Chapter 27

 

 

PLANTS

 

 

 

 

NAME         Alder

LATIN        Alnus glutinosa

CELTIC       Fearn / Fern / Vearn / Vern

ALPHABET     F / V

TYPE         tree - chieftain

ASSOCIATED   resurrection / red / divining (shield) / 8

TIME PERIOD  Mar 18 - Apr 14 / spring equinox (Mar 20-21)

USE          posts for bridges, crannogs / medicine / dyes /

             utensils / whistles / charcoal

SEE ALSO     Bran

REMARKS      Alder trees were sacred to the Celts, and to cut

  one down without permission could result in a burnt-out

  home.  The wood is lightweight, soft, rot-resistant and

  burns with extreme heat.

       Alder was used for the piles of bridges, piers, and

  posts of buildings in wet areas, for the construction of

  dairy pails and utensils, and for supernatural whistles

  which could call up the wind.

       Alder bark was used to make a tea reputed to be

  excellent for cleaning the blood.  Three different colors

  of dye were obtained from the alder: red from the bark,

  green from the flowers, and brown from the twigs.  The sap

  turns from white to red when the tree is cut.

       The small tree has flowers in catkins, long if male

  and short and oval if female.  The flowers form in the

  summer but only reach their full bloom the next March,

  before there are leaves on the branches.

       The Gaelic name of the alder was used to denote the

  letters F and V in the Tree Alphabet.

 

 

NAME         Apple

LATIN        Malus sylvestris

CELTIC       Craob-ubhal

ALTERNATIVE  Crab-apple

SUBSTITUTE   Buckthorn / Ash / Poplar / Elm

TYPE         tree - chieftain

ASSOCIATED   5 / moon goddess / immortality / sacred

TIME PERIOD  winter solstice (Dec 21-21) / May

USE          winter food / medicine / tanning / yellow dye

SEE ALSO     Arthur

REMARKS      All apple trees were cultivated from the ancient

  crab-apple.  In ancient Ireland, the death penalty was the

  punishment for cutting down an apple tree.  The apple tree

  was a symbol for eternal life, and there was an association

  between Avalon, the apple orchard, and The Otherworld.  In

  addition, the fruit of the apple displayed the moon symbol

  of the five-pointed star when cut laterally.

       The fruit provided a winter food that countered

  scurvy, the bark was used for tanning leather and a yellow

  fabric dye was obtained.  Cider, a drink for sun festivals,

  could be produced from the fruit, and is still a favorite

  drink in the Celtic regions of Asturias in northern Spain

  and Cornwall in southwest England.

       The crab-apple often grows in oak forests and is a

  favorite host for the mistletoe.  The tree displays

  fragrant white or pink flowers in May.  The fruit of the

  uncultivated crab-apple is yellow when ripe and quite

  acidic.

 

 

NAME         Ash

LATIN        Fraxinus excelsior

CELTIC       Nion / Nin / Niun

ALPHABET     N

TYPE         tree - chieftain

ASSOCIATED   rebirth / triple goddess / charm against

             drowning / divining (spear) / 13

TIME PERIOD  Feb 18 - Mar 17

USE          wands / wheel shafts / oars / coracle ribs /

             spear shafts / medicine / chieftain chairs /

             yellow dye / broomhandles

SEE ALSO     On-niona

REMARKS      The strong and elastic qualities of ash wood

  made it suitable for many uses in Celtic times, including

  spear and javelin shafts, coracle ribs, chariot frames and

  broomhandles.  It was also considered a charm against

  drowning.  A druid's wand with spiral decorations made of

  ash and dating from around AD 1st century was found at

  Anglesey, Wales.

       An infusion of the leaves was recommended to cure

  obesity, a punishable offense in Celtic society.  The bark

  was used in treatment of rheumatism and liver disorders,

  and the fruit was eaten to combat flatulence.  A yellow dye

  was produced from the roots.

       The flowers of the ash appear in April, dark purple

  indicating that they are male.  The tree is one of the last

  to come into leaf in the spring.  In October the fruits

  whirl down from the trees in their brown pods or "keys".

  The Gaelic name for ash was used to represent the letter N

  in the Tree Alphabet.

 

 

NAME         Aspen

LATIN        Populus tremula

CELTIC       Eadha / Eded / Eagh

ALTERNATIVE  White Poplar

ALPHABET     E

TYPE         tree

ASSOCIATED   moon goddess / divining (indifference) / light

             yellow / death / old age

TIME PERIOD  gibbous moon / Samhain (Nov 6-7)

USE          shields / measuring stick

REMARKS      Aspen is a silver-barked poplar tree with

  spreading branches and round-shaped leaves that show their

  white undersides at the hint of a breeze.  The female trees

  have white catkins which become fluffy in May to aid

  dispersal of the seeds.

       Aspen was used by the Celts for making rods that were

  used to measure corpses.  In divining sessions, the aspen

  stick represented indifference.  The tree represented the

  letter E in the Tree Alphabet.

 

 

NAME         Barley

LATIN        Hordeum sativum

CELTIC       Alphito

TYPE         grain

ASSOCIATED   moon goddess

USE          food / beer

SEE ALSO     Cerridwen

REMARKS      The oldest cultivated barley, a species of

  grass, has six rows of grain in the ear.  It was grown

  mainly as a food for humans, boars and horses but also used

  to make a barley beer.  The plant grows well in poor soil

  and is useful for crop rotation.  Boiling ground barley in

  water produced a soothing drink.

 

 

NAME         Bay

LATIN        Laurus nobilis

CELTIC       Labhras / Llawryf

ALTERNATIVE  Laurel

TYPE         plant

USE          medicine / flavoring food

REMARKS      The bay tree is an evergreen with smooth

  leathery leaves, small yellow flowers and deep purple

  berries.  Bay leaves were used for flavoring cooking and

  also as a remedy for gastric disorders and rheumatic pains.

       The related cherry laurel (prunus laurocerasus) is a

  highly poisonous plant, and contains prussic acid (cyanide)

  in its bark, leaves and berries.

 

 

NAME         Beech

LATIN        Fagus sylvatica

CELTIC       Feá / Ffawydden

TYPE         tree

USE          boar food / human food / medicine

SEE ALSO     Fagus

REMARKS      The beech forest is a dark forest with little

  light penetrating the dense foliage.  The tree grows to a

  height of 60-100 ft (30-40 m) and 6-9 ft (2-3 m) in

  diameter with a shallow wide root system that likes a

  medium loam and chalk soil.  The tree has tufts of male

  (long, hanging) and female (short, stout) flowers.  The

  trees have few bottom branches so it make an easy forest to

  travel through on foot or horse.

       The wood was used to make furniture and the oil from

  the nut was used in lamps and for cooking.  A medicinal tar

  was produced from the tree to treat skin eczema and

  psoriasis and a syrup was made into an expectorant

  medicine.

       The name of the tree is old Aryan and means "lord and

  master provider of food".  Beech nuts were a favorite food

  of the wild boar, the favorite food of the Celts.

 

 

NAME         Belladonna

LATIN        Atropa belladonna

ALTERNATIVE  Deadly nightshade

TYPE         plant

ASSOCIATED   druidic ritual

USE          poison / hallucinogenic drug / medicine

REMARKS      The belladonna plant has very fragrant purple

  bell-shaped flowers, large oval leaves and shiny black

  berries.  The plant is highly poisonous and eating a berry

  can result in death.  Nevertheless, the medicinal value has

  long been recognized, and minute doses were found to

  counteract poison and alleviate acute pain in some

  circumstances.

       The druids and their initiates used this plant in some

  of their rituals.  It was administered by experienced

  people who understood the dangers.

 

 

NAME         Birch

LATIN        Betula

CELTIC       Beith / Beithe / Beth / Beite

SUBSTITUTE   Willow / Rowan

ALPHABET     B

TYPE         tree

ASSOCIATED   sun god / 5 / divining (self-propagation) /

             white

TIME PERIOD  Dec 24 - Jan 20 / winter solstice (Dec 21-22)

USE          divining rods / marriage acceptance / flogging

             rods / maypoles / medicine / dye / brooms

REMARKS      The birch represented the letter B in the Tree

  Alphabet.  The tree was important to the druids and

  associated with the sun god because it represented new

  beginnings.  Because the tree was self-propagating, it was

  also considered ideal for divining.

       When a maiden accepted the advances of a young man,

  she signalled her acceptance by giving him a birch branch.

  Flogging rods of birch were used to drive out unwanted

  spirits in a person, and also to beat the boundaries of a

  field and to drive out the spirits of the old year.  This

  was done during the leafing season of March-April when the

  planting of spring wheat took place.  Willow and rowan were

  sometimes used in place of birch.

       Brooms were sometimes made from the twigs of birch

  bound with willow to a handle of ashwood.  The bark was

  used to make a fawn-colored dye.  The leaf buds, bark and

  sap were all used for medicinal purposes, including the

  treatment of kidney and urinary disorders, rheumatism and

  arthritis.  Birch ash or charcoal is an excellent remedy

  for acid stomach.

       The silver birch has long yellow male catkins hanging

  in groups, and shorter female catkins which start out green

  and then turn brown, releasing seeds housed in brown

  double-winged pods.  The tree is often found growing in

  heather-covered moors.

 

 

NAME         Blackberry

LATIN        Rubus fruticosus

CELTIC       Muir / Dreas-smeur

ALTERNATIVE  Bramble

SUBSTITUTE   grape vine / raspberry

ALPHABET     M

TYPE         vines

ASSOCIATED   divining (use helpers) / 6

TIME PERIOD  September 2-29 / autumn equinox (Sep 22-23)

USE          wine / medicine / dyes

REMARKS      The blackberry produces white flowers and sweet

  tasty berries on a hardy thorny creeping vine.  The Celts

  had a law, still observed in Devon and Cornwall, that the

  berries were not to be eaten after September.  They were a

  substitute for grapevines at the festival of autumn

  equinox.  The blackberry has a high concentration of

  natural sugar and make an excellent wine.  Many hillfort

  sites still have blackberry bushes in their vicinity.

       The plant was used at least until AD 18th century by

  the Scottish Highlanders for dying their clothing, giving

  various colors (red, dark orange, blue or purple) according

  to the maturity of the fruit.  The berry juice was also

  used for gum diseases, mouth ulcers and throat infections

  as well as kidney disorders.  A tea of new shoots in the

  spring could provide minerals to the depleted body store

  and stimulate the kidneys to eliminate wastes.

       When the blackberry plant was indicated during

  divining, it suggested the need for a helper, just as the

  plant itself needs a support on which to climb.  The Celtic

  name of the plant was used to denote the letter M in the

  Celtic Tree Alphabet.

 

 

NAME         Blackthorn

LATIN        Prunus spinosa

ALTERNATIVE  Sloe

CELTIC       Preas nan airneag

SUBSTITUTE   Red Bearberry

ALPHABET     Z

TYPE         bush

USE          food / blue-black dye / shillelaghs

SEE ALSO     Zeus

REMARKS      The bush has black thorny bark and clustered

  white flowers which open in late March.  The edible blue-

  black berries (sloes) are ripe from August to October.  The

  plants were used for making blue-black dyes.  The wood was

  used to make the Irish shillelagh or fighting stick.

 

 

NAME         Blueberry

LATIN        Vaccinium myrtillus

CELTIC       Dearc bhraoileag

ALTERNATIVE  Bilberry / whortleberry / whinberry

SUBSTITUTE   Blueberry and alum / elder and alum

TYPE         plant

USE          food / medicine / blue dye

REMARKS      The blueberry is a small shrub with rosy-green

  flowers in April-June and a small blue-black berry which

  ripens in summer.  The edible berries are astringent and

  rich in vitamins.  They were recommended for alleviation of

  diarrhoea, nausea, ulcers, liver and pancreas disorders,

  and as a tonic when recovering from sickness.

       The berries also produce a blue or purple dye, and

  were being used for that purpose as late as AD 18th century

  in the Scottish Highlands.  For dying purposes, they were

  combined with verdigris and sal ammoniac, or with alum.

  Verdigris is prepared by soaking copper in wine dredges

  (acetic acid) which produces a green pigment.  Sal ammoniac

  is a crude form of ammonia made from hart antlers.

 

 

NAME         Borage

LATIN        Borago officinalis

TYPE         plant

TIME PERIOD  flowers in summer

REMARKS      The borage plant is easy to spot with its blue

  star-shaped flowers and its grey-green leaves.  Borage was

  added to wine for its exhilarating effect, and was

  sometimes also eaten raw before going into battle.  It

  makes a good cold drink and has been used in the treatment

  of respiratory ailments.

 

 

NAME         Boxtree

LATIN        Buxus sempervirens

ALTERNATIVE  Boxwood

TYPE         tree

USE          musical instruments

SEE ALSO     Buxenos

REMARKS      The boxtree is a small-leaved evergreen, with

  wood so heavy that it will sink in water.  The close grain

  made it an ideal material for musical instruments.  In

  April the tree produces small yellow flowers.

 

 

NAME         Broom

LATIN        Cytisus scoparius

CELTIC       Bealaidh

SUBSTITUTE   Wild Mignonette and Indigo / Furze bark

TYPE         bush

USE          dyes / staves for darts and spears

REMARKS      The broom bush grows profusely on heathland and

  produces flowers of a vivid yellow color.  The branches

  were traditionally used for sweeping (brooms).

       An infusion of the tops was reputed to aid in bladder

  and kidney diseases and restore normal rhythm to a feeble

  irregular heartbeat, but only when administered in

  carefully-monitored small doses, otherwise causing

  respiratory paralysis.

       The plants were also used to produce dyes, either

  bright green when used by itself, or pale blue when mixed

  with elder, using alum as a fixative.

 

 

NAME         Buckthorn

LATIN        Rhamnus catharticus

CELTIC       Ramh-droighionn

SUBSTITUTE   Crab-apple / Ash / Poplar / Elm

TYPE         tree

USE          Yellow dye / medicine

REMARKS      The plant produces small yellow-green clusters

  of flowers, and a black berry-like fruit which has strong

  purgative qualities.  Yellow dye was made from the unripe

  fruits, and the bark was used in a remedy for constipation

  as well as for eliminating tapeworm.

 

 

NAME         Cherry

LATIN        Prunus avium

CELTIC       Silín / Ceiriosen

ALTERNATIVE  Gean

USE          food / medicine

REMARKS      In April the buds of the wild cherry emerge a

  bronze color then turn green at the same time as clusters

  of large white pink flowers begin to blossom.  The edible

  berry is bright red to deep purple.

       The wood of the tree was hard and the bark was used in

  infusions as a remedy for coughs and as a sedative.

 

 

NAME         Chestnut

LATIN        Castanea sativa

CELTIC       Castan

TYPE         tree

USE          food / medicine / fodder / furniture

REMARKS      The chestnut tree can grow to 100 ft (30 m) with

  large spreading branches, long shiny toothed leaves,

  catkins, and nuts inside spiky pods.

       Chestnuts were an important food supply for the Celts,

  being eaten raw, boiled, roasted and dried.  The dried

  chestnuts were smoked and then ground into a meal used to

  make a porridge.  Some were left to fatten pigs and goats.

       The leaves were used for treatment of pulmonary

  disorders, and the wood of the tree was used for building

  and in furniture making.

 

 

NAME         Cloudberry

LATIN        Rubus chamaemorus

CELTIC       Lus na h-Oighreig

SUBSTITUTE   Watercress / Bitter Vetch

TYPE         plant

USE          food / violet dye

REMARKS      The cloudberry is a shrub which produces single

  white flowers on long stems and an edible orange-red berry.

  The plant was used to produce a violet-colored dye.

 

 

NAME         Club Moss

LATIN        Lycopodium clavatum

CELTIC       Garbhag-an-t-Sleibhe

TYPE         plant

USE          medicine / red dye / dye fixative

REMARKS      The club moss is not a true moss but has tiny

  leaves and branches that creep along the ground and the

  spores are highly inflammable.

       The plant was used in remedies for urinary troubles

  and gout.  It was also used in dying cloth, both to produce

  a red dye and as a fixative, substituting for the mineral

  alum.

 

 

NAME         Cudbear

CELTIC       Crotal Geal

SUBSTITUTE   Spindle and sal ammonia / sundew / blueberry and

             alum / crowberry and alum (or club moss) / Murex

TYPE         lichen

USE          crimson or purple dye / medicine

REMARKS      Cudbear has long been used for making dyes in

  the Scottish Highlands.  The process started with sun-

  drying the lichen, then pulverizing it and steeping it in

  urine.

       The old people claim that socks dyed with this lichen

  will leave the wearer free from blisters and swollen feet

  when walking long distances.  An alternative source of

  purple dye was the shellfish known as Murex, introduced to

  the Celts by the Phoenicians.

 

 

NAME         Dandelion

LATIN        Taraxacum officinale

CELTIC       Bearnan-bride

TYPE         plant

USE          food / medicine / magenta dye

REMARKS      The dandelion is a well-known perennial herb

  with bright yellow flowers.  The leaves are edible, and the

  roots are used in the treatment of liver and kidney

  disorders and as a laxative.  The plant was also used to

  produce a magenta dye.

 

 

NAME         Doveweed

LATIN        Scabiosa

ALTERNATIVE  Pincushion flower

TYPE         plant

ASSOCIATED   druidic ritual

USE          medicine / ritual

REMARKS      The plant has small clustered flowers that

  protrude from the head like pins in a cushion.  The flowers

  can be blue, purple, crimson, pink or white and the plant

  was known to combat itchy skin.

 

 

NAME         Elder

LATIN        Sambucus niger

CELTIC       Ruis / Trom

ALPHABET     R

TYPE         bush

ASSOCIATED   death / doom / divining (passage by force) /

             moon goddess / protection against witches / 15

TIME PERIOD  Nov 25 - Dec 22 / winter solstice (Dec 21-22) /

             midsummer the plant flowers

USE          dyes / wine / medicine / flutes

REMARKS      The white flowers of the elder bush make a good

  clear scented wine and the black berries are used to make

  an equally appealing red wine.  Because it had white

  flowers, black berries and produced a fine red wine, the

  elder was associated with the moon goddess and with death.

       The berries were also used as a source of winter food

  high in vitamin C, and the flowers and inner bark had value

  as a laxative and a cold medicine.  An infusion of the

  leaves could function as an insecticide.  Elder mixed with

  broom with the addition of alum as a fixative produced a

  pale blue dye.

       The Manx used to make flutes from the wood.  Elder

  sticks were reputed to have magical qualities and the wood

  was not to be burnt because it would bring bad luck.  It

  was chosen to represent the letter R in the Tree Alphabet.

 

 

NAME         Elm

LATIN        Ulmus montana

CELTIC       Leamhan / Llwyfen

USE          cattle fodder

REMARKS      The elm is a large tree, up to 80 ft (25 m)

  high, which grows best in alluvial loam.  Its red flowers

  appear in February.  The seeds of the elm are positioned in

  the center of a flat oblong-shaped kite.  The tree has

  supple twigs called wyches, and produces a good wood for

  building.  In early times the leaves of the elm tree were

  used to feed cattle.

 

 

NAME         Flax

LATIN        Linum usitatissimum

CELTIC       Líon / Llin

TYPE         plant

USE          linen / food / basketry

SEE ALSO     Diarmuid mac Cearbhail

REMARKS      Flax is an annual plant, 3-3½ ft (1 m) high and

  without branches.  Its flowers are usually blue and the

  pollen grains are either blue or yellow.  Its round fruit

  has 5 compartments each containing 2 brown oily lens-shaped

  seeds.  These are edible and nutritious, containing a fatty

  acid essential to the human metabolism.  Linseed poultices

  are recommended for rheumatism, boils and abcesses.  Mixed

  with bran it makes a good feed for horses, though poisonous

  if improperly prepared.

       The cultivation of the flax plant was widespread from

  very early times.  The flax sheaves are soaked in water for

  8-10 days until they ferment, allowing separation of the

  outside and inside layers.  The fiber is then removed after

  drying, then spun and woven into linen.  It was also used

  for weaving baskets.

       It was prophesied that Diarmuid mac Cearbhail would

  die while wearing a night-shirt made of linen from a single

  flax seed.

 

 

NAME         Furze

LATIN        Ulex europaeus

CELTIC       Onn / Eythin

ALTERNATIVE  Gorse

SUBSTITUTE   Spindle Tree

ALPHABET     O

TYPE         bush

ASSOCIATED   moon goddess / protection from spells / bee

             goddess / divining (spindle tree)

TIME PERIOD  crescent moons / spring equinox (Mar 20-21)

USE          kindling / dye / honey / hedges

SEE ALSO     On-niona

REMARKS      During the spring equinox, furze fires were lit

  on the hilltops and the new flowers would attract the first

  bees of the year which would make a sacred mead.  It was

  also a good source of kindling for cooking and baking

  fires.

       The bush is very prickly, creating good hedges to

  contain livestock, and displays intense yellow flowers. The

  Scottish Highlanders used this plant to produce a bright-

  green dye well into AD 18th century.  Furze denoted the

  letter O in the Celtic Tree Alphabet.

 

 

NAME         Grape Vine

CELTIC       Muin

SUBSTITUTE   Blackberry

ALPHABET     M

TYPE         woody vine

ASSOCIATED   divining (use helpers) / 6

TIME PERIOD  September 2-29 / autumn equinox (Sep 22-23)

USE          wine

REMARKS      The grapevine is the oldest reference to the M

  in the tree alphabet although the blackberry is also a

  noble choice.  As a divining tool it represented the need

  of helpers or support.  The vine produces red and white

  grapes giving a variety of drinks much sought after by the

  Celts.  Grapevine ash is highly alkaline and was used to

  neutral stomach acids.

       Because of the warmer climate the vine was grown

  widely in all Celtic countries during the Bronze Age

  including the British Isles and the Baltic regions.  As the

  weather of Europe cooled, the growing of wine grapes moved

  farther south.  During AD 12th century the weather of

  England cooled enough to kill thousands of vineyards.

 

 

NAME         Guelder Rose

LATIN        Viburnum opulus

CELTIC       Peith

ALTERNATIVE  Whitten / Water-elder

SUBSTITUTE   reed

ALPHABET     P

TYPE         bush

ASSOCIATED   7

TIME PERIOD  Oct 28 - Nov 24 / Samhain (Nov 6-7)

USE          food / medicine

REMARKS      The guelder rose is part of the honeysuckle

  family, producing nectar-secreting flowers in June and

  leaves that turn crimson in the fall.  The flowers are

  complex, with large stark white blossoms surrounding a

  cluster of much smaller creamy-white ones.

       The large and translucent red berries are edible when

  cooked and the bark was used for medicinal purposes as a

  strong muscle relaxant and an asthma remedy.

       The rose supplied the letter P and was a Brythonic

  substitute for the Gaelic Ng in the Tree Alphabet.  Ng

  stands for ngetal, or reed.

 

 

NAME         Hawkweed

LATIN        Hieracium

TYPE         herb

ASSOCIATED   druids

USE          medicine / ritual

REMARKS      The plant has yellow or orange flowers,

  alternate leaves and a milky-looking juice.  It was used by

  the druids for medicinal purposes.

 

 

NAME         Hawthorn

LATIN        Crataegus oxyacantha

CELTIC       Huath / Uath

ALTERNATIVE  Whitethorn / Mayflower / Quickset

ALPHABET     H

TYPE         tree

ASSOCIATED   0 / white / red / black / sacred wells / moon

             goddess

TIME PERIOD  May 13 - June 9 / Beltainn (May 4-5)

USE          food / medicine / ritual

SEE ALSO     Isbaddaden

REMARKS      The fragrant hawthorn blossoms were associated

  with the moon goddess.  The flowers appear in May with

  dense clusters of 5-petalled white flowers which turn pink

  as they mature.  Any early blossoms would be present during

  the Beltainn festival.  The edible fruit ripens from a deep

  red to a purple in September and hangs in groups of 3.

       The leaves are also edible and have sedative

  qualities.  Besides the useful function of aiding the

  removal of splinters and thorns, the haws contain

  ingredients said to strengthen the heart and blood vessels

  and help regulate hypertension and other nervous

  irregularities.

       Because of the association the flowers had with the

  fertility rights of Beltainn, the Christian religion tried

  to associate the hawthorn with abstinence from sex and an

  unlucky time to marry.

       Many of the sacred wells have hawthorn growing near

  them and the Celtic name of the tree was used to represent

  the letter H in the Celtic Tree Alphabet.

 

 

NAME         Hazel

LATIN        Corylus avellana

CELTIC       Coll / Collen

ALPHABET     C

TYPE         tree - chieftain

ASSOCIATED   knowledge / wisdom / inspiration / 9 / orange

             and hazel / divining (destruction) sacred food /

             marriage refusal /

TIME PERIOD  Aug 5 - Sept 1 / Lughnasadh (Aug 7-8) / nutting

             season

USE          shields / wattle / fences / baskets

SEE ALSO     Camulos / Fionn

REMARKS      The hazel was the tree which represented C in

  the Celtic Tree Alphabet.  It was considered a divine tree

  and cutting one down could incur the death penalty.

       To the Celts, the hazelnut was the symbol of wisdom.

  An Irish topographical treatise (The Rennes Dinnshenchas)

  describes "The Well of Connla", a spring-fed pool around

  which grew the 9 Hazel Trees of Poetic Inspiration.  The

  nuts from the trees (Nuts of Wisdom) fell into the pool and

  fed the Salmon of Knowledge.

       A forked hazel stick was used to dowse for water.

  Druids carried white (no bark) hazel wands, and apart from

  being a good divining rod material it was associated with

  curses.  During divination, the selection of the hazel

  related to destruction, loss, conclusion or culmination of

  events.  If a young maiden wanted to stop the advances of a

  male, she gave him a branch of hazel.

       The oily nuts are quite delicious to eat.  Nutting

  season traditionally began on the new moon in the autumn.

  The long twigs of the hazel were used for making baskets,

  wattles and fences.  The wood was also used in the making

  of shields.

 

 

NAME         Heather

LATIN        Calluna vulgaris

CELTIC       Ura / Fraoch-bhadain

ALTERNATIVE  Ling

ALPHABET     U

TYPE         plant

ASSOCIATED   moon goddess / red / bees / divining (to cover

             over)

TIME PERIOD  half moons / summer solstice (Jun 21-22)

USE          roof thatch / mattresses / brooms / honey / dye

SEE ALSO     Artio

REMARKS      The heather plant has tiny overlapping leaves

  and rosy-purple flowers that make a distinctive-tasting

  honey.  It was important to Artio, the moon goddess.  When

  uprooted just before flowering, the branches and stems were

  well suited for making brooms, thatched roofs and  mattress

  stuffing.  Heather was also used to produce a dark-green

  dye.

       In Scotland, white heather was considered luckier than

  red heather because it was not stained by the blood of the

  Picts.  The plant denoted the letter U in the Celtic Tree

  Alphabet and when divining it signified "to cover over".

 

 

NAME         Holly

LATIN        Ilex aquifolium

CELTIC       Tinne / Kelynn

ALPHABET     T

TYPE         tree - chieftain

ASSOCIATED   waning half of the sun year / lion / holly club

             / divining (to bind) / 11

TIME PERIOD  July 8 - August 4 / Lughnasadh (Aug 7-8) /

             flowers in May

USE          timber / chariot shafts / darts / poison /

             medicine

SEE ALSO     Llew / Lugh / Teutates

REMARKS      The holly is an evergreen with red or yellow

  berries and shiny leaves, usually dark green, with sharp

  points.  The trees usually flower in May and would be

  present for the Beltainn festival.  The berries ripen in

  September, usually to a red color, and will last through

  the winter.  The trees are bisexual.

       Although the holly berries are poisonous, the leaves

  and bark were valued in remedies for digestive disorders,

  liver complaints and colic.  The wood was used for

  building, for chariot shafts, and for darts, easily coated

  with poison from the berries.

       Holly was the club of the god associated with the lion

  of the wanning half of the year.  The holly was chosen to

  represent the letter T in the Tree Alphabet.  As a divining

  tool the holly represented binding.

 

 

NAME         Hops

LATIN        Humulus lupulus

TYPE         plant

USE          medicine / food

REMARKS      The stems of the hop plant grow each year from

  an underground root, and extend little tendrils which hook

  onto any available support with a clockwise twisting.

       Pillows of the leaves were used to induce sleep, and

  the long-haired variety of the plant was powdered and then

  steeped to produce a calming tea with the same effect.  The

  young shoots are edible when cooked.  An important use of

  the hop flowers was in the flavoring of ale.

 

 

NAME         Iris

LATIN        Iris

ALTERNATIVE  Flag

TYPE         herb

USE          medicine / drink / dye

REMARKS      The iris has beautiful large-petalled fowers and

  long narrow leaves.  It grows best in marshlands.  The

  seeds were used in a beverage, and dye was available from

  the plant: in the case of yellow iris, the root produced

  black dye and the flower produced yellow.

       The blue iris was poisonous to livestock and could

  only be used with great caution by humans, but contains

  elements recommended in the treatment of skin conditions,

  gastritis, migraines, poor circulation, obesity and other

  disorders.  An extract from the root of the iris produces a

  good antiseptic.

 

 

NAME         Ivy

LATIN        Hedera helix

CELTIC       Gath / Gort

ALPHABET     G

TYPE         vine

ASSOCIATED   druidic ritual / blue / divining (serpentine) /

             sun god / fall equinox / 10

TIME PERIOD  September 30 - October 27 / Beltainn (May 4-5)

USE          ivy ale (toxic) / medicine

SEE ALSO     Artio

REMARKS      The leaves of the ivy are thick and glossy,

  usually dark green, and the plant produces yellow-green

  flowers in the fall.  Ivy leaves and bark provide a

  substance which neutralizes bee and wasp stings.

       The ivy vine had very strong serpentine qualities

  linking it with rebirth, and was important to the fall

  equinox festival.  Ivy grows around elms in many areas and

  around silver fir in others.  The leaves were used to

  collect Beltainn dew.  A very poisonous and hallucinatory

  drink called ivy ale was made from the small blue-black

  berries.

       The Gaelic name Gort was used to represent the letter

  G in the Tree Alphabet.

 

 

NAME         Lichen

CELTIC       Crotal

TYPE         plant

USE          dye

REMARKS      Lichens are composed of two parts: algae and

  fungi, which live symbiotically.  They can withstand long

  periods of extreme cold and heat, salt water immersion,

  snow covering, constant shade, etc.  Various lichens were

  used in the Highlands of Scotland until well into AD 18th

  century to produce different colors of dye.

       The dark lichen (crotal dubh) produced a dark crimson

  color; limestone lichen (crotal clach-aoil) produced

  scarlet; rock lichen (crotal-nan-creag) produced dark-red;

  white corcar lichen (crotal corcuir) mixed with urine

  produced a bright crimson; and stone lichen or common

  yellow wall lichen produced a brown dye.

 

 

NAME         Lungs of Oak

CELTIC       Crotal coille

ALTERNATIVE  Lungwort Lichen / Tree Lungwort

TYPE         plant

USE          light brown dye / medicine

REMARKS      This lichen grows on the bark of old trees,

  especially oak, and its resemblance to lungs may have

  suggested its suitability for treating pulmonary

  conditions.  The plants were also used to produce a brown

  dye.

 

 

NAME         Madder

LATIN        Rubia tinctorum

CELTIC       Moly

TYPE         plant

USE          red to maroon dyes / medicine

REMARKS      The plant has a tangle of black roots and

  yellowish white flowers.  The roots contains alizarin

  which, although yellow, will produce light-fast red to

  maroon dyes when mixed with a fixative such as alum.  The

  dye could be used on wood and a variety of cloth.

       Madder was known to be an antidote for many of the

  ancient drugs.  It is also reputed to stop kidney stones

  from forming or dissolve existing ones.

 

 

NAME         Mandrake

LATIN        Mandragora officinarum

ALTERNATIVE  Love apple

TYPE         perennial herb

USE          medicinal - narcotic / anaesthetic

REMARKS      The plant has thick fleshy roots which resemble

  a human in shape, large oblong lance-shaped leaves, and

  white-blue flowers with a fetid smell.  All parts of the

  plant are poisonous and narcotic, but were used with

  caution as an anaesthetic.  It was sacred to the druids,

  and its possession was said to bring good fortune as well

  as being able to drive out evil spirits from the possessed.

 

 

NAME         Marjoram

LATIN        Origanum vulgare

TYPE         plant

USE          medicinal

REMARKS      Marjoram is a prennial plant with pink or purple

  flowers.  It produced a good nerve tonic, cured headaches,

  increases urine and stimulates bowel movements.  The oil

  can be used as a pain-killer.  The flower was used in dying

  wool, producing a purple color.  Marjoram is also liked by

  honeybees.

 

 

NAME         Meadow Saffron

LATIN        Colchicum autumnale

ALTERNATIVE  Autumn Crocus / Pig Killer

TYPE         plant

ASSOCIATED   druidic ritual

USE          ritual / medicine

REMARKS      Meadow saffron has long slender leaves in the

  spring and pale purple crocus-like flowers in the fall. The

  plant should be regarded as poisonous.

       It is a highly toxic plant which was used by the

  druids in their rituals.  A tincture prepared from the

  dried bulbs and/or seeds was used in the treatment of gout

  and rheumatism, as well as for an eyewash.

 

 

NAME         Meadowsweet

LATIN        Filipendula ulmaria / spiraea ulmaria

CELTIC       Lus chneas Chuchuilinn

ALTERNATIVE  Queen of the Meadows / Bridewort

SUBSTITUTE   Water-flag root, alder, common dock root, oak

             bark and acorns

TYPE         plant

USE          black dye / medicine

REMARKS      The herb Meadowsweet has long lobed leaves,

  downy white on the underside, and fragrant clusters of

  small creamy white flowers on long stiff stems.

       The plant contains salicylic acid and was found useful

  in treating rheumatism, fever, stomach upsets, urinary

  infections and skin eruptions.  The plants were also used

  for making black dye.

 

 

NAME         Mistletoe

LATIN        Viscum album

CELTIC       Drualus / Uchelwydd

ALTERNATIVE  All Heal

ALPHABET     II

TYPE         plant

ASSOCIATED   moon goddess / druidic ritual / the spirit of

             the oak in winter / moon / sun

TIME PERIOD  fall equinox (Sept 22-23) / waxing half moon

USE          medicine

REMARKS      Mistletoe, a sacred plants to the druids, was

  collected on the sixth day (waxing half) of a new moon. The

  plant grows on its host in spherical clumps while its roots

  live in The Otherworld between the bark and the tree. Omen-

  sticks or divining rods (Coel-Creni) were cut on the eve of

  summer solstice and had the power to find hidden treasures,

  drive away evil spirits and find the way to the

  Netherworld.

       Because the mistletoe stays green during winter while

  the host loses its leaves, it was said to hold the spirit

  of the oak tree in winter, a female plant containing the

  male soul.  The berries of the mistletoe are silver in the

  sunlight, golden in the moonlight, and change from white to

  gold when cut.  The Golden Bough is the branch of the

  mistletoe.

       The berries were considered an all-heal and an

  aphrodisiac.  Chemical analysis shows that the plant

  contains cholin, acetylcholin and viscotoxin and all three

  will reduce high blood pressure, thin the blood, and give

  back elasticity to the blood vessels.  A tea made from the

  crushed leaves was recommended to ease the pain of

  malignant ulcers, the berries were used to help cramps, and

  the oak mistletoe in particular is said to be helpful in

  the treatment of epilepsy.  Apart from its healing powers,

  mistletoe was reputed to confer the power to see ghosts.

       The most common host trees of the mistletoe in England

  and the French lowlands are apple and black poplar, while

  in the French highlands and the Rhine valley the Scots pine

  is more typical.  A variety of mistletoe from eastern

  Europe seems to enjoy having the oak as a host and was

  considered sacred.

 

 

NAME         Mugwort

LATIN        Artemisia vulgaris

TYPE         plant

ASSOCIATED   fertility

TIME PERIOD  midsummer festival

USE          medicine

SEE ALSO     Artemis

REMARKS      The herb is a perennial with tough reddish

  stems, pointed-segment leaves and small reddish-yellow

  flower groups.  It was the alternative to St John's Wort to

  be worn on Midsummer's eve and day and was associated with

  fertility rites, probably because of its contraceptive

  qualities.

       An infusion of the flowers was recommended for

  rheumatism, and the plant's bitter qualities could aid

  digestive ailments.  In addition, footwear would be lined

  with mugwort leaves to alleviate fatigue on long treks.

       The related aromatic wormwood (artemisia absinthium)

  was also used medicinely against fever and worms, and for

  improving digestion, but requires extreme caution due to

  its potential for causing heart damage and hallucinations.

 

 

NAME         Mulberry

LATIN        Morus

CELTIC       Morwydden

TYPE         tree - sacred

TIME PERIOD  spring equinox

USE          sacred wine

SEE ALSO     the Great Mother

REMARKS      The mulberry was the sacred fruit of the triple

  goddess (The Great Mother).  The berries were used to make

  the sacred wine which was drunk in her honor during the

  spring equinox.

 

 

NAME         Myrtle

LATIN        Myrtus

CELTIC       Roid / Myrtwydd

SUBSTITUTE   Bracken

TYPE         plant

USE          Yellow dye / flavoring

REMARKS      The most widespread European variety of the

  myrtle plant has dark green leaves which can be used in

  cooking, fragrant white flowers and sweet purple berries.

  The variant bog myrtle was used by the Scottish Highlanders

  until well into the 18th century for producing a yellow

  dye.

 

 

NAME         Oak

LATIN        Quercus

CELTIC       Duir / Dair / Dur / Derwen

ALPHABET     D

TYPE         tree - chieftain

ASSOCIATED   death and rebirth / bull / sun / oak club / 12 /

             golden brown-black / black /  white

TIME PERIOD  Jun 10 - Jul 7 / winter solstice (Dec 21-22) /

             waxing half of the year / summer solstices (Jun

             21-22)

USE          bread / drink / boar food / carvings / black dye

             / medicine / building / shillelagh

SEE ALSO     Belenos / Cu Chulainn / Dianos / Daghda /

             Ferghus mac Roig / Fionn / Taranis / Zeus

REMARKS      To the Celts, the mighty oak was thought to be

  the most handsome of trees and the acorn and its cup

  represented the male and female principle.  The doorway to

  the otherworld was made of oak because the tree's foliage

  and its roots were mirror images.

       Oak was the club of the bull god who was born at

  winter solstice and ruled the waxing half of the year.  It

  was the symbol for the Celtic Tree Alphabet in general and

  also represents the letter D, which signifies the waxing

  half of the year.  The oak was also associated with thunder

  and lightning.

       The strong wood of the oak tree was invaluable and

  trunks were sunk into the ground to make the walls of a

  raith.  Its timbers were used in the construction of large

  ships, and oak planks made excellent sturdy doors (Dianos).

  The oak was also used to make shillelaghs or Irish fighting

  sticks.

       The nuts of the oak, or acorns, were a favorite food

  of the wild boars.  The Celts ground acorns into a flour

  for making bread.  The acorns made an excellent drink as

  well; the bitter taste was expelled by burying the acorns

  in ash or charcoal and sprinkling them with water.

       The bark of the oak was recognized for its medicinal

  value, said to enhance the effect of clay poultices on

  tumors and to add to the benefits of salt baths for

  relaxing.  A black dye from the bark and acorns of the oak

  was still produced by the Scottish Highlanders until well

  into AD 18th century.

       An oak tree can live for up to 2000 years and will not

  produce acorns until 60 or 70 years old.  They like rich

  loam soil and if grown close together will produce tall

  straight trees with few lateral branches.  Oak apples are

  growths on the tree caused by gall-wasps.

 

 

NAME         Pear

LATIN        Pyrus

USE          winter food

REMARKS      The pear trees known to the Celts were rather

  short and bristly with white flowers that appear by April

  and somewhat hard but edible fruit which provided a

  valuable winter food source.

 

 

NAME         Pine

LATIN        Pinus

TYPE         tree - chieftain

USE          timber / posts / masts / medicine

REMARKS      The pine is a coniferous evergreen tree with

  needles clustered in groups of 2 to 5.  The tree is bi-

  sexual and has male and female flowers which are on

  different branches.  The female flowers develop into pine-

  cones which require two or three years to ripen.  The Scots

  pine will grow up to 130 ft (40 m) tall with few lower

  branches.

       The wood was used for many building purposes.  Chewing

  on pine buds was reputed to be good for catarrh.  Crushed

  buds or needles were used in poultices for sprains, and the

  buds would also combat scurvy, as they contain vitamin C.

 

 

NAME         Pomegranate

LATIN        Punica granatum

TYPE         tree

ASSOCIATED   fertility / healing

SEE ALSO     Here / Nehalennia

REMARKS      The pomegranate tree has small lanced shaped

  leaves and has clusters of red flowers.  The fruit was a

  symbol of fertility, healing and the Underworld.  It is a

  red gold in colour and is completely filled with edible

  seed.  The rind was used for tanning leather.

 

 

NAME         Poplar

LATIN        Populus

CELTIC       Critheann

SUBSTITUTE   Buckthorn / Ash / Crab-apple / Elm

TYPE         tree

USE          Yellow dye

REMARKS      The poplar tree grows quickly and can reach good

  heights.  The flowers appear in hanging catkins, and the

  female ones (on a different tree from the male) develop

  into seeds with cottony hairs for transport on the wind.

  The male black poplar produces masses of red catkins in

  April.  A yellow dye was made from the tree.

 

 

NAME         Primrose

LATIN        Primula vulgaris

CELTIC       Sabhraicin / Briallen

TYPE         plant (herb)

ASSOCIATED   good luck / sun god

TIME PERIOD  Beltainn festival / April

USE          ritual

REMARKS      On the Isle of Man, the primrose is considered

  to be a lucky plant and sacred to the Fay Folk.  Primroses

  were picked on the eve of the Beltainn festival, then

  spread over the walkways and in front of homes for good

  luck.  The funnel-shaped flowers which begin to appear in

  April come in two forms, both pale yellow like the new sun.

 

 

NAME         Ragwort

CELTIC       Cushag / Buadhghallan

ALTERNATIVE  Ragweed

SUBSTITUTE   Barberry / Peat soot

TYPE         plant (herb)

USE          orange dye / medicine

REMARKS      Ragwort is a small plant with bright yellow

  flowers and deep-lobed leaves.  These plants were used in

  the Highlands of Scotland up until AD 18th century for

  producing an orange dye.  The Manx use the plant, which is

  their national flower, as an antidote to infections.

 

 

NAME         Reed

LATIN        Phragmites communis

CELTIC       Ngetal, Ngedal

SUBSTITUTE   Guelder-rose

ALPHABET     NG

TYPE         water plant

ASSOCIATED   clear yellow-green

TIME PERIOD  October 28 - November 24 / Samhain (Nov 6-7)

USE          roof thatch / musical instruments

REMARKS      The stem of the reed grows straight and tall,

  the leaves are broad and flat, and the purple flowers are

  in a plume.  It grows in wet areas, at the borders of lakes

  and slow-moving rivers as well as by the seashore and was

  usually cut around November.

       Reeds or wheatstraw was used for the thatching of

  houses and making reeds for musical instruments.  The reed

  represented the letter Ng in the Gaelic Tree Alphabet, but

  as the Brythonic had no such letter, they substituted P for

  Peith (Guelder Rose).

 

 

NAME         Rose

LATIN        Rosa canina

CELTIC       Rós / Rhosyn

TYPE         tree

USE          food / medicine

REMARKS      The flower of the wild rose is pink or white in

  color, and when the blossoms fall they leave berries, or

  rosehips.  The rosehips are a rich source of Vitamin C, a

  crucial element in the diet during the winter months for

  preventing scurvy, a disease that would cause hair and

  teeth to fall out, giving an aged appearance.

       The concentration of the vitamin in Scottish varieties

  of wild roses has been found to exceed those in southern

  England by several hundred percent.  They also contain

  mineral salts including calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and

  silica.

 

 

NAME         Rowan

LATIN        Pyrus aucuparia

CELTIC       Luis

ALTERNATIVE  Mountain Ash / Quickbeam / Quicken

SUBSTITUTE   willow / Ivy / blackberry / elder / juniper

ALPHABET     L

TYPE         tree - chieftain

ASSOCIATED   tree of life / 14 / dark charcoal-grey /

             divining (fluid) / dowsing metals

TIME PERIOD  Jan 21 - 17 Feb / Imbolic (Feb 3-4)

USE          druids drink / sacred fires / sacred food /

             medicine / timber / chieftains' chairs / shafts

             of weapons

SEE ALSO     Froech / Diarmaid / Grainne / Brighid

REMARKS      Rowan wood was used in battle fires to attract

  helpful spirits, and also used for the Samhain fires. Rowan

  thickets were used as oracles.  During tree divining, the

  selection of rowan indicated fluidity.  The rowan itself

  was also used to divine in association with a newly flayed

  bull's hide.

       Rowan wands were used for various functions, such as

  providing protection against lightning, searching for

  metals, controlling bewitched horses and forcing demons to

  answer difficult questions.  A rowan stake through a corpse

  was said to immobilize its spirit.  Rowan wood was also

  used in the construction of spinning wheels and spindles.

       Rowan berries were a sacred food which would replace

  nine meals.  They were guarded by dragons (warriors), were

  used to heal wounded warriors and were said to add a year

  to a person's life.  Rowan berries, apples and hazelnuts

  made a good infusion and were considered the three foods of

  the gods.

       The berries also were recommended as a remedy for

  hoarseness.  The rowan's creamy-white flower clusters open

  in May and its spherical fruits are scarlet red by August.

  Rowan represented the letter L in the Celtic Tree Alphabet.

 

 

NAME         Rue

LATIN        Ruta graveolens

CELTIC       Bun-an-Ruadh

ALTERNATIVE  Herb-of-Grace / Herby Grass

SUBSTITUTE   Tormentil / Yellow bedstraw

TYPE         herb

USE          bright-red dye / medicine

REMARKS      The rue plant is a small shrub whose leaves were

  used medicinally.  In small doses it was a good stimulant

  and emetic.  Care had to be taken not to boil it during the

  preparation and not to administer it during pregnancy.  The

  root was used for producing a bright-red clothing dye.

 

 

NAME         Saffron

LATIN        Crocus sativus

CELTIC       Blath a' Chroich

TYPE         herb

USE          saffron dye / flavoring

REMARKS      The saffron plant is a type of crocus with

  grass-like leaves and light-purple flowers with orange

  stigma and style.  The orange part produces a strong

  aromatic spice as well as a brilliant dye.

 

 

NAME         Shamrock

VARIATIONS   Shamrook / Shamrog

TYPE         herb

TIME PERIOD  veneral equinox

USE          clover - medicinal / salads / honeybee food

             wood sorrel - slightly edible / oxalic acid

SEE ALSO     Olwen

REMARKS      The shamrock is a three-leafed plant but its

  specific identity is not clear; it may be wood sorrel

  (oxalis acetosella), clover (trifolium), black nonesuch

  (medicago lupulina) or alfalfa (medicago sativa).

       The wood sorrel has tiny white flowers veined with

  purple.  It contains oxalic acid which is used in

  bleaching, dyeing and the cleaning of metals.  The clovers

  have a range of flower colors including yellow, crimson,

  reddish-purple and white.

       Clover has medicinal uses including treatment of

  ulcers and bronchial ailments and is agriculturally useful

  as it provides nitrogen to the soil.  Its flowers are also

  quite edible.  The ancient Irish seem to have preferred the

  sour taste of the wood sorrel leaves, which are poisonous

  if taken in large doses.  The giant Olwen was associated

  with the clover plant in that they grew in her steps.

       Alfalfa has little blue or purple flowers and a pod

  twisted in a spiral.  It is useful for blood loss, as a

  tonic or to slow haemorrhage.  The edible sprouts are a

  good source of vitamins and minerals.

       The shamrock is associated with the vernal equinox.

  The seamrag has been used for its calming effect on the

  mind or body.  It must be gathered silently, and with the

  left hand.  The 4-leaf variety of the shamrock is known as

  Mary's shamrock and is considered lucky.

 

 

NAME         Silver Fir

LATIN        Abies pectinata

CELTIC       Ailm

SUBSTITUTE   Elm

ALPHABET     A

TYPE         tree

ASSOCIATED   moon goddess / birth / black / hinge /

             divining (will/desire) / new sun year

TIME PERIOD  new moon / winter solstice (Dec 21-22)

SEE ALSO     Artio

REMARKS      The silver fir was chosen for the vowel A of the

  Tree Alphabet.  It was associated with the new moon, and

  was sacred to Artio the moon goddess who presided over

  birth and was present for the birth of the new son god in

  December.  The combination of silver fir bows and ivy was

  symbolic of the mating between Artio and the Celtic sun

  god.  The silver fir was also used as a divining tool

  signifying will or desire.

       The tree is known for its straight grain and its

  strength, although the cut wood is not very durable to

  weathering.  The evergreen needles are bright green with

  double white lines on the underside, and can stay on the

  tree for at least eight years.  The tree can grow to

  heights of over 150 ft (50 m) and can live for centuries.

  Cones appear only after about 40 years of life, and the

  bark stays smooth for the first 100 years.  The resin is an

  ingredient in turpentine.

 

 

NAME         Spindle Tree

LATIN        Euonymus europaeus

CELTIC       Oir

SUBSTITUTE   Furze

TYPE         bush

USE          bright-green dye / spindles

REMARKS      The spindle tree has bright red berries with

  orange-jacketed seeds, tiny white flowers and sharply-

  pointed leaves.  Its wood is a yellowish color with a fine

  hard grain ideal for making spindles.  The tree was also

  used to make a bright-green dye.

 

 

NAME         Squill

LATIN        Scilla maritima

ALTERNATIVE  Wild Hyacinth / Sea Onion

TYPE         plant

ASSOCIATED   druid

USE          medicine

REMARKS      The squill plant grows in sandy soil by the sea.

  The small white to purple flowers appear on a tall leafless

  stalk which grows from a very large bulb underground.  The

  bulb was valued for its medicinal properties, recommended

  in the treatment of heart troubles, breathing difficulties,

  bad circulation and in ridding the lungs of phlegm, though

  it could aggravate gastric conditions.

 

 

NAME         St John's Wort

LATIN        Hypericum perforatum

CELTIC       Seud-eala-bhuidhe

SUBSTITUTE   Teasel, Sundew, Monk's Rhubarb

TYPE         herb

USE          bright-yellow dye / medicine

REMARKS      This plant has perforated leaves and bright

  yellow 5-petalled flowers.  It was worn on the eve of

  summer solstice.  It was used by the Scottish Highlanders

  until well into the 18th century for producing a bright

  yellow dye.

       The plant was highly valued for its soothing

  properties.  Steeping the flowers in oil and placing in the

  sunlight produced an antiseptic lotion used for treating

  wounds, burns, skin irritations and inflammations.  It was

  also taken internally for calming stomach disorders,

  improving circulation and as a general tonic.

 

 

NAME         Teasel

LATIN        Dipsacus sylvestris

CELTIC       Liodan an Fhucadair

ALTERNATIVE  Teazel

SUBSTITUTE   Fuller's Teasel / privet / iris

TYPE         herb

USE          green dye / teasing

REMARKS      The plant has small purple flowers which after

  blossoming leave a stiff toothed head used for teasing the

  nap of cloth, separating flax, etc.  The lower leaves of

  the plant are capable of holding a considerable amount of

  water.  The plant was also used to produce a green dye.

 

 

NAME         Vervain

LATIN        Verbena officinalis

TYPE         plant

ASSOCIATED   spell-breaking

TIME PERIOD  rise of Sirius (dogstar)

USE          medicine

SEE ALSO     filidh

REMARKS      The vervain plant has tiny white flowers on long

  spikes and two types of leaves.  It was valued by the

  filidh for use in breaking spells.  It was gathered when

  the Dogstar (Sirius) was rising.  It was gathered with

  great care so as not to leave a trace of its root in the

  ground.  A piece of the root was then cut off and hung

  around the neck of the spellbound person and the rest of

  the root was burnt.  The foliage was then hung to dry and

  the spell would weaken as the plant withered.

       In addition, vervain contains relaxant elements which

  led it to be prescribed for nervous tension and exhaustion,

  controlling fever, relieving asthma attacks, increasing

  milk flow and soothing sore gums.

 

 

NAME         Water Lily Roots

LATIN        Nymphaeaceae

CELTIC       Cairt-an-loch

SUBSTITUTE   Baleberry and nut galls / Red Currant and alum /

             Walnut Roots

TYPE         plant

USE          dark-brown dye

REMARKS      The water lily grows best in still water, and

  can produce giant leaves which lay on the water's surface

  with white, pink, red or yellow many-petalled flowers.  The

  plants were used to produce a dark brown dye.

 

 

NAME         Water Violet

LATIN        Hottonia palustris

CELTIC       Lus-y-steep

TYPE         herb

USE          medicine

REMARKS      The water violet produces lilac-colored flowers

  on foot-long stems rising above the roots and branches

  which float on the water's surface.  The Manx use this

  plant for healing weak eyes and toothaches.

 

 

NAME         Water-flag Root

CELTIC       Freumh an t-Seilisdeir

TYPE         plant

USE          dyes

REMARKS      These trees and plants were used for making grey

  and black dyes in the Highlands of Scotland until AD 18th

  century.

 

 

NAME         Watercress

LATIN        Nasturtium officinale

SUBSTITUTE   Cloudberry / Vetch

TYPE         plant

SEE ALSO     Cu Chulainn

REMARKS      Watercress grows in abundance in running water

  and produces an abundance of green leaves rich in iron and

  vitamin C, a modest amount of iodine and helps build

  resistance to disease.

       The stalks are hollow and can be used for breathing

  through while underwater.  Watercress was a favorite salad

  with the Celts.

 

 

NAME         Willow

LATIN        Salix

CELTIC       Saille / Suil

SUBSTITUTE   Rowan

ALPHABET     S or Z

TYPE         tree

ASSOCIATED   16 / death / divining (a distant guard) / moon

             goddess / light yellow

TIME PERIOD  April 15 - May 12 / Beltainn (May 4-5)

USE          dye / medicinal / wicker / bindings / coracle

             frames / sieves

SEE ALSO     The Great Mother

REMARKS      The willow was considered a tree of enchantment,

  sacred to the moon goddess.  It also represented the death

  aspect of the triple goddess.  The wryneck, a bird sacred

  to the moon goddess, lays its eggs in the willow in spring.

  The tree was also important to poets.

       Willow wands were used for divining water.  The wood

  is very flexible which made it suitable for ribs of the

  coracle boats, binding birch twigs to ash handles of

  brooms, and making sieves for winnowing.

       Willow leaves and bark are a source of salicylic acid

  and were prescribed for rheumatic cramps.  A tea made from

  the bark was used for reducing fever and pain.  The bark

  was also used to make a light yellow dye.

       The willow represented the letter S and Z in the

  Celtic Tree Alphabet.

 

 

NAME         Woad

LATIN        Isatis tinctoria

TYPE         plant

USE          Blue dye / tattooing

REMARKS      The woad plant grows to about 2 ft tall (60 cm)

  with clustered yellow flowers, long leaves and brown winged

  seedpods.  The leaves were crushed, fermented, kneaded into

  balls or bricks, and sundried.

       The product was then used to produce a blue dye for

  clothing and body paint.  This was a highly valued plant by

  the Celts, especially the Picts, due to their custom of

  body painting or tattooing of both sexes.

 

 

NAME         Yarrow

LATIN        Achillea

ALTERNATIVE  Milfoil

TYPE         plant

ASSOCIATED   druidic ritual

USE          medicine

REMARKS      The plant has white or pink flowers and feather-

  like foliage.  The astrigent herb was essential to the

  Celts for its property of staunching wounds.  The plant was

  also used calm fevers, relax cramps, build up resistance

  and improve digestion, circulation, functions of the

  kidneys, liver, bladder and gall bladder.  Sniffing the

  powder of the crushed flowers would dislodge the most

  stubborn mucous, and the plant was even said to delay

  balding.

 

 

NAME         Yellow Bedstraw

LATIN        Galium

SUBSTITUTE   Tormentil / rue

TYPE         plant

USE          bright-red dye

REMARKS      The plant has yellow flowers on stalks which

  were sometimes used for bedding when dried.  It was also

  used for producing a bright-red clothing dye.

 

 

NAME         Yew

LATIN        Taxus

CELTIC       Idad / Idho / Ida / Iogh

ALPHABET     I

TYPE         tree - chieftain

ASSOCIATED   moon goddess / 5 / black (death) / wisdom /

             divining (death)

TIME PERIOD  full moon / winter solstice (Dec 21-22)

USE          timber / bows / breast plates / vessels / barrel

             staves / poison / hinges / sculpture

SEE ALSO     Caer Ibormeith

REMARKS      The yew is a sacred evergreen tree with dark

  needles and red berries.  The druids valued it as an Ogham

  stick (Coel Creni) for prophecy and in divining it

  signified death.  It was also prized for the sweet sticky

  berries from which different types of poisons were made.

  When mixed with hellebore and devil's bite, it made a good

  poison to be used on sword edges or spear tips.  Its

  flattened needles are poisonous to cattle.

       Vessels and carvings of yew have been found at Celtic

  sites.  The tree can live over 2000 years, and some are

  still visible at various sacred Celtic sites and paths,

  such as those which line the ancient trackways of southern

  England.  The yew represented the letter I in the Celtic

  Tree Alphabet and was sacred to the moon goddess, who was

  associated with the death of the old sun.