Path of the Green Witch – Part III
In parts one and two of this series, we examined what a green witch is, and isn’t. Now we start to get into the “meat of the topic”.
For me, being a green witch means a very close relationship with the nature around me, no matter where that may be. While I currently live in the mountain desert of New Mexico (my very own “Land of Enchantment”) I have lived in many places throughout the world. Each one has its own special environment, and as such the “nature” of each place changes. From my time near Stonehenge to the forests of the Ozarks, to the Pacific coast, I have always been attuned to nature.
Of course, there are certain parts of nature that always have a strong tie to any green witch, and one of those parts are her trees. You see, trees are rooted to the Earth. They are strong, yet depend on nature to provide food, water, and sunlight. They are just like the animals (including humans) that live, procreate and die, all within the confines of Mother Nature.
So, what trees does the green witch relate to? Well all of them, but here are some significant ones for any green witch.
Trees are the pillars of our world. They anchor our ground and seem to hold up the sky. They form the backbone of the green witch’s practice. While we tend to focus on herbs, we also work with wood, often when something more physically stable or permanent is required. The green witch’s staff and stang, for example, are made of wood, as is the more traditional witch’s tool, the wand.
Sticks and twigs form the basis of many protective amulets, as do rounds cut from the cross-section of branches and inscribed with symbols. Trees also have many practical uses, such as supporting plants and serving as natural fences. Wood is also used to build homes and furniture.
Following are sixteen trees of use to the green witch, plus some associated lore. These trees grow in various areas of North America. The parts of trees used include bark, leaves, and inner wood.
The traditional witch’s broom is made of birch twigs. Magically, birch is associated with cleansing, protection, and purification. It is also associated with children; cradles were often made of birch wood.
OAK (QUERCUS ROBUR)
Oak is one of those traditional woods that are firmly entrenched in folklore; it is magically associated with defense, thunder, strength, courage, healing, longevity, protection, and good fortune. Because the wood is very strong and durable and possesses a certain reputation for indestructibility, oak has been used in home construction and in shipbuilding. The bark is used to tan leather and as a dye. Acorns, the fruit of the oak tree, are symbols of fertility. When found growing in oak trees, mistletoe was considered to be particularly potent by the druids and important in their magical work.
MAPLE (ACER SPP.)
Maple is another popular tree used for cabinetry and by artisans. It is also a source of dye and maple sugar. Magically, maple is used for love, prosperity, life and health, and general abundance.
PINE (PINUS SPP.)
Commonly used in building and construction, the pine is one of the most widely found trees in North America. Its resin is used for the creation of turpentine and soaps, and the production of rosin. Amber, one of the most beloved gems for magical jewelry, is fossilized pine sap. Pine oil, another product of the pine tree, is commonly added to household cleansing products, proof that the scent is associated with a sense of purification. Magically, pine is used for cleansing and purification, healing, clarity of mind, prosperity, and protection from evil.
CEDAR (THUJA OCCIDENTALIS—WHITE CEDAR; CUPRESSUS NOOTKATENSIS—YELLOW CEDAR; JUNIPERUS VIRGINIANA—RED CEDAR)
Another precious wood that is recognized by many cultures as magical and powerful, cedar has been known throughout the ages for its protective qualities as well as its ability to repel insects and pests. With its aromatic scent, cedar was often given as an offering. Yellow cedar, found in North America, grows in a roughly conical shape and is often used in hedges. The other kind of cedar found in North America is the red cedar (Juniperus virginiana). Magically, cedar is associated with healing, spirituality, purification, protection, prosperity, and harmony.
ROWAN (PYRUS AUCUPARIA, SORBUS AUCUPARIA)
Rowan is also known as quicken, hornbeam, witchwood, and mountain ash (although it is technically not a true ash, it is so called due to the similarity of the leaves). Rowan berries have been used in brewing and the bark has been used for tanning and as a dye. Curiously, rowan is said to be either a favorite of witches and fairies or anathema to them. Magical associations include improving psychic powers, divination, healing, protection from evil, peace, creativity, success, and change and transformation.
POPLAR (POPULUS SPP.)
Also known as aspen, poplar’s magical associations include prosperity, communication, exorcism, and purification.
ASH (FRAXINUS EXCELSIOR)
Ash is one of the trees considered by some European cultures to be the World Tree. Magically, ash is associated with water, strength, intellect, willpower, protection, justice, balance and harmony, skill, travel, weather, and wisdom.
WILLOW (SALIX ALBA)
The white willow, also known as the weeping willow, has long flexible branches that are woven into what we know as wicker-work. Long associated with the moon, the willow has a great affinity for water and is often found growing near it. In folklore, the willow is associated with the Goddess and feminine cycles. Thanks to the ability of cuttings to easily and quickly recover from trauma, willow is also associated with growth and renewal. Magical associations of willow include love, tranquility, harmony, protection, and healing.
WITCH HAZEL (HAMAMELIS VIRGINIANA)
Also known as snapping hazelnut, for the spontaneous cracking open of its seedpods, witch hazel has long been used as a poultice for bruises and swellings. Witch hazel extracts are used for their astringent properties. Magical associations include protection, healing, and peace.
HONEYSUCKLE (LONICERA CAPRIFOLIUM, LONICERA PERICLYMENUM)
Also known as woodbine or hedge-tree, the honeysuckle is associated with liminal or transitional states. The scent of honeysuckle flowers is strongest in the evening. Magical associations include psychic awareness, harmony, healing, prosperity, and happiness.
APPLE (PYRUS MALUS)
Apple trees are found all over the Northern Hemisphere. Their widespread availability and fertile abundance bring to mind their association with life, longevity, and fertility. The fruit is used in cooking, baking, and brewing. Folklore associates the apple with the afterlife, fairies, creativity, and the otherworld. Magically, apples and apple trees are associated with love, healing, harmony, and longevity.
ELDER (SAMBUCUS CANADENSIS, SAMBUCUS NIGRA)
Elder is also known as witchwood. It is said that bad luck will fall upon anyone who does not ask the tree’s permission three times before harvesting any part of it. Folklore associates the elder with the crone aspect of the Goddess and with witches, and thus elder wood is rarely used to make furniture or as firewood for fear of incurring their wrath. Medicinally, elder bark is used as a diuretic, purgative, and emetic. The berries are used as a laxative and diuretic and also induce perspiration, and the leaves are used as an external emollient for irritated skin, sprains, and bruises. An infusion of elderflowers taken as a tea encourages the body to perspire, thus helping the body to work through a cold or illness, and also helps loosen chest and sinus congestion. Elderflower water makes an excellent topical application for irritated skin, including problems such as sunburn and acne, as well as an eyewash. Magically, elder wood is associated with protection (especially against being struck by lightning), prosperity, and healing.
YEW (TAXUS BACCATA)
Yew is poisonous, which may be one of the reasons it is so closely associated with death. It is a European tree that figures largely in the lore of witchcraft and natural magic. The yew produces a very hard wood and was used where construction required an unyielding, inflexible structure. Magically, it is associated with spirits and the otherworld.
Also known as may tree, mayflower, thorn, whitethorn, and haw, the hawthorn shrub was often used as a boundary marker. In fact, “haw” is an old word for hedge. Hawthorn is a magical tree. If it grows together with an oak and ash tree, it is said that the fairy folk can be seen among the trees. Even where it grows alone, hawthorn is considered to be a fairy favorite. Like oak, the hawthorn produces hard wood and great heat when burned. Magical associations include fertility, harmony, happiness, the otherworld, and protection.
HAZEL (CORYLUS AVELLANA)
The hazel tree has long been associated in European folklore with wisdom. Gods and mythological figures associated with the hazel include Thor, Brigid, and Apollo. The nuts and branches are used for magic, and the hazel is associated with luck, fertility, protection, and wish granting.