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Level 2

Distance Course Notes (November 2003)
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Celtic Reiki Level 2
Celtic Reiki and Manifestation
As we have already seen in Level 1, Celtic Reiki can be used to heal.
However, it has many additional uses, one of the most interesting being
manifestation. The Celts were highly acclaimed for their energetic powers of
healing, manifestation and deep connection with the natural environment. In
this section of the course we will be exploring the six Level 2 symbols that you
have been attuned to. They can be used both by yourself and your clients, as
a means of working with goals and desires on all levels.
It has been found that the best method of using these Level 2 energies, is to
begin with the first two symbols Nuin and Duir, which connect you to the Reiki
and open doors to higher manifestation and protection energies. Then you
can simply use one symbol or a combination of symbols, in order to manifest
your desired goals.
Another method is to use the symbols in meditation with a fixed idea of what
you are manifesting and then direct the energies towards your goal. The
symbols can also be used in treatments, and in conjunction with a wish book
or crystal grid. As the Celtic Reiki system is continually evolving, the
techniques suggested in these manuals are not set in stone and it is
recommended that you work with the symbols creatively, as guided by
intuition, or higher wisdom.
When manifesting, it is essential to always work for the highest good of all,
remembering not to force your will on other people’s lives as it will bounce
straight back at you. A good example of this is in relationships. For example, it
would be wrong to use Celtic Reiki with the intent of finding love with a
specific person. A much better approach is to use the desire for a wonderful
and special love to fill your life. This means that if the person of your desires is
the perfect partner for you, then they will come, while at the same time if there
is someone special waiting in the wings, you are opening the door to allow
them in.
For manifestation treatments either on yourself or others, channel the first two
symbols at the head area and the other symbol(s) (according to your goals)
moving from the head (3-5 minutes) to the heart (3-5 minutes), and finally to
the Hara (situated about 2 inches below the navel) (3-5 minutes). This serves
to bring the energy from the universe (thought) to the Earth (physical). You
may also work as guided.
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Celtic Reiki Second Degree Symbols
The second set of 6 Celtic Reiki symbols are illustrated below:
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Nuin (Nee-Arn) N
Nuin is the Ash Tree and represents the month of March – the first month of
spring and new beginnings. This symbol is used for connection, as it shows
us the connection between all things and removes separateness.

Use Nuin at the start of any manifestation treatment or practice to connect to
the specific energy required in this form of Reiki. Nuin will connect and
prepare you in readiness for the next symbol.
Duir (Doo-r) D
Duir is of the Oak Tree and shows us the fertility of spring as celebrated in the
festival of Beltane. It represents the month of May, the last month of spring
and the end of the beginning.
Duir is the opener of doors and gateways. It allows those who have
connected, through to great strength and knowledge of the mysteries
contained in the universe. It also protects and keeps the practitioner and client
safe from any negative energies during the treatment or practice. It should be
used after Nuin.
Duir opens the chakras in turn, starting with the crown and working down to
the base, thus bringing thoughts into the physical.
Oir (U-eh) Th
Oir is the Spindle, of sweetness and delight – and is used in Celtic Reiki to
manifest an ideal situation. This could be more prosperity, a better job, or a
strengthening of relationships.
Having used the first two symbols, Oir will help to create a contusive energy
for the highest outcome in a physical sense and therefore is best used where
money, property, work or people are concerned.
However, always remember to work for the highest good and to remain
anonymous where people are concerned. To attempt to force another to do
something will bounce the energy right back at you!
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Coll (Cull) C
Coll is the Hazel and refers to the heart, emotion and intuition. Use where you
wish to manifest emotions and create a new feeling, or underlying feeling to
daily living.
If you wish to create J oy, Inner Peace, Love, or any emotion that you feel at a
heart level, or if you wish to improve energy, intuition, or balance, then Coll is
the symbol to use.
Coll can also be used to increase the potency of Oir, and the two work very
well together.
Gort (Gort) G
Gort is of the Ivy and refers to the mental. The ivy creates a labyrinth – a
tangle of paths and journeys, some leading you forward, some leading you to
nowhere, some leading you round and round. The Gort energy will help you to
find your way through the labyrinth, helping you to stick to the right path.
Gort can help to manifest clarity, improve memory and help you connect to
higher wisdom. It can calm the mind in times of anxiety and allow stillness in
You can use Gort, if you wish to manifest anonymously for the higher good –
i.e. you know you need something, but you are not quite sure what.
Saille (Sarl-Yur) S
Saille is the Willow Tree and refers to the moon and lunar rhythms. It is
therefore best used in manifestations of the soul: to improve your ability to
connect to higher levels, to work with guides and angels, or to help you clarify
your life’s work and discover your purpose.
Saille is the manifestation tool for lightworkers who have been travelling on
their path for a while and are ready for the next step. It will help you connect
to Lemurian and Atlantean energies, to work with ley-lines and Stargate
energy and connect you to the stars.
You can also use Saille in healing for extreme trauma on all levels.
(Symbol descriptions written by Martyn Pentecost).
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Crystals and Reiki
Every crystal possesses a single chemical compound, which gives it a
geometric internal structure that directly influences its exterior form. It is
composed of atoms that have bonded together into regular repeating patterns,
and it is these patterns that create a crystal’s solid form with flat faces,
arranged in a precise geometry known as a crystal lattice. Crystals form over
millions of years within the Earth’s crust and factors such as temperature,
pressure, cooling period and other chemical elements within contact, all
determine the final structure of the crystal. While each crystal is unique in
appearance, the angle between the corresponding plane faces will be
identical in all crystals of the same substance and structure. Hence we are
able to group them based on their type, for example: Carnelian, Malachite,
Lapis Lazuli, J asper, Tourmaline, etc.
In the context of crystal healing, this means that the natural vibration of
crystals is fairly uniform within each crystal type, but differs substantially
between one type and the next. As a result of their vibrational energies and
correspondence with the body’s chakra system, crystals have been used
since the earliest civilisations for healing purposes.
Crystals work in a variety of ways when combined with Reiki. Not only do they
magnify the potency of the Reiki energy, but they can also alter the frequency
of the energy to match that of the crystal, thereby enabling the practitioner to
target specific areas and conditions. As crystals are able to store large
amounts of Reiki energy, which is gradually released over time, this provides
a constant Reiki supply to the wearer/carrier, or the area where the crystal is
displayed. In addition, Reiki can be used to cleanse crystals of negative or
foreign energies.
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The Master Crystal
The ‘Master crystal’, as its name suggests, is of great significance to the Reiki
practitioner or master. It serves as a powerful aid in a multitude of ways from
charging your crystal grid (network), to assisting with distance healing or in-
person treatments, to directing Reiki at objects, situations, personal dreams
and wishes, etc.
Ideally a Reiki master crystal should be wand-shaped and can be of any type,
although clear quartz is a popular choice and works exceptionally well. When
using crystals they should always ‘feel’ right. The best crystal for your needs
will choose you (rather than the other way around), and will resonate with your
deepest being. Stories abound of people who have lost expensive crystals, or
found them shattered when they reached home, simply because the crystal
was not right for them. You may have to be patient, but if a crystal is meant for
you, it will always find its way into your hands.
Once you have acquired your master crystal, it needs to be cleansed and
charged with Reiki. Regular smudging with a sage stick is recommended and
you should not permit others to handle your crystal, as it will absorb their
energy imprint. If another person does touch it, the crystal should always be
smudged as soon as possible.
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Chakras and their Corresponding Crystals
Base Chakra (Red stones) – Red stimulates, activates and energises.
Linked to the ability to use practical skills, movement, motivation, protection
and survival. Puts life-energy to positive use.
Garnet: Speedy energiser, activates other stones nearby, aids depression.
J asper: Grounding, gently activating, calms biliousness.
Ruby: Works with circulation of subtle anatomy, energising, analgesic.
Tiger’s Eye: Helps energy flow, grounding, calming, strengthens bones.
Sacral Chakra (Orange stones) – As orange is a mix of red and yellow, it
combines both energy and focus. Aids with creativity in all senses. Linked to
artistic skills. Assists with shock and trauma, which can block the flow of
energy within the body.
Carnelian: Warm, gently energising, benefits all healing, infection, fever.
Topaz: Clearing, directs energy, respiratory, de-stress.
Citrine: Stimulates mental focus, digestive, balancing, helps creativity.
Solar Plexus Chakra (Yellow stones) – Regulates functioning of nervous
system. Linked to pancreas and liver. Linked to immune system. Self-esteem,
stress, fear and happiness are also linked to this colour.
Tiger’s Eye: Helps energy flow, grounding, calming, strengthens bones.
Amber: Immunity, self-healing, clears negativity.
Citrine: Stimulates mental focus, digestive, balancing, helps creativity.
Heart Chakra (Green/Pink stones) – Green: balances emotions, space,
relationships. Personal growth. Pink: more gentle and subtle, bringing
emotions and sensitivity together.
Aventurine: Heart balancer, expression of feelings, emotional tranquillity,
Emerald: Helps to find personal direction, make decisions from the heart.
Tourmaline: Protection, self-confidence, tranquil, calming.
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Rose Quartz: Calming, reassuring, assists unexpressed emotions,
Rhodonite: Self-love, self-worth.
Throat Chakra (Blue /Turquoise stones) – Associated with communication
of all types - sight, voice, and hearing - all the senses. Inner communications
and self-expression.
Aquamarine: Stimulates healing properties at all levels, self-confidence.
Blue Agate: Cooling of emotions, calming, anti-depressing.
Lapis Lazuli: Peaceful, easy expression of thought and mind.
Turquoise: Supportive, protective, strengthens the subtle bodies.
Third Eye Chakra (Indigo stones) – Perception, understanding and intuition
are linked to this colour. Also mystery, spiritual insight and connection
between mind, body and spirit.
Sapphire: Relaxes and improves the mind, balances all aspects of the self.
Azurite: Frees difficult and longstanding communication barriers, memory.
Lapis Lazuli: Peaceful, easy expression of thought and mind.
Crown Chakra (Violet/White stones) – Violet/purple: inspiration,
imagination, empathy and sense of service to others. Helps to re-balance
extremes within the systems of the body. White: clarity of mind. White
contains all other colours so it symbolises the power to reflect all energies and
may also suggest a ‘coming together’. Cleansing and purifying.
Amethyst: Useful all-rounder, good for meditation.
Sugilite: Helps resolve group misunderstandings, helps people ‘fit-in’.
Azurite: Frees difficult and longstanding communication barriers, memory.
Clear Quartz: Strengthens and brings coherent energy, harmony.
Moonstone: Clears tension, aids digestion, balances fluids in the body.
Diamond: Increases quality of stones near to it, clarity of mind, dream stone.
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Techniques for Using Reiki and Crystals
Charging a Crystal
When you have selected a crystal corresponding with the results you wish to
achieve, place it in the palm of your passive hand and cover with your
dominant hand, i.e. the one you write with. Concentrate on sending Reiki into
the crystal, and if the energy is required for a particular purpose, keep this
intention strongly in your mind. Depending on the size of the crystal and the
amount of Reiki required, this needs to be done for between 5-20 minutes.
The charge should last for a week or more, although if you are working
intensely with a specific stone (such as the master crystal of your Reiki Grid),
then it’s advisable to charge it every 2-3 days.
Cleansing a Crystal
Basically this process is identical to the technique for charging a crystal
above. However, when channelling Reiki into the crystal, your intention should
be one of cleansing.
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Creating and Using a Celtic Reiki Crystal Grid
With the aid of a crystal Reiki grid you can continue to send Reiki or empower
goals for long periods, provided the grid is charged on a regular basis. When
in use, the grid actually becomes multidimensional and allows a link to your
higher self and Reiki guides to transmit healing and knowledge.
The grid requires seven crystals, plus your master crystal. While in theory any
type will do, I would recommend using quartz crystal. Before setting up the
grid all the crystals need to be cleansed. There are many different methods
you can choose from, such as placing the crystals in a bowl with rock or sea
salt and pure water, running under a cold tap, leaving outside in the sunlight
or moonlight, smudging with sage or any other cleansing incense or herb, etc.
When cleansing the energy of crystals other than quartz crystal, you should
always check the properties of the stone first, as certain crystals will dissolve
in water or fade in sunlight. Once your crystals have been cleansed, they will
need to be ‘charged’ with Reiki before use.
The grid should be set up in a sacred space where it will not be disturbed.
Draw the six manifestation symbols from Celtic Reiki on a sheet of paper in a
circle around the central crystal. The other six crystals will be placed over the
symbols facing inwards towards the central crystal, which should hold special
significance. Crystal balls, pyramids or clusters have been noted to harness
the Reiki energy well. Once you have created a configuration that feels right,
it’s advisable to affix the crystals with a small piece of adhesive to prevent any
Using a picture of yourself alone, write a positive affirmation on the reverse
that encompasses all the ideals you wish to attain on your Reiki journey. It is
of considerable importance that this is a true statement of your ‘own’ intent,
and not a well known saying or phrase.
In order to know their purpose as part of the grid, the crystals need to be
charged with Celtic Reiki. You should Reiki the crystals for about 10 minutes
each, using all six Level 2 symbols whilst tuning in to your individual guides
for increased purity. Place each individual crystal on its setting within the grid,
leaving the centre crystal to the very end. Then charge the master crystal in
exactly the same way as the others.
The master crystal will become an important part of your Reiki life and, as
mentioned before, has to be special to you. It forms an integral part of the
grid, being used to both charge it and keep it charged.
In order to charge the grid, you should hold the master crystal in your
dominant hand and point it downward at the central crystal. Start by drawing
out triangular sections on the grid, beginning at the centre, moving out to one
of the six crystals, and then across anti-clockwise to the next, and back to the
centre again. Work your way around the grid whilst intoning a mantra-like
affirmation, filling the grid with Light, Love, Peace, and Wisdom, affirming all
the words three times. For example: “I charge this grid with Reiki, with Reiki,
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with Reiki, for… for… for….” This should be continued until you feel that the
positive affirmations have filled the grid. Initially you may find it difficult to
create the rhythm and will perhaps miss a few lines. Don’t worry, as speed will
come with practice, and you will quickly find that the mantras assist in
contributing a flowing charging motion. It is necessary to carry on charging the
grid every 2-3 days, since crystals possess only a finite power. The more you
work the grid, the greater the results that will be obtained.
Your master crystal will rapidly become a close friend and a wonderful
meditation tool, enhancing awareness and sensitivity. The results attained will
be very powerful, if the crystal is charged with the Reiki meditation and then
used to activate the grid.
From time to time there may be situations when you are separated from the
grid, but wish to continue using it for empowerment. Provided you have a
photograph of the made-up grid with you, it is possible to activate it with your
master crystal in exactly the same manner as if you were present.
The grid can also be used for the empowering of goals or the healing of an
individual. To do so, you will need to write out exactly what is required of the
grid and place it in the middle, being careful not to disturb the central crystal. If
you’re using an absent healing book, it should be opened and stood on end
inside the grid, so that energy will be sent to all within. Use of the grid requires
responsibility since it is very powerful and, as always, it’s important to be
mindful of what you ask for since you may just get it!
A series of crystal grids can be set up in one go and placed around your home
with the intention that they are all connected. This achieves a powerful field of
energy that will protect your living environment and creates a healing, positive
energy. To charge the network, it is necessary to charge the main grid
(master grid) daily, with the simple intention that all the grids are charged.
Celtic Reiki Level 2 Exercises
As before, please memorise all six symbols, their meanings and methods of
use. You may also wish to meditate and work further on each individual
symbol. Do any specific colours or thoughts come to mind when you use them
(and also the Level 1 symbols)?
Please practice all the techniques suggested above and keep a record of your
experiences with using the symbols in meditation and in manifestation
treatments on both yourself and others. Try to be creative in what you do with
these manifestation symbols and allow yourself to be guided by your intuition.
If you already have suitable crystals (or can easily obtain some), you may
wish to set up a crystal grid using Celtic Reiki for healing or manifestation
purposes (either for yourself or others). You may even like to set up a crystal
network around your house comprised of several grids.
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Try to find as many of the Celtic Reiki Level 2 trees as possible in your vicinity
and get to know them!
Please be aware that the information given in this Celtic Reiki course is for
educational purposes only.
Celtic Reiki is a wonderful ‘hands-on’ method of energy balancing for the
purpose of stress reduction and relaxation, that works in conjunction with any
and all other healthcare practices you may be using. However, it is not meant
as a substitute for proper medical diagnosis and treatment provided by
licensed healthcare professionals.
Celtic Reiki practitioners do not diagnose conditions, nor do they perform
medical treatments, prescribe substances, or interfere with the treatment of a
licensed medical professional.
It is strongly recommended that you contact your physician or healthcare
specialist for any physical or psychological ailment you may have.
Celtic Reiki Level 2 Resources
Recommended articles:
The Oghams: One and Many
The Tree Ogham as Herbal Ogham
Herbal Properties of the Tree Ogham
(The following article on ‘Using Trees as Medicine’ is given for information
purposes only. We do not recommend it as a substitute for proper medical
diagnosis and treatment provided by licensed healthcare professionals.
Always contact your physician or healthcare specialist for any physical or
psychological ailment you may have).
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Using Trees as Medicine
by Ellen Evert Hopman
Many common North American trees can be used as medicine. Their
advantage over medicinal herbs is that tree medicines can be used year
round. In fact, trees make among the most versatile medicine you will find.
In early spring and summer the leaves of trees are useful healing agents. In
fall and winter, the bark and twigs or of the roots may be used to treat
common ailments. Some simple rules must be learned, however, and followed
for tree medicines to work.
Preparing Tree Medicines for Use
Here are several rules to ensure you are mindful in gathering tree
medicines. First never cut the bark off of the trunk of a living tree.
Especially avoid girdling the tree by removing the bark as this will kill the
tree. To gather bark use that found on a twig or a root of felled tree. In
these cases, it is a simple matter of striping the bark off the twig or root
with a sharp knife. Medicinal agents are found in the cambium - the living
green or greenish yellow layer just under the outer bark.
Once you have gathered the bark of a tree you can use it immediately or
dry it for later use. To dry the bark, carefully lay it to dry in the shade,
making sure that the strips do not overlap. Leaves can be tied together and
hung in bunches from a string or rope in a dry, shady area.
To use the bark, simmer two teaspoons of bark per cup of water for twenty
minutes in a non-aluminium pot with a tight lid. Strain and drink. The dose
is one-quarter cup, taken four times a day with meals. This assumes a 150-
pound adult. A child weighing 75-pounds should take half as much, and a
child weighing 40-pounds should take half as much again. The tea may be
stored in a glass jar with a tight lid, in the refrigerator, for up to a week.
When using the leaves they should be picked in the early spring no later
than Summer Solstice. Steep two teaspoons of fresh or dried leaves per cup
of freshly boiled water for about twenty minutes, in a non-aluminium pot
with a tight lid. The dose is the same as above. Add lemon and honey to
the medicines as desired.
If you are making a tea to use as a wound wash or to add to the bath it
may be much stronger. Use more of the tree parts and less water, and
simmer or steep for longer periods.
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To make a tree leaf poultice, use fresh leaves, or dry ones that have been
soaked in enough boiling water to make them soft. Place the leaves in a
blender with just enough water to make a mush. Pour into a glass or ceramic
bowl and then add powdered slippery elm bark, a little at a time, until a pie
dough consistency is achieved. Spread the poultice onto a cotton cloth and
apply to the affected area. Leave on for one hour, and then discard the
poultice material. Repeat daily.
A formentation may be made of the bark or leaf tea by soaking clean
cotton cloth in the tea and then applying it to an affected area. Tree
leaves, bark, and nuts may also be used in healing salves. To make a salve
simply place the plant material in a large non-aluminium pot, and just barely
cover with cold-pressed virgin olive oil. Simmer with a lid for about twenty
In a separate pot melt beeswax, and bring to a simmer. After oil mixture
has simmered for twenty minutes add three tablespoons of melted beeswax
for every cup of olive oil used. Stir and then strain into very clean glass
jars. Allow to cool and harden before putting on the lid.
Some tree parts are used to make massage oils or oils for other purposes.
Take the fresh tree parts, and put them in a shallow non-aluminium baking
dish. Cover with a light oil such as almond, cover, and bake in a slow oven
at 110 degrees for several hours until the plant material wilts.
To tincture buds, barks, or roots, place the chopped plant material in a
clean glass jar. Cover with vodka or other alcohol {80 proof or higher},
cover tightly, and allow the tincture to sit for eight days. Shake
occasionally. Add 10% spring water and a teaspoon of vegetable glycerine.
Strain and bottle for later use. Store in cool, dark place. For leaves and
flowers; pack the plant material into a clean glass jar, barely cover with
alcohol, and allow the tincture to extract until the plant material begins to
wilt. Add spring water and vegetable glycerine, and strain and bottle as
above. The dose is about 10 drops, three times a day, taken with water.
Green Etiquette
It is only polite to thank a tree when you have used its parts for medicine.
Make a habit of giving back to the trees. A meal of fertilizer, a drink
during a hot spell, or offering of herbs such as sage or tobacco are always
correct. In ancient European tradition, vervain, honey, or apple cider were
often given. Or a simple prayer was spoken, that the tree and its relations
always have abundant sunshine, pure water to drink, healthy winds, and the
companionship of birds and other friendly spirits. In this time of global
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warming it is wise to plant trees wherever possible and to nurture living
ones. Trees are cooling. They prevent evaporation of rainwater, hold back
water to prevent floods and erosion, purify stagnant and polluted water,
and maintain the balance of oxygen and carbon in a world increasingly
polluted by greenhouse gases. Ancient tress especially should be honored
and protected.
Some Tree Medicine
Alder: Is a small tree that thrives in damp areas such as wetlands and
riverbanks. It usually has several grayish trunks, and its female catkins
develop into what look like tiny brown pine cones. Alder bark is simmered in
water to make a healing wash for deep wounds. It is astringent and will help
to pull the edges of a wound together. The leaves and bark can be made
into a tea that will benefit tonsillitis and fever. The leaves are also used in
poultices to dry up breast milk. Alder bark tea can be used as a douche or
for haemorrhoids. Fresh alder sap can be applied to any area to relieve
Apple: The bark of the root of apple trees is used for fevers. Apples are
rich in magnesium, iron, potassium, and Vitamins C, B and B2. When peeled,
they relieve diarrhoea. Stewed unpeeled apples are a laxative. Eating apples
regularly promotes restful sleep. Baked apples can be applied warm as a
poultice for sore throats and fevers. Apple cider is important in this time
of antibiotics, which destroy the intestinal flora. Raw, unpasteurized apple
cider will restore the correct bacteria to the bowels after a course of
antibiotics. Apples reduce acidity in the stomach and help to clean the liver.
Add garlic and horseradish to apple cider to clear the skin. Use the mixture
as a wash externally and take it internally as a drink.
Ash: Ash is a tall tree whose compound leaves are composed of five to
nine, or seven to eleven leaflets. Its bark is very tightly and regularly
furrowed, and its winged, canoe-paddle-shaped seeds, called keys, hang in
clusters until they are brown and drop off in the fall. The tender new
spring growth of the twig tips and leaves can be simmered to make a
laxative tea that will benefit gout, jaundice, and rheumatism.
Beech: Beech trees have a distinctive, smooth gray bark that resembles
the skin of an elephant. The bark is used as a tea for lung problems,
including tuberculosis. It is also cleansing to the blood, though pregnant
women should avoid it. Beech bark tea makes a good wash for poison ivy.
Beech leaves are used in poultices for burns and for frostbite.
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Birch: Birch trees have thin papery bark that peels easily -- so easily that
birds actually use it to build their nests. It can range in color from chalky
white and reddish brown to golden gray and yellow. The sweet birch {black
birch} and yellow birch both have a nice wintergreen flavor in their twigs
and bark. Birch leaf or twig tea is a laxative, and healing to mouth sores,
kidney and bladder sediments, and gout. The tea also helps rheumatic pains.
Make a strong decoction of the twigs, bark and leaves and add it to the
bath for relief of eczema, psoriasis, and other moist skin eruptions. Modern
medicine has recently confirmed that betulinic acid, formed in birch sap,
has anti-tumor properties that help fight cancer.
Cedar: The northern white cedar is an evergreen with a branched trunk,
conical shape, and flat scalelike leaves. It has reddish brown bark that
hangs in hairy shreds. Another name for the tree is Arborvitae, or "tree of
life," a name given to it by the French explorer Jacques Cartier after it
saved his crew from scurvy. A tea is made from the leaves and twigs, and
is very high in Vitamin C. Among the Algonquin it is considered a sacred
tree, and they will not perform a ceremony without it. Its branches are
used on the floor of sweat lodges, and it is dried and burned as an incense
because it harmonizes the emotions and put one in the proper state of mind
for prayer. The tea of the twigs and branches is simmered until the water
in the pot begins to turn brown. It is then used for fevers, rheumatic
complaints, chest colds and flu.
Elder: Elder trees are quite small. They have clusters of white flowers in
spring and black or deep purple berries in fall. They thrive in damp, moist
areas. Elderberries are used to make preserves, pies, and wine. Taken as a
tea, either fresh or dried, the berries benefit the lungs and nourish the
blood. The young leaves of elder are used in salves and poultices for skin
healing. A root bark tea clears congestion, eases headaches, and is used in
poultices for mastitis. A tincture of the flowers lowers fever by promoting
perspiration. Elderflowers water is a traditional remedy for skin blemishes
and sunburn. Cold elderflower tea is placed on the eyes as a soothing
compress for inflammation. Elderflower oil makes a soothing balm for sore
nipples of nursing mothers.
Elm: Slippery elm is a medium-sized tree with grayish bark, usually found
near streams. Unlike the American elm its crown does not droop. It leaves
are also larger than the American elm's with coarsely toothed margins. The
inner bark of the slippery elm, which is sticky and fragrant when fresh, is
used medicinally. Slippery Elm bark is available in dried and powdered forms
from herbalists. It is made into paste with water and then applied as a
poultice to injuries of flesh and bone, on gunshot wounds, ulcers, tumors,
swellings, chilblains, and on the abdomen to draw fever out. Slippery elm is
very high in calcium, and a pudding or tea of the bark can be ingested to
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help speed bone healing. The powdered bark in water makes a jelly that
soothes bowel and urinary problems, sore throats, and diarrhoea. It makes
a perfect substitute milk for babies who are allergic to cow's milk. Try
adding a little lemon and honey for flavor.
Hawthorn: Hawthorn is a small, broad, round, and dense tree with thorns
and edible red fruits. The fall berries and spring new leaves and flowers
make a cardiac tonic that benefits virtually all heart conditions. Be aware,
however: prolonged used does cause the blood pressure to drop. Use it for
a few weeks and then take a week off to prevent a precipitous decrease in
blood pressure. Use caution when combining this herb with other heart
medications to prevent a sudden drop in blood pressure. For maximum
benefit eat fresh raw garlic as you undergo a hawthorn regime. {Garlic
provides extra cleansing of plaque in the blood vessels}.
Hazel: Is a small tree with small rounded nuts that grow two to four in a
cluster. Hazel twigs are traditionally used by dowsers to find hidden
sources of water. Hazel nuts are said to benefit the kidneys. Huron
herbalists used the bark in poultices for tumors and ulcers. The Iroquois
mixed the nut oil with bear's grease to make mosquito repellent. The
Chippewa used a decoction of hazel root, white oak root, chokecherry bark,
and the heartwood of ironwood for bleeding from the lungs.
Holly: Mountain Holly is a small tree with fine saw-toothed leaves and
large orange berries. The buds were twigs that were used by Native
Amercian herbalists in decoctions and as an external wash for ulcers,
herpetic eruptions, jaundice, fever and diarrhoea. The leaves alone were
used as beverage tea. English holly or European holly is a familiar evergreen
usually seen as decoration at Yuletide. It has spiny, elliptical leaves and
shiny red berries. The leaves can be used as a tea substitute and in
infusions for coughs, colds and flu. Be aware: the berries of all holly
varieties are strongly purgative.
Linden and Basswood: Linden is a large tree found in moist, rich soils near
other hardwoods. It has heart-shaped leaves with toothed margins. The
bark is dark gray, and its fruit is nutlike, downy, and pea-sized. It has
clusters of yellowish-white fragrant flowers in the spring. Basswood, or
American linden, is a close relative. Linden flower tea is a popular beverage
in Europe for nervous headaches and upset digestion, hysteria, nervous
vomiting, and heart palpitations. Linden flower tea can also be added to
baths to calm the nerves. Linden flower honey is prized for medicinal use.
Native American herbalists used the roots and bark of basswood for burns
and the flower tea for epilepsy, headache, spasm, spasmodic cough, and
general pain. The buds were eaten as famine food, and the bark was
pounded and added to soups.
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Maple: Maples are large trees with deeply lobed, toothed leaves. The bark
of the younger tress is gray and smooth, on older trees it breaks into
ridges and fissures. Maples have winged seeds that hang in clusters of two.
The Ojibwa and the Cherokee made a decoction of the inner bark or red
maple to use as a wash for sore eyes. The leaves of striped maple, or
moosehead, were used to poultice sore breasts. A decoction of inner bark
of sugar maple was used for diarrhoea. The Penobscot used striped maple
bark in poultices for swollen limbs, and as a tea for kidney infections,
coughs, colds, and bronchitis. Young maple leaves can be made into massage
oil that will be soothing to sore muscles.
Oak: Oaks are large trees with lobed leaves and acorns topped by bowl-
shaped caps. The best oak for internal use is white oak, though all oaks are
valuable as external washes. The tannins in oak bark and leaves are helpful
in pulling the edges of a wound together and are antiseptic and antiviral.
White oak bark tea is used for chronic diarrhoea, chronic mucus discharges,
and piles. It makes a nice gargle for sore throats and wash for skin
problems such as poison ivy, burn and wounds. The tea of the leaf of the
bark may be used by women as a douche for vaginitis. Use caution:
prolonged ingestion of oak is potentially harmful.
Pine: All pines are evergreens, with needles that grow in soft, flexible
clusters. Pine trees are revered worldwide as healing agents. Any pine, or
other evergreen such as spruce, larch, and cedar, will have antiseptic
properties useful as a wound wash. The most palatable pine for internal use
is the white pine. Its needles and twigs are simmered into a tea that is rich
in Vitamin C. The tea is used for sore throats, coughs, and colds. Chinese
herbalists boil the knot of the wood because of the concentrated resins
found there. Pine baths aid kidney ailments, improve circulation, and are
relaxing to sore muscles. The aroma of pine is soothing to the nerves and
lungs. Pine tea makes a wonderful footbath.
Poplar: Poplars are distinguished by their drooping catkins and rounded
leaves with pointed tips. Balsam poplar was used by Native American
herbalists who scored the bark and applied the resinous gum to toothaches
and swellings. The sticky spring buds were gathered in May and used in
salves for skin problems, sprains, sore muscles, wounds, headaches, tumors,
eczema, bruises, gout, and on the chest for lung ailments and coughs. The
buds were decocted and used internally for phlegm, kidney and bladder
ailments, coughs, scurvy, and rheumatic pains. The root was combined with
the root of white poplar in a decoction to stop premature bleeding in
pregnancy. The warmed juice of white poplar was dropped into sore ears.
Poplar barks are high in salicin, making them useful in treating deep wounds,
gangrene, eczema, cancer, burns, and strong body odor. The inner bark of
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a young poplar tree is edible in the spring and can be simmered into a tea
for liver and kidney ailments.
Rowan, or Mountain Ash: The American mountain ash and the European
mountain ash have identical uses. The former has bunches of orange berries
that look like tiny apples, and the latter one has red ones. Both are small,
sturdy trees with compound leaves of nine to seventeen leaflets. Their
clusters of white flowers, composed of five petals each, appear in spring.
Rowan berries are bitter, astringent, and very high in Vitaman C. They
should be picked just after the first frost when their color has deepened.
The fresh juice of the berries is added to sore throat gargles, and jelly is
made from the berries will treat diarrhoea in adults and children. Rowan
berries are added to ales and cordials. In ancient Scotland, a syrup for
coughs and colds was made from rowan berries, apples, and honey.
Walnut: Walnut trees are tall and have compound, alternative leaflets.
Their spring flowers are drooping green catkins that mature into large,
round nuts covered in green, spongy husks that stain the hands brown when
cut open with a knife. Walnut husks are medicinally active. They are
antifungal and rich in manganese, a skin-healing agent. Gather them when
fresh, and rub directly onto ringworm. The tea of the hull may be used as
a douche for vaginitis. For stubborn old ulcers apply the dried, powdered
leaf, and then poultice with fresh green leaves. Do this for about twenty
days, daily. The leaf tea increases circulation, digestion, and energy. The
fresh bark may be applied to the temples for headache or to teeth to
relieve pain. The dried and powdered bark, or pounded fresh bark, can be
applied to wounds to stop swelling and to hasten healing.
Willow: There are more than forty varieties of willow growing in the US.
They are water-loving trees, a good indicator species if you’re looking for a
regular water source, either above or below ground. Willows have slender
flexible twigs and long, narrow, simple leaves. In early spring, willows bloom
with golden catkins that mature into small seed capsules in late summer. All
willow barks have salicylic acid, which is a natural form of aspirin. Willow
bark tea treats muscle pain and inflammation, diarrhoea, fever, arthritic
pain, and headache. Used externally it makes a wash for cuts, ulcers, and
poison ivy. Willow bark in teas and capsules is a sedative and eases
insomnia. It reduces the risk of heart disease and may delay cataract
Reference: 2002 Magickal Almanac
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Oak - Duir
"Choose the Oak of the Sun"
-old Scottish rhyme
Mara Freeman 1996
Of all the trees in Britain and Ireland, the oak is considered king. Famed
for its endurance and longevity, even today it is synonymous with strength
and steadfastness in the popular mind. John Evelyn in his 'Sylva. Or a
Discourse of Forest-Trees", calls it the "pride and glory of the forest",
and in "The Fairy-Faith in Celtic Countries", Evans-Wenze proclaims that
"the oak is pre-eminently the holy tree of Europe. In the Classical world it
was regarded as the Tree of Life as its deep roots penetrate as deep into
the Underworld as its branches soar to the sky, and it was held sacred to
Zeus and Jupiter. In Scandinavia the oak was the tree of the Thunder-
God, Thor, as it was to his Finnish counterpart, Jumala.
Its name derives from the Anglo-Saxon word, ‘ac’, but in Irish the word is
'daur', and in Welsh 'dar' or 'derw', probably cognate with the Greek,
'drus'. Same scholars consider this the origin of the term 'Druid", since
Druids have always been associated with sacred groves, and particularly oak
forests. Dense forests of oak once covered most of Northern Europe in
those days, so it is not surprising to find this tree held most sacred by
people who "live in oak forests, used oak timber for building, oak sticks for
fuel, and oak acorns for food and fodder." (1) Combined with the Indo-
European root "wid": to know, "Druid" may have referred to those with
"knowledge of the oak," the "Wise Ones of the Oakwood". The Sanskrit
word, "Duir", gave rise both to the word for ‘oak’ and the English word
"door", which suggests that this tree stands as an opening into greater
wisdom, perhaps an entryway into the otherworld itself.
We first learn about the oak as sacred to the Druids in the well-known
passage from the writings of Pliny, who lived in Gaul during the 1st century
CE. He writes that the Druids performed all their religious rites in oak-
groves, where they gathered mistletoe from the trees with a golden sickle.
Strabo also describes three Galatian tribes (Celts living in Asia Minor) as
holding their councils at a place called, "Drunemeton", the "oak grove
sanctuary". The 2nd century Maximus of Tyre, describes the Celts as
worshipping Zeus-- probably referring to the Romano-Celtic god of thunder,
Taranis- as a tall oak tree. Elsewhere we learn that the Druids of Gaul ate
acorns as a way of divining the future. Another Roman writer referred to
them as "Dryads" whom he defined as "those who delight in the oaks". (2)
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We can never know for sure whether the Druids of the British Isles and
Ireland practiced their religion in oak-groves like their continental cousins,
but it seems likely. We know that the insular Celts worshipped in groves, or
"nematon", and the evidence from Ireland in particular makes it likely that
these were oaks. Ireland was covered with oak trees, whose presence still
echoes down the centuries in place names such as Derry, Derrylanan,
Derrybawn (whiteoak), Derrykeighan and, or course, Londonderry, once
Derry Calgagh, the oakwood of a fierce warrior of the name.
Many early Christian churches were situated in oak-groves, probably
because they were once pagan places of worship. Kildare, where St. Brigid
founded her abbey, derives from "Cill-dara", the Church of the Oak.
Legend says she loved and blessed a great oak and held it so sacred that
no-one dare harm a leaf of it. Under its shade she built her cell. (This ties
in neatly with pre-Christian tradition, as the pagan goddess Brigid was
daughter to the Sun-God Dagda to whom the oak was sacred.)
St. Columcille, also known as Columba, whom many believe to have been a
Druid before he embraced the new faith, likewise founded churches in an
oak-grove at Derry (Doire), the monastery at Durrow (Dairmag, 'the Plain
of the Oaks') and a monastery at Kells where he lived under an oak tree.
According to the Irish "Life of St. Columcille" a man took some of the bark
of his tree to tan his shoes and contracted leprosy as a consequence.
When he was founding the church at Derry, St. Columcille burned down the
town and the king's fort in order to eradicate the works of worldly men and
sanctify the site for his church. But the fire blazed out of control and he
had to pronounce an invocation to save the grove of trees. He loved these
trees so much that he built his oratory facing north-south instead of by
the usual Christian orientation of east-west so none would be disturbed. He
ordered his successors not to touch any tree that might fall, but to let it
lie for nine days (the sacred Celtic number) before cutting it up and
distributing the wood among the poor. When later in life he lived at the
abbey he founded on the Isle of Iona in Scotland, he declared that
although he feared death and hell, the sound of an axe in Derry frightened
him more.
There were also some places that show traces of pre-Christian groves,
however faint. We hear of an oak-grove near Loch Siant in the Isle of
Skye that was once held so sacred that no person would dare cut the
smallest twig from the trees. Also in Scotland is the sacred oak on the
island in Lock Maree. The local story goes that it was once "Eilean-a-Mhor-
Righ (the island of the Great King) who was in fact a pagan god. And in
England, the remains of ancient oaks were discovered near the Romano-
British temple at Lydney, dedicated to the god Nodons.
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Early literature gives more evidence of the importance of the oak to pagan
Celts. A great oak was one of the five sacred trees brought to Ireland by
the strange being called Trefuilngid Tre-ochair who appeared suddenly at
Tara on the day Christ was crucified. An emissary from the otherworld, he
bore a branch on which were acorns, apples, nuts and berries which he
shook onto the ground. These wondrous fruits were planted into five
different parts of Ireland, and from them grew five great trees that
oversaw each province until they were blown down-- by the disapproving
winds of the Church?-- in the 7th century. Among these was the great Oak
of Mugna which stood in southern Kildare. This 'bile' or sacred tree was
celebrated in the Edinburgh Dinnsenchas as:
"Mughna's oak-tree without blemish
Whereon were mast and fruit,
Its top was as broad precisely
As the great plain without…" (3)
It was said to bear nine hundred bushels of acorns 3 times a year and red
apples besides, making its Otherworldly origins clear. The moment the last
acorn fell, the first blossom of the year appeared, reminding us of the
perpetual cycle of death and rebirth.
Another godlike personage bearing the insignia of the oak us described in
"The Feast of Bricrui" where three famous warriors including Cuchullain take
turns in guarding the dun of Curoi while he is away. Two of then fail, then
during Cuchullain's watch, a gigantic warrior attacks the settlement who
hurls great branches of oak at Cuchullain. After a tremendous battle,
Cuchullain defeats him. Later, it becomes apparent that the assailant was
Curoi himself, whose other name is Mac Daire - Son of Oaktree. In the
course of the story, he also challenges Cuchullain to behead him and to be
beheaded himself in return. It is clear that this tale is a forerunner of the
mediaeval poem, "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight", and the symbolic
beheading of the Oak King links these tales with the well-known ritual
sacrifice of the old king in the oak-grove of the Nemi which forms the
argument of Frazier's "the Golden Bough".
The sacrifice at Nemi took place at Summer Solstice, which brings us to
the battle between the Oak King personifying the waxing year, and the
Holly King, who ruled the waning year. At Midsummer, as the year began its
turn towards the dark again, the Holly was victorious, but at Midwinter,
the Oak King defeated the forces of darkness once again, revealing himself
as a Vegetation God who must die each year so that Life can be renewed.
It is not surprising, then, that images of the Green Man carved in wood and
stone in mediaeval churches most frequently show oak leaves growing out of
his ears and mouth.
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The Oaks connection with sacrifice is again echoed in the Welsh story,
"Math, son of Mathonwy". The hero Lleu is betrayed and killed, but after
his "death" he turns into an eagle and perches atop a magical oak tree on a
plain (the place where most sacred trees where situated), where he
suffered "nine-score hardships". Lleu's fate reminds us of the famous
sacrifice by Odin of "himself to himself" on the great ash-tree, Yggdrasil.
With this new facet of the oaks symbolism revealed, it is clear that the
oak's reputation as a tree of strength, abundance and endurance depends
on its yearly death and rebirth: unless we align ourselves with the great
cycle of Life "and" Death, there can be no true renewal in Springtime.
The oak held its place of honour in the British landscape long after its
veneration by the early Celts. John Evelyn told how one great oak was held
in such high esteem, that if a bastard was born within its ample shade,
neither mother nor child would incur the usual heavy censure of the church
or magistrate.
Country-people frequented the oak for its curative powers, which in some
places was considered so great that healing could occur simply by walking
around the tree and wishing the ailment to be carried off by the first bird
alighting on its branches. In Cornwall, a nail driven into an oak cured
toothache, while in Wales, rubbing the oak with the palm of your left hand
on Midsummer's Day kept you healthy all year. It gave a special virtue to
other plants that grew upon its trunk or branches, such as the mistletoe
and polypody fern. The herbalist Gerard said, "that which growth on the
bodies of olde Okes is preferred before the rest: in steede of this most do
use that which is found under the Okes...." (4).
As we noted above, the oak is especially the tree of thunder gods in other
Northern cultures, and this tradition holds true in Britain also. In Anglo-
Saxon times, Thor was known as Thunor and groves of oak-trees were
dedicated to him in the south and east of England, the village of
Thundersley in Essex originally being one. Like the ash, it is said to "court
the lightning flash": lightning is popularly supposed to strike the oak more
than any other tree. Such trees often survived the blow and flourished
remarkably well, henceforth being known as "lightning oaks." People often
took pieces of these trees to put on their houses for good luck. In
shamanistic cultures, a person who survived being struck by lightning often
became a shaman, for the lightning bolt is seen worldwide as the sudden
spiritual illumination that rends the darkness with a terrifying and
irrevocable transforming force.
Under Christianity, large oaks often became designated as "Holy Oaks",
giving rise to place-names such as Holy Oakes in Leicestershire and
Cressage in Shropshire, originally Cristesache, or Christ's Oak. Many
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English towns today have areas called "Gospel Oak", harking back to the
time when an oak marked a parish boundary. Every spring at Rogation-tide,
parishioners would circle the boundaries in the ceremony known as 'bearing
the bounds" and assemble to hear the gospel read beneath the tree.
Oak-trees have always been regarded as great protectors and guardians of
the virtuous. When King Charles II was fleeing from Roundheads after the
battle at Worcester, he took refuge in the branches of a great oak, and
after his Restoration on May 29th, 1660, this day -also his birthday - was
henceforth celebrated as "Royal Oak Day", when loyal subjects wore oak-
apples, twigs and leaves in their buttonholes and caps, and decorated their
horses with garlands of oak. The immense popularity of this day points very
clearly to a pagan origin of this custom, probably connected with the rites
of May Day that in many places had been prohibited in the Puritan years
because of its sexual associations. As late as the beginning of the 20th
century, a Herefordshire resident explained, "The 29th of May was our
real May Day in Bromyard. You'd see maypoles all the way down Sheep
Street decorated with oak boughs and flowers, and people dancing round
them, all wearing oak leaves." (5)
An oak was often the guardian tree of a family, as in the case of the
famous Oak of Errol in Scotland, which was bound up with the good fortune
of the Hay family. A nineteenth century descendant of the family described
how "It was believed that a sprig of the Mistletoe cut by a Hay on
Allhallowmas eve, with a new dirk, and after surrounding the tree three
times sunwise and pronouncing a certain spell, was a sure charm against the
glamour or witchery, and an infallible guard in the day of battle. A spray,
gathered in the same manner, was placed in the cradle of infants, and
thought to defend them from being changed for elf-bairns by the Fairies.".
When the root of the oak decayed, then the Hay family would likewise
perish, as the old prophecy attributed to Thomas the Rhymer states:
When the mistletoe bats on Errol's aik,
And that aik stands best,
The Hays shall flourish, and their good grey hawk
Shall not flinch before the blast.
But when the root of the aik decays
And the mistletoe dwines on its withered breast
The grass shall grow on Errol's hearthstone,
And the corbie roup (croak) in the falcon's nest. (7)
Folklorist Ruth L. Tongue tells the Somerset folktale of an oak that helps a
girl escape a cruel king, by sending a bough crashing onto his head. The
king's men come to fell the tree, but meet with a sorry fate:
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Oh they rode in the wood, where the oaken tree stood
To cut down the tree, the oaken tree
Then the tree gave a groan and summoned his own,
For the trees closed about and they never got out
Of the wood, the wonderful wood. (8)
In another tale from the same source, "The Vixen and the Oakmen", the
oak-tree spirits hide a pursued vixen from hunters and hounds, for "they
guard all forest beasts." When the pursuers are gone, the "Oakmen" invite
the vixen to "Wipe your sore paws in our oaktree rainpool", which makes her
pads heal and her torn fur grow again.
In death, too, the powerful presence of the oak as a living being could be
felt: John Aubrey, writing in the 17th century reports: "When an oake is
falling, before it falls it gives a kind of shriekes or groanes that may be
heard a mile off, as it were the genus of the oake lamenting. E. Wyld, Esq.
hath heard it severall times. " (9)
A famous mistletoe-bearing oak in Derbyshire had the reputation of being
semi-human as late as the 19th century. If its branches were severed, it
screamed and bled, and spoke with the voice of prophetic doom. Aubrey
also tells of an oak whose mistletoe was cut and sold to some London
apothecaries, all of whom met with horrible misfortunes thereafter: "One
fell Iamb shortly thereafter; soon after each of the others lost an eye,
and he that felled the tree though warned of these misfortunes of the
other men, would, notwithstanding, adventure to do it, and shortly
afterwards broke his leg; as if the Hamadryads had resolved to take an
ample revenge for the injury done to their venerable and sacred oak. (10)
The avenging power of the oak was famous, particularly in Somerset where
until recently the oak was regarded with much respect as a tree of
formidable power. It was well-known that oaks resented being cut down, so
people studiously avoided going near a coppice which sprang from the stumps
of the felled trees. Ruth Tongue writes that in 1945 her chauffeur refused
to drive past a grove that had been felled in the Second World War. A
local story also told of Carming family that came to grief because of
disregarding the power of Oak: the Carmer and his oldest son were greedy
and cut down oaks in a nearby coppice, although they had plenty of wood of
their own. The story continues:
"Trees didn't say nothing - which was bad. If they do talk a bit you do get
a warning, but if they'm dead still there's summat bad a-brewing. And zo
t'was. Be danged if gurt oak didn 't drop a limb on can and timber and
farmer and eldest son. Killed they two stark dead outright, but when the
youngest came to rescue the dead the tree rustled fit to deafen he."
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The youngest son was spared because he was always respectful to trees,
being sure to ask the 'great oak by the gate' if he might go past when he
entered the forest, and after he inherited the farm, "trees never followed
'n nor closed about 'n, nor let drop branches." (11)
These days road protesters fight desperately to save these venerable Old
Ones from the bulldozers and other weapons of the war against the Living
Earth. I have a fantasy that, just as in C.S. Lewis's second Narnia
Chronicle, "Prince Caspian", one day the trees themselves will rise up and
march like a summer storm to put an end to those who would replace their
beauty and grandeur with concrete and tarmac. In which case, Oak will no
doubt be the formidable general leading the onslaught.
Foot notes:
1. Sir James Frazer. The Golden Bough 1911-16
2. Nora K. Chadwick, The Druids 1966
3. Whitley Stokes. The Edinburgh Dinnsenchas. Folk-Lore Col
4. Quoted in Grigson, Geoffrey. The Englishman's Flora. London: Phoenix
House, 1960.
5. Leather, Ella Mary. The Folk-lore of Herefordshire. Hereford: )akeman
& Carver, 1912
6. Porteous, Alexander. Forest Folk-lore, Mythology and Romance. New
York: Gordon Press, 1978
7. lbid.
8. Tongue, Ruth L. Forgotten Folk-tales of the English Counties. London:
Routledge & Kegan Paul,1970
9. Quoted in Grigson, ibid.
10. Ibid.
11. Tongue, Ruth L. Somerset Folklore. London: The Folk-lore Society,1965
Mara Freeman 1996
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Hazel - Coll
"I went out to the hazelwood,
Because a fire was in my head,"
W. B. Yeats
Mara Freeman June 1996
The hazel might be said to be the quintessential Celtic tree because of its
legendary position at the heart of the Otherworld. Here, nine magic hazel-
trees hang over the well of Wisdom and drop their purple nuts into the
water. In some accounts, the hazel-nuts cause bubbles of "mystic
inspiration" to form on the surface of the streams that flow down from the
well; in others, the Salmon of Knowledge and Inspiration eat the nuts and
send the husks floating downstream. Those that eat the nuts (or the
salmon) gain poetic and mantic powers.
Many early Irish tales describe poets and seers as "gaining nuts of
Wisdom", which is most likely a metaphor for such heightened states of
consciousness, although the more literally-minded have argued that this
expression could refer to a potent brew made from hazels that hod
psychotropic effects. As to this theory, there are numerous references to
drinking "hazelmead" in early Irish literature, and many references to
Scottish druids eating hazel-nuts to gain prophetic powers.
The hazel's association with wisdom extends to other cultures of the
ancient world. In Norse mythology it was known as the Tree of Knowledge
and was sacred to Thor, and the Romans held it sacred to Mercury, who,
especially in his Greek form, Hermes, was the personification of
intelligence. Hermes' magic rod may have been made from hazel. The
English word derives from the AngloSaxon haesl which originally signified a
baton of authority.
Hazel woods frequently figure in the sacred landscape. In Ireland, hazel is
coll, and the early triad of gods of the Tuatha Dé Danaan, MacCuill, (son
of Hazel), MacCecht (Son of the Plough) and MacGréine (Son of the Sun)
supposedly divided the island into three so that the country was said to be
under the plough, the Sun or the hazel, for "these were the things they put
above all other". Tara, the chief seat of the kingship in Ireland was built
near a hazel wood, and the great monastery of Clonord was established in
what must once have been a sacred pagan place known as The Wood of the
White Hazel: Ross-Finnchuill . In Scotland, a hazel grove was calltuin,
(modern Scots Gaelic calltainn) and various places called Calton are
associated with entrances to the Otherworld, one being the famous Calton
Hill between Leith and Edinburgh, which was probably still being used for
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magical gatherings in the 17th century. There is even a legend that St.
Joseph of Arimathea built the original abbey of Glastonbury from hurdles of
hazel branches.
The hazel's connection with the Well of Wisdom is visibly recalled by the
tree's frequent presence at holy wells throughout Britain and Ireland,
where pilgrims still continue to festoon its branches with votive offerings in
the form of pieces of cloth. Moreover archeologists have found an early
Celtic shaft-well in Norfolk, England which contains offerings of alms,
placed in layers and embedded in hazel leaves and nuts.
In legend and folklore, the hazel, along with the apple and hawthorn, is a
tree often found at the border between the worlds where magical things
may happen. In the Scots ballad, Hind Etin, the title is the name of a
spirit who guards the hazels of a sacred tree. The May Margret goes to
the wood for nuts, and unwisely gathers his nuts:
She had na p'ud a nut, a nut, A nut but barely ane,
Till up started the Hynde Etin, Says Lady, let thae alone
In the north of England, the hazel-tree guardian was called "Melsh Dick"
and in Yorkshire "Chum-milk Peg". Ancient protectors of the unripe nuts.
As might be expected from their legendary reputation for bestowing
prophetic powers, hazels have been used for divination throughout the
centuries. Druidic wands were made from the wood, and it has always been
the preferred wood 6r water divining and dowsing.
Until quite recently young lovers roasted hazel-nuts over fires at
Hallowe'en, which was also known as "Nut-crack Night." The way they
burnt steadily together or flying apart - foretold course of their
relationship in the coming year. This custom is an example of the connection
between hazels and love, which is very ancient. An old Fenian story tells
how Maer, the wife of one Bersa of Berramain, fell in love with Finn and
tried to seduce him with hazel-nuts from the Well of Segais bound with
love charms. Finn refused to eat them, pronounced them "nuts of ignorance"
rather than nuts of knowledge and buried them a foot deep in the earth.
Country folklore has always linked the nuts with fertility. An old saw
proclaims that a girl who goes nutting on Sunday will meet the Devil and
have a baby before she can wed. This recalls the ballad of Hind Etin, in
which May Margret goes on to become the tree-guardian's wife and
eventually has seven children by him. In 19th century Devon, an old woman
traditionally greeted a new bride with a gift of hazels for fertility in the
same wary that rice or confetti is used today. ln English villages country-
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dwellers associate a prolific show of hazel catkins with the advent of lots of
babies, and as late as the 1950s, the saying, "Plenty of catkins, plenty of
prams" was taken quite seriously.
Hazel was also used widely throughout the centuries for protection against
evil. Finn bore a hazelwood shield that made him invincible in battle. No
harm could penetrate a hurdle fence of hazel around a house or a
breastband of the wood on a horse. A shipmaster wearing a cap into which
hazel had been woven was guaranteed to weather any storm. Cattle driven
through Beltaine and Midsummer bonfires had their backs singed with hazel
rods for protection against disease and the evil eye, and the scorched rods
were used to drive them the rest of the year. In the East of England,
cottagers gathered hazel boughs on Palm Sunday, and placed them in pots
of water around their windows as protection against thunder and lightening
- possibly a sign of Norse influence in that area, the hazels being used
homeopathically against the bolts of the Thunder-god. A famous legend tells
how the seventh century Saint Mungo was unable to light monastery lamps
on a day when it was his duty to do so at cockcrow, because some
malevolent boys had put out the fire. He walked out of the monastery in
despair, but thought to pluck a hazel switch and when he returned to the
church with it, praying for heavenly aid, a fire sprang forth from the
When evil became synonymous with witchcraft in the public mind, hazel was
widely used for protection against Witches. The Discoverie of Witchcraft
(1584) recommends a hazel wand cut "upon the Sabbath daie before rising"
to use as a charm against witches and thieves. The 17th century writer
Thomas Pennant in his "Tours of Wales" described how in Merionethshire,
corpses were buried with hazel-rods to avert the power of witchcraft.
Hazel protected against disease and was a potent magical remedy besides.
ln Ireland, a hazel-nut in a pocket worded off rheumatism or lumbago which
was thought to be caused by "elfshot," and a double-nut prevented
toothache. In the legend of the early Celtic St. Melor, an abbot gathers
hazel-nuts and offers them to the saint. On receiving them, his artificial
hand becomes flesh and blood.
An old charm for curing an adder bite requires a piece of hazelwood in the
shape of a cross to be placed upon the wound, and the following lines
"Underneath this hazelin mote,
There's a braggoty worm with a speckled throat,
Nine double is he,
Now from eight double to seven double
And from seven double to six double
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and so on until:
And from one double to no double,
No double hath he"
The magical power of the hazel still lives today whenever a water-diviner
uses hazel-rods to dowse for water. As the rod bends to reveal the water
within the earth, it may be that it is also straining to reconnect with
ancestors, the nine sacred trees at the Well of Wisdom deep within the
memory of the land.
Mara Freeman June 1996
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Willow - Saille
"I am a Hawk on a Cliff"
Winter Cymreas 1994
Willow is a decidedly aromatic Tree found most often near waterways
throughout temperate regions, having quite a history and a long-standing
relationship of usefulness - medicinal, magickal and otherwise - with us
Within the Ogham, Saille is the fifth lunar month, a Peasant, representing
the letter S. Numerologically, it relates to the number 5. It is often the
symbol for the Ovate Grade of Druidry, although other Trees are also used
for this Grade.
Willow relates to Monday, the activity of bees and is often used as a honey
Tree. The birds associated with Saille are the Hawk and the Thrush, the
animals are the Hare and the Cat. Herbs most commonly associated are
Moonwort, Primrose and Mistletoe. She is one of the Seven Sacred Irish
Trees and is also a sacred Druid Tree.
Although the most commonly accepted concept of the Willow Tree is that
which is known as the Weeping Willow (Salix babylonica), this is not the
Willow utilized within the Celtic Ogham. There are over three-hundred-
and-fifty species in the genera, Willow, which is a close cousin to the
Poplar. In North America alone there are approximately thirty-five native
and five naturalized tree species and sixty native shrubs. There is
tremendous range, some subtle and some obvious, within this genera. We
will speak on some of the different species in the areas of medicinal
properties but, for the most part, the Willow that concerns us here is the
White Willow, salix alba.
Ready for the botany lesson?
The White Willow is a naturalized Tree, having one-to-four trunks and an
open crown of spreading branches. A tall Tree, She grows to an average
height of fifty-to-eighty feet with a diameter of two feet or more. The
leaves are 2-to-4 inches long, -to-1 inches wide. They are lance-shaped to
elliptical, finely saw-toothed and firm, shiny dark green above, whitish and
silky beneath. These leaves turn yellow in the Autumn.
The bark is grey, rough and furrowed into narrow ridges. The twigs are
yellow to brown, silky when young and, as with all the Trees within this
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genera, flexible and droopy, although not quite as sweeping as the Weeping
Her flowers are in the form of catkins 1-to-2 inches in length with yellow,
hairy scales at the end of short, leafy twigs. They appear in the early
Spring and all Willows are the vanguards of that season. The fruit matures
in late Spring to early Summer and is a half-inch long, hairless capsule,
light brown in color.
Being known as the first to arrive and the last to leave, seasonly-speaking,
the hazy yellow appearance is, along with the arrival of the Robin, the first
indication that Spring has arrived. The golden brilliance of the Willow in the
Autumn remains long after Her fellows have shed all their finery.
The notorious habitat of Willows, including the shrub varieties, is the wet
soil of stream banks and valleys near cities. Willow can be and is often
introduced in flat areas prone to flooding as a preventative measure and has
often been utilized to protect river banks from erosion. It is prized as a
shade Tree and for ornamentation due to its eloquent beauty and peaceful
Her range is extensive over Europe and North Africa to Central Asia,
naturalized in Southeastern Canada and the Eastern United States.
Its wood, known as osier, and branches have had many historical uses and
Willow has been a useful friend to us for centuries. Willow has a long and
rich history and Her uses are many, however, let us first examine Her
history in religious practices and Her relationship to the various deities
throughout time.
In Jerusalem, the worship of Jehovah, the Feast of Tabernacles, was
called the Day of the Willows. Willow branches were carried in
processionals, used to roof the small temporary shelters during the
festivities, the branches were later burned in the Temples.
In Sumer, 4000 BCE, Ishtars predecessor, Belili, was known as the Willow
Mother. In the ancient Greek mythos, Willow is sacred to several
Underworldly Goddesses - Persephone, Circe, Hera and Hecate. Also in
relation to this Tree are the Gods and Goddesses Artemis, Ceres, Mercury
and Belenos. Again in Greek history, the Great Bear, Callisto, was also
called Helice, meaning both that which turns and Willow branch. Helicon was
the mountain home of the Nine Muses who inspire the arts and sciences.
[It may be interesting to note here the connection between the word,
Willow, and the terms Wicce, Witchcraft, and wicker. Willow has long been
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associated with Witches and there is also the association of wicker with
Druidry. Since Wicce actually means to bend it is not a far jump to make
the connection between the two.]
Orpheus, the poet, was said to have received his Gift by touching the
Willows in a grove sacred to Persephone. Groves have been used by many
types of artisans to gain eloquence, inspiration, skills and the gift of
prophecy. This Tree is held sacred, also, to Minerva and the ancient Great
Goddess whose bird, the Wryneck, nests only in the Willow. Cranes are also
known to nest here and a grove of Willows with nesting cranes is a symbol
of extremely happy domesticity.
The connotation of the letter S corresponds to the God, Semias, the
master of wisdom and the original keeper of the Cauldron of Knowledge kept
in Murias to the West. This Cauldron was then given to Dagda. The S is a
reference, too, to Setanta, the childhood, or pre-initiate name of Cu
According to Druidic mysteries, two scarlet snake eggs were hidden within
the Willow. The Universe was hatched from these two eggs, one containing
the Sun, the other the Earth, relating to both cosmic birth and the birth
of mankind. Traditionally, in Spring rituals, these were replaced by hens
eggs, colored scarlet for the Sun and eaten at Beltane. This act
transferred later to the Christian celebration of Easter.
Primrose and Mistletoe are associated with Saille in connection to Druidic
practice. The Primrose was used in the initiation of the Bard; a draught of
Vervain and Primrose imbibed in order to confer inspiration. Oil of Primrose
was also used to cleanse and purify prior to ritual. Willow is also the more
common host for Mistletoe, with this plant found growing on Willow and
Poplar (a cousin) more often than on the traditional Oak.
The Celtic word Saille itself became the word sally, meaning a sudden
outburst of action, expression or emotion. This word may also suggest an
excursion or a jaunt as well as a retort but it can be used to describe a
more violent action by troops. It is also derived from the Old French word,
saille, meaning to rush out suddenly. These words all reflect the spirit of
undefined potential symbolized by the Willow.
Brigid has Her Fire festival, Imbolc, or Brigantia, during the Willow month.
Even the Seneca of North America seem to have had a lengthy relationship
with this Tree, calling Her, The Whispering One.
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Saille has further connection to the Death Goddesses for the Celts. Morgan
le Fay, Cailleach and the Morrighan are symbolized by Willow. These
Goddesses represent the darker and misunderstood components of the
psyche that require our greater understanding and recognition. The fearful
aspects of the Death Goddesses challenge wisdom and strength, helping to
overcome weaknesses brought about by fear. The transformational and
magickal aspects of the darker aspect of the triplicity - Maiden, Mother,
Crone - provide intuitive wisdom and insight into nature and its workings.
Funerary flints, shaped as Willow leaves, have been found in graves from
the Old Stone Age, demonstrating clearly that Willow has been a part of
our lives for a very, very long time. This Tree has been associated with
death, grief and cemeteries, the leaves themselves symbolizing unrequited
love or the loss of a lover. The leaf has also been worn as a charm to
protect against jealousy.
The uses of osier, are numerous. Willow has long been the predominant
Tree used in basketry, with many varieties being cultivated for the color of
the branches allowing for variety in the baskets themselves. In fact, this
Tree symbolizes handicrafters in general, due in part to its extensive use in
many fine pieces of furniture and baskets.
Many a wattle-and-daub wall contains Willow so it is functional as well as
beautiful. The wood has been used for cabinets, all types of furniture,
barrels and prized for cricket bats. (I knew I could fit in an allusion to
baseball if I tried hard enough!) Due to Her straight limbs, osier is favored
for fence posts.
The popularity of wicker furniture has once again increased and is found in
the home as well as in its traditional capacity as outdoor furniture.
Outdoors it resists water and weather damage as well, due to its watery
Among its many other uses are ornamental boxes, brooms, charcoal, doors,
fodder and fuel. Willow wood in the home is said to guard against evil and
grown outside will offer protection.
The Seneca, a North American indigenous tribe, has a loving bond with all
Trees, calling them The Standing People. They consider the Willow to be a
source of gentle humility, charm and grace adding elegance as She touches
Her fronds to the Mother Earth, sweeping away fear to nurture peace.
The long-standing uses of Willow in treatment are extensive and myriad.
When scraped, the inner bark - which peels away easily - contains salicylic
acid, the active ingredient of aspirin. These scrapings were traditionally
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used to alleviate pain, lower fevers and as an astringent tonic. Throughout
the Isles, Willow was used to relieve rheumatic conditions and gout since
these conditions were widespread and common. Its powers were also used as
a diuretic, a gargle for sore throats and gums, an external wash for sores,
skin problems, wounds and burns.
White Willow was commonly used. Purple Willow has the same general
properties as White and may even be more effective in lowering fevers.
Black Willow has these same properties and can also be used as a sexual
sedative. The Black Willow has also been used to treat gonorrhea, to
relieve ovarian pain and to curb those old nagging nocturnal emissions. Goat,
or Sallow, Willow eases indigestion, whooping cough and catarrh and is used
as an antiseptic for disinfecting bandages.
All varieties of this Tree can be utilized as an eyewash, to clear skin and a
decoction of leaves and bark, simmered, can be used to treat dandruff. All
can also be utilized to prevent recurring fevers and as a digestive tonic,
especially for dyspepsia.
If you are interested in using Willow in your herbal practice, the bark is
collected in the Spring. Soak one-to-three teaspoons in one cup of cold
water for two-to-five hours; then simmer lightly for twenty minutes. For
indigestion and as a tonic, take one cup per day, taken by teaspoonfuls. For
skin eruptions and similar complaints, such as bleeding gums and sore
throats, use a stronger solution. A poultice for gangrene and ulcers is made
by simmering the powdered bark in cream. You can also use many mediums
such as olive oil, almond oil and other natural bases in order to utilize this
as an astringent salve.
Willow can additionally be useful in cases of hysteria and nervousness and
as a Quinine substitute (although this is used only when Quinine is
unavailable). Willow can be used to loosen tightness in the chest produced
by pneumonia, whooping cough and other respiratory infections.
In the Bach Flower Remedies, Willow Flower Essence is used as a remedy
for bitterness and resentment. People who are stuck in a position of blaming
others (or circumstances) for their problems, who have an experience of
being a victim or being treated unfairly by life, would benefit from this
essence. (There are many books available on Bach Flower Remedies.)
Magickal uses are extensive. The Besom, the Witches Broom, is
traditionally made from three Trees. The stave is made from Ash, for
protection; Birch twigs are used for the broom itself to expel evil spirits.
The Besom is bound with Willow to honor Hecate.
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Willow branches are said to be the best for divining Water, channelling
Earth energy and to find lost objects.
Saille should be used whenever you wish to strengthen your dreaming Gifts
and to boost your ability to intuit your dreams and confer lucidity when in
the Dreamtime. Willow can confer seer-ship, often through night visions,
scrying ability (especially when using water for viewing) and to restore
balance to an individuals female/male energies. Shavings of the wood, pieces
of bark and whole leaves can be placed in a Dream Pillow or placed in a
small bag, either under your pillow or under the bed itself. This same
package can be used to assuage feelings of powerlessness, an unreasoned
fear of death and panic attacks, and to assist you in nurturing yourself
emotionally. It is suggested that Willow be used in the same way when
experiencing grief and to aid in this healing process.
Willow has been used in the Sacred Pipes and the tobacco blends of many
Native Americans because it is thought that it is most effective in carrying
messages to the Great Spirit. Willow is also planted by Sacred Wells so
that She can help to pull Earth energies into the Water and hold them
there for magickal draughts.
The leaves, bark and wood add energy to any healing magick. Willow bark,
when used in conjunction with sandalwood and during the Waning Moon, can
be most effective in contacting the spirits of ancestors and loved ones.
Although prayer cloths can be tied to any Tree, when asking for a nurturing
love or a release of grief, Willow will serve this purpose best. By the same
token, for a wish to be granted, ask permission of Willow, explaining your
desired goal. Select a pliable shoot or branch and tie it into a loose knot
while expressing your wish, leaving the branchlet on the Tree! When the
wish is fulfilled, return and untie the knot, remembering to thank your
Friend and leaving a Gift of gratitude.
A circlet can be woven of Willow to wear during any of the Spring
celebrations and Lunar rituals. Fresh flowers, or silk if you prefer, can be
inserted in this crown, ribbons be woven throughout the circlet.
Wands made from osier are very effective. First you must, as always, ask
the Tree for permission to cut! Often it is best to visit after a recent
storm to see if there are any fresh falls about. Even when picking up falls,
ask permission and leave a Gift. When cutting, tie the branch as close to
the body of the Tree as possible, massaging the life-force in the branch
back into the trunk. Tighten the tourniquet and then cut. Use wax or tar to
cauterize the cut.
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Peel the bark off of the branch. When fresh this is very easy. Save the
bark for future use in magick or healing or for decorating the wand. Carve,
cut or draw desired symbols while the wood is still fresh and moist. You can
attach stones or crystals to the tip or along the shaft and it is suggested
you use natural materials, such as leather, cotton, silk, linen or jewelry-
quality silver or gold wire. To prevent drying or cracking thoroughly oil the
wand during its curing period; use natural oils - cottonseed, linseed or virgin
olive oil. Dedicate to your use according to your purposes or desires. Roll
and store the wand in a natural fiber cloth - silk, cotton, linen - when not
in use.
In divination, when Saille comes up in a throw (or if you dream of Willow),
it reveals your feminine side which, when combined equally with male
energy, gives balance to life. There may be an indication to pay attention
to your feminine nature, showing a spiritual imbalance or conflict. This may
be the beginning of a period of unfoldment and growth of psychic or
clairvoyant powers and includes the gift of cunning which is, in actuality,
the skillful use of mental powers. There is an indication toward intuition,
imagination and, occasionally, self-deception. Usually the appearance of
Willow means the awakening of dormant abilities and heralds a time of
enchantment. New currents are flowing under the surface; you need the
flexibility to adapt to the coming changes. Remember that the loss of
intuition can create rigidity.
When She comes to you there may be unforeseen dangers to yourself or
loved ones, coming in the form of lessons from a yet-unknown person,
probably a woman. The lesson might be difficult or unpleasant but will be of
great benefit and is typical of the Crone aspects of Saille.
It may be time to seek out the hidden forces in your life and the challenge
is the tendency to ignore the unconscious, the anima, forces and feelings
that may remain hidden. You may be asked to use your intuition, your
hunches, instead of logic in order to get a clear view of events.
Yes, Willow seems to be a favored Tree. Her appearance, Her graceful
elegance has always beckoned to us. She gives Her wood for our uses,
contributes medicine for our healing, sends us the Gifts of intuition and
knowledge and assists in the inner workings of magick.
It is true that a sense of friendship, love and joy can be experienced when
standing beneath the canopy of Saille. She speaks to us of a graceful love
with Her branches that sweep away our tears of grief. The entire structure
of this Tree is symbolic of a wellspring. The branches and leaves rise up
like a fountain, pulling up energy from deep within the Earth, bubbling up
and over the sides. A casual and effortless peace spreads out from the
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limbs, confers calm, with the canopy providing a feeling of safety and
cover, a wall of protection. The sweeping fronds return the energy to the
Earth, replenishing it.
It might serve us best to go to Her for serenity and comfort, for the
gentle nurturance of solitude. Imagine spending the day up in the branches
of a Willow, listening to the gentle and whispering voice of Saille saying,
Rest, dear one.
Winter Cymraes 1994