Many mystical and magical uses have been found for the thirteen trees which symbolize the months of the Celtic lunar year, and it is likely, considering the popularity of Celtic Paganism, that many more will be discovered. However you choose to observe the lunar months, it can be helpful to first imbibe a magical brew designed to attune your body and spirit to the occasion.
Following are the recipes for thirteen teas which will accomplish just that. The measurements given are approximate, and for making one eight-ounce mug full you should use no more than a single heaping teaspoon of dry herbs placed inside a tea ball or cheesecloth strainer. All liquid measurements should be added to taste. Allow the tea to steep at least two minutes, longer if you prefer a stronger flavor. As always, when ingesting untried substances, be sure to test for any allergic reactions first, and remember that no herbal preparation should ever be taken over the long term without consulting an expert pharmacologist or botanist.
Though very few of the recipes actually contain any part of the trees to which they are attributed, they work quite well because their ingredients rely on using herbs and juices which share magical affinities with the properties of the tree. These properties are listed after the name of each tree so that, if you choose to, you can make substitutions based upon this knowledge. Depending upon the particular Celtic tradition you follow, the lunar year starts with either the first new moon closest to Samhain or the one just before Yule.
ALDER (Alnus spp.)
This tree is a water lover. The oily water resistant wood has been used extensively for underwater
foundations and pilings in Venice and elsewhere. It is used in dairy vessels and the branches in making
whistles. It is associated with Bran, as He used His body as a bridge to span dangerous waters. It is used
in the construction of bridges. Bran's Head was oracular. Alder indicates protection and oracular powers.
APPLE* (Malus spp.)
A dense, fine-grained, rosy-colored wood with a slightly sweet smell. The Apple is the earliest cultivated
tree. It is associated with choice. At Somerset, an auction was held for single acre plots on two pieces of
common land. Plots were marked and matching marks made on the fruit. The apples were then placed in
a bag and commoners were allocated land by the distribution of the fruit. All the acres of land were
similar, as many times today choices must be made between similar and equally attractive things.
Regardless, the choice must be made. In Norse myth, Idunna was the keeper of the 'apples of
immortality' which kept the Gods young. The 'fruit-bearing tree' referred to by Tacitus in his description of
Norse runic divination may have been the apple. Apple indicates choice, and is useful for love and healing
ASH* (Fraxinus spp.)
A strong, straight-grained wood; sometimes has 'olive' streaks or stripes in the grain. The European
variety (fraxinus excelcior) was referred to in the Eddas as the species of Yggdrasil - the 'World-Tree".
The first man, named Ask, was created from an ash log. Ash was commonly used to make spears
because of its 'springiness' and straight grain. In North America, strips of black ash were split along the
grain to make splints for baskets and hoops. It is used in weaver's beams. Women would weave cloth
and intermingling threads together in a tight pattern as the microcosm and the macrocosm are united. Ash
can be used in spells requiring focus and strength of purpose, and indicates the linking of the inner and
BEECH (Fagus spp.)
Beech wood is closely grained, very easy to work giving a smooth even surface. At one time Beech
tablets were used as writing surfaces because of the above mentioned qualities. Beech and book have the
same word origins. Beech is concerned with ancient knowledge as revealed in old objects, places and
writings. Beech indicates guidance from the past to gain insight, which protects and provides a solid base
upon which all relies.
BIRCH* (Betula spp.)
A lovely pale, fine-grained wood. Long associated with fertility and healing magic, birch twigs were used
to bestow fertility on cattle and newlyweds, and children's cradles were made from its wood. Birch is one
of the first trees to grow on bare soil and thus it births the entire forest. Criminals were at one time
birched to drive out evil influences on them, to renew them for the new year. Birch was associated with
Thor, probably in recognition of his role as an agricultural and fertility deity. Birch is an incredibly useful
tree - nearly every part of it is edible, and it's sap was an important source of sugar to Native Americans
and early settlers. The inner bark provides a pain reliever and the leaves are used to treat arthritis. It's
bark was used for everything from paper to canoe hulls, and axe handles were also made from Birch.
Birch is most useful for fertility and healing spells.
BLACKTHORN (Prunus spinosa)
Blackthorn is a winter tree. The sloe, its fruits ripen and sweeten only after the nip of the frost. White
flowers are seen even before the leaves in the spring. It is black barked with vicious thorns and grows in
dense thickets. The wood is used in the cudgel shillelagh and Blasting Stick. Its thorns are used to pierce
waxen images. Blackthorn indicates strong action of fate or outside influences that must be obeyed.
ELDER (Sambucus spp.)
The Latin name sambucus is derived from a Greek word for a wind instrument made from elder. The pith
can easily be removed from the small branches to make a flute. Elder regrows damaged branches with
ease and can root rapidly from any part. A tea for purifying the blood can be made from the flowers and
wine from the fruit, but in general the tree is poisonous. In Norse mythology, the Goddess Freya chose
the black elder as her home. In medieval times it was the abode of witches and it was considered
dangerous to sleep under its branches or to cut it down. Sticks of Elder were used as magical horses by
Witches. Elder indicates the end in the beginning and the beginning in the end. Life in Death and Death in
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