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.