We thought it would be fun to explore the Ogham (oh-am) Tree Calendar in our newsletters. The tree calendar has thirteen months. Each month offers its own unique wisdom to us as we make our way through this life trying to live lightly, kindly and communally.
We’re now in the 13th Moon of the calendar, ruled by Ruis, which celebrates the Elder tree. Long ago, the ‘Old Ones’, the Druids and the Celts revered the outdoor world and believed that one could find spiritual connections with life, the gods and the Earth reflected in nature.
Elder is prominent throughout wasteland, hedgerows and woodland throughout Ireland and the British Isles. It has one of the strongest reputations for faery and witch superstitions and magical protection of all the Ogham trees.
If it’s growing near your house, don’t cut it down without plenty of thought – especially if it chose your land and self-seeded there as cutting them can bring bad luck. Traditionally, protection for a home is granted by having a Rowan towards the front door and an Elder near the back.
The tree grows best in slightly damp, fertile but neutral soil which is disturbed – so you often find it by roadsides and along banks where there are rabbits, badgers and foxes and in cemeteries. Wherever it once grew, the space was considered to be sacred as it is protected by the Elder Mother. It can grow to about 30ft, but to attain this rare size it needs plenty of light.
In late spring, it is easily recognised for its huge saucers of white flowers. This head is actually a cluster of tiny white petalled, yellow centred flowers which are much sought after for elderflower cordial, syrup or champagne. They have a slightly odd scent which many people and animals don’t like. The flowers are followed in autumn by masses of small, deep purplish-black berries.
It’s magical properties will be recognised by any of you Harry Potter fans who will recall that the most powerful Elder Wand is one of three objects that make up the fabled Deathly Hallows along with the Resurrection Stone and the Cloak of Invisibility. The knobbly wood polishes up to a high shine and can be made into pretty beads. The stems are hollow and filled with a white pith that’s easily removed and have been used for centuries to make musical pipes and whistles – another proof of magic!
So, what does our enchanting Elder offer us as learning in our own journey as OFN Ireland?
The resounding qualities of Elder is magic and protection. We wish to emulate the Elder and want OFN Ireland to provide economic protection and stability to small producers. We believe there is strength in numbers and wish to bring people together to work in unison on our platform, creating a resilient local food economy through our solidarity co-operative model. The heart of OFN beats in harmony with Nature and we encourage and support regenerative, Organic and cruelty- free farming practices.
Elder is abundant in our local environment and it’s magical associations remind us to revere the power of nature, to treat it with respect and be thankful for all it offers us.
Elder Magic, Charms and Beliefs
- Make a string of elder beads and wear them, or hang outside the back door for protection from angry spirits. (Simply strip the bark from a thinnish elder stem (ask!) and divide this into little pieces. Remove the pith from the hollow beads and smooth with sand paper. Polish them well).
- Bury your children’s milk teeth, or any other special talisman, under the roots of the elder tree to prevent malicious spells or illness.
- Bless a person by scattering a handful of elder leaves over them, asking for a blessing and protection, then throw the leaves to the winds.
- Make an elder whistle to attract spirits and faere folk.
- A cross made of Elder twigs and tied with red thread can be hung over stables and barn doors to protect the animals.
- To see the faerie folk, bathe your eyes under a full moon with the dew collected from elder flowers.
- To see the King of the Faeries Himself, decked out in his finest array for travelling, stand hidden under an elder bush at midnight on Midsummer’s Eve to watch him go by with his entire retinue (from Denmark).
- Burn the bare branches of elder on your winter home-fire if you dare – and the devil will come and sit on your chimney enjoying the smoke! (A superstition from Leicestershire)
♡ ♡ ♡
[Text adapted from Eco Enchantments ‘The Thirteen Trees of the Ogham Moon Calendar ‘]