Ogham: The Mysterious Language of Trees: Alder

Ogham: The Mysterious Language of Trees: Alder

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Witches Wheel

Alder, alder, tree of the Faerie King

Who rises from the Underworld waters in Spring;

Raven bedecked, and oracle crowned.

Cone, leaf, and blossom, new life shall abound.

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Fearn (farin)

There is powerful poetry in the succession of trees, for the death dream of Willow in February is dispersed by the return of the Alder in March to summon the greenwood awake.

Alder springs from the watery places that are the interface between the mortal world and Fearie. The Alder tree is called King of the Waters. His red inner bark, and purple buds display his royal status. He is  connected  to two other water loving trees. The Queen of the Waters, Willow, and the Lady of the Woods, Birch. White Alder looks very much like Birch, suggesting a sibling relationship; Birch stands at the threshold of Winter, as Alder guards the gateway to  Spring.

Anyone who has walked in a young wood will find the Alder as straight and densely packed as troop of warriors. In the Gaelic battle of the Trees, Alder was said to fight most fiercely. Small wonder the Celts made their  battle shields of Alder wood, for despite its softness, it was imbued with the essence of the brave Faerie King. Alder also represents the Wounded King. When he is cut, his wood turns  red as blood. Reflected in the waters, these wounds may appear to be  blood spilled forth as a sacrifice to earth, guaranteeing the resurrection of all  living things.

Alder is the only deciduous tree to have cones as seeds. As we know from the Greeks, the pine cone represents the pineal gland, seat of vision and communion with the Divine. Dionysis  carries a staff with a pine cone at the tip, emblem of masculine fertility. Alder cones grow in a spiral pattern, symbolizing the role of male of fertility in the cycle of death and rebirth.

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Bran the Blessed

The famous Irish warlord, Bran the Blessed takes the Alder as his special tree.  He is another aspect of the Faerie King, Lord of the Underworld who springs up to the surface world with the strengthening of the light.  Alder is called The Shining Tear of the Sun. This image suggests  the rising sun reflected in water, inspiring a vision of the golden oracular head of Bran coming up from the Underworld.  Ravens attend on Bran.  Raptors that thrive even in winter, ravens carry messages from the dark realms into the light. The sacred Head of Bran speaks true poetry: Death conquers all; there is no death.

Because of its associations with Bran, the Alder is sacred to poets and singers, which were synonymous in ancient times.  Mortally wounded in battle, Bran  prophesied the events that would follow his death. He then told his men to cut off his head and carry it with them. Like the alder wood, it never decayed. They carried Bran’s head to Harlech where is sang for seven years. They carried it to Gwales where it spoke prophecies. They brought it to London and buried it under the White Mount, site of the Tower of London, to protect England from invasion. If not for the hubris of King Arthur digging the head of Bran up, it would still be there. Yet the ravens remain to sound the alarm.

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Fertility

Alder has another aspect of the Between.  He bears female catkins. These attract caterpillars that spin cocoons and re-emerge as moths and butterflies. Darkness to light, death to rebirth once more. Butterflies attend the King  by day. Moths keep him company at night. Alder is the foundation of magic—-transformation of the world, and of the self are in his power.

So primal is the power of trees that Irish lore says the first man was and Alder and the First woman a Rowan.

Alder is fertile and generous.  Though soft, he has an oily bark making him resistant to water and fire.  Therefore pilings for lakeside houses and docks, boats and even wooden shoes have relied on the wood of the Alder to last. He also gives many colorful dyes. Red, purple, yellow, brown, and black. Dye production and spinning of cocoons make Alder sacred to the Weaving Goddess, who also attends upon the Wounded King in the Arthurian Legend. He feeds many creatures. Bees love his flowers, grouse eats leaves, buds and seeds, rabbits chew his bark.

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Alder Healing:

Alder bark is prepared for medicinal use by carefully scraping off the dead outer bark and using the green, living tissue underneath. Alder bark can be simmered in water to make a wash for very deep wounds, rashes, and burns. The leaves and bark are simmered into a bitter tea for tonsillitis and fever. He helps with diseases of damp, relieving joint pain and inflammation.

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Alder Working:

March is a time for making spiritual decisions. Prophecy and divination rites come in handy for this., assisting your intuitive processes and abilities. Alder flowers and twigs are used as charms  in Faerie magic. Whistles made out of Alder shoots call upon Air spirits. It’s an ideal wood for making a pipe or flute.

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Our hopes and dreams for the New Year can be manifested in the Alder time. Alder grows quickly, so focus on  things that might be stalled. Use this bounding new energy to resolve old disputes and more forward into the new.

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Magical Correspondences

Ogham Name: Fearn

Letter: F

Tree: Alder

Deities: Bran the Blessed, Faerie King, Astarte and Tammuz, Phoroneus inventor of fire

Bird: Raven

Use: Gateway to Faerie, Divination, Protection, Healing, Musicianship

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Ogham: The Mysterious Language of Trees: Willow

Ogham: The Mysterious Language of Trees: Willow

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David Lewis Baker

Witches Wheel

Willow, Saille, Willow,
Oh silver drenched tree!
Long leaves fall on water
Rippling in moonlight
Ladies who bend
On the threshold of February.

Saille ( Sahl-yeh)


Charles Krebs

Moonlight on willow is a mysterious sight, especially on the threshold between Winter and Spring when the bare trunks cast crooked shadows over the frosted grass like spirits coming through the mists of the Otherworld.  The voices of the Faeries can be heard in the rustling of the willow branches, breathing, into the ear of the poet, their songs.

The willow is a remarkably feminine tree. It thrives near rives and streams, lakes and ponds, it shimmers in the moonlight, and provides shelter under its umbrella of graceful branches. Uniquely beautiful and mysterious, the willow invites entry into another world within the compass of its branches. If you have ever been inside a large weeping willow then you know how instantly the outside world ceases to exist as silence and diffused light encompass you. It is this quality of the willow that makes it one of the first trees of Faery.

Pagans have always  associated the willow with the Triple Goddess of the Moon. Sacred to Hekate, Goddess of the Dark Moon, the willow stands as the gateway to the Realm of Shades or Death. The weeping of the willow mirrors the grief of those left behind, as was the Greek poet Orpheus who, armed with willow branches, entered Hades and returned, not alas with his beloved wife, Euridyce, but with the gift of poetry.

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Tree of Poetry

As the “witch’s tree” tree of poetry, transformation and healing, willow is connected with the Bright Brighid whose Day of Initiation is February 2, Candlemas, a Festival of Lights. In the Pagan mind, death is also an initiation, a transformation not to be feared any more than the peace found under the branches of the willow tree under the full moon when one feels transported to a strange and beautiful place.

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The willow tree reflected in the waters brings moon magic to earth, creating a numinous, visually confusing, liminal effect. This may be why it the tree of romantic love, for what can be more difficult to interpret than the varying faces of love in the throes of deep attachment? Valentine’s day is also in February, suggesting that Love is the fulfillment of the Light celebrated at Candlemas.

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In some traditions, willow is the thirteenth tree. This may fit it in at the leap year, the liminal 29 day of February, that was the modern concession to the natural rhythmic sequence of the lunar year.

Willow Working

Spell

Throw your shoe up high
into the branches of a willow tree;

If he branches catch and hold your shoe,
You soon will married be.

The Witch’s Tree

The magical properties of willow are as numerous as its medicines. Faery magics of enchantment, wishing, romance, and divination under the moon are enhanced by the presence of willow. Its powers are beneficial, protective, nurturing, inspirational, joyful, and peaceful. This throws a provocative light on its role as tree of mourning, for how can death be evil when couched among so many life giving powers? Rather, willow traditionally inspires courage, and helps one overcome the fear of death. Willow is flexible, fluid, resilient, and strong. It focuses intuition, induces trance states, attracts Faeries and other spirits. It eases transitions, especially into the unknown.

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Because of the many medicines dispensed by the willow, it was much sought after by Cunning people for healing purposes. As a feminine tree connected to the moon, willow bark provides pain relief for menstrual cramps and child bearing. The gemstone for willow is the blood-red carbuncle. This is another image that evokes women’s mysteries of bleeding and fertility. Burning willow lends energy to healing magic.

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Willow wands are excellent for moon magic, and its wood is good for making magical harps, accompaniment for for poets for ancient times.

Divination by Willow:

Willow increases psychic vision into the watery Otherworld Realms under the waves. Dreams, and premonitions are stirred by willow’s influence on the deep subconscious mind. Just being near a willow tree can induce trance states in which prophetic oracles can be mediated from Faery into our reality. Divination by smoke from a willow fire while passing a willow wand through it to disturb its shapings, is a powerful divination technique for those with the second sight. Scrying into water where willow is reflected on nights of the full moon, is venerable tradition.

Awakening of dormant powers and emotions, pay attention to dreams. Love is n the way. Positive transformation from one way of life to another, The need to be flexible an adaptable. Relief from painful situations. Encounters with Faerie, or  the deceased.

Magical Correspondences

Ogham name: Saille
Letter: Z
Tree: Willow
Deities: Brighid, Fand, Sinend
Bird: Hawk
Animal: Hare, Bull
Color: Haze
Use: Wands, Psychic Divination, Fertility, Pain Relief

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Ogham: The Mysterious Language of Trees: Ash

Ogham: The Mysterious Language of Trees: Ash




Ash, ash of the long strong twigs
You timber creation!
Branches of ash trees gather new light
In the deep, dark mazes of January snows.

Nion

The ancient Ash, bare branched in winter, is a witchy sight. Its gnarled branches and tangles of twigs seem to be holding secrets, perhaps spells cast up from its roots by the Three Fates who, in the perpetual night of the Underworld, weave the threads of destiny. This is the power of World Tree, Yggdrasil, the Ash.
It was from the branches of the Ash tree that Odin hung himself for nine days and nights to gain the power of the Runes, or magical speech that could harness and transform Fate according to his will. For is it not true that when something is named, and especially when it is written, that it comes within our power to control it?

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As for the Ogham, the Ash, bare in its season of mid winter, is like a great scrawl, signifying that outward life is unformed as yet, that the great energies emerging from below the ground, are not yet set into the patterns of things to come. This leaves them vulnerable to the Magician who can grasp the pliable tangles and move them into the patterns of his or her desire. It is as if the branches can be arranged so that they write one’s spell upon the heavens.
The Ash is a tree that loves the wet ground. Thus it is said to be rooted in the Well of Wyrd, the deepest portal into the Underworld out of which the Runes were born. Around the rim of the Well, the Weavers sit, catching the Runes in their threads to re-create the world.
At the base of the tree is the serpent of wisdom, who winds its way up the trunk of the tree, and into its branches, to peer out of its leaves in search of those who would seize the knowledge of the forces of Creation. Thus Shamans, known in European cultures as Witches, used this tree as a road into the deepest levels of the primal Unseen, and then again, as a ladder rising up the planes into the highest of Celestial realms, where the Moon, Sun, and Stars confer another kind of wisdom.
It is the branches of tall and ancient Ash tree that gather the new light from the Heavens and bring it to Earth in preparation for renewal in Spring

Yggdrasil: The World Tree

Ash Working

When entering and leaving Faery by way of the inverted tree, it would lend potency to your working to know the lore of the Ash, for this detail will lead you deeper into the Underworld, and open more realms to you.
The efficacy of magical work hinges on the build up of certain images in the aethers that surround planet earth in the sub-lunar plane. The older the images, the more power they hold, and that power is made of the thought forms of every person and animal who has projected their intention towards it. An avatar as ancient as the Sacred Ash, the World Tree, Yggdrasil, is a battery of potent imagery that can catapult you through time and space to where the soul imprints of past Magicians  and Witches are still active.

Divination by Ash: New energies are stirring deep inside you. take time to meditate and grasp the messages that your subconscious mind is sending you.

One way to do this would be to cast the magical circle with the ash as its central axis. Let it take you into the Underworld, and then up into the stars. Pay attention to what you see, and what and whom you meet. Keep a  journal, and record of your journey, and by doing so, self knowledge will come to you.
You may begin to have prophetic dreams. Write them down. remember the Scared Letters and their power to influence the Web of Wyrd at this time.
Magical tools made of Ash are said to be most potent as they draw on the strength of the World Tree.

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Magical Correspondences

Ogham name: Nion
Letter: N
Tree: Ash
Deities: Gwydion, Lleu
Bird: Snipe
Animal: Adder
Color: Clear
Use: Wands, spears, lintels

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Ogham: The Mysterious Language of Trees: Rowan

Rowan

After November 1st, we enter the darkest time of year. A bright branch of Rowan is like a torch in the night and at the heart of each flame-colored berry is the five-pointed star of protection. Little wonder a Rowan wands were used to ward off enchantments.

The Faery gateway of the Green and Burning Trees, suggests the  green and burning quality of Rowan.

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Witches Wheel

Rowan berry, rowan berry
Ends in a yellow star.
A wand of rowan above our beds
Is an anchor in dark December dreams…

Luis ( loush)

The lovely Rowan is the fire in the night. With its bright orange berries, it lights up the perpetual twilight of winter with a touch of brilliant warmth much like the hearth fires our ancestors gathered around as they hunkered down for long hours indoors.  For most of their waking hours, the fire and the candles were the only sources of light. Small wonder that a tree bearing the color of flames would be perceived as protective.

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There was a time when fire was so scarce that it was kept very safe and was never allowed to go out. Our very early ancestors did not know how to create fire; they knew it as a gift from the Gods. Fire was carried in lamps and delivered from lamp to lamp. Woe to the person who let the fire go out!

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In the Book of Balymote, “Luis is the delight of eye that is Luisu”, or the lambent color of flame. In modern Irish Luise indicates a red glare with added luster or sheen. As fire keeps off predatory animals and freezing cold, it also has the power to ward of demons, faeries, and ghosts. To that end, rowan is planted in graveyards to keep the dead from rising. The wood of the Rowan was used by the Druids on funeral pyres for it had power over death and rebirth.

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The association of Rowan with fire is one reason it is ascribed to Candlemas and the Goddess of the eternal flame, Brighid. The poetry of this may be why the Ogham was made to correspond to the Julian calender of a January 1st New Year. But the symbolism of the Rowan also suits the festival of Winter Solstice. The use of Rowan as a protective amulet toward off the darkness of December, to survive for the time when the light begins to return, is a strong point in favor of Rowan belonging to December.

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The magic of Rowan guards us against the forces of chaos and destruction, strongly linked in the minds of our ancestors with darkness and the creatures that prowl unseen and hungry at the doors and windows. Rowan promises rebirth with the increasing warmth and light that comes after the Winter Solstice.

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Rowan was said in ancient times to have been guarded by dragons.

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Rowan Tree and Red Thread,
Gar the Witches tyne their speed.

Rowan tree and red thread slow down wicked witches, for it has the power to bind to malevolent forces. Magic wands made of Rowan branches are excellent for this purpose. In celtic countries, spindles and spinning wheels were made of Rowan.
Rowan, also known as Mountain Ash, is one of the trees of the sacred Faery groves of oak, ash, and thorn.  Scottish Faeries are known to hold celebrations within stone circles protected by Rowan trees.

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It is so sacred to the Scots that the old law does not allow use of any part of the tree except for sacred purposes.
Another reason for the Rowan’s protective influence, and its magical nature, can by found by examining the berries themselves, for at the end of each one is a tiny five-pointed star, or pentagram.

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Rowan Working

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It is the deepest dark of winter. You sit close to the fire to stay warm. The fire sets you dreaming so that you see the flames part and desire to walk between them. In you minds eyes, they flames become two Rowan trees. Pass between the trees, bright with red berries, into the snowy landscape on the other side, bringing with you the fire of Luis. Let it illuminate your path.
A necklace of Rowan berries is the Red Thread that confers protection from evil spells.

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Divination by Rowan: You need protection and nourishing through this time. Creativity, vision art, poetry and storytelling are inspired as you slow down and focus inwards with the flame of passionate inspiration to guide you. Health and strength improve.
Magic can be done by placing Rowan twigs above the doors and windows for protection. Place Rowan twigs in the shape of a cross and bind with red thread to be carried as a protective amulet.

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Another name for Rowan is Witch Tree or Wicken Tree and can be used for divining precious metals in the way hazel is sued to find water. Rowan can be used to increase psychic powers, and is a fine ingredient in spells for healing, success, safety, and is used to make excellent magic wands.

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Magical Correspondences:

Ogham Name:
Letter: L
Tree: Rowan
Deities: Brighid
Birds: duck
Animals: unicorn, bear
Color: flame red
Uses: magical protection

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Ogham: The Mysterious Language of Trees – Birch

Birch

The graceful Birch is the White lady of the Woods. It is fitting that these trees,
ghostly in twilight, should stand at either side of the gate of the Celtic New
Year of October 31st, for it has come down to us that passing among the
birches can take you into the Otherworld.

_2F_images_2F_origs_2F_909_2F_new_beginning_autumn_aspen_paintings_birch_tree_art_by_jennifer_vranesNew Beginnings by Jennifer Vranes

Witches Wheel

Birch, white stemmed birch
Stands pale in the dark forest.
A rod of Birch will cleanse us of evil
And usher us through November’s long doorway…

Beth (Beh)

There was an old Samhain tradition of running down an avenue of birch trees
while being flogged with the twigs as a means of purification for the New Year.
This birch portal at the gate of the New Year mirrors its position as first of the
letters, for it is the opener of the gate to the Ogham, the creation of Ogma
Sun-Face, God of Eloquence.

Birch was traditionally used to make cradles for babies to protect them from
being stolen by the Siddhe. It seems typically paradoxical that the tree that
opens the doors to the Otherworld would be used to protect a child from
possession by it, but perhaps the birch bark cradle served to fool the Gentry
into thinking the child was already theirs…

In Britain, the maypole is made of birch while the wonderful scraggly birch twigs
are used to kindle the Beltane fires. The best witches brooms are made of birch with those wonderful black twigs as sweepers.

There is an old tradition of burying the dead with conical birch bark hats on their heads to insure the purification of their souls.

The lines are from the English ballad: The Wife of Usher’s Well. The lady’s sons appear wearing their birch bark hats — proof that they are dead.

It fell about the Martinmass,
When nights are lang and mirk,
The carlin wife’s three sons came hame,
And their hats were o the birk.

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Birch Working

Imagine the birch trees standing across from each other, their topmost branches in the shape of a Gothic arch. On the other side, calling you with its mysterious, mist filled grandeur is Faery. If you walk through, you will enter the trance that allows divination by the Ogham.

Divination by Birch: Protection from harm both physical and magical. Cleansing, leaving the negative, life draining energies behind to start over refreshed. A time of going inward to store power in purity. Clear the ground of
obstructions so that new things may grow. Change comes gradually with the turning of the Wheel.

Magic can be done for fertility and creativity, healing and protection.
Tie a red ribbon around a birch tree to ward off negative energies. Hang birch twigs over a new baby’s cradle. Use birch bark as magical parchment to keep your writings safe.

Magical Correspondences:

Ogham Letter: Beth
Letter: B
Deities: The White Goddess, Belin, White Ladies of the Forest
Bird: Pheasant
Animal: White Cow
Herb: Fly Agaric Mushrooms — The Flowers of Annwn
Color: White

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Ogham: The Mysterious Language of Trees – part 2

The Alphabet of the Gods

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According to the Irish Bards of old, the Ogham was received by a great poet, mac Elatha mac Delbeath from the God Ogma Grian-ainech or Ogma Sun-Face, a mercurial God of language and poetry. It was instantly conceived as a magical tool. One only has to cast the mind back to the times when uttering spells and charms was enough to change reality at will, or to recall the opening of the Bible, “In the beginning was the WORD”, in order to grasp the power of letters and language in the old world before books usurped the power of communication and turned language into a standard collection of letters printed on pieces of parchment. Of course every witch knows that books themselves in those times were believed to be magical, and for some of us, they still are.

The first letter written was the Ogham for Birch, Beth, carved seven times on the birch bark paper by Ogma for the God Lugh, as an oracle to warn him that his wife would be carried away.

Blogger, Kevin Jones, at: www.taliere.tripod.com, has these interesting things to say about the word Ogham:

Ogham is named after Ogma. However, in Greek ogmos means a line, row or
furrow, which is quite an apt description of Ogham… In Scots Gaelic the word
for Ogham, oidheam, means ‘a notion of anything, an idea, an inference, hint’.
This is an accurate description of the Ogham. The cognate word in Latin,
agmen, means both ‘boatmen’s oars’ and ‘speech’, which is very apt! There is
also the rather obscure word ogygia which is best translated as primeval or
‘before time’. This may or may not be related but if it is, it is apt since the
Ogham does concern primeval things.

Primeval…yes! What could be more primeval than the trees and the sky and
the birds and the earth?

Wooden portal of the Stave Church at Urnes

Deer nibbling the leaves of the Ash Tree
that is also like a door into the Otherworld.

Witches Wheel

Two trees on either side of a path can be perceived as gateways
into the Otherworld. Therefore you must pass between two birches on the Eve
of Samhain, or All Soul’s Night, to begin your journey around the Wheel of the
Year through the grove of sacred trees.

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photo:Michael Hudson

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As pretty as the correspondences are, I feel the current popular trend of creating Celtic Tree calenders with Birch on the threshold of January is  wrong. The Ogham is an ancient Celtic system. The ancient Celtic calender, and one adopted by many who follow a magical Celtic path, begins at Samhain and the Rites of the Birch are meant to be carried out at that time.

Robert Graves, author of The White Goddess, was among the first to popularize the Ogham as the sacred alphabet of the Celts.  He also claimed that all true poetry sprang from this sacred source, magical words formed of magical letters seeded in the subconscious of the inspired poet, and behind that was the power of the Great Goddess. His description of this alphabet, which he called Beth, Luis, Nion, or Birch, Rowan, and Ash respectively, follows the Celtic year of thirteen lunar months. beginning on November first.

I am following the order of trees in a poem I wrote in the early 1980’s called Witches Wheel. I wrote this poem under the influence of The White Goddess, well before the New Age version of Ogham hit the bookstores under the guise of “Celtic Astrology”. Each tree in this book is accompanied by a stanza of this old poem of mine, which was the first poem I ever had published. Even this order is unusual, but it the one that works for me. I give my reasons in the text, though I wrote the poem in a completely intuitive, stream of consciousness state that intellectually justified none of my choices.

The truth is that the idea of a Celtic Tree calender has more to do with the Celtic Twilight of the Victorian Age than with any historical facts. Nevertheless, it is still a beautiful concept that inspires the imagination and gives us a sense of place in a world where human beings are increasingly alienated from nature.

As one who resonates with the most primal levels in magic, I will attempt to reach back intuitively  into the origins of the Ogham in the mists of the “Dark Ages” on the British Isles.  Fact or fantasy? Who cares!

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Ogham: The Mysterious Language of Trees

Thirteen Moons: A Year of Magical Trees

by Alyne deWinter

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Writing is a magical rite, a way to ‘alter consciousness at will’. Writing opens the door to the unseen…

Ogham: The Mysterious Language of Trees

I am intrigued by the power of Ogham, the sacred alphabet that is formed by the way the branches of the trees cross each other against the sky. Imagine reading the branches, and then the sky through the branches…. a bird flies across the ‘empty’ space, the wind blows causing the branches to move and re-arrange themselves. The meaning changes, a sentence is created, a poem…
Whatever you communicate with communicates with you. Everything is connected.

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>Moonlit Shadow Night Trees Images

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Trees and the Moon

The first timekeeper was the Moon. Our earliest ancestors living as close to the earth as they did, would not have been able to help noticing the regularity of the lunar cycles. Women would have noticed their bleeding came and went with a particular phase of the moon — most likely the dark moon associated with death and the void. Ovulation, the preparation of the womb for the insemination of life, would have been linked to the full moon. Our ancestors would, of course, have noted the passing of the months by the changing moon,  the transformations of the seasons by alterations of the land, and the renewing cycle of the year at the crux of the thirteenth moon when the world was plunged into darkness.

Trees display the changing seasons quickly and dramatically. When trees begin and bud and burst into flower, we know that it is Spring and the days will grow longer and warmer. When the flowers turn in on themselves and become nuts, fruits, and seeds among leaves of lush and vivid green, it is a sure sign of Summer. When the trees start to turn golden, flame, russet, and brown, we know that Autumn has arrived and that the bare bones of Winter will follow like Fate.

So it is not difficult to understand how the moons were linked with the trees, and how someone might notice how trees express the characteristics of the seasons, and might suggest a connection that not only allows people to tell what season, and more precisely, what month it is, but also to know the qualities of that month and how to prepare for it.

Not all Faery Seers will agree the following associations of months and trees, but it seems most fitting to place Birch at the threshold of the New Year.

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Trees as Oracles

Our early ancestors would also have noticed how trees begin in the Underworld and reach up to touch the sky. There was a time when people saw the sky as a great dome set over the earth, so it must have seemed very magical that the trees could seem to touch the roof of the sky. Birds also live among the trees, fly through the branches and across the sky. Some birds migrate on schedule and were thus also tellers of the time. The coming of winter could be judged more exactly by when the birds chose to leave and how long they chose to stay. Thus our ancestors foretold the future by the flight of birds, and they used the patterns of the crossing branches to divine the deeper messages of earth and sky.

As the trees touch the sky, they also delve deep into the earth. In many traditions the place below the ground is the realm of the dead. This makes sense when we know that for many cultures, the dead are buried in the earth. Faeries, who are the spirits of ancestors, and even old gods “killed” by the invading cultures, also live down below in the Underworld. Both ancestors and Faeries have magical powers — living among the roots and seeds, they may have been credited with maintaining the fertility of the soil, of making the crops grow and even making the earth give birth to animals and humans alike. Thus, the trees join all the worlds: the Underworld of ancestors and faeries, the middle ground of earthly life, and the sky of weather, sun, moon, stars, and the birds who are their messengers.

Would it not be too far fetched then to see how our ancestors may have thought that the Gods spoke to them through the trees?

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What are the Magical Signs of Autumn?

Celtic Trees of the Equinoxes

Bloeuwedd by Emily Brunner

Blodeuwedd by Emily Brunner

Ogham

Those of you who have been following this blog have probably noticed that I am a great lover of trees and would naturally be drawn to the poetry of Celtic Ogham, the Sacred Tree Oracle of Ireland.

Ogham was used as a writing system, similar to Runes and are perhaps as ancient, coming from times when priests divined the future by the flight of geese, the entrails of men and animals, and the way the twigs and branches of the trees crossed the sky. There are thirteen trees, one for each lunar month, and they correspond to a letter — or a sign for a sound that makes up a word. Each tree is appropriate for the time of year in which its month falls. For instance, at Samhain, the Celtic New Year, the month of November is marked by Birch. Birch rods were used for purification. As the people moved through the gate of the year,they were flogged with birch branches to drive out undesirable energies. Thus they were enables to go through the dangerous dark time of year in a state where the darkness would not be able to find them or  stick to them.

Each tree was symbolized by a series of marks drawn on sticks. they could also be made with formations of the hands and fingers, and it has been said that the Druids used hand ogham as a form of sign language to keep their messages secret from the Romans.

ogham staves

ogham staves

Whitethorn, Blackthorn, Flower Maiden, Owl

As we move into Autumn, we move closer to Faery, and the veil is thinnest on the approach to Samhain.

Thorn trees line the paths into Faery. The entrances are graced by the Hawthorn, Maythorn, or Whitethorn, of Beltane. At the end of the road is the Blackthorn that marks the path into the Underworld.

Hawthorn, or Whitethorn, was once used to decorate May poles. At one time Hawthorns were believed to be Witches who had transformed themselves into trees. Witches have long danced and performed their rites beneath the thorn.

The Whitethorn is sacred to the Faery Queen, the Welsh Triple Goddess Olwen of the White Track, as well as the Flower Maiden, Blodeuwedd. These are all goddesses of transformation who stand at the gates of the year when darkness blossoms into light, and light  bleeds into darkness.

Though the Maythorn is white,  seeds of darkness are within it, for the bird with which it is associated is the Night Raven and its color is “Terrible”. It is also the sister of the trickster magpi, the cloven hoofed goat, the imitative cuckoo, and the dragonfly.  This symbolism suggests that  deep within the forces of  youth, life, and beauty, hides the germ of betrayal and death. Birth is but the beginning of a journey that leads to the same grim destination, no matter what twists and turns the path takes to get us there.

Blossoms

The Whitethorn (or Maythorn or Hawthorn) blooms brightest during the season of Beltane.  In April, May and June, it is full, bushy, strongly perfumed, and buzzing with a thousand bees drawn to the nectar that that heady fragrance shows off. Under the gauzy femininity of the Whitethorn in flower, are branches studded with long, sharp, penetrating thorns. The thorns are masculine: protective and phallic.  Flowering in Spring, the Whitethorn is associated with fertility; it stimulates eroticism, and encourages the fulfillment of desire. Its pallor brings it under the rulership of the Moon, long the Queen of Romantic Love, and Mother of Souls. The Moon in this role can also be compared with the Queen of the Bees that harvest the honey of the Whitethorn.

Thorns

Thorns are about penetration, breaking through the surface and letting blood. When we open to the Faery, sometimes we must let a little blood, get over our fears of pain and letting go. While the thorns of the Whitethorn symbolize sexual union, those of the Blackthorn symbolize death.

I also recall the paths between the graves in Highgate Cemetery being bordered with Whitethorn, the primary Faery tree. So again the mixing of light and darkness within the same symbol.

In 1997, I went into the depths of Cornwall looking for Modron’s Well, a sacred well of healing and wish granting. I had to walk about three miles before I came to a path that wound between frothy white bushes of Maythorn in full bloom. The sound of the bees was so loud and the scent of the may so strong, that I was in a light trance by the time I got to ruin of Modron’s Chapel and the Wishing Well, I was well into Faery. I know well the power of the Goddess in her white gown of flowers and thorns.

Straith

The Blackthorn tree is esoterically known as both the Mother of the Woods and the Dark Crone of the Woods. The sharp thorns were reputedly used by English witches to pierce poppets in their curses, called the “pins of slumber.”

As we enter the dark time of year, the Blackthorn, or Sloe Tree, begins to throw its shadow over the path. As we touch the lintel of the gates to Faery we will feel a blast of cold air, and we may hear the howling of wolves far off in the snow and darkness at the other side of Samhain. The blackbird and the toad attend the Blackthorn. In the same sense that darkness lurks at the heart of the light in Spring, so does light shine in the heart of the Blackthorn, for one only has to hear the gorgeous song of a blackbird in contrast to that of Night Raven, and to know that the Sacred color of Blackthorn is “Bright”. In folklore, the toad is said to have potent jewel in its forehead capable of dispensing lucid dreams.

The sloes, or British Plums that are the fruit of the Blackthorn are left to putrefy and transformed into Sloe Gin — a form of resurrection from dissolution, similar to that of John Barleycorn.

The night of the Blackthorn is that of the Old Moon, lit up by fires that mark the road into the Underworld of Faery where the Dark Goddess dwells with all her reckoning power. There we find Emain Macha fortress of the Goddess of Death, the Black Man of the forest with his book of souls, and his black dog that is said to be the devil. We find the Old Mother of the Woods — the classic Witch of Grimm’s fairy tales. As a thorned tree, Blackthorn is also protective. It can be used as a hedge, or its strong branches woven into fencing, to keep animals inside a pasture and the predators out.

Flower Face: Blodeuwedd

In between the betwixt and between, of the White and Black thorns is the Flower Maiden, Blodeuwedd. She has been very important to me in the last few years, appearing in the oddest places in my writing and my dreams. When I first went to England I found this poster in a small village in Somerset. It was past its time so I took it home and have it still.

Company of Strangers: a Wife Out of Flowers

Company of Strangers: A Wife Out of Flowers

The story of Blodeuwedd, from the Fourth Branch of the Mabinogi: Tale of Math Son of Mathonwy,  in a nutshell, is this:

Lleu Llaw Gyffes was placed under three curses by his mother the Goddess, Arianrhod, and the last of these dictates was that he will never have a human wife.

Thwarting the Great Goddess’s rage, King Math, and Lleu’s uncle Gwydion, created a  beautiful wife for Lleu out of nine flowers, among them broom, meadowsweet, and oak.   She was called “Flower Face” or  Blodeuwedd. Since she was not human, Lleu was able to marry her and escape his mother’s curse.


One day, when Lleu was away from home visiting Math, Blodeuwedd saw a nobleman, the Lord of Penllyn, Gronw Pebr, passing by. She invited him in, to stay for a while. ( it would be rude not do so). They fell in love, and this led to the desire to kill Lleu.


Lleu had strong protection. There was only one way he could be killed, and that was his special secret. But clever Blodeuwedd tricked him into telling her what the conditions were, and they were these: He could not be killed indoors or outdoors, on horseback or on foot; and only by a spear forged when people were attending mass could inflict a fatal wound.  Yet even this killing could only take effect if he had one foot on a bathtub and one on a goat (the bathtub being placed on a river bank, but under a roof) and by someone using the sacred spear.

Gronw sepnt a year making the spear just as he was instructed by Blodeuwedd.


When the year was up,  Blodeuwedd managed to persuade Lleu to show her the odd position, of standing with one foot on a goat and one in a bathtub,  in which he might be killed. Suspecting nothing, he did so. Gronw, who had been waiting in ambush, threw the spear  at him. However, rather than dying outright Lleu turned into an eagle and flew away, sorely wounded.

Gronw then took Blodeuedd as his wife, and with her, Lleu’s land.


Llues’ uncle Gwydion went in search of him, and following the guidance of a magical pig, found him in his eagle form, and still suffering from his wound, at the top of an oak tree by a lake. He called him down from the tree with three stanzas of poetry called
englyn Gwydion, that transformed him back into a man. Gwydion took him home where Math nursed him back to health. When he was fully recovered, Lleu sought revenge on Gronw and his wife.


Blodeuwedd heard of this and fled, taking her maidens with her. They were so frightened, that they walked backwards to make sure nobody attacked them from behind. Unfortunately, they ended up falling into a lake. Only Blodeuwedd survived. Gwydion captured her, and instead of killing her, turned her into an owl saying
:” You will not show your face to the light of day, rather you shall fear other birds; they will be hostile to you, and it will be their nature to maul and molest you wherever they find you. You will not lose your name but always be called Blodeuwedd.”


Gronw offered Lleu land or money as payment, but Lleu would only accept one resolution: that he throw a spear at Gronw in the same way that he had been attacked. Gronw accepted, but asked that a large stone be placed between him and Lleu as a sheild. Nevertheless, Lleu threw the spear right through the stone and killed Gronw. After this, he took back his lands, and later succeeded Math as king of Gwynedd.

Goddess of Dark and Light, the Thresholds of the Year.

Blodeuwedd has within her the same light and dark qualities as the Whitethorn and Blackthorn trees that mark the way into Faery. Made of the flowers, she is the essence of Springtime fertility, youth, and beauty. At the core of this beauty lurks the seed of betrayal and death, for she was created to foil the curse of the Great mother, Arianrhod. This betrayal turns on Lleu as he is struck dead with a blackthorn spear. (The myth says he becomes and eagle, but birds are so often symbols of the soul in art, and in tales, that people who become birds can be thought of as dead.) Her transformation into an owl throws her through the Blackthorn gate and out into the night.
In this she is similar to Lillith — the Demoness who usurped the power of man and was banished for it into the outer darkness.
One can  follow Blodeuwedd as she grows. First she is the Whitethorn at the head of the Faery path at Beltane, then she dips into shadow as her blossoms fall and leaves and haws cover her in red and green. In Autumn, she  flies through the gates of the  Equinox to become the Owl of Samhain.

The owl as oracular bird, omen of death, calling unseen from the darkness, is found in many folk traditions.

The Eternal Unfolding of Darkness and Light

The thing I love about this Goddess, and all of the Celtic goddesses, is how they are all inclusive: the sweetness and light are not allowed to stand alone, making them insipid and flat. Rather, they bear the seeds of mystery, a dark glamor that gives them a disturbing, yet vital quality. One never knows exactly how to read these Goddesses. Something always remains aloof. Though there is seeming  danger here, there is also the promise of knowledge of life beyond mortality, of living consciousness that transcends bodily existence as spirit living in dimensions of the Unseen, and yet bound to return again in the time of  flowering.

Not of mother and father
Did my Creator create me
But of nine-formed virtues,
Of the fruit of fruits,
Of the fruit of the primordial God,
Of primroses and blossoms,
Of the flower, wood and tree.
Cad Goddeu

The owl has a flower face…

Related article:

How to Communicate With Trees

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Heimdall, Rowan, Aquarius, Winter Dreams

Another Heimdall coincidence: I discovered the Ogham tree associated with him is the Rowan or Mountain Ash. Rowan is also the tree ascribed to Aquarius in “Celtic Astrology”. Again this dream coming in January at the start of Mercury retrograde in  Aquarius.

January 12th -14th
For three nights of this Mercury retrograde in my sun sign Aquarius, I have dreamed of Heimdall, the divine ‘Watcher’ of the Rainbow Bridge that connects Heaven and Earth. His name has been constantly chanting through my mind — making sure I don’t forget, or ignore, the call of the Messenger. Heimdall is equated with Mercury, or Hermes, the God who carries messages from the Otherworlds to those of us in the Mortal realms. Those of who carry the Witchblood are most likely to pay attention.This blog post is my way of anchoring this message in the Reality.

That Heimdall and his message belongs in the Book of Winterspells can be shown by spelling all of his powers:

The name Heimdall means the White One, also ‘World Radiance’.  His colors are blue and silver — all are the colors of winter in the North, fire and ice, sun on snow. Like the winter sun, he possesses a supernatural clarity of vision, and due to the silence and stillness of the earth, he hears the whispers of the Other.  Much like those who bear the witchblood.

He offers protection with a sacred shield inscribed with the snowflake pattern of the Helm of Awe.

He carries the Hunting Horn, or echoing horn, whose blast can be heard in all the worlds. Like a great wind blowing through the trees, a wintry blast! The horn is made of bison horn, and horned creatures are sacred to the winterspells…
With this horn, Heimdall announces the Rangnarok, the Twilight of the Gods, when he will do battle with Loki, Trickster God of mischief. The end time, when all the worlds are withdrawn back to the Source is a winterspell…

The White Hart or Stag, who frequents this blog, Eikthymir, stands on the roof of Odinns Hall eating the leaves from the Tree of Life.  Sacred dew drips form his antlers, like the musk that quickens new life in the Spring. His antlers, like a fence, enclose the sanctuary with strong protection. I myself have enlisted the aid of the antlered Stag as a defense during psychic attack. I know his gift of rebirth is a promise and a truth.

Heimdall’s Rune is Algiz that represents the flying swan, and the Valkyries who are Swan Maidens who carry souls between Life and Death along the Rainbow Bridge. They fly by means of swan feather cloaks, teach hidden wisdom to shamans and warriors, and lead souls into the Netherworlds when their time comes.
The feminine attribution of Algiz is called Hamingja in rune shamanism, the giver of luck and a guide on the path to higher consciousness.

Some thoughts on this:

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For me the syncronicities are many, and that Heimdall’s name should be en-chanted for three nights with Mercury retrograde in Aquarius makes the message even more significant. My star sign is Aquarius and this is one of my winterspells…

I am part Iroquois. In Iroquois tradition, all white animals are sacred to the divine realms which, to be honest, in most primal cultures is equated with the world of the Ancestors, or the Dead. In such cultures, death is not perceived as final, it is simply entry into another world. Before the white people come, a White Dog Sacrifice was conducted every winter by the Iroquois. In this ceremony a White Dog was given to the Gods to ensure a good relationship with the Otherworld powers.
As a bit of an aside, for us this rite may be disturbing, but for those in alignment with magical consciousness, the white dog is sacred, already part of the Otherworld. His mortal appearance is a gift to the people who then send him home in gratitude.
All white mammals, albinos, are rare. Rare creatures are always sacred in primal consciousness. It is also important to note that in pre-horse cultures, dogs were the most useful and valuable animals, and the sacrifice of the most valuable is most powerful.

All white animals are sacred to the North, for it is the House of Death, darkness, burial, winter, but also the stars, so much more brilliant on nights with no moon, The radiant Milky Way courses overhead every January in Massachusetts, more visible than at any other time.
I always felt I my spirit came to earth from the North Pole. That I fell from the stars at that point. I had a psychic reading a few years ago with a woman from one of the tribes here and she told me straight away that I was born in the North. Most people are born in the South. This makes me different, as one travels from death to birth rather than the other way around. Therefore do I live my life in reverse…

My spiritual name, Whiteswan was given to me in a Lakota ritual reinforced by dreams and presence of the White Swan in the 7th House of my Vedic Horoscope.
The Rune Algiz is in the shape of a reversed peace sign without the ring. It is said to represent a swan falling from Above to Below. I sense it as descending into the head of Heimdall and imprinting its sign on his brow. This brings to mind the Awen which looks like Algiz reversed. The Awen is like the rays of the sun streaming down through the trees and is imprinted on the brow of prophets, seers, and poets, such as the bard, Taliessin, in Faery Tradition. I feel the Awen is also connected, for Heimdall, with his messages from the Gods and his trips along the Rainbow Bridge, is the bringer of Higher Consciousness. As Above so Below.

Another thought: If the meaning of my dream is to hear the trumpet blast announcing Rangnarok, the Twilight of the Gods, perhaps signaling the approach of 2012 when some say the world will end, have no fear. As Heimdall fights Loki we shall see a shift in consciousness. The Yin and Yang, dark and light, male and female shall be engaged in the spiral dance as we ascend back to divine realms. For those who heed, this shift will be a shift to more consciousness, not annihilation.

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How to Communicate With Trees


Have you ever noticed that, especially at twilight, and into the night, that the trees speak? The evergreens, standing in a row of peaked shadows against the sky, gather and watch you. Small fruit trees brighten and joyfully cast light all around them. Leaves shimmer in the breezes like tongues. Trees lean toward you, and in winter seem to move in closer as if seeking warmth.
Because I was born with the Witchblood, this is easy for me and do not remember a time when I could not commune with the trees. If it is not so for you, then to try to do it will expand your consciousness and give you a new relationship with nature.


First you must fight your conditioning if you have been taught to view trees and plants as inanimate objects. All things are alive and connected to us at a deep level. If you can still you mind, stopping all self generated thoughts, you will become receptive. Look through you eyes using your peripheral visions. This helps to defocus your attention and has the effect of centering you in your heart.


Now, gaze at the trees and sense their beauty
, their energy, and how they grow out of the earth and reach the sky, how they change and transform to epress the  mood of the season.  Focus on how the light plays over the leaves, how the shadows gather deep inside, and the branches move making patterns in space.  Are there birds or squirrels in the trees?

There is an old tradition, called Ogham, that told oracles based on the way twigs and branches intersect. This knowledge is available in books, but the trees will also teach those who have the desire and patience to learn in the old way. When your mind is empty of thoughts, wories, concerns and ego defenses, then the silent things of the world can link to your subcinsciuos mind with subtle vibrations, feelings, images, and sounds though they will not be in English ir any human language, but in Treespeak. Whatever you attend to, attends to you. There are no dead objects in nature, but souls.

When you experience communication with the trees, you will know that all of nature is alive and full of spirits. You will discover that, like the animals, the trees will register and warn about events that are about to take place, not only the onset of rain, but of earthquakes, pollution levels, war, danger, as well as a spirit of celebration and happiness. Trees indicated the health of a place on all levels.

The meditative state that this kind if attunement brings is extremely relaxing. As you become open and sensitized to nature, spirituality, poetry, and artistic inspiration will increase because the Muses are part of the spirit world of Earth.

The trees can teach you to open to the “unseen” levels of existence. This in turn opens your heart to unconditional love.
Remember, with this in mind, when you get your Christmas tree, say a little prayer for the tree. Give thanks and acknowledge the gift of beauty and rebirth that the tree is giving you. Be aware that the tree marks the Solstice, the time of increasing light.

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