So normally I blog about things like magic, the Pagan community, occult history, and other such stuff. It’s my realm of expertise, and I enjoy writing about it, and I don’t normally bother wasting bandwidth with posts about much else. However, lately, there has been a lot of discussion in both the news and on social media about the ongoing harassment of women, and something occurred last night that perfectly illustrates the bullshit that we have to deal with on a daily basis, in every sphere of our lives.
The #metoo hashtag has gained a lot of traction in the past few weeks, and millions of us shared our stories. If you’re one of my Facebook friends, you probably read my post about the first time I was sexually harassed. I was walking home from school, and a man, probably in his thirties or forties, walked past me, stopped, and said, “Give me a blow job.”
I was in fifth grade.
So I’ve been hearing this sort of thing for the better part of four decades at this point, and just like every other woman in the world, I’m pretty fucking tired of it. One of the most interesting things to me about the #metoo stories, though, was how many men were surprised at just how prevalent this is. While it may be a shock to the guys – and I suspect that’s partly because I surround myself with decent men and not douchey ones – it’s no surprise to us women. Every goddamn one of us.
In addition to the harassment narrative comes the idea that women are to be regarded as a prize to be conquered, some sort of sport prey in a hunt – and if the prey can’t be taken down, the next response is to diminish it and act like the hunter didn’t want it in the first place. I’ll give you a perfect example.
About two weeks ago, a guy asked me out. I wasn’t really interested, for a variety of reasons, so I declined with a polite “No thank you.” He took this No as the opening salvo in some sort of negotiation ritual, and then commenced to bombard me with reasons why I should go out with him (“I’m a Nice Guuuuuy!”), peppered with the shrapnel of compliments about my appearance. I got bored with this pretty quickly, and finally said, “Look, I’m not interested. Thanks but no thanks. It’s not going to happen.”
At which point, he informed me that I was a stupid whore, my tattoos and nose piercing guaranteed I’d never get a job, and I was probably just a gold-digger anyway.
And then we have the men who think that stalking random strangers on Facebook is a good way to meet women. News flash: if I don’t know you, we have no mutual friends and no common groups, I’m not going to talk to you at all. And I’m certainly not going to engage when you message me with an opening line like “Hey sexy.”
Know why? Because I don’t owe you jack shit. I’m not on Facebook because I want to date you, I’m on it so I can hang out with my friends in a virtual world, make fun of politicians, and laugh at Game of Thrones memes. Facebook is my living room, and messaging a stranger looking to hook up is the equivalent of walking through my front door uninvited, whipping your dick out, and putting it on my coffee table.
Stop. Fucking. Doing. It.
And just as a final thought, meet Nicholas. He first messaged me a few months back, which I basically blew off, and then yesterday he decided to escalate and try video chatting with me. A stranger. The sheer ridiculousity of it all was too good not to share, so here’s a screen cap of the entire Messenger exchange, from the very beginning.
Yep, I went from “sexy af” to “Fuck you” in about three seconds. If I was playing Creeper Bingo, I could have filled in quite a few squares.
A reader asks, “I have a question about the “honoring ancestors” tenet. I am adopted, and don’t know my biological parents. When I envision my ancestors do I just think generally? For example, I am African American, do I just think of (for lack of a better term) random black people?”
Well, first of all, keep in mind that not ALL Pagan traditions include ancestor veneration as part of their belief or practice.
There’s no hard and fast rule that says you have to do this, or that if you don’t, you’re not a Real Pagan™. However, many Pagans do include honoring their ancestors as part of their practice because it’s something that feels right to them. Since it sounds like it’s definitely something you’re feeling a connection to, let’s talk about the second part of your question: being adopted.
For some people, the notion of kinfolk is quite simple: it’s blood related ancestry, and that’s it, period. However, for many other people both in the Pagan community and outside of it, your family is the group of people who have raised you and loved you, whether you’re connected to them by DNA or not.
Ask any parent of an adopted child which kid they love better – their adopted one or their biological one – and you’ll get the same look of confusion and disbelief that you’d get if you asked the parent of two biological kids which one was their favorite. Your family loves you, and you love them – because you’re family.
So, let’s go on to the idea of honoring ancestors when you have no biological connection to the people who are your parents.
You have a couple of different options. The first is that you can honor the ancestors of your adopted family. That will probably be pretty easy to do – after all, you’ve grown up around them, you’ve seen their family photos on the wall, and you’ve listened to Grandma’s hilarious stories about her gin-crazed youth over Thanksgiving dinner. You could even set up an ancestor altar with family pictures and heirlooms.
Another option, and the one that your question specifically addresses, is that of honoring your ancestors from your biological family. There are a number of different ways to do this, but it can be tricky when you’re not entirely sure where your predecessors came from.
The first way, and one that works for many adopted people who have chosen not to pursue their biological parents’ information, is that of honoring archetypes. Now, this is still going to require a little bit of research, but it’s not nearly as complex as embarking on a DNA treasure hunt.
An archetype is a symbol. Let’s say I know that I’m of Eastern European ancestry, but not much else. That’s not a lot to work with, is it? There’s a whole lot of random white people I could be connected to. However, with a little digging, I discover that there are some legends among Eastern European countries that I find I really connect with. Taking it a step further, I learn about, for example, a folktale from the Carpathian mountains about a woman who lives in the woods, protects children from hungry wolves, and brews up magical potions. Was she real? Maybe – folktales often have some basis in reality. Maybe not – but regardless, she might be a good place to start. If I think of her as a spiritual ancestor, rather than a blood ancestor, I can still pay tribute to her as a symbol of the many people whose blood could be running through my veins.
Another way of connecting on an archetypical level is to do an ancestor meditation – this is a good way to let your mind wander back and see if you can connect, on a metaphysical level, with either individuals or archetypes who resonate with you spiritually.
You mention that your genetic background is African-American. Africa is a big place, and there are many countries, cultures, and folktales to work with. Doing some research into the different areas would be a good place to start.
It’s also important to note that many people are of mixed heritage. Mechon, who is an African American folk magic practitioner in North Carolina, weighed in on this for us. She says, “I can tell by looking in the mirror and at my mother that I have African ancestry. It’s pretty obvious. I’m black. Like, I’m really black. But once we get back more than three generations, I don’t know where the trail leads. My grandfather, who was a lot lighter than the rest of us, never knew his father, and the family legend is that he was white, although my great grandmother never said. My mother is a mix of African American and Cherokee. There’s a rumor that there’s some Irish DNA thrown into the mix as well, and I have an uncle who is light skinned with red hair, freckles and blue eyes. I used to feel like I could only honor my African ancestors – after all, I’m very proud of my black heritage – but the more I learn and journey and study, the more I realize that I can honor the ancestors of my spirit as well… and not all of them are biologically connected to me.”
In addition to honoring biological and archetypical ancestors, there is also is the concept of the family of the heart and soul – these are the people who love you and count you as family, either by blood, by choice, or by happy accident. They may include your best friend’s mom who let you sleep over every Friday night in high school, or your spouse’s dad who likes to take you fishing, or that wonderful distantly related cousin that shows up at random to just drop off things she knows you would like. Family of the heart and soul, for many people, is as valuable as the family you’re genetically connected to.
So, to answer your question: How do you honor your ancestors when you don’t know your biological background? The answer can be as simple or as complicated as you choose to make it. For now, try delving into some of the things mentioned above, and see where the journey takes you.
When I moved a year ago, I discovered that while I had about five boxes of Yule decor, I had over two dozen boxes of Halloweenery – it’s my favorite time of year! And this is one of my favorite decorations to put out – every fall, random strangers would stop and take pictures of my front yard, because of all the Halloween nonsense, and this group of ghosts was always a huge hit. Here’s how you can make your own, with about $20 worth of random supplies.
For each ghost, you’ll need the following:
1 4-foot length of 2″ PVC pipe, cut with a 45′ angle on one end
1 plastic pumpkin
2 lightweight plastic tablecloths (54 x108″)
1 large zip tie
Black electrical tape
Pound the PVC pipe into the ground, as far as it needs to go to be stable. Invert the plastic pumpkin and place it upside down over the top of the PVC pipe to form the head – it’s a good idea to stuff the pumpkin with plastic grocery sacks or an old towel to keep it from flipping around.
Place one plastic tablecloth (usually these are available for a dollar or less at party stores) over the pumpkin longways to cover the head and form the arms. Place the other tablecloth over the pumpkin, crossing the first tablecloth, to cover the head and form the ghost’s front and back.
Use the plastic zip tie to form the neck, and secure your tablecloths in place. Cut small pieces of electrical tape to give your ghosts facial expressions. To connect your ghosts to one another, simply tie them together at the arms, to make it look like they’re holding hands.
For fun variations, make them in different colors, or attach hats to them with a staple gun.
For hundreds of years, people have used magic to bring abundance and wealth of one type or another into their lives. Let’s look at some of the various customs involving money around the world.
In parts of the Ozarks, it is believed that you’ll soon receive a letter with money in it if a honey bee buzzes around your head, according to Vance Randolph’s Ozark Magic and Folklore. There is also a legend, in some parts of Missouri, that if you see bubbles in your coffee, if you can drink them all before they disappear, a large sum of money is coming your way.
There’s a legend in some parts of Appalachia that if you burn onion peels rather than just throwing them away, you’ll never be poor.
In Hoodoo, there are numerous potions and “tricks” designed to bring money into your life. Jim Haskins says in his book Voodoo and Hoodoo that burning green candles anointed with money-drawing incense works well, and if you own a business, money oil is a good way to increase your abundance.
The use of a lodestone is found in some magical traditions as a way to attract money. The lodestone is “fed” with magnetic sand that is drawn to it — as money is drawn to your wallet.
This practice has been dated back as far as the days of ancient Rome — prostitutes figured out that carrying a lodestone as an amulet would attract the wealthier clients.
A practicing witch who asked to be identified as Eowynne says that in her family, which hails from Cornwall, England, there is an unusual custom involving babies and money. When a baby is six months old, she is given a large silver coin to hold onto. If the child is able to grasp the coin without dropping it, she’ll have no trouble attracting money as an adult. If she drops the coin, then she’ll have a hard time holding onto her cash when she grows up (important safety tip – if you’re going to have a baby hold a coin, watch to make sure it doesn’t become a snack).
Russia is the home of a superstition that scattered money draws even more wealth. Leave coins lying around in various places around your home — in drawers, under the bed, the back of the closet, etc. — and even more abundance will come your way.
Carry a Buckeye nut in your pocket to bring money your way at the gaming table or at the races.
A reader says, I recently talked to a friend of mine who is in a coven – the group is Pagan but I don’t believe they’re specifically Wiccan – and told her I was interested in joining the group. She told me that the high priestess has set a limit that she’ll only have [number] people in the coven, and even if someone new is interested, they won’t take any more than that. Is this a red flag that means I should stay away from this group?
Actually, no, it’s really not, as long as all the other aspects of the group are things that work for you. There may be any number of reasons that the high priestess (HPs) may have set this guideline. Let’s look at a couple of possibilities:
The leader(s) of the group may feel that this number – seven, thirteen, twenty, whatever it may be – is the maximum amount of people that she can manage effectively. Remember, a HPs is not just showing up for two hours to lead a ritual once a month – she’s also managing the group’s finances, making lesson plans if it’s a teaching coven, writing new rituals so everything is always fresh, studying and reading new material to share with the group, acting as a mentor and counselor, mediating potential disputes between members, and so on. If she’s concerned that trying to manage any more than X Number will lead to chaos – or at the very least, a less meaningful experience for existing members – then she’s wise to know her own limits. It’s also possible that the group’s constraints are due to limited physical space – if they meet in a room that only fits six people comfortably, a responsible HPs isn’t going to invite ten people in.
The group’s tradition may have determined that their number – again, whatever it is – is magically tied to their tradition. In some groups, particularly Neowiccan covens, thirteen is considered a perfectly magical number of people to have. In others, it may be nine, since nine is also considered a power number in Numerology. Regardless, there may be a magical significance behind the number, so it could be more than arbitrary.
It may be that the group only accepts members at certain times of the year. One coven I know of only takes new seekers in at the time of a blue moon, as sort of a play on the phrase “once in a blue moon.” This means the rest of the year, no matter what, their membership is closed to any new people.
If your friend’s group maintains a wait list, or at the very least, a contact list of interested prospective members, make sure the leaders have your name – this way, if someone does leave the group and will be replaced, the HPs can reach out to you to see if you’re still interested. All other things being equal, don’t let a limited membership roster scare you off.
A reader asks, “What guidelines are there in Pagan religions for clergy in matters of confidentiality? I am an ordained Pagan priest, and a member of the community has come to me with a problem. If I get involved, someone will end up in jail. However, if I don’t speak out, someone else will continue to be victimized. I don’t want to violate anyone’s trust, but I can’t stand by and see someone hurt. How do you think I should proceed?”
You know, this is a slippery slope that clergy of all religions have walked for centuries. There is certainly a need for confidentiality with any religious leader. After all, if we, as clergy, are to offer effective counsel to those who ask for it, those folks have to know that we will not betray their confidence.
On the other hand, there’s the matter of doing what’s right. If someone is being harmed, and you know about it, most Pagan traditions would argue that you have a responsibility to speak up and put a stop to it.
When someone comes to me in confidence and asks to speak to me as a priestess, it’s typically because they need advice. They’re trying to decide what to do about a potential job change, they want to know if they should go back to school, they need help communicating with their spouse or partner more effectively, and so on. It’s rare that anyone has come to me with anything as dramatic as what you’re describing, but here’s what I would probably do in your circumstances.
First, I’d ask myself why the person chose to confide in me. Do they just want someone to talk to? Are they hoping I’ll offer advice? If someone is in danger – either the person I’m speaking with, or someone they know – and they’ve come to me with their concerns, it’s because they want help.
Next, I’d figure out the seriousness of the issue, and how it impacts the individual or the community at large. If someone comes to me and tells me they’ve just been diagnosed with a fatal disease, or that they’re in recovery for addiction, that’s no one’s business but their own. There is no reason to share that with anyone – and chances are that they just want someone to listen to them.
I’m happy to do that.
On the other hand, if someone were to come to me and tell me they know their neighbor is abusing a child, or that their brother has killed someone and hidden the crime, then we’re talking about not only an ethical and moral obligation here, but a legal one as well. While you can’t be forced to speak out, most traditions would argue that it’s your responsibility to do so.
Also, depending on what state you live in, there may be laws that require you to report certain situations, regardless of your status as an ordained clergy person. For example, in some states, anyone who has knowledge of the abuse of a child is required to report it to law enforcement, no matter who they are.
Finally, in any of the cases above, I would counsel the individual to seek help with law enforcement or other appropriate agencies. Perhaps you could sit with them and offer support while they make that phone call, or while they speak with social workers, and so forth. I’ve driven a battered woman and her children to a shelter, because she was afraid to do it herself, and couldn’t take that step on her own. Empowering someone else to ask for help is often what they need you to do.
There’s a great article from back in 1985 by Rev. Dr. Marie M. Fortune, in which she described the dilemma of a pastor who was made aware that a teenage girl in his congregation was being sexually abused by her father. Although the girl was terrified, the pastor told her how glad he was that she had come to him with this information. He also told her that although she didn’t want anyone to know what was happening to her, the only way to stop her father from hurting her was to get other people involved. After much discussion, she finally understood that if she wanted to be safe, other people had to help too – and she called Children’s Services from the pastor’s office. The father was charged and convicted, and later went into treatment. The girl herself was able to get counseling from a qualified mental health professional. The pastor was able to help the girl to help herself, and so did not violate the trust she had placed in him.
Certainly, I would say if you believe a crime is being or has been committed, you’ve got a responsibility to the victim to make sure they get help. Because not every case is the same, you’ll have to weigh the balance of your obligation for confidentiality against your role as a leader and helper of the community. It’s all part of being clergy, and it isn’t always easy. However, if you follow your ethical guidelines, and those of your particular tradition, you’ll be far better equipped to make the right decision.
This past weekend, I had the privilege of presenting a workshop at Dayton Pagan Pride Day, which was one of the best PPD events I’ve ever attended. This year’s theme was Walking Our Earthen Path, and main ritual was hosted by Selena Fox of Circle Sanctuary. This was the first time I’ve met Selena in person, although I’ve been following her online for years, and she is an absolutely delightful human being.
Selena invited the presenters to participate in main ritual, and asked each of us to contribute an invocation or chant focusing on the theme of celebrating the earth. Since it’s nearly Mabon, the fall equinox, I wrote an invocation looking at the blessings of the earth during the reaping season. During ritual, I delivered a shorter, abridged version of this, because there were time constraints, but I wanted to share it with you in its entirety here, because it’s a solid way to mark the move into the harvest season as the land around us begins to die. It started off sort of loosely inspired by a prayer included in the Carmina Gadelica, but then took on a life of its own as I was writing it.
You’re welcome to use this in your personal rituals as you wish, and tweak if you need to – all I ask is that if you choose to share it on your own pages, that you include a link back to this page, as well as credit to me.
Reaping Blessing for the Earth
As the rise of the sun bursts bold and bright over the fields
And the corn and crops sway high in the morning light
I will go forth with my sickle and basket beneath my arm
And I will reap that which I have sown
As the sun moves higher in the morning sky
Burning and blazing across my back
I will move along the rows, cutting and threshing,
Grateful for the bounty of my fields
As the noonday sun glitters high and hot overhead
I will set my sickle down,
Counting my blessings as I fill my basket
And wiping the sweat from my brow
As the shadows begin to grow, gray and long,
The sun traveling nomadic from east to west,
The cool winds of the north move across my fields,
Towards the torrid heat of a far-off south
And I will give thanks to my gods
And to the Mother herself, for her blessings and her bounty,
Her beauty and abundance, and the graces and gifts she bestows upon me
And as my crops growing in the ground
Begin to darken and die in the deepening dusk,
I know that I have much gratitude to give
For each ridge and plain and field
For each sickle and scythe
For each ear in the basket
For each stalk in the sheaf
And I will rejoice in the earth’s blessings on each maiden and youth,
And I will rejoice in the earth’s blessings on each healer and warrior
And I will rejoice in the earth’s blessings on each crone and sage
And I will rejoice in the earth’s blessings on the living and the dead
As I bring my harvest home.
Around the middle of September, the nut season starts. Hazelnuts ripen in the hedges, and they have long been connected to folklore and legends. Hazel is associated to the Celtic tree month of Coll, from August 5 to September 1, and the very word Coll means “the life force inside you.”
Hazelnuts are connected to wisdom and protection, and are often found near sacred wells and magical springs. Hazelnuts can be used in workings related to divination and dowsing – tie a ripe one onto a string and use it as a pendulum!
In the British Isles, September 14 was the day when children would forage in the woods to collect hazelnuts, because this is when they are supposed to be perfectly ripe. In some legends, young maidens who go out a-nutting are in danger of becoming pregnant without benefit of marriage — this is probably less due to the fertility associations of nuts and more to the fact that Nutting Day gave you a chance to be alone in the woods with your lover.
If you worked as a lacemaker, Nutting Day had a special significance. From this day until Shrove Tuesday in the spring, you could use a candle to light your work.
Lacemakers spent long hours working at their craft for little pay, and because of the precise nature of their job, their eyes were often tired and achy by the end of the day. They were often advised to bathe their eyes in gin, which stung, but refreshed them enough that they could work a few more hours. The use of a candle permitted them to work longer during the dark winter months.
September 21 is sometimes called the Devil’s Nutting Day, and it was the date on which mortals should never gather nuts.
In some areas of Britain, nuts were not to be picked on Sundays, either. There’s a story in the Warwickshire area that the devil himself was out gathering hazelnuts when he accidentally met the Virgin Mary (the story doesn’t explain why Mary might have been wandering around in Warwickshire, but hey, it’s an old story). He was so startled to see her that he dropped his bag of nuts, which turned into a hill called the Devil’s Nightcap.
Where I live, fall has rolled in already – a bit unusually early, in fact. Normally here in Middle Earth, we’re still pretty sunny and warm until late September, but the hurricane in Texas brought us rain and cool temps last weekend, and it’s rather looking like autumn is here to stay.
One of my favorite myths is that of Persephone and her mother, Demeter, because their story explains the changing of the seasonal cycles.
Demeter was a goddess of grain and of the harvest in ancient Greece. Her daughter, Persephone, caught the eye of Hades, god of the underworld. When Hades abducted Persephone and took her back to the underworld, Demeter’s grief caused the crops on earth to die and go dormant. By the time she finally recovered her daughter, Persephone had eaten six pomegranate seeds, and so was doomed to spend six months of the year in the underworld.
These six months are the time when the earth dies, beginning at the time of the autumn equinox. Each year, Demeter mourns the loss of her daughter for six months. At Ostara, the greening of the earth begins once more and life begins anew.
In some interpretations of the story, Persephone is not held in the underworld against her will. Instead, she chooses to stay there for six months each year so that she can bring a little bit of brightness and light to the souls doomed to spend eternity with Hades.
In many magical traditions, wood is assigned various properties that make it useful for ritual and spellwork. By using these correspondences, you can include different woods in your magical workings. Keep in mind, this is not an exhaustive list and there are plenty of other woods that are not included here. Also, some people find that they find a particular wood resonates with them in a way that is completely different than the standard assigned correspondence. If that’s the case for you, it’s okay – use the wood in a way that best makes sense to you.
The Alder is associated with making spiritual decisions, magic relating to prophecy and divination, and getting in touch with your own intuitive processes and abilities. Alder flowers and twigs are known as charms to be used in Faerie magic. Whistles were once made out of Alder shoots to call upon Air spirits, so it’s an ideal wood for making a pipe or flute if you’re musically inclined. The Alder represents the evolving spirit.
Apple wood dries strong and sturdy. Because of the apple tree’s association with immortality and the divine, it is often used in tools such as Ogham staves, which can be used for prophecy and divination. Apple is also strongly tied to abundance and bounty, due in no small part to its connection with orchards and the harvest season.
In Norse lore, Odin hung from Yggdrasil, the World Tree, for nine days and nights so that he might be granted wisdom. Yggdrasil was an ash tree, and since the time of Odin’s ordeal, the ash has often been associated with divination and knowledge. In some Celtic legends, it is also seen as a tree sacred to the god Lugh, who is celebrated at Lughnasadh. Because of its close association not only with the Divine but with knowledge, Ash can be worked with for any number of spells, rituals, and other workings. Associated with ocean rituals, magical potency, prophetic dreams and spiritual journeys, the Ash can be used for making magical (and mundane) tools — these are said to be more productive than tools made from other wood. Use an Ash branch to make a magical staff, broom or wand.
The bamboo plant lives a long time, and will just continue growing until it is harvested. Because of this, some Pacific Island tribes regard it as a symbol of longevity and life, and include bamboo in some creation stories. In some parts of the Philippines, bamboo crosses are placed in the fields to bring hearty crops in at harvest time. In parts of India, bamboo symbolizes friendship. It was also used to form spears and longbows. Because of this, some magical traditions associate bamboo with strength and the warrior’s path. In Japan, bamboo walls are believed to protect Shinto shrines from evil spirits.
When a forested area burns, Birch is the first tree to grow back, and thus is associated with rebirth and regeneration. Workings using Birch add momentum and a bit of extra “oomph” to new endeavors. The Birch is also associated with magic done for creativity and fertility, as well as healing and protection. It is the first month in the Celtic tree calendar, following the Winter Solstice, and is related to the Ogham symbol Beith. Use Birch branches to craft your own besom for magical workings, and in spells and rituals related to enchantments, renewal, purification, fresh starts and new beginnings.
Although the Elder can be damaged easily, it recovers quickly and springs back to life, which makes Elder a great wood for workings related to creativity and renewal. It is connected to both beginnings and endings, births and deaths, and rejuvenation. Elder is also said to protect against demons and other negative entities. Use in magic connected to Faeries and other nature spirits.
Hazel is often associated in Celtic lore with sacred wells and magical springs containing the salmon of knowledge. It’s often associated with workings related to wisdom and knowledge, dowsing and divination, and dream journeys. Hazel was a handy tree to have around. It was used by many English pilgrims to make staffs for use upon the road — not only was it a sturdy walking stick, it also provided a modicum of self-defense for weary travelers. Certainly, it could have been used as well for ritual. Hazel was used in weaving of baskets by medieval folk, and the leaves were fed to cattle because it was believed this would increase the cow’s supply of milk.
The Hawthorn is associated with magic related to masculine power, business decisions, making professional connections. The Hawthorn is also associated with the realm of Faerie, and when the Hawthorn grows in tandem with an Ash and Oak, it is said to attract the Fae. This prickly-thorned tree, one of the nine sacred woods of the bonfire, is associated with cleansing, protection and defense. Tie a thorn with a red ribbon and use it as a protective amulet in your home, or place a bundle of thorns under a baby’s crib to keep bad energy away.
Maple is often associated with healing modalities, both physical and spiritual. Unlike many other woods, which are typically considered either masculine or feminine, Maple draws on the qualities of both. It is associated with a wide variety of aspects, including beauty and art, intellectual pursuits, and wisdom. Considered in some magical traditions to be a “traveler’s wood,” Maple is a powerful wood for those who are always in motion, both mentally and physically, and can be used to help bring focus to a situation.
The mighty Oak is strong, powerful, and typically towering over all of its neighbors. The Oak King rules over the summer months, and this tree was sacred to the Druids. The Celts called this month Duir, which some scholars believe to mean “door”, the root word of “Druid”. The Oak is connected with spells for protection and strength, fertility, money and success, and good fortune. In many pre-Christian societies, the Oak was often associated with the leaders of the gods — Zeus, Thor, Jupiter, and so forth. The strength and masculinity of the Oak was honored through the worship of these gods.
This evergreen was once known as the “sweetest of wood”, and its needles can be brewed into tea which provides a good source of Vitamin C. Pine is associated with clarity of vision, and alleviation of guilt. In Scotland, the Pine was a symbol of the warrior, and in some stories it was planted over the graves of those fallen in battle.
Known by the Celts as the Ogham symbol Luis (pronounced loush), the Rowan is associated with astral travel, personal power, and success. A charm carved into a bit of a Rowan twig will protect the wearer from harm. The Norsemen were known to have used Rowan branches as rune staves of protection. In some countries, Rowan is planted in graveyards to prevent the dead from lingering around too long. Rowan is also associated with the Celtic hearth goddess Brighid.
A Willow planted near your home will help ward away danger, particularly the type that stems from natural disaster such as flooding or storms. They offer protection, and are often found planted near cemeteries. In addition to its use as a healing herb, Willow was also harvested for wicker work. Baskets, small curricles, and even bee hives were constructed with this bendable, flexible wood. This wood is related to healing, growth of knowledge, nurturing and women’s mysteries, and is represented by the Celtic Ogham symbol Saille.
The Yew is known as a marker of death and endings. This evergreen tree has leaves that are attached in a spiral pattern to the twigs. Because of its unusual growth pattern, in which new growth forms inside the old, the Yew is strongly tied to rebirth and new life following death. It is also connected to periods of great transition – not necessarily good or bad, but definitely significant.