Mistletoe and the Druids

Mistletoe and The Druids

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The ancient Druids believed mistletoe to be an indicator of great sacredness. The winter solstice, called 'Alban Arthan' by the Druids, was according to Bardic Tradition, the time when the Chief Druid would cut the sacred mistletoe from the Oak. The mistletoe is cut using a golden sickle on the sixth night of the new moon after the winter solstice. A cloth held below the tree by other members of the order to catch the spigs of mistletoe as they fell, as it was believed that it would have profaned the mistletoe to fall upon the ground. He would then divide the branches into many sprigs and distributed them to the people, who hung them over doorways as protection against thunder, lightning and other evils.

The Druids are thought to have believed that the berries of the mistletoe represented the sperm of the Gods. When pressed, a semen like substance issues from the white berries. Mistletoe was considered a magickal aphrodisiac. Girls standing under a sprig of mistletoe were asking for a bit more than a kiss, it seems.

The plant in old folklore is called Allheal, used in folk medicine to cure many ills, and indeed the Druids considered the mistletoe to be a sacred plant and believed it had miraculous properties which could cure illnesses, serve as an antidote against poisons, ensure fertility and protect against the ill effects of witchcraft. When taken as a form of diluted tea, it was thought as a curative for everything from infertility to epilepsy

 

Source: http://www.thewhitegoddess.co.uk/articles/mythology_folklore/mistletoe.asp

Henbane

Henbane is one of the legendary "witch" plants, renowned in folklore for its claimed magickal qualities and it features in many of the recipes for witches' flying ointments which have been preserved in the records of the witch trials in an various other sources. The Folklore Henbane was believed in Germany to attract rain and was once believed to produce sterility in land and livestock. (Thiselton-Dyer p315). As the raising of storms and the blighting of crops and livestock were amongst the most common charges laid at the feet of accused "witches" by neighbours, it is not impossible that this German folklore may have derived from the plant's association with witches; if witches raised storms and blighted crops, then maybe they did it with henbane or other noxious plants. On the other hand, if livestock was poisoned by fodder containing henbane (and other similar plants) it may have been easier to assume that the sudden and unaccountable death of beasts must have been due to witchcraft than to attempt to find out what really killed them. The possible connection between the poisoning of livestock by plant ingestion and subsequent witchcraft accusations has been discussed by Sally Hickey in Folklore.. Curiously Hickey manages to discuss the possible effects on beasts, especially cattle, of consuming almost every known British toxic plant except henbane, though this appears to be more an oversight than any deliberate exclusion, especially given the widespread occurence of this plant in Britain. One of the more mundane traditional uses of henbane was in the flavouring of beer - a use which appears to have a very long history indeed as evidence of henbane and belladonna beer has apparently been found on at least one Neolithic site in Scotland. We take it for granted these days that beer and ale are made and flavoured with hops, but until the general adoption of hops beers were made with a wide variety of flavourings and enhancers. For what it is worth, the following recipe is provided for your general interest. Magickal Uses of Henbane The ritual use of henbane goes back at least as far as the Neolithic period in Scotland. According to Dr Andrew Sharratt, who teaches archaeology at Cambridge University, traces of henbane were found in a lump of burnt porridge or other cereal residue found attached to a fragment of a Neolithic vessel of the type known as "Grooved Ware" at the ritual site at Balfarg/Balbirnie in Fifeshire. The site includes a timber enclosure, thought to be part of a mortuary building, which was excavated by Gordon Barclay and Christopher Russell-White in the 1980s. It has been suggested that the timber building was used for the exposure of corpses and that the henbane brew may have been part of the offerings buried with them, thus connecting this plant with death and rituals of the dead. Dr Sharratt, at least, regards this as possible evidence for psychopompic shamanism in British Neolithic culture and possibly for some form of belief in spirit flight; the plant that can ease the spirit out of the body can help to ease its passage to the otherworld - whether one way for the spirit of the deceased or both ways for the accompanying shaman. Interestingly in this context, later Greek mythology tells us that the dead in Hades were crowned with henbane as they wandered aimlessly and hopelessly beside the River Styx which separated them from the land of the living. Merryn Dineley, who is researching the whole question of brewing in the Neolithic at Manchester University, argues that these porridge-like residues are more likely to be evidence of brewing, in other words they represent the sediments left behind after the beer has been removed. She has pointed out that on a number of Neolithic sites, very large "Grooved Ware" pots have been found which would have been of a size to make brewing beer viable. Dr Sharratt also reported that he "was talking last year [1995] to a Danish Viking specialist who had excavated a lady buried in the cemetery of the Viking fortress of Fyrkat with a belt-pouch containing over 100 seeds of this plant; and she remarked that it was traditionally used in Jutland in chicken-stealing, to stun the intended victims." Which, as he points out, neatly brings us back to the very name of this plant - henbane. The ancient Greeks believed that people under the influence of the herb became prophetic, and the priestesses of the Oracle of Delphi are claimed to have inhaled the smoke from smouldering henbane. Nigel Pennick associates henbane with the rune Is (representing statis) and says it (the rune) is ruled by "Rinda, goddess of the frozen north" and is connected with "Verdandi, the Norn representing the present, 'that which is eternally becoming'." This seems to imply that he is associating henbane with these Goddesses in terms of northern magic, though he does not actually say so. Modern magickal thinking considers henbane to be ruled by Saturn, which does seem not inappropriate for a herb which is so effective at bringing a swift death to those who use it rashly. However Culpepper reports, with some incredulity, that astrologers of his own and earlier times considered the plant to be ruled by Jupiter: "I wonder how astrologers could take on them to make this an herb of Jupiter" and argues that because henbane generally grows in "saturnine" places, especially the ditches where the contents of cesspits and privies were dumped, it should more properly be considered a herb of Saturn. That said, my comments above about the association of henbane with madness and perhaps with an archetype which we might choose to associate with Woden may account for the alternative attribution of this plant to Jupiter; Woden/Oðinn and Jupiter seem to have shared at least some qualities as Indo-European Sky Fathers with the power to deal death from on high, their penchant for wandering amongst the realms of humanity and for acting as patrons or protectors of their favoured mortals. Both were also prone to disguising themselves when interfering with human activities, Jupiter in particular having a taste for shape-shifting into various animal forms ranging from swans to bulls. Beyerl, meanwhile, says that henbane can be used for rituals of necromancy and the summoning of spirits and astral entities but cautions against the use of henbane internally "by any but the adept".. He suggests that the plant can be used more safely as an incense - though given the uncertain and unpredictable results which have been reported from burning henbane herb or seeds this would appear to be at best a questionable recommendation if only because of its very vagueness. How much of what part of the plant should you use in how big a confined area? If any reader is inclined to experiment, will they please renew their subscription before they start? Henbane was once also believed to have aphrodisiac properties and was an ingredient of love potions, though whether such potions were to be swallowed or rubbed on assorted (and perhaps relevant) body bits is not made clear. Description Henbane, whose botanical name is Hyoscyamus niger, is a member of the Solanaceae order of plants which includes such innocuous members as the humble potato and tomato but also highly poisonous and notorious ones such as belladonna, mandrake and the daturas. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the plant makes its appearance in the English language as henne-belle, a form which is recorded as early as 1000 ce in the writings both of Æfric and subsequently in a number of early English medical manuscripts of the 11th century. It seems likely that this form derived at least in part from the bell-shape of the plant's flowers. The more familiar (and modern) form henbane was first recorded in the mid 13th century. The -bane part refers to an archaic Old English word for death, so the name as a whole refers to a belief that poultry, most notably hens, were particularly vulnerable to the effects of eating its seeds. The same idea is found in the name wolfsbane, one of the common traditional names for aconite (aconitum napellus), which was not only sacred in Greek myth to Hecate and therefore to Cerberus, the three-headed hound who guarded the gates of the underworld, but also refers to the one-time use of the plant for poisoning meat left out as bait for wolves. Natural History and Habitat Henbane is not officially considered a native of Britain, its natural range being through southern Europe and across western Asia, though according to Mrs Grieve, writing in the 1930s, it was at that time fairly frequent throughout Britain and Ireland and was known to grow wild in some 60 counties in Britain. She suggests that it may have originally escaped from herbalists gardens and subsequently at least partially naturalised. When growing wild, henbane generally favours sandy or chalky soils and grows readily on waste ground, around abandoned and derelict buildings and alongside roads. It also grows well close to the sea and readily colonises disused rabbit warrens. Henbane is also reported to be one of a number of the Solanaceae order of plants which have colonised the campus of Nottingham University following their escape from the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences where they are cultivated for research purposes. Henbane grows up to 36 inches tall and may be either annual or biennial. The annual form flowers in July and August and the biennial one in May and June of the second year. During the first year a rosette of basal leaves grows; in the second this is followed by an erect stem which may be simple or slightly branched. The stem and leaves are slightly sticky to the touch. The flowers are bell-shaped, hairy on the outside and shade from a pale, dingy yellow to a reddish-purple towards the open end of the bell. They are veined with purple or violet and each has five distinct tips. Each of the seed pods may contain up to five hundred very small greyish-brown seeds not unlike those of the poppy. The leaves, according to Culpepper, are "very large, thick, soft, woolly" and lie on the ground "much cut in, or torn on the edges, of a dark, ill greyish green colour; among which rise up diverse small branches with lesser leaves on them ....". All parts of the plant are highly toxic, the leaves being the most poisonous part of the plant - so much so that there mere smell of the fresh leaves has been found to cause giddiness and stupor in some people. Culpepper comments that "The whole plant more that the root has a very heavy, ill, soporiferious smell, somewhat offensive." The main active agents are several tropane alkaloids - hyoscyamine and hyoscine, from which the plant takes its Latin name, and atropine. Sheep and (according to some authorities at least) pigs appear to be largely immune to the poison whereas serious poisoning has been reported in cattle which have eaten henbane. Other writers have claimed that pigs have in fact been poisoned by the plant, so the position with regard to pigs is rather unclear. It was also once a common practice to add small quantities of henbane herb or seed to horse and cattle feeds in order to fatten them up - perhaps by making the animals too stupefied to walk off the flesh. The toxin is sometimes present in the milk of cattle which have been given feed containing henbane. Healing Uses of Henbane Henbane was much used as a medicine in former times. Mrs Grieve reports that it was so widely used even fairly recently that it was deliberately grown for the medicinal market because collection from the wild could not meet the demand. The active ingredients are extracted from the leaves and flowering tops, both collected during the flowering period, and occasionally from the fruits. It has a similar effect on the body to that of belladonna which also contains hyoscyamine, although the higher proportion of this alkaloid in henbane produces less of an excitory effect. It also has generally sedative effects on the central nervous system. The results of overdose include dry mouth, dilation of the pupils, restlessness, then hallucinations and delirium leading to coma and ultimately death. It was with a pharmaceutical preparation of derived from henbane that the notorious Dr Crippen poisoned his wife Cora in 1910 before attempting to flee to the USA with his mistress, Ethel le Neve. As well as being a sedative, its medical uses are (or at least were) largely antispasmodic and anodyne, ie as a pain-killer. Because of its sedative and antispasmodic actions it has been used as an effective treatment of the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, particularly for relieving tremor and rigidity in the early stages. Much of the folklore and traditional belief connected with henbane derives from its medicinal qualities. Thiselton-Dyer, for example, quotes Gerard's claims about the dental uses of the plant: "The root boiled with vinegar, and the same holden hot in the mouth, easeth the pain of the teeth." He further adds: "The seed is used by mountebank tooth-drawers, which run about the country, to cause worms to come forth from the teeth, by burning it in a chafing-dish of coles, the party holding his mouth over the fume thereof; but some crafty companions, to gain money, convey small lute-strings into the water, persuading the patient that those small creeprers came out of his mouth or other parts which he intended to cure." (Green) In medieval medicine, the seeds were heated over coal or charcoal until they produced fumes which were then inhaled as a painkiller or other treatment for toothache. Whether this merely stupefied the patient so that he was unaware of the pain or whether it temporarily eased the pain while leaving him fully conscious is unclear. The ancient Egyptians are also known to have smoked henbane for their dental problems, though the native Egyptian henbane, Hyoscyamus muticus, contains higher concentrations of alkaloids and therefore produces even more powerful effects than our more familiar European variety. Douce, meanwhile, wrote of the ability of the plant to send people mad: "Henbane, called insana, mad, for the use thereof is perillous, for it if be eate or dronke, it breedeth madness, or slowe lykenss of sleepe." (Thiselton-Dyer p315) He seems to have been largely quoting the words of Bartolomaeus who, writing in 1398, commented: "This herb is called insana wood, for the use thereof is perilous; for if it be eate or dranke, it breedeth woodenes, or slow liknes of slepe; therefore the herb is commonly called Morilindi, for it taketh away wytte and reason.".. (Green) This second (and earlier) description of the properties of henbane contains the archaic Old English word wod, meaning madness or fury, which will be familiar to pagans as part of the name of Woden or Oðinn - himself a God closely connected with shamanic ecstacy and storm-fury. According to Mrs Grieve, dried root of henbane used to be hung as a necklace around the necks of young children to promote easy teething and to prevent convulsions. So long as they don't chew on it, presumably .... Until fairly recently an oil obtained from the leaves was made into pain-relieving lotions for treating earache, neuralgia, sciatica and rheumatism, while homoeopathy prescribes its Hyoscyamus remedy for twitching, coughs, sensitive skin, and excited or obsessional behavioural problems. Modern medicine has also used derivatives of henbane as a pre-operative medication and for preventing travel sickness. Henbane Pilsener 20 litres of water 1 litre of malt 1/2 litre honey 40 grams of dried henbane leaves yeast for beer (amount depends on the product) Find a container which is large enough to hold all the ingredients. Cook the henbane in water for 5 to 10 minutes. Meanwhile dissolve the malt in a couple of litres of water, dissolve the honey into it and add the henbane leaf-water. Then add the yeast. It might be useful to add a little bit more yeast than recommended because the tropane-alkaloids affect the yeast. Don't seal the container as it may explode. The brew should start fermenting after a day or so and the fermentation should be finished after 4 or 5 days. The beer is now ready for drinking. You can also bottle it, in which case you can add a few drops of honey to each bottle and let it ferment for another week or two. Serve preferably chilled. Store as normal beer.

Alder

The alder is a very ancient tree that has grown in the British Isles for thousands of years. The January tree is easily recognized by its regularly spaced branches and its conical shape. Like the willow, it is a water-loving tree. The timber is oily and water-resistant, and is often used for under-water foundations. Parts of Venice and many medieval cathedrals were built on alder foundations. The common alder (Alnus glutinosa (L.) Gaertner) is found along lowland rivers, where it grows with aspens, poplars, and willows. Like willows, alders sprout from stumps. This allows them to regenerate after heavy flooding. In protected areas they may grow to 65 feet tall. Alders are members of the birch family (Betulaceae). A tree associated with several pagan gods, the alder represented the letter F (fearn) in the druidic tree alphabet. It was known in medieval legend as the tree of the Erl King, or alternatively as the tree sacred to the god Bran, brother of Branwen who kept the Cauldron of Regeneration. Thus the tree stood for the idea of resurrection. It bore the same significance in the Odyssey. Legend says that Bran used his body to span the river Linon, forming a bridge to protect his followers from the flooding waters, as alder wood does when used as a building foundation. The beginning of the Celtic solar year was marked by the alder tree. In the territory of Celtic druids there used to be a tribe known as Arverni, 'People of the Alder'. A whistle made of Alder is the basis for the old superstition of whistling up the wind.

Apple

All apple trees are descended from the crab apple, which was likely the tree mentioned in the tree Ogham, as it grew wild in the British Isles and across much of Europe during the time of the Druids. The apple represents choice and the letter Q (Quert) in the druidic tree alphabet. The apple has long been a symbol of fruitfullness. The rhyme 'an apple a day keeps the doctor away' probably comes from a Norse myth in which apples were given to the Gods to stave of old age. Apples were used to discover who a girl would marry ; the apple was peeled and the complete peel thrown over the shoulder, if it formed a letter then this was the initial of her future husbands name. 'Wassailing' - a ceremony to ensure a good apple crop is still performed in the West country usually on Twelfth night. The felling of an apple tree was unlucky and to leave the last apple on a tree meant a families death. The wood of the apple tree is good for both burning and carving, and poultice made from roasted for boiled apples removes burn marks from the skin, and eases inflamed eyes. It is also known to be good for the bowels and for sufferers of asthma and other lung ailments. The bark of apple trees or the fruits themselves have the power to transport a true-hearted seeker to the Other world. Burn the bark as an offering to the Good Folk on Midsummer's night. Also used in Faery love spells.

Ash

N~Nuin~Ash The ash tree has deeply penetrating roots and tends to sour the soil, which makes it hard for any other plants to grow around it. Its branches are thick and strong . The ash can grow to one hundred and thirty feet high. The March tree has distinctive black buds and its seeds grow in bunches, each with a long, thin wing. It grows in all climates, but tends to do best in soil that is rich with lime. Its white wood is excellent for burning, and was often used for oars, ax handles, and was a favorite of the Celts when making spears. An old Christmas custom is to burn an ash faggot bound with green twigs on the hearth, making a wish as each bond snaps. Unmarried girls can also choose a bond the one who's bond parts first will be the first to marry. The ash tree was credited with magical properties which would cure a child of hernia or rickets. Before sunrise the naked child was passed through a cleft trunk that was then bound and sealed with clay. As the trunk healed so did the child. To cure a lame animal a hole was bored in an ash and a live shrew sealed inside it. As the shrew dies and the tree healed the animal recovered. The world tree is an ash, or is known as "The Cosmic Ash." It appears in Norse mythology as Yggdrasil (or the tree of Odin.) and it spans the universe, with its roots in the lower world and its branches supporting the heavens. In Celtic cosmology it connects the three circles of existence - Abred, Gwynedd, and Ceugant - which are sometimes interpreted as the past, present and future (or as confusion, balance and creative force.) Use ash a substitute for Rowan as a protection against fairies.

Birch

The silver birch (Betula pendula Roth) is the most common tree in much of Europe. It is one of the first trees to grow back in an area after a mature forest is cut; this is probably a large part of its symbolic connection with new beginnings. Description When the huge glaciers of the last ice age receded around twelve and a half thousand years ago, Downy Birch trees would have been one of the first to re-colonise the rocky, ice-scoured landscape. Hence, in botanical terms the birch is referred to as a pioneer species. Silver Birch is more prevalent today over the whole of Britain, and tends to grow most abundantly in the North West of Scotland. The Downy Birch isn’t so commonly today, but the Silver Birch is still the first tree to colonize waste ground, and is in fact considered a pest by some as it invades forests of pine, which are often grown as a cash crop. Formerly covering the whole of the United Kingdom, it is a graceful and slender tree with a characteristic white bole. The name Betula is the family name that the birch belongs to, along with hornbeam and hazel, the Latin name pendula for the Silver Birch means ‘drooping branches’, and its habit of hanging down are another easy way of recognition. The Latin name of pubescens for the Downy Birch means ‘hairy’ which is reflected by its downy (hairy) twigs. Birch trees are deciduous (they loose their leaves in winter) The Silver Birch thrives in dry places, whilst the Downy Birch prefers wetter locations, which is probably why Silver Birch are found to the East of Britain and Downy Birch to the West. The Silver Birch seldom attains more than 80 years old, especially in a woodland where other trees will soon outgrow its height of 30 metres, with the Downy Birch attaining a possible 20 metres. The trunk of the Birch is slender, with a bark almost as tough as the wood of the tree, in Silver Birch the bark is silvery white in colour, making it easily recognised, the Downy Birch having a somewhat darker brown colour. The leaves of both species are similar in shape, although there are subtle differences, it’s easier to attempt to distinguish the two by the colour of the bark. Birch trees are monoecious, which means they have both male and female flowers with pollination achieved by the wind. The male flower or catkin is drooping whilst the female flower or catkin is upright. Origin The word birch is thought to have derived from the Sanskrit word bhurga meaning a 'tree whose bark is used to write upon'. When the poet S.T. Coleridge called it the 'Lady of the Woods', he was possibly drawing on an existing folk term for the tree. Birch figures in many anglicised place names, such as Birkenhead, Birkhall and Berkhamstead, and appears most commonly in northern England and Scotland. Beithe (pronounced 'bey'), the Gaelic word for birch, is widespread in Highland place names such as Glen an Beithe in Argyll, Loch a Bhealaich Bheithe in Inverness-shire and Beith in Sutherland. The adjective 'silver' connected with birch seems to be a relatively recent invention, apparently making its first appearance in a poem by Alfred Lord Tennyson. Folklore The birch tree stood for Beith, the first letter of the druidic alphabet or Tree Ogham (Birch or beorc was also the runic letter B). Beithe, has two meanings in Irish. It can mean "being," in the sense of the verb to be, and it is also a noun meaning "a being." In early Celtic mythology, the birch came to symbolise renewal and purification. It was the sacred beth of Cerridwen, representing beginnings and birth.The whiteness of the tree's bark apparently suggested its connection with the White Goddess, who was both birthgiver and death-bringer in her Crone form as the carrion-eating white sow. In Herefordshire a birch tree decorated with white and red rags was propped against a stable door on May Day to prevent the horses from being Hag ridden by witches or having their manes knotted by fairires. 19th C navvies and their brides considered themselves legally married if they jumped over a brich broom held across the threshhold. Birch was celebrated during the festival of Samhain (what is now Halloween in Britain), the start of the Celtic year, when purification was also important. Bundles of birch twigs were used to drive out the spirits of the old year. Later this would evolve into the 'beating the bounds' ceremonies in local parishes. Gardeners still use the birch besom, or broom, to 'purify' their gardens. Besoms were also of course the archetypal witches' broomsticks, used in their shamanic flights, perhaps after the use of extracts of the fly agaric mushrooms commonly found in birchwoods. The fly agaric is the preferred ‘shroom’ of the Shaman, with the fungus found predominantly in Britain growing beneath a Birch tree.The Birch also represents the ‘mound of venus’ (female mons pubis), the besom when stood with its birch head upright represents the female, with the ash handle upwards it represents the male. Interestingly, the birch also has strong fertility connections with the celebrations of Beltane, the second, summer, half of the Celtic year (nowadays celebrated as May Day). Beltane fires in Scotland were ritually made of birch and oak, and a birch tree was often used as a, sometimes living, maypole. As birch is one of the first trees to come into leaf it would be an obvious choice as representation of the emergence of spring. Deities associated with birch are mostly love and fertility goddesses, such as the northern European Frigga and Freya. Eostre (from whom we derive the word Easter), the Anglo Saxon goddess of spring was celebrated around and through the birch tree between the spring equinox and Beltane. According to the medieval herbalist Culpepper, the birch is ruled over by Venus - both the planet and the goddess. According to Scottish Highland folklore, a barren cow herded with a birch stick would become fertile, or a pregnant cow bear a healthy calf. On the Isle of Man, off the west coast of Scotland, criminals were 'birched' to purify them and to drive out evil influences. Some say the birch is the only tree never to be struck by lightening, whether this is because it is associated with fertility or because its too well hidden in the woodland to be accessible is anyone’s guess. It is said that to see green Birch in a dream was an omen of illness but to see two birches growing together with briars on the grave of two lovers indicated that death had not divided them Uses The uses of birch are many and varied. The wood is tough, heavy and straightgrained, making it suitable for handles and toys and good for turning. It was used to make hardwearing bobbins, spools and reels for the Lancashire cotton industry. Traditionally, babies' cradles were made of birch wood, drawing on the earlier symbolism of new beginnings. In 1842, J.C. Loudon, in his Encyclopedia of Trees and Shrubs wrote that, "The Highlanders of Scotland make everything of it;" and proceeded to list all manner of household and agricultural implements as well as its use as a general building material. Though the wood lends itself well enough to many of these uses, the availability of the wood in the Highlands must also have played a part in its use. Loudon furthermore mentions that " … the branches are employed as fuel in the distillation of whiskey, the spray is used for smoking hams and herrings, for which last purpose it is preferred to every other kind of wood. The bark is used for tanning leather, and sometimes, when dried and twisted into a rope, instead of candles. The spray is used for thatching houses; and, dried in summer, with the leaves on, makes a good bed when heath is scarce." Of old, the Druids made the sap into a cordial to celebrate the spring equinox. Th Birch is used as firewood due to its high calorific value per unit weight and unit volume. The wood burns quickly and hot, and emits a beautiful smell. Birch is prized by the Sami people as it burns well, without popping, even when frozen and freshly hewn. The bark is also used in starting fires. The bark will burn very well, even when wet, because of the oils it contains. With care, the bark can be split into very thin sheets that will ignite from even the smallest of sparks. Birch leaves make a diuretic tea and to make extracts for dyes and cosmetics. Ground birch bark, fermented in sea water, is used for seasoning the woolen, hemp or linen sails and hemp rope of traditional Norwegian boats. Its sap was extensively used to make birch sap wine, especially in Scotland, where it is now making somewhat of a revival, especially by home brewers, although collecting the sap is made difficult as there is a two week window in early March when the sap can be gathered. The sap can be tapped as it rises in spring and fermented. Birch is used to make the famous Birch besom , used by gardeners’ for sweeping up leaves in autumn, the birch making the head of the besom, its tendril like branches making it the ideal sweeping brush. The wood was used as timber for smoking hams, herrings, and the whiskey industry, and the branches for thatching on houses. Medicinal Folklore and herbalism credit different parts of the birch with a variety of medicinal properties. The leaves are diuretic and antiseptic, and an effective remedy for cystitis and other urinary tract infections. They were also used to dissolve kidney stones and relieve rheumatism and gout. The sap (as wine or cordial) similarly prevents kidney and bladder stones, treats rheumatism, and can be used to treat skin complaints. The bark is used externally for relief of muscle pain and is used by placing the internal part of the bark against the skin. Birch leaves are effective in lowering blood pressure, and an infusion of birch leaves will cool a fever and therefore aid the symptoms of the common cold. "Beneath you birch with silver bark And boughs so pendulous and fair, The brook falls scattered down the rock: and all is mossy there." Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Horse Chestnut / Buckeye

The North American species are known as buckeyes and the Eurasian species as horse-chestnuts. Some are also called white chestnut or red chestnut . In Britain, they are sometimes called conker trees because of their link with the game of conkers, played with the nuts, also called conkers. The genus Aesculus, the buckeyes and horse-chestnuts, comprises 13-19 species of deciduous trees and shrubs native to the temperate northern hemisphere, with 6 species native to North America and 7-13 species native to Eurasia; there are also several hybrids. Attracts money and wealth, and can be used to help alleviate the pain of arthritis and rheumatism when held in the hand. Also useful to have near when performing any act of divination. Just don't leave them outside on your balcony, or the birds will take them away...they must have magickal properties we are not yet aware of!!!

Catnip

Nepeta is a genus of about 250 species of flowering plants in the family Lamiaceae. The members of this group are known as catnip or catmint because of their famed effect on cats—nepeta pleasantly stimulates cats' pheromonic receptors, typically resulting in the animal temporarily exhibiting behaviors indicative of being in an induced, euphorically giddy sort of state. The genus is native to Europe, Asia and Africa, with the highest species diversity in the Mediterranean region east to mainland China. It is now also common in North America.[1] Most of the species are herbaceous perennial plants, but some are annuals. They have sturdy stems with opposite heart-shaped, green to grayish-green leaves. The flowers are white, blue, pink or lilac and occur in several clusters toward the tip of the stems. The flowers are tubular and spotted with tiny purple dots. It is ruled by the planet Venus, and is therefore useful in love, beauty, and happiness spells. One of my favorite uses for catnip is; "cat magick", If you feed your cat some catnip, it will build a psychic bond between you and your cat! You can also make a pink sachet and fill it with Catnip to wear or carry to draw love to you. Another fun use for catnip is to grow some in your home. Aside from pleasing your cat, this will draw positive vibrations and good luck to you and to your house. Chewed by warriors for fierceness in battle. Individuals interested in cultivating Catnip are advised to sow the seeds directly into the garden and be especially careful not to injure developing plants (releasing the volatile oil) or the neighborhood cats will destroy the crop. The following bit of English folklore says it all. If you set it, the cats will eat it. If you sow it, the cats won’t know it. Besides being grown for the enjoyment of pet cats, Catnip has a history of use as a beverage and a medicine. Before European trade with China began bringing large quantities of fine Eastern Tea to Europe, Catnip tea was a domestic favorite especially among tea loving residents of the British Isles. When growing the plant for this purpose, mature leaves should be collected while they are still fresh and dried in the shade (not in the sun, or the volatile oil will be lost) for several days. One teaspoon of the dried herb is then added to each cup of boiling water and allowed to steep. The tea should not be boiled or, again, the oil will be lost. The drink is an excellent source of vitamin C. The number of various uses of Catnip tea for medicinal purposes is extraordinary. A survey of the literature indicates that it has been used at one time or another to cure just about every human disorder. Some of its more popular uses in Europe would include curing chronic bronchitis, diarrhea, upset stomachs, infant colic, flatulency, spasms, and “various lower type female disorders”. The tea is said to induce perspiration and has been used to break fevers, bring on sleep, and to cool a person down on a hot summer day. A use has even been found for the roots of Catnip. According to English folklore, the root of Catnip: “when chewed is said to make the most gentle person fierce and quarrelsome, and there is a legend of a certain hangman who could never screw up his courage to the point of hanging anybody till he had partaken of it.”

Cedar

Ancient Celts on the Mainland used cedar oil to preserve heads of enemies taken in battle. To draw Earth energy, to ground yourself place the palms of your hands against the ends of the needles. Also known as the Tree of Life, Arbor Vitae, Yellow Cedar. Description Cedar (Cedrus) is a genus of coniferous trees in the plant family Pinaceae. They are most closely related to the Firs (Abies), sharing a very similar cone structure. They are native to the mountains of the western Himalaya and the Mediterranean region, occurring at altitudes of 1,500–3200 m in the Himalaya and 1,000–2,200 m in the Mediterranean. Cedars are trees up to 30–40 m (occasionally 60 m) tall with spicy-resinous scented wood, thick ridged or square-cracked bark, and broad, level branches. The shoots are dimorphic, with long shoots, which form the framework of the branches, and short shoots, which carry most of the leaves. The leaves are evergreen and needle-like, 8–60 mm long, arranged in an open spiral phyllotaxis on long shoots, and in dense spiral clusters of 15–45 together on short shoots; they vary from bright grass-green to dark green to strongly glaucous pale blue-green, depending on the thickness of the white wax layer which protects the leaves from desiccation. The seed cones are barrel-shaped, 6–12 cm long and 3–8 cm broad, green maturing grey-brown, and, as in Abies, disintegrate at maturity to release the winged seeds. The seeds are 10–15 mm long, with a 20–30 mm wing; as in Abies, the seeds have 2–3 resin blisters, containing an unpleasant-tasting resin, thought to be a defense against squirrel predation. Cone maturation takes one year, with pollination in autumn and the seeds maturing the same time a year later. The pollen cones are slender ovoid, 3–8 cm long, produced in late summer and shedding pollen in autumn.

Cinnamon

Is a wonderful herb to either burn as an incense or make into a sachet. Fill a green or gold sachet with Cinnamon to draw money and success or to use as a healing charm. A purple sachet can be used to increase your magickal and/or psychic powers. A pink or red sachet of Cinnamon can be worn, carried with you, or placed under your bed to draw love or to promote lust. Use a white sachet filled with Cinnamon to increase your spirituality and to confer protection.

Clover

A sacred Faery plant, clovers of all kinds will attract them. Lay seven grains of wheat on a four-leafed clover to see the Faery.

Ferns

Uncurled fronds of the male fern were gathered at Midsummer, dried and carried for good luck. All ferns are powerful protective plants and faeries are especially attracted to them.

Yew

I~Ioho~Yew The yew tree lives the longest of all of the trees of the Celtic Tree Ogham. They are often found in cemeteries, but may be far older than the cemetery itself. The Crowhurst Yew in Surrey is believed to be at least 1,600 years old. Research work by dendrochronologists indicates that some yew trees in British churchyards may be as ancient as four thousand years old! This longevity is achieved through the style of growth. The yew's branches grow down into the ground to form new stems, which grow to become trunks of separate but linked growth. In time, the central trunk becomes old, but a new tree grows from within the decay, and is indistinguishable from the original growth. Thus the yew tree represents age, rebirth and reincarnation - the birth of a new soul which springs from ancient roots. The average yew tree grows to fifty feet in height. It is an evergreen with dark green needles, light on the underside, and bears a bright red fruit containing a single seed. Female flowers are green and small, as contrasted to male flowers which appear on different trees and are slightly larger and yellow in color. The needles bark and sap are extremely poisonous and has no medicinal uses. A Druid sacred tree. Sacred to the Winter Solstice and deities of death and rebirth. The Irish used it to make dagger handles and bows.

Yarrow

A wonderful herb to use in love spells! Also works to draw courage and to purify (exorcism). Drink as a tea to increase your psychic powers. Wear a sprig of yarrow for protection. Hold some in your hands when you are afraid. This will stop all fear and give you courage. Carry some with you to draw love and to attract friends.

Wormwood

An accumulative poison! A Druid sacred herb which was very magickal as well as sacred to Moon deities. Burn on Samhain to aid evocation, divination, scrying and prophecy. Combine with Mugwort for added effect.