Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Mardi: Herbal-Wise

In Europe, old wives would say that October is the month to gather the leafless branches of elder trees for use in home protection.  Wrapped into small bundles or woven as wreaths, elder branches were hung over doors and windows to keep evil of every nature – spiritual, human and animal – away from the home during the cruel months to come.  This was particularly true in Germanic countries, where old Frau Hulda, the Lady of Winter who would morph into a queen of witches by the 15th century, continued to be honored through folk ritual.

Elder was and is also a ritual plant in Druidic tradition.  The ancient Britons buried their dead with elder staffs.  Modern Wiccans make wands from elder branches as well.

Scott Cunningham says that carrying elderberries will keep harm from a person and banish negative thinking.  Planting an elder tree in the garden will turn away curses and protect the home and outbuildings from lightening.   

Still more old wisdom from those crafty wives told that toothaches could be eased by chewing an elder twig.  Scattering elder leaves in the wind while concentrating on healing an individual person – particularly if one repeated their name aloud – was said to alleviate colds, coughs and fevers.  A twig of elder knotted three times and carried on the body would help to ease rheumatism.

In hoodoo, the berries, leaves and roots of elder are dried and used in various tricks.  To make any wish come true, it is said that all one needs is a freshly cut elder stick and a patch of dirt (and sincere intention, of course).  Draw a circle around yourself in the dirt with the elder stick while saying your desire aloud.  Adding a prayer to your great spirits will help considerably.

To keep away thieves and any unwanted/evil intrusion, either sprinkle dried elder of any of the aforementioned types at the four corners of your residence (inside and outside if possible) or hang bags of dried elder at the front and back doors.

Hans Christian Andersen’s fairytale, The Little Elder-Tree Mother, combines the healing aspect of the plant with the Teutonic and Celtic belief that certain mother goddesses lived among the roots of elder trees.  Click the link below to read it.  Bonne chance ~

Header: Illustration from The Little Elder-Tree Mother via Fairytales and Bedtime Stories


Timmy! said...

Elderberries always make me think of the French knights in "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" taunting the British knights, Pauline...

I also like the Hans Christian Andersen fairytale (and the illustration too)!

Pauline said...

Yes, well; I guess elderberries have a very destinctive smell when you warm them up that may have something to do with that reference. Or not.

And I really like the illustration, too. I believe it's a collage and I wish I could find the name of the artist to credit them. If I do, I'll modify the post.