Druidic Alphabet - R (Ruis).
The elder tree can grow to thirty feet in height, and is covered with a light brown bark with deep ridges and groves. Its leaves are broad and oval in shape, and it has a tiny white flower with five petals and a sweet scent. In autumn it is covered with bunches of black berries which are used to make wine and jam. Rich in vitamin C, a tea from the flowers is also used for the treatment of coughs and sore throat. Boiled leaves can be used in a mixture for the relief of pain in the ears. A distillation made from the flowers is used a skin cleanser, a cure for headaches and treatment for the common cold. The bark can be dried and used as a laxative.
Used to make Faery wine, these berries can be burned on a fire to invite the Good Folk to a gathering. Make a homemade brew of Elderberry Wine and you are sure to have some thirsty visitors. It is said that if a human drinks the wine, she will be able to see the Faery. If a human should drink Elderberry wine from the same goblet as a Faery being, he will be able to see them forever after. Standing under and elder tree at Midsummer, like standing in a ring of Faery Mushrooms, will help you see the Little People.
Often confused with the alder and sacred to the Elder Goddess or Crone, the Caillech, who was Hel, queen of the underworld. Naturally, the elder became known as a witch tree. Spirits of the pagan dead, once called Helleder, were said to be imprisoned in elder wood. They would be transformed into avenging demons and would haunt and persecute anyone who cut down an elder tree to make furniture. Moreover, a man who fell asleep under an elder tree would have visions of Hel's underworld, which Christians converted into hell. Elder made witches' 'travel-broomsticks.' Yet the healing magic of Hel's tree was not entirely forgotten. Medieval folk believed that a wreath of elder leaves worn as a collar would cure every pain in the neck.
Folklore holds that it is unlucky to use Elder wood for a child's cradle, which should always be made out of Birch for a new start and inception. In the Celtic moon calendar, the Elder rules the thirteenth month. This is, in fact, a short three-day period, a 'make-up' month, ending in Samhain, the last night of the year and known as Hallowe'en. The new year, on the1st November, and the month of the Birch follow on after. The Elder, with its distinctive, easily hollowed, pithy stems, is a tree of regeneration. It regrows damaged branches readily and it will root and grow rapidly from any part. It was considered unlucky to bring elderwood into house. Elder is a witches tree and whoever approached it after dark was at its mercy. The scent of the flowers was said to poison anybody who slept beneath it.
The Druids used it both to bless and curse. Elder wands drive out evil and negativity. Elder is said to offer protection to the faeries from negative spirits.