Folklore

The Old Corpse Road Folklore Collective

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Henbane

Henbane is one of the legendary "witch" plants, renowned in folklore for its claimed magickal qualities and it features in many of the recipes for witches' flying ointments which have been preserved in the records of the witch trials in an various other sources. The Folklore Henbane was believed in Germany to attract rain and was once believed to produce sterility in land and livestock. (Thiselton-Dyer p315). As the raising of storms and the blighting of crops and livestock were amongst the most common charges laid at the feet of accused "witches" by neighbours, it is not impossible that this German folklore may have derived from the plant's association with witches; if witches raised storms and blighted crops, then maybe they did it with henbane or other noxious plants. On the other hand, if livestock was poisoned by fodder containing henbane (and other similar plants) it may have been easier to assume that the sudden and unaccountable death of beasts must have been due to witchcraft than to attempt to find out what really killed them. The possible connection between the poisoning of livestock by plant ingestion and subsequent witchcraft accusations has been discussed by Sally Hickey in Folklore.. Curiously Hickey manages to discuss the possible effects on beasts, especially cattle, of consuming almost every known British toxic plant except henbane, though this appears to be more an oversight than any deliberate exclusion, especially given the widespread occurence of this plant in Britain. One of the more mundane traditional uses of henbane was in the flavouring of beer - a use which appears to have a very long history indeed as evidence of henbane and belladonna beer has apparently been found on at least one Neolithic site in Scotland. We take it for granted these days that beer and ale are made and flavoured with hops, but until the general adoption of hops beers were made with a wide variety of flavourings and enhancers. For what it is worth, the following recipe is provided for your general interest. Magickal Uses of Henbane The ritual use of henbane goes back at least as far as the Neolithic period in Scotland. According to Dr Andrew Sharratt, who teaches archaeology at Cambridge University, traces of henbane were found in a lump of burnt porridge or other cereal residue found attached to a fragment of a Neolithic vessel of the type known as "Grooved Ware" at the ritual site at Balfarg/Balbirnie in Fifeshire. The site includes a timber enclosure, thought to be part of a mortuary building, which was excavated by Gordon Barclay and Christopher Russell-White in the 1980s. It has been suggested that the timber building was used for the exposure of corpses and that the henbane brew may have been part of the offerings buried with them, thus connecting this plant with death and rituals of the dead. Dr Sharratt, at least, regards this as possible evidence for psychopompic shamanism in British Neolithic culture and possibly for some form of belief in spirit flight; the plant that can ease the spirit out of the body can help to ease its passage to the otherworld - whether one way for the spirit of the deceased or both ways for the accompanying shaman. Interestingly in this context, later Greek mythology tells us that the dead in Hades were crowned with henbane as they wandered aimlessly and hopelessly beside the River Styx which separated them from the land of the living. Merryn Dineley, who is researching the whole question of brewing in the Neolithic at Manchester University, argues that these porridge-like residues are more likely to be evidence of brewing, in other words they represent the sediments left behind after the beer has been removed. She has pointed out that on a number of Neolithic sites, very large "Grooved Ware" pots have been found which would have been of a size to make brewing beer viable. Dr Sharratt also reported that he "was talking last year [1995] to a Danish Viking specialist who had excavated a lady buried in the cemetery of the Viking fortress of Fyrkat with a belt-pouch containing over 100 seeds of this plant; and she remarked that it was traditionally used in Jutland in chicken-stealing, to stun the intended victims." Which, as he points out, neatly brings us back to the very name of this plant - henbane. The ancient Greeks believed that people under the influence of the herb became prophetic, and the priestesses of the Oracle of Delphi are claimed to have inhaled the smoke from smouldering henbane. Nigel Pennick associates henbane with the rune Is (representing statis) and says it (the rune) is ruled by "Rinda, goddess of the frozen north" and is connected with "Verdandi, the Norn representing the present, 'that which is eternally becoming'." This seems to imply that he is associating henbane with these Goddesses in terms of northern magic, though he does not actually say so. Modern magickal thinking considers henbane to be ruled by Saturn, which does seem not inappropriate for a herb which is so effective at bringing a swift death to those who use it rashly. However Culpepper reports, with some incredulity, that astrologers of his own and earlier times considered the plant to be ruled by Jupiter: "I wonder how astrologers could take on them to make this an herb of Jupiter" and argues that because henbane generally grows in "saturnine" places, especially the ditches where the contents of cesspits and privies were dumped, it should more properly be considered a herb of Saturn. That said, my comments above about the association of henbane with madness and perhaps with an archetype which we might choose to associate with Woden may account for the alternative attribution of this plant to Jupiter; Woden/Oðinn and Jupiter seem to have shared at least some qualities as Indo-European Sky Fathers with the power to deal death from on high, their penchant for wandering amongst the realms of humanity and for acting as patrons or protectors of their favoured mortals. Both were also prone to disguising themselves when interfering with human activities, Jupiter in particular having a taste for shape-shifting into various animal forms ranging from swans to bulls. Beyerl, meanwhile, says that henbane can be used for rituals of necromancy and the summoning of spirits and astral entities but cautions against the use of henbane internally "by any but the adept".. He suggests that the plant can be used more safely as an incense - though given the uncertain and unpredictable results which have been reported from burning henbane herb or seeds this would appear to be at best a questionable recommendation if only because of its very vagueness. How much of what part of the plant should you use in how big a confined area? If any reader is inclined to experiment, will they please renew their subscription before they start? Henbane was once also believed to have aphrodisiac properties and was an ingredient of love potions, though whether such potions were to be swallowed or rubbed on assorted (and perhaps relevant) body bits is not made clear. Description Henbane, whose botanical name is Hyoscyamus niger, is a member of the Solanaceae order of plants which includes such innocuous members as the humble potato and tomato but also highly poisonous and notorious ones such as belladonna, mandrake and the daturas. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the plant makes its appearance in the English language as henne-belle, a form which is recorded as early as 1000 ce in the writings both of Æfric and subsequently in a number of early English medical manuscripts of the 11th century. It seems likely that this form derived at least in part from the bell-shape of the plant's flowers. The more familiar (and modern) form henbane was first recorded in the mid 13th century. The -bane part refers to an archaic Old English word for death, so the name as a whole refers to a belief that poultry, most notably hens, were particularly vulnerable to the effects of eating its seeds. The same idea is found in the name wolfsbane, one of the common traditional names for aconite (aconitum napellus), which was not only sacred in Greek myth to Hecate and therefore to Cerberus, the three-headed hound who guarded the gates of the underworld, but also refers to the one-time use of the plant for poisoning meat left out as bait for wolves. Natural History and Habitat Henbane is not officially considered a native of Britain, its natural range being through southern Europe and across western Asia, though according to Mrs Grieve, writing in the 1930s, it was at that time fairly frequent throughout Britain and Ireland and was known to grow wild in some 60 counties in Britain. She suggests that it may have originally escaped from herbalists gardens and subsequently at least partially naturalised. When growing wild, henbane generally favours sandy or chalky soils and grows readily on waste ground, around abandoned and derelict buildings and alongside roads. It also grows well close to the sea and readily colonises disused rabbit warrens. Henbane is also reported to be one of a number of the Solanaceae order of plants which have colonised the campus of Nottingham University following their escape from the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences where they are cultivated for research purposes. Henbane grows up to 36 inches tall and may be either annual or biennial. The annual form flowers in July and August and the biennial one in May and June of the second year. During the first year a rosette of basal leaves grows; in the second this is followed by an erect stem which may be simple or slightly branched. The stem and leaves are slightly sticky to the touch. The flowers are bell-shaped, hairy on the outside and shade from a pale, dingy yellow to a reddish-purple towards the open end of the bell. They are veined with purple or violet and each has five distinct tips. Each of the seed pods may contain up to five hundred very small greyish-brown seeds not unlike those of the poppy. The leaves, according to Culpepper, are "very large, thick, soft, woolly" and lie on the ground "much cut in, or torn on the edges, of a dark, ill greyish green colour; among which rise up diverse small branches with lesser leaves on them ....". All parts of the plant are highly toxic, the leaves being the most poisonous part of the plant - so much so that there mere smell of the fresh leaves has been found to cause giddiness and stupor in some people. Culpepper comments that "The whole plant more that the root has a very heavy, ill, soporiferious smell, somewhat offensive." The main active agents are several tropane alkaloids - hyoscyamine and hyoscine, from which the plant takes its Latin name, and atropine. Sheep and (according to some authorities at least) pigs appear to be largely immune to the poison whereas serious poisoning has been reported in cattle which have eaten henbane. Other writers have claimed that pigs have in fact been poisoned by the plant, so the position with regard to pigs is rather unclear. It was also once a common practice to add small quantities of henbane herb or seed to horse and cattle feeds in order to fatten them up - perhaps by making the animals too stupefied to walk off the flesh. The toxin is sometimes present in the milk of cattle which have been given feed containing henbane. Healing Uses of Henbane Henbane was much used as a medicine in former times. Mrs Grieve reports that it was so widely used even fairly recently that it was deliberately grown for the medicinal market because collection from the wild could not meet the demand. The active ingredients are extracted from the leaves and flowering tops, both collected during the flowering period, and occasionally from the fruits. It has a similar effect on the body to that of belladonna which also contains hyoscyamine, although the higher proportion of this alkaloid in henbane produces less of an excitory effect. It also has generally sedative effects on the central nervous system. The results of overdose include dry mouth, dilation of the pupils, restlessness, then hallucinations and delirium leading to coma and ultimately death. It was with a pharmaceutical preparation of derived from henbane that the notorious Dr Crippen poisoned his wife Cora in 1910 before attempting to flee to the USA with his mistress, Ethel le Neve. As well as being a sedative, its medical uses are (or at least were) largely antispasmodic and anodyne, ie as a pain-killer. Because of its sedative and antispasmodic actions it has been used as an effective treatment of the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, particularly for relieving tremor and rigidity in the early stages. Much of the folklore and traditional belief connected with henbane derives from its medicinal qualities. Thiselton-Dyer, for example, quotes Gerard's claims about the dental uses of the plant: "The root boiled with vinegar, and the same holden hot in the mouth, easeth the pain of the teeth." He further adds: "The seed is used by mountebank tooth-drawers, which run about the country, to cause worms to come forth from the teeth, by burning it in a chafing-dish of coles, the party holding his mouth over the fume thereof; but some crafty companions, to gain money, convey small lute-strings into the water, persuading the patient that those small creeprers came out of his mouth or other parts which he intended to cure." (Green) In medieval medicine, the seeds were heated over coal or charcoal until they produced fumes which were then inhaled as a painkiller or other treatment for toothache. Whether this merely stupefied the patient so that he was unaware of the pain or whether it temporarily eased the pain while leaving him fully conscious is unclear. The ancient Egyptians are also known to have smoked henbane for their dental problems, though the native Egyptian henbane, Hyoscyamus muticus, contains higher concentrations of alkaloids and therefore produces even more powerful effects than our more familiar European variety. Douce, meanwhile, wrote of the ability of the plant to send people mad: "Henbane, called insana, mad, for the use thereof is perillous, for it if be eate or dronke, it breedeth madness, or slowe lykenss of sleepe." (Thiselton-Dyer p315) He seems to have been largely quoting the words of Bartolomaeus who, writing in 1398, commented: "This herb is called insana wood, for the use thereof is perilous; for if it be eate or dranke, it breedeth woodenes, or slow liknes of slepe; therefore the herb is commonly called Morilindi, for it taketh away wytte and reason.".. (Green) This second (and earlier) description of the properties of henbane contains the archaic Old English word wod, meaning madness or fury, which will be familiar to pagans as part of the name of Woden or Oðinn - himself a God closely connected with shamanic ecstacy and storm-fury. According to Mrs Grieve, dried root of henbane used to be hung as a necklace around the necks of young children to promote easy teething and to prevent convulsions. So long as they don't chew on it, presumably .... Until fairly recently an oil obtained from the leaves was made into pain-relieving lotions for treating earache, neuralgia, sciatica and rheumatism, while homoeopathy prescribes its Hyoscyamus remedy for twitching, coughs, sensitive skin, and excited or obsessional behavioural problems. Modern medicine has also used derivatives of henbane as a pre-operative medication and for preventing travel sickness. Henbane Pilsener 20 litres of water 1 litre of malt 1/2 litre honey 40 grams of dried henbane leaves yeast for beer (amount depends on the product) Find a container which is large enough to hold all the ingredients. Cook the henbane in water for 5 to 10 minutes. Meanwhile dissolve the malt in a couple of litres of water, dissolve the honey into it and add the henbane leaf-water. Then add the yeast. It might be useful to add a little bit more yeast than recommended because the tropane-alkaloids affect the yeast. Don't seal the container as it may explode. The brew should start fermenting after a day or so and the fermentation should be finished after 4 or 5 days. The beer is now ready for drinking. You can also bottle it, in which case you can add a few drops of honey to each bottle and let it ferment for another week or two. Serve preferably chilled. Store as normal beer.

Heather

U~Ur Heather is often connected with death and completion in the Celtic tree Ogham, but its name, Ur, means 'new.' Heather is the symbolic gateway linking the earth with the spirit world. Heather is a rather twisted gnarled plant that grows profusely on the moors and heaths of Scotland. It blooms in small purple, red and blue flowers, which are favored by bees for their pollen. As a medicinal, it is used chiefly as a treatment of nervous isorders and cardiac palpitations. It can also be used to treat menstrual pain and migraine headaches. Bees make a distinctive honey from its pollen, and the Picts used heather to brew a potent ale. Its roots and stems are used to make rope, thatch for roofs, and brooms. Used during Summer Solstice. Heather is said to ignite Faery passions and open portals between their world and our own.

Fir, Silver

Also known as the Birth Tree. Burning needles or sweeping around the bed with a branch blessed and protected a mother and her new baby.

Hazel

C~Coll~Hazel The hazel tree presides over the month of July. Hazel trees frequently grow as a clump of slender trunks, and when they do adopt a one-trunk-and-canopy tree shape.The Gaelic word for hazel is Coll. It appears frequently in placenames in the west of Scotland, such as the Isle of Coll and Bar Calltuin in Appin, both in Argyll-shire where the tree and its eponymous placenames are the most common. It also appears in the name of Clan Colquhoun whose clan badge is the hazel. The English name for the tree and its nut is derived from the Anglo-Saxon haesel knut, haesel meaning cap or hat, thus referring to the cap of leaves on the nut on the tree. Hazel has long been a favourite wood from which to make staffs, whether for ritual Druidic use, for medieval self defence, as staffs favoured by pilgrims, or to make shepherds crooks and everyday walking sticks. In the case of the latter two, the pliancy of the hazel's wood was used to bend the stems into the required shape, though it was also customary to bend the hazel shoots when still on the tree to 'grow' the bend into a crook or walking stick. The wood readily splits lengthways and bends easily, even right back on itself, which makes it ideal for weaving wattle hurdles for use as fencing or as medieval house walls when daubed with mud and lime. Hazel stakes bent to a U-shape were also used to hold down thatch on roofs. Like willow, young coppiced hazel shoots were used to weave a variety of baskets and other containers. Forked twigs of hazel were also favoured by diviners, especially for finding water. Hazel leaves are usually the earliest native ones to appear in spring and often the last to fall in autumn, and were fed to cattle as fodder. There was also a belief that they could increase a cow's milk yield. Decription Common throughout Britain and Europe, Hazel trees can also be found in America, North Africa, Turkey and in Central and Northern Asia. More of a large shrub than a tree, its average height is 12–20 feet (3½-6 meters) though is has been recorded growing up to 60 feet (18 meters). Its preference is to grow in copses, oak woods and hedgerows, and thrives in damp places near to ponds and streams, however it will fruit better if grown were the land has good drainage. The wood of the Hazel tree is a whitish red and has a close and even grain. Today it is mainly grown and coppiced for its smooth reddish-brown stems, which have a great toughness and elasticity from which well-veined veneers are produced from its larger roots. The wood was of particular use to the countryman, and was used to make hampers, hoops, wattles, shepherds crooks, walking sticks, fishing rods, whip-handles and other country items such as rustic seats and baskets for gardens. After burning, the wood of the Hazel tree also makes good charcoal, which crayons and gunpowder are made. The bark of the Hazel tree is light brown in colour and smooth, except for speckles of spongy light brown lenticels that allow the tree to breathe. The leaves of the Hazel are quite large 2–4 inches (5-10 cm), and are slightly heart-shaped with toothed edges rounding into a long point. In the bud they are folded into several longitudinal plaits. The leaves open in early spring growing singly on a short stem, at which time they tend to be lime-green in colour, but as the year progresses they turn from mid-green in the summer to tints of green, yellow-brown and pink in autumn. The leaves stay with the tree much longer than most other trees, sometimes well into December by which time they turn to shades of yellow, dull orange and red. Druids Folklore Faeries are attracted to hazel. In legend there are several variations on an ancient tale that nine hazel trees grew around a sacred pool, dropping nuts into the water to be eaten by some salmon (a fish revered by Druids) which thereby absorbed the wisdom. The number of bright spots on the salmon were said to indicate how many nuts they had eaten. In an Irish variation of this legend, one salmon was the recipient of all these magical nuts. A Druid master, in his bid to become all-knowing, caught the salmon and instructed his pupil to cook the fish but not to eat any of it. However in the process, hot juice from the cooking fish spattered onto the apprentice's thumb, which he instinctively thrust into his mouth to cool, thereby imbibing the fish's wisdom. This lad was called Fionn Mac Cumhail and went on to become one of the most heroic leaders in Irish mythology. Hazelnut In days gone by hazelnuts would have provided a plentiful and easily stored source of protein, and they were often ground up and mixed with flour to be made into nourishing breads. Cultivated hazelnuts called filberts take their name from St Philibert's Day on 20 August, the date by which hazelnuts were supposed to start ripening. Holy Cross Day on 14 September was traditionally given as a school holiday for children to go nutting, a custom which persisted in England until the First World War. Various places celebrated Nutcrack Night sometime during November, when the stored nuts were opened, though apparently some parishioners were in the habit of taking hazelnuts to church on the following Sunday to be cracked noisily during the sermon. Today hazelnuts continue to be eaten, though more frequently in luxury foods such as chocolate and as hazelnut butter, and as a Christmas delicacy. Woodland crafts using hazel are also enjoying a resurgence, and hazel wattle hurdles have even been used as sound screens along motorways. The hazelnuts are embodiments of wisdom and children born in the autumn could have the 'milk of the nut', said to be of great benefit. The Celts equated hazelnuts with concentrated wisdom, meditation and poetic inspiration, as is suggested by the similarity between the Gaelic word for these nuts, cno, and the word for wisdom, cnocach. Hazel branches were also used for divination because of their pliancy and affinity for water. Its nuts were often worn as talismans for a healthy life gained through that wisdom. Magical Healing wands are made from its wood, as are water divining sticks. Medicinal The tree itself has few medicinal properties, although the nuts have some. Milk from the nuts can be used to treat chronic cough, and mixed with pepper for runny noses and eyes. Culpeper recommended mixing dried husks with red wine for diarrhoea and for the relief of heavy menstrual flows.. Hazelnuts were also often ground up with flour to make bread. Adder bites were treated by laying cross-shaped pieces of Hazel wood against the wound. The nuts can be ground up and used to sooth sore throat and head cold symptoms. HAZEL (CORYLLUS AVELLANA) Well-known hedgerow plant producing catkins and hazelnuts. Supports at least 70 insect species. Its name comes from the Anglo-Saxon "haesel knut" - haesel = cap/hat, referring to the cap of leaves on the nut when it is on the tree. Corylus may come from the Greek "kopus" or korus" = a cap (from the husk) or from "karyon" (kapuov) = a nut. The fertilised flowers grow into nuts which ripen September to October. The nuts are distributed by squirrels, woodpeckers and small rodents. Male and female flowers grow on the same tree - the male are catkins. Female flowers are little egg-shaped buds that sit on the branch unstalked. Hazel is important for providing the main habitat for an ascomycete fungus, a rare fungus in Britain, only discovered on Hazels in the UK in 1970 in Mull. It is also important for lichens and is the best UK host species for Graphidion lichens, some of which are endangered or rare. Five species of moth are associated with Hazel. The leaves are eaten by roe and red deer. It is also an important habitat for the dormouse. Food plant of the caterpillars of the following moths - Oak Beauty, Small White Wave, The Magpie, Clouded Border, Barred Umber and Winter.Hazel is frequently coppiced. Hazel is the sacred plant of the Celtic sea god Manaman. The Celts also believed that hazelnuts held concentrated wisdom. One old tale tells of Hazel tress growing round Connla's Well, the well of wisdom and believed to be the source of the River Shannon, and dropping hazelnuts into the water. These nuts were eaten by salmon, who were revered by the Druids, who absorbed their wisdom. The number of spots on a salmon indicated the number of nuts it had eaten. Catching a salmon and eating it would endow the eater with wisdom. In an Irish version of this tale, one salmon only ate all the nuts. A Druid master told his pupil to catch and cook the fish but not to eat it. The hot fat from the fish while cooking splattered the pupil's thumb, which he licked to cool it - thereby imbibing the fish's wisdom. He was known as Fionn Mac Cumhail and became one of the most heroic leaders in Irish mythology. The phrase "in a nutshell" probably derives from this legend because all wisdom is within the nut. In Norse mythology Hazel was known as the Tree of Knowledge and was sacred to the god Thor. Many legends tell of Hazel wands being able to induce shape-shifting, eg, Sadb, mother of Fion's son, Oisin, was turned into a deer by such a wand. According to legend, St Patrick used a Hazel wand to drive the serpents out of Ireland. In folklore, Hazel trees are often found bordering worlds where magical things happen. In "The Discoverie of Witchcraft" (1534), there is record of a Hazel wand used as a charm against witches and thieves. In Scotland, Hazel was one of the 9 sacred woods used in fires at Beltane. Nuts have been linked with fertility in old country folklore. In nineteenth-century Devon, for example brides used to be met outside church by an old woman holding a basket of hazelnuts to encourage fertility. It was believed that a good nut year meant many babies. Hazelnuts were also given the names of potential husbands and thrown into the fire by eager girls. The loudest pop and brightest flame indicated true love. Similarly, on Halloween (Nut Crack Night) lovers would roast hazelnuts over fires - depending on if they burned steadily or flew apart signified the future of the couple's relationship. At Roman weddings Hazel torches were burnt on the wedding night, meaning happiness for the couple. A double hazelnut will kill a witch. A rosary of hazelnuts = protection. Hazel twigs gathered on Palm Sunday would protect the house from fire and lightening. Cut a Hazel stick before sunrise on May Day and draw a circle round yourself with it to protect against fairies, serpents and evil. Three Hazel pins stuck into a house wall will protect from fire. If you stir jam with a Hazel stick it won't be stolen by fairies. The Irish kept a hazelnut in the pocket to ward off rheumatism. A double nut protected from toothache. Hazel trees were plentiful in ancient Scotland. The Romans called Scotland Caledonia, from Cal-Dun = "Hill of Hazel". Hazel twigs were used to bind vines to stakes. Vines were sacred to Bacchus, god of wine, and any goats found feeding on them were caught and sacrificed to Bacchus on spits of Hazel. Sheep farmers would not take catkins into the house because they believed to do so would lead to a poor lambing season. 14 September, Holy Cross Day, used to be a school holiday so that children could go nutting. A hurdle of Hazel around a house or a Hazel breast band on a horse, offered protection from evil. In eastern England, Hazel boughs were collected on Palm Sunday and placed in vases on windowsills to protect against lightning. Hazel is a favourite wood for staffs, ritual wands, walking sticks, self-defence and shepherds' crooks. The wood bends easily so is ideal for weaving fences. Hazel stems bent into a U shape were used for holding down thatch on roofs. Young Hazel shoots were used to make baskets and containers. Forked twigs were used for water divining. Plant Hazels in a moist but free-draining spot. When trimming in March, make sure, if you want nuts, that you leave some catkins and female flowers on the trees. Will tolerate windy, exposed sites. The Hazel tree (Corylus avellana) is member of the birch family (Betulaceae), and is one of the sacred trees of Wicca/Witchcraft. Of old the Hazel tree was revered by the ancient druids and is the ninth tree of the Celtic tree calendar, dated 5th Aug – 1st Sept. In Celtic folklore the Hazel tree is considered a tree of knowledge, particularly in Ireland were it nuts are a symbol of great mystical wisdom. There are some 15 species of Hazel trees native to the Northern temperate zones, the fruit of which are variously called Filbert, Hazelnut or Cobnut depending on the relative length of the nut to its husk. The Filbert variety is of the cultivated European species. The flowers of the Hazel appear in January, or sometimes even as early as October given the right climatic conditions, though more frequently they won’t open until March. Male and female flowers form on the same tree but in distinct clusters or catkins. The male catkins are pendulous and first appear as minute sausage-shaped buds of a dullish brown colour. As they mature they turn a pale greenish-yellow or primrose colour and when its pollen has been shed to green. The catkin consists of a number of bract-like scales each bearing eight anthers on its inner surface; from these fine-grained yellow pollen is shaken by the wind, after which they are discarded. The female flowers are grouped in little egg-shaped buds that sit sessile on the branch. The flower itself is a two-chambered ovary surrounded by a velvety cup-like bract, which later grows into the large leafy husk of the nut. It is surmounted by a short style with two long crimson stigmas forming a tassel at the top of the cluster. The fruit of the Hazel tree has a peculiarity in its growth that is worthy of note. The male flowers or catkins are mostly produced on the ends of the year’s shoots, while the female flowers are produced close to the branch where they are completely sessile or un-stalked. In most fruit trees when the flower is fertilized, the fruit is produced in exactly the same place, but with the hazelnut a different arrangement takes place. As soon as the flower is fertilized it starts away from the parent branch and a fresh branch is grown bearing the new leaves with nuts at its end, thus the new nut is produced several inches away from the spot on which its parent flower originally grew. Hazelnuts generally ripen by September and can be eaten directly off the tree. They also provide a rich source of food for many small animals, such like squirrels and dormice. Birds and in particular nut-hatchers (a variety of small passerine birds of the family “Sittidae”) are partial to the nuts, wedging them in crevices and beating at them with their beaks until they crack. In the old days hazelnuts provided a plentiful and easily stored source of protein, and were often ground up and mixed with flour to make nourishing breads. Left un-eaten the nuts fall to the ground where their shells crack and a new root and stem emerges. As the root embeds into the earth and becomes established, the stem rises and a new sapling is born. Mythology and folklore: In Roman Britain, Hazel trees were once cultivated and became so abundant that Scotland was named Caledonia (a term derived from Cal-Dun, meaning “Hill of Hazel”) after them. Hazel trees were also well known in Europe where it had been growing since pre-historic times, and where hazelnuts formed part of the staple food diet of the Swiss lake-dwellers. An old custom in Europe was to use small flexible twigs from the Hazel tree to secure grape vines to stakes. As the grape vine is sacred to Bacchus (the Roman god of intoxication and vegetation), any goats or other animals found feeding on the vines were caught and sacrificed to him on spits made of Hazel. Since mediaeval times trees have been considered sacred. In Ireland in particular three trees gained special prominence, the Apple tree for its beauty, the Hazel for its wisdom and the Oak for its strength. Indeed so sacred were these trees regarded that any unjustified felling of an Apple, Hazel or Oak tree, was a crime worthy of the death penalty. The wood of these trees was also used to construct funeral pyres, at which times particular respect seems to have been paid to the Hazel in relation to its wisdom. Hazel-wands have often been found in the coffins of notable personalities, for among the chiefs and rulers of ancient times, a wand of Hazel was considered a symbol of authority and wisdom. In Roman mythology the Hazel is attributed to the god Mercury (Mercurius), whose counterpart in Greek mythology is Hermes. Mercury/Hermes was the messenger of the gods and also the god of commerce, manual skill, eloquence, cleverness, travel and thievery. He is often depicted with a staff or wand of Hazel called a Caduceus, and wearing a broad rimed travelling hat and sandals. As Hermes in Greek legend, when he was only a few hours old he escaped from his cradle and went out in search of adventure. Later that evening feeling hungry, he stole two oxen from Apollo (the god of the sun) and hid them in a cave where he killed and eat them. When Apollo discovered what had happened, Hermes played to him on a lyre, which he made by stretching cords across a tortoise shell. Apollo was so charmed by his music he allowed him to go unpunished. In gratitude Hermes gave his lyre to Apollo, who in return gave him a magical Caduceus made of Hazel, said to bestowed wisdom, wealth and prosperity on its owner by turning everything it touched into gold. Mercury/Hermes as the messenger of the gods could move swiftly through the air and sea. As such the artistic impression of him changed, wings in his hair replaced the broad rimed hat and the sandals became wings at his ankles to aid him as he travelled on the wind. The Caduceus is depicted with two ribbons tied to it indicting speed as he flowed through the air. Later the ribbons changed to serpents as the Caduceus was adopted by the medical profession and became the symbol of the healing arts. The two serpents entwined around the Caduceus are symbolic of illness and health, as well as life and death, for in ancient symbolism the venom of a snake could be used to both heal and poison. An Irish legend concerning the Hazel has been passed down through its association with water and Salmon. One is a description of Connla’s Well at the foot of Cuilcagh mountain in County Cavan, which is believed to be the source of the River Shannon. The well is surrounded by nine Hazel trees, which produce both flowers and fruit (beauty and wisdom). As the fruit (the nuts) fall into the well, the salmon that live in the well feed on them and whatever number of nuts they eat, so the same number of spots appears on their bodies. The salmon of the Shannon are much prized by fishermen in Ireland, for many believe them to possess wisdom, the recipients of all knowledge gained from the nuts of the Hazel tree. An old custom of the country village people was to go on picnics called “go’in a nutt’in” taking with them ale or cider. The term “go’in a nutting” was used as a euphemism for courting, the gathering of nuts in the woods and scrubland gave the young folk lots of opportunity for making contact with the object of one’s desire, and was therefore an occasion few would want to miss. Magical Uses: Down through the ages the Hazel has always been considered magical, and was used primarily for its powers of divination. The use of Hazel divining rods (dowsing rod) to detect water and mineral veins comes down from antiquity, the art of which is called “rhabdomancy”. Typically a divining rod has two forks off its main stem shaped like the letter “Y”. The two forks of the rod are gripped with the fore fingers along the forks, so that the tail end of the rod points down toward the ground to begin searching. Another method was to peel the bark of the rod and simply lay it on the palm of the hand. Of old the same method was used to find treasure, thieves and murderers. The practice of dowsing is still common today in Cornwall, and in other European Country’s. According to folklore and superstition, the dowsing rod is guided to water or mineral lodes by guardian pixies, or the kobolds (gnomes) of Germany. When the dowsing rod begins to twitch, the dowser or rhabdomancer is said to feel a sudden acceleration or retardation of the pulse, or a sensation of great heat or cold at the moment of discovery. In the past other woods such as the Willow tree, were also used for dowsing. No doubt it was from using Hazel rods in divination, that its fruit the Hazelnut became associated with fortune telling. In Scotland an old custom of love divination is still practiced on Halloween, in which two hazelnuts are given the names of lovers and placed on burning embers. If they burn quietly and remained side by side, the lovers were considered faithful, but if the nuts crack, spit or roll apart, they were considered to be ill-matched and one of them unfaithful. In ritual Hazel wands are used in connection with mercurial energy from which poetic and magical inspiration is gained and imparted. Hazel wands can also be used to divine suitable places in which to work magick. An old method of cutting a wand was to find a tree that has yet to bare fruit, and at sunrise on a Wednesday (the day ruled by Mercury), to cut a branch with a single stroke from a sickle. The Hazel is considered to be at its most powerful during early spring while its sap is still rising, and in autumn when its sap and energy is fully contained within ready for its harvest of nuts. A good divining rod is said to “squeal like a pig” when held under water. The nuts of the Hazel were commonly used to bring luck by stringing them together and hanging them in the house. Such a string of nuts were often given to a new bridesmaid as a gift to wish her wisdom, wealth and good health. When eaten the hazelnuts are said to increase fertility, and of old were eaten before divination to increase inspiration. Also of old, supple twigs if Hazel were woven into crowns and called “wishing caps”, which when worn and if you wished very hard, would make all your desires come true. Sailors, believing them to offer protection against bad storms at sea, also wore wishing caps. The ancient druids believed they could induce invisibility by wearing them. Twigs of Hazel placed on window ledges give protection against lightening, and three pins of Hazel hammered into a wall of the house would protect it from fire. Carrying a double hazelnut in a pocket was and old country charm used to prevent toothache. If bitten by a snake, an equal armed cross made of Hazel laid upon it, was an ancient remedy said to draw out the poison. The kernels of the nut ground fine and mixed with mead or honeyed water is said to be good for coughs that won’t clear, and when mixed with pepper in a decoction will clear a muzzy head. The Hazel is known by the folk names: Coll, the Poets Tree and Dripping Hazel. Its deity associations are with: Mercury, Hermes, Thor, Mac Coll, Aengus, Artemis and Diana. Its ruling planets are the Sun and Mercury. Its associated element is Air, but it also has a great affinity with Water. Its gender is masculine. It is used to attract the powers needed for: Protection, Fertility, Luck, Lightening, Inspiration and anything associated with the element Air. Astrologically Hazel people (i.e. those who are born during the month of August) have the soul of a pioneer, but they waste too much energy on competitive thoughts and fighting abuses instead of letting their own gifts and skills ripen. They can be impatient for things to happen, and hurry things along when they should sit back and let things take their own course, so intent on running around trying new things they forget the value of being patience. When Hazel people listen to their own natural rhythms, they find they are happier and more prepared spiritually and physically. They are generally charming, undemanding and understanding, and know how to make an impression. They can be active fighters for social causes, are popular but can be moody. They are capricious lovers but are honest and tolerant partners. They also have a precise sense of judgment about what is right and wrong.

Ferns

Uncurled fronds of the male fern were gathered at Midsummer, dried and carried for good luck. All ferns are powerful protective plants and faeries are especially attracted to them.

Hawthorn

Druidic Alphabet - H (Huathe) The Hawthorn is a rather small tree that grows with a dense, many branched and twisted tangle. Due to its impenetrable growth, it is mainly used for hedgerows, and the origin of its name comes from the Anglo-Saxon 'haegthorn,' meaning hedge-thorn. It is also known as whitethorn. Its leaves can be used to make tea, and it is said to be good for people with cardiac or circulatory problems. It is also a remedy for emotional distress or long term nervous conditions. Its juice can be used in the treatment of asthma, rheumatism, arthritis, and laryngitis. Hawthorn, is so known as Witches' Tree, and is one part of the sacred triad of trees that are said to be sacred to the Faery. Oak, Ash, and Thorn, when growing naturally together, create a place where it is easy to see the Fey. Hawthorns were once believed to be the transformed bodies of Witches, who had shapeshifted into tree form. It is more likely that the spirit seen in the Hawthorn was that of a dryad or tree Faery. Wands of this wood have great power. Its bark is smooth and gray and its wood is used to make maypoles for Beltane (now celebrated as Mayday.) Hawthorn was often for the wreath of summers Green Man who represented the spirit of the woods. Hung outside a cow shed hawthorn assured a plentiful milk supply and when laid on rafters by someone not in the family guarded the house against storms witches and spirits. "A hundred years I slept beneath an thorn Until the tree was root and branches of my thought, Until white petals blossomed in my crown." From "The Traveller" by Kathleen Raine Hawthorn symbolised joy at the return of summer. The Hawthorn is the female tree of April, which leads up to the fertile central Oak month after Beltane. It is often known as May, as it is closely associated with the tradition of'maying,' or riding out on a spring morning and gathering hawthorne boughs laden with white flowers. These fragrant white blossoms were used to decorate the halls, and worn as crowns by maidens in wedding ceremonies.Young girls rose at dawn to bathe in dew gathered from hawthorn flowers to ensure their beauty in the coming year. "The fair maid who, the first of May, Goes to the fields at break of day And washes in dew from the hawthorn tree, Will ever after handsome be."

Elder

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.

Furze

O~Ohn~ The furze is a yellow-flowering shrub that grows profusely on the open moors and hillsides of Great Britain. It blooms year around, although its densest bloom is in the spring and early summer. Its flowers are rich in pollen and nectar, and give off a strong sweet honey/coconut scent. They are a favorite of honey bees. A decoction can be made of the flowers for the treatment of jaundice and to cleanse the kidneys of stones and obstructions.

Club Moss

Only the priest or priestess could were allowed to gather club moss. The plants and spores were collected in July and August for use in blessings and protection.

Foxglove

The source of the modern heart drug Digitalis, this is a Poisonous plant and can have seriously dangerous results if taken internally. DO NOT INGEST!!Associated with the Little People and Otherworld beings. Plant Foxglove near your front door to invite the Faery in. Put a dried sprig of Foxglove in a talisman to keep you surrounded in Faery light.

Cloves

Their magickal properties include banishing evil (exorcism), clearing your head, protection, love, and money. Burn cloves as an incense to draw wealth and prosperity, drive away hostile and negative forces, produce positive spiritual vibrations, and purify the area in which they are burned. Wear or carry cloves to draw members of the opposite sex to you. Using cloves in your magickal spells is said to ensure that your magickal intention is realized.