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The Fae Trees of Britain

Written by 8people

In british tree lore the Rowan, Hawthorn and Elder are considered a trinity of trees associated with faeries. This is largely because of the white blossoms - though the Hawthorn native to england has pink edges to the blossoms (Crataegus laevigata - as opposed to the more common Crataegus monogyna)

Elder was said to be the favourite tree for the fae as it makes lovely instruments and is the most melodic, it is easy to make pipes from the wood because of the soft centre which a witch can use to make as offerings to faerie spirits or use in acts to contact the fae (Though be careful of attracting the attention of such a... lively bunch)

Elder leaves can repel flies, and was considered lucky if one too root near your house naturally. They were often kept by the bck door of peoples' homes, generally where kitchens and food were kept keeping it fly free and have nice fresh berries at hand when they ripened. Elder is also supposed to be good at preventing milk from turning, folklore is probably a combination of the tree being associated with faeries and perhaps a practical explanation. Fae are supposed to love milk! Sometimes getting a bit drunk on it depending on your local lore, elder also has an absorbancy for certain tart smells, washing used to be hung on its branches and it would also mask the scent of turning milk.

Anybody leaving food under an Elder overnight is considered having to have offered it to the faeries, trying to claim it back after the night had passed or taking food you see under an elder is considered highly offensive. The wood is a good fuel, but only the most desperate would burn it. The sap in it makes screaming noises and pops and spits loudly when set alight giving people quite a fright, where it burns quite hot some places believed it to be the devil screaming to get out!

Elder is still used medicinally and the flowers and berries in wines and tonics, the berries can be used to make dyes (though I don't know the setting processes used in this) and the leaves make a green/yellow dye. Elderberries have been known to be effective at treating the flu (H1N1 in particular) it also helps boost the immune system in the body (similar to the properties of echinacea) A syrup made from fresh, ripe berries and sugar (5:1 ratio of weight, berries to sugar) can be bottled and kept over winter, mixing a tablespoon or two with hot/warm water drunk at nighttime helps alleviate flu symptoms and chest difficulties whilst trying to sleep. Ginger and cloves added to the mixture is a good remedy for colds. Note that seeds, roots and the wood of elder contain cyanide, unripened berries and the flowers contain toxins as well. As a result be careful using the leaves in teas (toxicity can build up even if a tea contains too little to have an overt ill effect) also avoid giving any flutes or pipes to children as it takes much less to harm their little bodies.

Rowan is another fae favorite and whilst Elder was often kept at the back door, Rowan was kept at the front, where Elder repels flies, the Rowan instead tends to attract them. Rowan has many nicknames including Quickbeam and Witchwood, it is also known as Mountain Ash. It is one of the trees that can grow in high altitudes and very far north compared to most deciduous trees.

Norse traditions quite like the tree (On a recent Viking reading bonanza I went on!) I learnt that the first woman was made from the rowan and it was a tree that saved Thor by bending over a river in the underworld so he could cross it. It is a preferred wood for runes and staves. In britain it is considered a tree of protection and enchantment, in part because of their vibrant red berries (Reminiscent of the Red Thread topic that mentions red being protective, only source I've found seems to be Scottish on the matter "Rowan Tree and Red Thread, Tines witches in their stead) the wood is good for dowsing rods and used for wands frequently, it is supposed to repel storms and lightning and also planted near graves to prevent the dead from rising to haunt the living. Like the Elder tree it is beneficial for dairy farmers and cattle herders as the rowan wood was supposed to repel cattle targetting magics.

The bark and berries are used for dyes (blacks usually) and there is much taboo about burning the wood of the Rowan, it's use aside from berries expected to only be used in ritual and purposeful manner. There is an accepted ruling that using a knife against a rowan tree is forbidden throughout much of britain where tree lore is still observed and respected.

The berries can apparently be a substitute for coffee beans as a drink, the berries are used in jams and jellies that have a slightly tart flavour that compliments game. Like Elderberries they are also used in wines and alcoholic beverages to give flavour. They should not be consumed raw as not only is the flavour improved by cooking, but the acids that cause indegestion and can damage the kidneys are broken down into safe variations.

The final in the trio, Hawthorn is one of the trees which is most commonly associated with the Faerie Queen, having strong enough ties to the underworld and the fae realms that she may appear next to one the easiest of the three trees. The plant is named after the month of may which is when it flowers, so it is sometimes used in maytide celebrations - However, it is noted also that as the plant is so associated with death that it is not good to bring the flowers into the home. The plant produces the scent of decaying flesh (including being blamed for the plagues in britain at one point in hitsory [from a scientific point of view there is a chemical in the blossoms that is also present in decaying animal tissues])

Aside from the fearful flowers the leaves, berries and even blossoms were made into wines, jellies, jams and teas. The leaves and flowers supposed to help stabilise blood pressure. The berries can be dried and used as a digestive aid throughout the year as necessary (which is interestingly paired with the raw berries of Rowan causing digestive distress.) Too much hawthorn infusions ingested can lead to very low blood pressure and arrhythmia, if you feel nausea or sedated after consuming hawthorn products reduce or cease the consumption to allow your system to level out again.

In contrast to Rowan, Hawthorn is a wood that is popular for carving and creating handles for tools and decorations. It grows in soil of very varied qualities and grows well in clay sodden soils making it good for areas where water conservation is difficult (It is even being used by forestry commissions for such a purpose)

It is also rarely burnt, and supposed to be avoided, but can't find any specific references right now as to the reason why.

The Trio
In celtic folklore the three are considered feminine trees. However in some regions of britain (including what I follow) will attribute a mix of male and female qualities to the plants.

All three trees are commonly found in areas significant to modern pagans and older heathens usually arranged in rings (sometimes even naturally forming circles that are surprisingly even) they are supposed to be associated with the goddess and goddess worship.

Within my own faith and craft the trees as a triple are considered the flourishing embodiments of elemental aspects of the air and the concsious and subconcious mind. They are useful in combination or singularly for dream interpretation, exploration and understanding of the self. The trees in part form a timeline of events, Elder as the inception and beginning, Rowan as the action and middle, Hawthorn as the conclusion and end. All three have attibutes with death as well which with their aspects of the mind (if you find such attribute makes sense to your work) are a useful focus in contemplation of death and for preparing yourself for any necromantic or death oriented magics, rituals or practices. As well as steeling the mind if one attends to work with the fae who enjoy to play tricks of perception and convoluted logic.



Do you follow the school of thought and place in lore regarding flowering and non-flowering trees of the Isles?

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That depends, which school in particular you are referring to ;)

I've heard plenty of attributes over the years for flowering and non-flowering plants so you might have to elaborate a little for me, I like to answer as accurately as possible :)
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That depends, which school in particular you are referring to ;)

I've heard plenty of attributes over the years for flowering and non-flowering plants so you might have to elaborate a little for me, I like to answer as accurately as possible :)

It is just trees i am referring to, non-flowering=no, flowering=yes, generally speaking.
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Verry interesting post.
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I got a right telling off once from a Faery, a couple of years ago we were living on a boat on the canals here in UK and we moored up in winter and got frozen in so we couldn't move the boat for a few weeks, bored i was one day so i went for a walk and found a hollow or large ditch in the corner of a field.

I was wanting to make myself a new staff at the time and saw on the ground an old branch from a tree, at first i didn't think it was still attached to the main tree, so i picked it up then noticing it was Elder and that it only was attached by a string of bark, i pulled it off and took it home to the boat, that night i saw as i slept a fairy all in green flew at me in such an angry way, it was quite a shock i can tell you, anyhow i waved my hand and she went, after i thought about it more i realised what i had done and the next morning i took a stone of phrenite which was special to me and gave it to the place, hopefully appeasing the faery and lesson learned!   :mellow:

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