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8people

The Fae Trees of Britain

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Started typing this up a couple of nights ago, finally got it finished, hopefully it makes sense and sparks some interest. If you have anything to add, or query it should make for an interesting topic :)

 

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

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

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.

 

Hawthorn

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.

 

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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!

 

This is interesting, as I have heard that it is offensive to take a tree offering from its place, regardless of the type of tree. There are some things that one just DOES NOT do. Anyway, I enjoy burning elder on occasion for the exact reason you mention. Pine has a similar tendency, though not as pronounced.

 

Thank you for sharing this.

 

J

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8's !!!!!! Fantastic post. I was looking up something just recently regarding the Rowan Tree, as Himself and I have been nurturing this old thing in our yard. I've posted about this tree before, I'll have to post a picture of it, just so all can see how this tree, has survived. Recently it took another beating to trunk base, it had to of been ill in that area, made me sick to see this, so one of its wee branches was dead. So I pruned this dead branch and have been making a wand out of it. We are trying so hard to keep this tree alive, as only it was 2 years ago maybe that I had someone from the Ag.Department come out and tell me what it was, when I found out it was a Rowan Tree, I was delighted. Great Post, gets my vote.

 

Regards,

Gypsy

 

 

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Agreed, great post. I consider myself to be very lucky in that I'm surrounded by these beautiful trees (though Elder is also known as Queen of Herbs).

I have a Rowan just outside at the end of the short path to my front door-they are all heavy with berries at the moment-beautiful.

Hawthorn I use for carving, a beautiful wood, (great smell to it C.G.).

On my local fields they mingle together, along with Holly, Alder, Hazel, Blackthorn, Birch, Beech, Oak, Ash, Willow and Yew.

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Deep in the woods, when the wind is blowing just the right direction, you can smell the honey locust in bloom from about a mile away. But, Elder, Rowan and Hawthorn are not quite as common around here. A very nice post.

 

J

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Great post 8people! Can I promote it to an article?

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Excellent reference I agree that it should be an article! Well done 8!!!! :)

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Sure, being an article would be cool :) I can't think of anything to add to it at the moment, I was worried I'd missed out something obvious! I'm really happy that you've all liked the post :)

 

As for tree offerings, I think in part it is intent, there is a difference between leaving something under a tree as an offering and popping something down on the ground and forgetting it (or even dropping it) because of the attraction within the Elder the fae will claim anything left under there too long whether it was an offering or not.

 

Though there is a fairy tale of a queen kidnapped from under an apple tree, she fell asleep and the king assigned to her two guards so that they would have someone looking at her at all times so she couldn't be stolen away. Something made both the guards sneeze at the same time and in that split second they blinked the princess was gone. Later on in the tale the King hides between two hawthorn bushes until he sees a fae procession ride past on white horses, his Queen in the middle of them all, he is able to see where the go and follow them.

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Thank you 8people, it is now an article.Let me know if you want any of it tweaked.

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What a wonderful post, 8! Thanks for taking the time to type all that out. It's so worth it. (And I have Elder in my garden).

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The Trio

 

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.

 

This post has been promoted to an article

 

I'm bumping this up due to an experiance I had today, and this made such a profound statement to me. I have been going through the funeral flowers, some I am drying to incorporate into soaps, and going to try my hand at infusing them within a natural oil. I've also made individual bouquets to take with me to the cemetary and offer to the One who guards it.

 

I came upon a vase of flowers, and whomever designed the bouquet made my heart just leap. Inside of the bouquet were pine boughs, due to the season naturally, but also Yew sprigs, and Hawthorn sprigs with berries. I now have in my possession these gifts of nature.

 

At this time, I'm not inclined to work with the Fae, but to further my path with working with spirits and ancestors, yes.

 

There is much more to the Trio of Trees, that our 8 People eloquently said. The Witch just has to discover it, imho.

 

Regards,

Gypsy

 

 

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