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Trees

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Trees have been sacred to humankind and animals alike since the beginning of creation. They are the sanctity, the balance, the protection, the voice, and the promise to all living beings. Its branches span out above as the roots span out below: as above, so below, bringing balance. Its powers bring us the ability to manipulate for the better: and ye harm none. The tree is the fine line that stands between two points. It is the balance that roots itself in the center. It is the sacrificial life that gives itself unselfishly knowing it will be reborn and has done so to help another being. Just as the tree does, so does the druid.

The Oak, Hawthorn and Ash make up the sacred trio.

The Nine Sacred Woods used in Nied-Fires Holly, Oak, Pine, Hazel, Juniper, Cedar, Poplar, Apple and Ash.

The Noble Trees of the Grove Holly, Birch, Alder, Willow, Oak, Hazel and Apple.

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ALDER
Description:Rapidly growing tree (0.5m pa for first 30 - 40 years) mature at about 60 years with long trunk and narrow crown. Distinctive outline in winter. Requires plenty of light and can be used as pioneer species. Height 20m or more. Age up to 150 years.Very tolerant of water logged conditions whilst dormant. Typical streamside tree and as a specific habitat - Alder Carr - in Lake District and Norfolk Broads. All soil types except poor acid peats. Fixes nitrogen via root nodules and will grow on relatively infertile soils and hence used for site reclamation. Natural throughout British Isles and most of Europe. Grown from seed. The seed does not undergo dormancy by germination rate increased if given a period of moist chilling at 0.5C for up to 10 weeks. The seeds float and are carried by streams naturally germinating in mud. Seeds are red brown
flakes - 250,000 seeds per Kg. Often rapid growth in first year but best kept in nursery and planted out in second year. Can be beneficially grown with oak on damp sites and ash. The wood is light reddish brown and porous with course texture.

Uses:Physical:General purpose hardwood and pulpwood. Particularly suitable for turning, formerly used to make clogs. Burns quickly when used for firewood but suitable for charcoal (used to be used for charcoal for gunpowder). Hardens when immersed in water and suitable for making piles.

Medicinal:The bark and leaves contain tannin and have astringent properties. Used in folk medicine to treat chills.

Legends and Lore:It is associated with the Celtic god Bran, as He used His body as a bridge to span dangerous waters.

 

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 APPLE

Types:All apple trees are derived from the crab apple tree

Description:Small thorny deciduous tree. Height 16m Common in Oak woods and hedges. Throughout British Isles except Northern Scotland. Hard close grained wood.

Uses:Physical:Wood carving, inlay work, mallets, screws. Good firewood with pleasant aroma.

Medicinal:

Other:The attractive small fruit are extremely sour but make good jelly by themselves or with blackberries or rowan berries. Crab Apple wine is reported to be potent.

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ASH
Description:Magnificent large deciduous tree with distinctive black buds in spring. Can be coppiced. Height 45m. Age up to 200 years. Mostly calcerous soils although found on all except poorest and acid soils (above ph 5.5). Surprisingly, a tree that is all male one year can produce female flowers the next, and similarly a female tree can become male. The female flowers develop into fruits, and because they hang in bunches the fruits of the ask tree are known as 'ash keys'.Prefers moist but well drained fertile soils. Up to 450m in altitude. Grows well in mixed stands provided not shaded. Throughout British Isles and Europe into Asia Minor and Caucuses. Rare north of Great Glen in Scotland. Grow from seed - deeply dormant - treat as per Acer campestre. Long thin brown seeds approx 25cm long. Approx 8000 germinable seeds per kg. Seeds form in large sprays. If planted green seeds may germinate following spring or even straight away whereas brown seeds will germinate the second spring after planting. Grows quickly to 20 - 40 years old but growth stops at 60 years.Pale creamy wood that is strong and elastic.
 

Uses:Physical:Hockey sticks, oars, paddles, rudders, billiard cues, cricket stumps, polo sticks and policemen's truncheons. Also used for veneer and furniture. Burns fragrantly when green or dried due to low water content even when green (30 - 35%) but seasoning (to 15% water) does improve efficiency.

Legends and Lore:
European Ash was always held in high regard amongst Norse peoples who believed (in the Eddas) that the world was Yggdrasil, a giant Ash tree. The first man, named Ask, was created from an ash log. This belief was carried forward to later times when Druids wands were made of ash twigs. Not surprisingly it is credited with healing properties. Weak-limbed children were passed through split ash trees which were then bound up. The hope was that if the tree grew straight then the child would as well. Ash was used in spells requiring focus and strength of purpose, and indicates the linking of the inner and outer worlds.

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BEECH
Description:Magnificent, large, deciduous tree. Important economic forestry tree. Height: Max 40m. Age: mature at 120 yearsChalky soils and limestone but tolerant of a wide
range of soils and conditions. Up to 300mSouthern England to Gloucestershire and a few localities in South Wales. Not native to Ireland. Found throughout most of Europe except Spain, Former USSR, Norway and Sweden.Grown from seed. Scaly cup splits in Autumn to release 2 three sided nuts. Seed should be moist chilled for approx 12 weeks before sowing. Approx 3000 germinable seeds per Kg. Best established when sheltered by birch or hazel coppice. Frost tender. Increases in size to 120 years.Pale brown hard wood but relatively easily worked. Whitest wood considered to be best grade.

Uses:Physical:Large trees for timber. Not suitable for outside use although used for piles immersed in water. Used for furniture and many other uses such as bowls, spoons, tools, plywood, and veneers. Valuable as sawn timber. Good for firewood and production of charcoal.

Other:The nut is known as mast and occurs in abundance every five to eight years. It is nutritious and rich in oil and attractive to birds and small mammals including deer and badger. The oil can be extracted and used for culinary purposes.

Legends and Lore:At one time Beech tablets were used as writing surfaces and Beech and book have the same word origins.

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BIRCH
Description: Birch is an elegant tree with a slender trunk, light branches, and smooth thin bark. It lives to about age 50 and is divided by black and white birches by color of bark. Tiny flowers with no petals are born on male and female catkins. Leaves are alternate, ovate, and serated with slightly hairy undersides. It produces tiny winged nuts on female catkins, and grows to a height of 40-90 feet.

Uses:Physical:Witches (probably all seven kinds) would make their traditional brooms out of Birch. Cradles also were made from this wood to protect the infant they hold. May poles and Beltane fires in Britain utilized this wood. Canoes were made from the bark. Birch beer is brewed from the branches and modern medicine derived from the leaves. Household knick-knacks, furniture, spoons, tool handles, brooms, bobbins, and barrel staves were fashioned from the wood. Twigs were used for thatching and wattles in traditional European houses, and its charcoal in gun powder. Birch is also used to make leather durable (oil), for natural insect repellent (oil), and as a wool dye (bark - light brown, root -red brown), and to dry the soil of soggy gardens (by planting a stand of birches).

Medicinal:Birch contains Methyl Salicylate which possesses counterirritant and analgesic properties. Used as a folk cure for rheumatism (infusion from leaves and bark), skin irritations/wounds (poultice from leaves, bark, catkins), skin tonic (bath infusion), skin lotion (oil from bark), and toothbrushing (chewing on twigs). Its tea is used to heal mouth sores, to break up kidney/bladder stones, its bark (oil) as an astringent/aid for skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis, non-hereditary baldness, and skin eruptions (with infusions of twigs, leaves, bark). Black birch is used to heal urinary problems and expel worms, diarrhea, mouth sores, rheumatism and bowel troubles. The young shoots and leaves are used as a tonic laxative and the inner bark for fevers. The fresh summer sap helps expel excess fluid and treat oedema, and the birch buds are used for colds, rheumatic conditions, stomach ulcers/pains, liver/gall problems, and kidney/bladder stones. Birch charcoal is ingested to relieve ingested poisons or indigestion bloating.

Mystical:By binding together birch twigs and gently striking possessed people and animals with it, the haunting spirits can be exorcised. Russian folk would hang a stem of it tied with a red ribbon to rid themselves of the evil eye. Many farmers would plant birch around their houses to protect against lightning. Modern Druids burn it to cleanse and purify themselves during ceremonies. In Scandinavia, switches of birch are used on the bodies to stimulate the process of purification in the sauna, and in Britain a birch rod was used rather ferociously to purify criminals of their sins and misdeeds, and on lunatics to expel the evil spirits from within. To get rid of the spirits of the old year, one would "beat the bounds" with a broom made of birch. Birch also represents the first moon - the moon of inception, and in rituals of deciding which spiritual seeds one should plant in the year. Magical workings in this moon will add strength and momentum to these rites. To communicate well with the Goddess, meditate in a birch grove. For magical parchment, gather her bark only by a tree chosen by one that has been struck by lightning (chosen by Thor). Used for Earth Mother magic. Birch is used to make sets of runes for divination by gathering the wood during the waxing of the moon.

Legends and Lore:Birch is considered feminine and is associated with the planet Venus, the element water, the God Thor, and imbued with the powers of protection, exorcism, and purification. She represents the symbol of the Bardic school or grade. The tree is first planted on virgin soil where one wants to create a wood or forest -"the tree that helps birth the forest" which leads to it being given the name "Pioneer tree" or "Tree of Birth", and is why it often symbolizes the first level of Druid working. The whiteness of the bark indicates cleanliness and determination in overcoming difficulties. It represents new starts, new journeys, and clear direction. If drawn by card, rune, or stave, it symbolizes new beginnings or the start of a new endeavor or thing in ones' life. It demonstrates the purification of the self. Roman lectors carried Birch rods. It is one of the three pillars of Wisdom (Oak, Yew, Birch). The "Lieschi" or "Genii of the Forest" are said to dwell in their tree tops. According to legend if the spirit of the birch tree (The One With the White Hand) touches a head it leaves a white mark and the person turns insane.

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ELDER
Description: The Elder grows to be about 30-50 feet tall, with a span of 20-40 feet. It tolerates wet to dry soil and is drought tolerant.

Uses:Physical:The bark of the older branches was used in the making of black dye and also the root. The leaves yield, with alum, a green dye and the berries dye blue and purple (with alum) and violet (with alum and salt). Inside the stem is a thick soft pith which can easily be hollowed out used to make flutes, pan pipes and a surprisingly loud reeded whistle. children have made pop-guns and pea shooters from the hollowed out stems.small pegs, skewers, spoons, small turned items, combs and children's toys. The hollowed out stems make natural beads,

Medicinal:will help in the early stages of a cold or 'flu, and is excellent for a sore throat and catarrh. an excellent remedy for asthma.An old cure for colds and coughs, and especially bronchitis, was to make a "rob" (a vegetable juice thickened by heat) from elderberries. Use 5lbs of fresh ripe berries, crushed with 1lb of sugar and evaporate to the thickness of honey. One or two tablespoons mixed with hot water and taken at night will act as a demulcent to the chest and throat. An infusion of the leaves, rubbed into the skin, will prevent mosquitoes, midges and flies settling on you. A spray of leaves worn in the hat also helps. The same mixture can also be sprayed onto plants to keep off aphids and other small insects. The leaves can also be made into an ointment as a remedy for bruises, swellings, sprains, chilblains and wounds, bringing a cooling effect. Take three parts fresh elder leaves, heat them up with 6 parts Vaseline until the leaves are crisp. Then strain and store. The flowers, which are at their best at midsummer, also have many uses from eye bath to skin tonic, for colds and 'flu and catarrhal inflammation of the upper respiratory tract, such as hay fever and sinusitis. Gather the flowers on a dry day and dry them fast. The do discolour but are perfectly OK. I have found the best method is to hand the clusters upside down in paper bags in the sunshine. The bags catch the flowers as they dry and drop off. When completely dry, store them in dark screw-top jars.A tea made of the fresh flowers makes an excellent spring/summer tonic, take fresh each morning to purify the blood. The can also be added to salads, cakes and made into wonderful summer drinks such as elderflower cordial and elderflower champagne.

Mystical:Flutes made of elder were used to summon spirits, and elder was also a common wood of wands. Justice was often dispensed under an alder, so the hilt of a coven sword was often made of elder wood.It is said in Irish folklore that it is the elder stick and not ashen ones which are used by witches for their magic horses, which makes me wonder whether the bark was pershaps used for inducing trance. The earliest folk tales praise elder's ability to ward off evil or malevolent spirits, and to undo evil magic. Elder blossom was worn at Beltane to signify witchcraft and magic and elder twigs and to undo evil magic. Elder blossom was worn at Beltane to signify witchcraft and magic and elder twigs were woven into a head-dress at this time to enable the wearer to see spirits.Much of the folklore around Elder suggests its ability to drive away evil spirits. As a protection against evil (and later against witchcraft) its branches were hung in doorways of houses, cowsheds buried in graves and its twigs were carried. It can be used to bless a person, place or thing, by scattering leaves and berries to the four directions, and over the thing or person being blessed.

Other:The flowers are used to make cordial and white wine. The leaves, however, are poisonous.The ripe berries, popular with birds, are used to make preserves and as the basis of a red wine. Elder also accompanied the deceased. "In the country parts...when anyone dies, the grave digger silently walks to the elder, and cuts a rod to measure the corpse with; the man (hearse driver) who is to convey it to the grave does the same, and wields this rod as a whip." These rods were not left unattended for "he that has silently carried off an undertaker's measure, and leans it against a house door at night, can rob the people inside without their waking."

Legends and Lore:Early European folk tales tell of a dryad, Hylde-moer, The Elder Tree Mother, who lives in the elder tree and watches over it. Should the tree be chopped down and furniture made of the wood, Hylde-moer would follow her property and haunt the owners. Similar tales tell that if a child's cradle were to be made of elder, Hylde-moer would pinch the child black and blue and give it no peace or rest. Thus it is considered unlucky to make a cradle out of elder wood - birch being the property wood for a cradle, signifying a new start or inception.According to Grimm's Teutonic Mythology, "In Lower Saxony the Sambucus nigra is called ellorn, ell-horn. Arnkiel's testimony...is beyond suspicion: 'Thus did our forefathers also hold the ellhorn holy, and if they must need clip the same, they were wont first to say this prayer: "Dame Ellhorn, give me somewhat of thy wood, then will I also give thee of mine, if so be it grow in the forest." And this they were wont to do sometimes with bended knees, bare headed, and folded hands, as I have ofttimes in my young days both heard and seen.'"

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ELM
Description:Large deciduous tree. Susceptible to Dutch Elm disease and accordingly not planted any more.Height 40m. Age up to 500 years.Typical hedgerow tree but found up to 300m. Requires non calcerous top soil. In mixed woods with Whitebeam and small leave lime and in Oak and Ash woods.Common in North and West of Britain and Ireland. Native throughout Europe and W. Asia.Grown from seed which is not dormant. Approx 40,000 seed per kg. Does not sucker. Takes approx 30 years before seeds are produced and then every 2 or 3 years. In the wild seed germinate shortly after falling. Strong and supple pale brown wood. Prone to shake. Cannot be split leading to particular uses. Does not decay when immersed in water.

Uses:Physical:Used to be used to make chests, water pipes and troughs and for sea defenses. Also for sections for cow sheds, cribs and mangers, hubs of wheels, coffins and furniture.

Other:Leaves once used for livestock.

 

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FIR
Description:The fir grows to be 50' - 100' feet in height. The fir has a spread of about 20' at full maturity. Lives to about 50-70 years. This tree grows at a medium growth rate. The fir does well in Full sun to partial shade.The fir grows in acidic, alkaline, loamy, moist, clay, sandy, well-drained, wide range of soils. Sensitive to drought conditions; requires good drainage.The fir has pyramidal shape. This tree has leaves that spiral; and are simple; needle-like; 1 to 1- inches long..

Uses:Physical:telegraph poles, pit props, fencing and flagpoles, furniture, ship masts, huts, rail ties,

Other:
bird and animal species find shelter and food in its majestic foliage.

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HAWTHORNE
Description:Deciduous tree dense leaved and thorny with short trunk. Commonly used for stock proof hedging. New shoots and leaves are reddish. Distinctive white blossom with strong scent and red berries (haws) later. Height 10 - 15m. Age long lived - 250 years. Found on all soil types. Protects seedlings of other broadleaved trees particularly oak from predation and hence aids natural regeneration.Throughout British Isles and Europe to 500m.Seed is deeply dormant - treat as for Acer campestre. Approx 8000 germinable seeds per Kg.Also grown from cuttings. Grows rapidly for first 15 years or so. For hedges grow in seed beds for 2 years and then transplant into rows. Ready to plant into hedges at 4 years. Weeding improves growth significantly. Laying hedges to make them stockproof is an old country skill. White streaky or pale pinkish. Tough hard and heavy wood.

Uses:Physical:Walking sticks, tool handles, engraving and all turnery. Good firewood.

Other:
Haws attractive to birds and spread in this way.

Legends and Lore:The Greeks and Romans saw the hawthorn as symbolic of hope and marriage, but in medieval Europe it was associated with witchcraft and considered to be unlucky

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HAZEL
Description:Deciduous shrubs and small trees frequently coppiced and used for hedges. Many superstitions associated with hazel form Celtic times.Height max 6m. Max age 70-80 years. Not acid soils. Often found as understorey in oak woodlands.All of British Isles and Europe, West Asia and North Africa. Catkins very distinctive in February when nothing else in flower or leaf. From seed - dispersion aided by animals. Easily grown from nuts kept cool and moist till spring.White to reddish, tough and flexible. Was extensively coppiced providing long sticks for a variety of uses.

Uses:Physical:Used in past for cask hoops, basketry, walking sticks, hurdles, thatching, spars and devining rods. Good firewood.Hazel was used heavily in past for cask hoops, basketry, walking sticks, hurdles, thatching, spars and devining rods

Other:
Nutritious and tasty nuts taken by large birds and by squirrels and mice that store the nuts. Nuts produced from pruned bushes grown in open conditions like a fruit orchard.

Legends and Lore:Celtic legend says it is the receptacle of knowledge; the Salmon of Knowledge is said to eat the 9 nuts of poetic wisdom dropped into its sacred pool from the hazel tree growing beside it. Each nut created a spot on its skin. The hazelnut was once a symbol of fertility in England.

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HOLLY
Description:Small evergreen tree.Height 15m Wide range of soil types - from calcerous to poor and acid. Locally can form almost pure woods. Suitable for hedging and pollarding. Tolerates shaded positions in beech and oak woods.Native to British Isles. Particularly found in West but absent from Northern Scotland. Also Western Central and Southern Europe.Seed deeply dormant. Treat as Acer campestre but start treatment in January for sewing the season after next. Approximately 22000 seeds per kg. Distributed by birds eating berries. Creamy white wood dense with even grain.

Uses:Physical:Formerly used for carving inlay and engraving. Twigs yield birdlime. Good firewood even when green.Holly was used in the construction of chariot wheel shafts and spear shafts, carving inlay and engraving. The trees were pollarded to create thin shoots.

Mystical:Gifts of holly boughs were believed to have the power of repelling lightning and evil spirits.

Other:Trees were pollarded and used for winter feed especially in North and West of England. Berries are poisonous though used as an emetic.The Holly's traditional association with Christmas harkens back to an older, pre-Christian tradition where Holly and Ivy symbolised the fertility of the the earth and nature: Holly is associated with the death and rebirth symbolism of winter in both Pagan and Christian lore. Both Holly and Ivy were originally part of the Roman Saturnalia, one of several solstice festivals that has contributed much to the modern celebration of Christmas The druids held holly in high esteem as a plant of death and regeneration, its red berries represented the color of blood and life. Holly was seen as a `female' plant or representative of the Goddess (Holly remains a girl's name to this day) . Her consort, the God, was variously personified as either ivy or mistletoe (so how come Ivy is a girl's name too?). In Arthurian legend, Gawain (representing the Oak King of summer) fought the Green Knight, who was armed with a holly club to represent winter.

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OAK
Description:Large deciduous tree and probably our most common tree. Height 30 - 40 m. Age 1000 year or more.Basic fertile soils ph 4.5 - 7.5 including heavy soils. Mature trees tolerate flooding even by sea-water. Usually found in mixed woodland.Throughout Britain and Ireland and most of Western Europe and Asia Minor.See Quercus Petraea. Approx 110 - 450 seeds per kg.Pale brown strong wood. More susceptible to epicormic growth.

Uses:Physical:Wines and spirits matured in English Oak casks.Oak built the ships that built the empire and carried the trains that sustained it - truly a mighty oak!.

Legends and Lore:
The oak is frequently associated with Gods of thunder and lightening such as Zeus and Thor possibly due to oak's frequently being hit by lightening during storms. Specific oak trees have also been associated with the 'Wild Hunt', which is led by Herne in England and by Wodin in Germany (As in Woden's day - Wednesday) .According to faerie legend Oakmen are created when a felled oak stump sends up shoots. One should never take food offered by them since it is poisonous.

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PINE
Description:There are something like 100 species of pine trees, but the Scots Pine is the only one that is native to Britain.Large evergreen and only native British Pine. Height 40m. Age - typically up to 150 years but 300 possible. Light and sandy soils at low or moderate elevation. Does not like sea winds or high rainfall. Now believed to have been native to Scotland and Ireland only at time of separation of England from continent although must have been found over the whole Ireland and Britain as the Ice sheets retreated. Found from Spain to Siberia. Grown from seed. Moist chill for up to ten weeks before sewing. Approximately 120,000 germinable seeds per kg. Strong general purpose timber.

Uses:Physical:Preservatives are effective on this wood hence suitable for outdoors. Used for fencing, joinery, building, flooring, box and packing case manufacture, railway sleepers, pitwood, fibreboard, chipboard, and telegraph poles. Referred to by the timber trade as "redwood" or "deal".

Other:
The needles yield a medicinal oil also pitch, tars, resin and turpentine obtained from the wood.

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ROWAN
Description:Small vigorous hardy deciduous tree producing large number of red berries in autumn. Coppices well. Height 15m but up to 18m. Age 100 years or moreLight and peaty soils not water logged up to 1000m. Pioneer species not tolerant of shading except in some Scots Pine woods.Commonest West and North of Britain but native throughout Britain and Ireland. Also Europe, North Africa and Asia Minor.Grown from seed. Treat as per Whitebeam. Approx 200,000 seeds per kg.Dense hard pale brown wood.

Uses:Physical:Turnery and carving and good firewood. Used to make bows in middleages. Formerly used for tool handles, mallet heads, bowls and platters.

Other:
Berries are edible and used to make rowan jelly which is eaten with game. Enjoyed by birds who disperse seed.

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WILLOW
Description:Deciduous small tree with long thin leaves.Height 16m.By streams in association with Alder and downy birch but not waterlogged soils.Through Britain but commonest in England and throughout North Africa and parts of Asia.From sets - insert short lengths of shoots into suitable soils leaving one or two buds above ground.Pale brown wood.

Uses:Physical:Shoots used for rough baskets and hurdles. Burns rapidly. Pollarded every 4-5 years to produce crop of straight poles.the wood of cricket bats

Medicinal:Willow bark contains Salicin which is used in the treatment of rheumatic fever and various damp diseases.

Other:Shoots and leaves browsed by animals particularly horses and need protection when small. Useful for rapidly growing windbreaks and screens.

Legends and Lore:Willow has a bad reputation with ancient travellers believing that they were stalked by uprooted willows wishing to swallow them.