtic Lore. London: Aquarian/Thorsons 1993, 73
14. Mackenzie, op cit 180
15. Koch, William E. “Hunting Beliefs and Customs from Kansas” in Western Folklore, Vol. XXIV, July 1965, Number 3. Published by the California Folklore Society, UCLA. pg. 173
16. Radford, Edwin and Mona A. Encyclopaedia of Superstitions. New York: Philosophical Library 1949, 244
17. Powers, Stephen. Tribes of California. Berkeley: University of California Press 1976, 25. A reprint of the 1877 publication Contributions to North American Ethnology, Vol. III published by the Department of Interior, Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C.
18. Mandeville, Sir John. The Travels of Sir John Mandeville. Trans. by C.W.R.D. Moseley. London: Penguin Books 1983, 181 (A translation of the 1356 publication)
19. Mooney, James. Myths of the Cherokee. New York: Dover Publications Inc. 1995, 231 (A reprint of the Nineteenth Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology 1897-98 published in1900 by the Smithsonian Institution, Washington)
20. Porteous, Alexander. The Lore of the Forest: Myths and Legends. London: Senate 1996, 152 (A reprint of the 1928 publication, Forest Folklore published by George Allen & Unwin Ltd. London)
21. Ibid., 180
22. Bierhorst, John. The Mythology of Mexico and Central America. New York: William Morrow and Company, Inc. 1990, 9
23. Anon. The Spirit World. Op cit. 105
24. Flavius Philostratus who, in 216 CE by request of the Empress Julia Domna, wrote a biography of the 1st century Greek philosopher/mystic Apollonius of Tyana.
25. Philpot, op. cit. 101-102
26. D’Alviella, The Count Goblet. The Migration of Symbols. New York: University Books 1956, 171
27. Anderson, Johannes C. Myths and Legends of the Polynesians. Rutland: Charles E. Tuttle Company: Publishers 1969, 420
28. Stewart, R. J. Celtic Gods Celtic Goddesses. London: Blandford 1990, 34
29. Ellis, Peter Berresford. The Ancient World of the Celts. New York: Barnes & Noble Books 1998, 32
30. Anon. Celtic Mythology. New Lanark: Geddes & Grosset 1999, 439
31. Cooper, J. C. An Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Traditional Symbols. London: Thames & Hudson Ltd. 1978, 10
32. Porteous, op. cit., 276
33. Ibid 157
34. Graves, Robert. The White Goddess. New York: The Noonday Press 1948, 168
35. Porteous op cit 86
36. Ibid 93
37. Walker, Barbara G. The Women’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets. Edison: Castle Books 1996, 67
38. Frazer, James G. The Golden Bough: The Roots of Religion and Folklore, Vol. 1. New York: Avenel Books 1981, 255 (A reprint of the 1890 edition published by Macmillan, London)
39. Ibid
40. Inwards, Richard. Weather Lore. London: Senate 1994, 151 (A reprint of the 1893 edition published by Elliot Stock, London)
41. Cooper, op cit 16
42. Radford, op cit 22
43. Ibid 23
44. Franklin, Anna. The Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Fairies. London: Paper Tiger/Chrysalis Books 2004, 17
45. Ibid
46. Thompson, C.J.S. The Hand of Destiny: Everyday Folklore and Superstitions. London: Senate 1995, 218
47. Hand, Wayland D. editor, American Folk Medicine: A Symposium. Berkeley: University of California Press 1976, 5
48. Fiske, John. Myths and Myth-Makers: Old Tales and Superstitions. Boston: Houghton, Mifflin and Company 1881, 61
49. Cooper, op cit 20
50. Bilson, Charles. Vestiges of Paganism in Leicestershire. Loughborough: Heart of Albion Press 1994, 17 (A reprint of the 1911 article appearing in Memorials of old Leicestershire published by Greorge Allen, London)
51. Eliade, op cit 70
52. Lieschi is the Russian name for these ‘Forest Devils’ or ‘Genii of the Forest’
53. Porteous, op cit 105
54. Graves, op cit 185
55. Elder has been traditionally worn on Walpurgis Night in Germany. Walpurga (also spelled “Walburga”) was originally a Pagan May Queen, the female half of the sacred marriage rite held every Spring. The cult surrounding Walpurga was so popular in Germany that the Church had no option but to canonize the May Queen and change the traditionally orgiastic festival to a Church sponsored event with the processionals, dances and song twisted to fit the fictional St. Walpurga. The Church changed the date of the festival from the Pagan May Day to February; however, the local populations continued to observe May Day as the effective date. The Church then claimed May Eve as the commemorative date of the transference of the relics of St. Walpurga to the town of Eichstätt.
56. Radford, op cit 113
57. Inwards, op cit 153
58. Jones, Prudence & Nigel Pennick. A History of Pagan Europe. New York: Barnes & Noble Books 1995, 176
59. Wilde, Lady. Irish Cures, Mystic Charms & Superstitions. New York: Sterling Publishing Company, Inc. 1991, 15
60. Radford, op cit 112
61. Porteous, op cit 279
62. Thompson, C.J.S. The Hand of Destiny: Everyday Folklore and Superstitions. London: Senate 1995, 224. (A reprint of the 1932 edition published by Rider & Company, London)
63. Cooper, op cit 80
64. Porteous, op cit 257
65. Radford op cit 145
66. Ibid
67. Graves, op cit 176
68. UCLA Folklore Archives, Record # 5_6336
69. Cantero, Antonio. “Occult Healing Practices in French Canada” in Canadian Medical Association Journal, New Series 20, (1929), 305
70. Graves, op cit 182
71. Ibid 49
72. Thompson, C.J.S. The Hand of Destiny: Everyday Folklore and Superstitions. London: Senate, 219 (A reprint of the 1932 edition published by Rider & Company, London)
73. Radford, op cit 145
74. Cooper, op cit 84
75. Walker, op cit 407
76. Ibid 406
77. Franklin, op cit., 129
78. Millar, Ronald. The Green Man Companion and Gazetteer. East Sussex: S.B. Publications 1997, 68
79. Mackenzie, op cit 180
80. Black, William George. Folk-Medicine: A Chapter in the History of Culture. London: Publications of the Folk-Lore Society #12, 1883, 39
81. Graves, op cit 167
82. Radford, op cit 206
83. Frazer, op cit 361
84. Jones & Pennick, op cit 174
85. Millar, Ronald. The Green Man Companion and Gazetteer. East Sussex: S.B. Publications 1997, 68
86. Radford, op cit 120
87. Ibid
88. Cooper, op cit 134
89. Graves, op cit 193
90. Philpot, op cit 76
91. Porteous, op cit., 276
92. Walker, op cit 1076
93. Porteous, op cit 262
94. Cooper, op cit 192
95. Burns, Charlotte Sophia. The Handbook of Folklore. London: Senate 1996, 32 (A reprint of the 1914 edition published by Sidgwick & Jackson Ltd., London)
96. Graves, op cit 194
97. Radford, op cit 264
98. Owen, Gale R. Rites and Religions of the Anglo-Saxons. Dorset Press 1985, 56
99. Cizmár, Josef. Lidové lékarství v Ceskoslovensku. Vol. 2. Czechoslovakia: Melantrich, A.S. 1946, 200
100. Ibid 44
101. Philpot, op cit 95
102. Cooper, op cit, 31
103. Moony, James. The Ghost-Dance Religion and the Sioux Outbreak of 1890. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press 1965, 53 (A reprint of Part 2 of the Fourteenth Annual Report of the Bureau of Ethnology to the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, 1892-93. Washington: Government Printing Office 1896)
104. Mooney, James. Myths of the Cherokee. New York: Dover Publications Inc. 1995, 421 (A reprint of the Nineteenth Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology 1897-98 published in1900 by the Smithsonian Institution, Washington)
105. Ibid, 228
106. Walker, James R. Lakota Belief and Ritual. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press 1991, 77
107. Budge, E.A. Wallis. Cleopatra’s Needles and Other Egyptian Obelisks. New York: Dover Publications, Inc. 1990, 156 (A reprint of the 1926 edition published by the Religious Tract Society, London)
108. Sackett, S.J. “More Folk Medicine from Western Kansas” in Western Folklore #23 1964. Published by the California Folklore Society, UCLA, 76
109. Darby, George E. “Indian Medicine in British Columbia” in The Canadian Medical Association Journal #28 1933, 437
110. Frazer, Sir James. The Golden Bough: A Study in Magic and Religion. Hertfordshire: Wordsworth Editions Ltd. 1993, 112
111. Philpot, op. cit. 36
112. Ibid
113. Mooney, James. Myths of the Cherokee. New York: Dover Publications Inc. 1995, 422 (A reprint of the Nineteenth Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology 1897-98 published in1900 by the Smithsonian Institution, Washington)
114. Sébillot, Paul. “Additions aux Coutoumes, Traditions et Superstitions de la Haute-Bretagne” in Revista des Traditions Populaires #7, 1892, 156
115. UCLA Folklore Archives Record # 15-6683, collected 1950

  

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Reviewed by Gianetta Ellis 3/11/2009
As a long-time environmental educator/conservationist, I find your subject irresistible. I love folklore especially as it relates to nature. This is a very enticing excerpt as it's convinced me to check out your book. I already own Fred Hageneder's The Meaning of Trees (Botany, History, Healing, Lore).

Best wishes for success.

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