23 Nov 2009

"I'm a Firewalker!" update

Well, I can now officially call myself a firewalker... and I've got a certificate to prove it! :-)

The weather here had been bad all week, with torrential rain and gales, so we were all worried that the firewalk might be cancelled at the last minute. However, despite the fact that on the hour long drive to get to the venue I had to travel through very heavy rain and the occasional deeply flooded stretch of road, the Gods smiled on the event itself and held off the rain until afterwards. So the crowd of family and friends gathered outside together with random onlookers, various street performers, drummers and a Samba band didn't get wet during their almost two hour wait while we were taking part in the training for the firewalk. I hadn't been particularly worried about the firewalk itself... arrogant as it sounds I was fairly confident about walking across a 20 foot long barbeque! However, being a rather shy and solitary person I most definitely was not looking forward to walking into a room full of strangers, but everyone was so friendly and welcoming that I overcame that obstacle with no problems. The training was pretty intense but covered nothing that was new to me... I'm a Witch so I'm familiar with the idea of belief and will being able to change physical reality. By the time we came outside I think we all believed it was possible and were ready to face the challenge. This was why we'd all showed up, the reason we'd been raising money from everyone we knew and the chance to confront one of the most instinctive fears there are. After a brief pause in the radiated glow of heat from the embers for us to take off our shoes and socks we lined up and prepared to walk across the fire. Up until this point everything had gone pretty much as I'd expected, but as I lined up ready to take my turn I felt a deep peace decend on me and the noise of the crowd clapping and cheering, the drumming (which was very loud!) and the music all seemed to fade away to a great distance and suddenly the only things I was really aware of were myself and the fire. I had to concentrate to hear the group leader tell me it was my turn to walk and on my way across the fire I was only aware of the great feeling of peace, protection and support enveloping me and carrying me across on a wave of goodwill, followed by a huge feeling of achievement on reaching the other end. As far as the physical sensations go, the fire didn't feel uncomfortably hot under my feet, just pleasantly warm and vaguely soft. Then we went back inside to clean the charcoal dust off our feet, put our shoes back on and be awarded our official firewalkers' certificates. We were also each given a reusable, eco-friendly tote bag screen printed with the logo of the charity we were supporting and containing a small box of chocolates and a selection of foot care products as a thank you for taking part! :-) Leaving the building to return to the embraces and congratulations of our families and friends I still felt slightly detached, but the general party atmosphere together with something to eat had a welcome grounding effect quite quickly.

It was a truly fabulous experience, although I'm not certain it will change my life to any great extent. Most importantly, due to the generosity of my friends and work mates, the event enabled me to raise a personal total of £230 for the local branch of the Domestic Violence and Abuse Service so hopefully fewer people will have to face this unhappy situation alone. I'd like to thank everyone who donated money or sent me messages of support and I'm sure it was your good wishes that helped me get across the fire.

In hindsight, the only disappointment was the fact that the photographer due to cover the event for the local newspaper didn't arrive on time so there will be no professional photos. Many of us were relying on being able to buy pictures, but it seems that we will have to be content with just our certificates as proof that we can now call ourselves firewalkers and a record of a most memorable evening.

8 Sep 2009

"I'm a Firewalker!"

I've just done something totally awesome... I've signed up to do a firewalk! :-)

It's planned to take place on Saturday the 21st of November, in a town not too far from where I live. The event is to raise awareness and much needed funds for a charity that deals with the victims of domestic violence and abuse.

As it happens, firewalking for such a cause is immensely appropriate. Here's the Indian legend of the woman who performed the very first firewalk:

There was once a woman named Draupadi. Over time Draupadi had 5 husbands, each one of which abused her and her story is one of suffering and disgrace, humiliation and agony. But she took everything in her stride and remained a good wife. One of Draupadi’s husbands, Yudhisthira, pledged her like chattels in a game of dice with his cousin, Duryodhana. After this, Duryodhana ordered Draupadi to be dragged by her hair to the royal court and to be disrobed before the people there assembled. Draupadi cried out to Lord Krishna, who protected her honour by giving her a sari that could never be fully unravelled. When he heard of this, Yudhishthira accused Draupadi of infidelity with Lord Krishna, so to prove her innocence and fidelity she walked barefoot over hot coals and with Lord Krishna’s help, emerged unscathed.

We're hoping Lord Krishna will show the same care and compassion to us as He did to Draupadi, and enable us to help lots more victims of domestic abuse.

I'm really looking forward to it. It's a fantastic way to raise money for a very worthy cause, as well as a brilliant opportunity for me to take part in a fabulous and potentially life-changing experience. I'm sure that after completing a challenge like that nothing else will ever look quite so daunting as it did before.

Apart from trying to get everyone I come across in the next few weeks to make a donation, there's nothing I can really do to prepare for the firewalk until the day it happens.

I'll let you know how it goes... there might even be photos!

You can donate too, if you really want to! Here's a link to go straight to the donation page, where payment can be accepted via any credit/debit card regardless of where you live: www.sponsor-me.org/firewalktotnes The payments are set at 10 GBP (but it's changeable) which is roughly 16.50 USD, and the site displays a running total of how much money has been raised so far. Otherwise, you can send me the money via PayPal to: mazedasastoat@acorntaxi.fsnet.co.uk & I'll add the amount to the site in your name (unless you'd like to remain anonymous, in which case just let me know) Either way, you'll get an official receipt from the firewalk sponsorship site so you know the money hasn't gone astray. Please be as generous as you can.

30 Aug 2009

Summer's End.

Well, it's typical August Bank Holiday weather in my neck of the woods... wet, windy and none too warm! It's a real shame because there are loads of things going on round here over the week end hoping to attract the final flush of visitors and raise money for various worthy causes. There are village fetes, horticultural shows, beach clean-ups, guided walks, even a classic car show! I suppose we should know better than to plan outdoor events that rely on good weather in this country at any time of the year, but we always hope for the best. It's a prime example of the triumph of hope over experience!

It's really starting to feel as if summer's almost over now. The swallows have left for sunnier climes, the Elderberries are darkening, the Sycamore leaves are curling up and turning brown. Before long we'll be taking baskets with us every time we go for a walk to gather Elderberries, blackberries, hips, haws and Rowan berries for wine making. Not to mention the plums from the garden, which make a deliciously fruity rose wine, as well as the apples and pears for cider and perry! But we always make sure we leave plenty behind to feed the wildlife over the winter... "Take three and leave one" my grandfather used to say and I still stick to that today.

26 Aug 2009

Christian-made Pocket Pentacles! Updated.

Well, WoodenTreasures is at it again, this time an even more blatant direct rip-off! He's decided to copy my Pocket Pentacles, albeit, not very well! I had this particular copycat incident pointed out to me, simply because the title of the listing was so similar to mine. These people must think I make a fortune if they imagine it's worthwhile actually trying to trick the buying public into thinking they're buying one of my items rather than an inferior copy! I'd like to be charitable and say that obviously it's just a coincidence and that this Etsy ideas thief has come up with these pentacle talismans all on their own, but I think calling them "Pocket Pentacles" is a bit of a give-away! :-)

Maybe this seller thinks I'm new to all this and doesn't realise how long I've been selling online on eBay (just for the record, I sold my first Pocket Pentacle on eBay in October 2007) or maybe they think it's OK to steal someone's ideas as long as they're foreign, or a woman, or a non-christian. Because the oddest thing of all, something that doesn't even make me angry but just confuses the hell out of me, is that WoodenTreasures is a "proud member" of the Etsy Christian Artists' Street Team. What the hell is someone who's a member of a christian group doing making pentacles in the first place? And why do they make a point of saying in the listing for these pentacles that they should be carried to bring luck and power and that the seller actually keeps one in the car and another on his boat? And if he really does carry pagan talismans for their magical properties, what's he doing calling himself a christian? The only conclusion that I've been able to come to is that this person is not only a thief, but also a liar. Either he's a christian and has no idea of pagan values and it's all just a ruse to cash in on the whole "pagan lifestyle" fashion in the hope of making a few dollars, (and he wouldn't be the first) or he is a pagan, which means he's a member of a christian Etsy team under false pretenses. Either way, he's a liar.

And there's just one more thing, that suggests that either he doesn't actually care about the welfare of his customers or he's remarkably ignorant of the origin of his materials. He finishes all the items in his Etsy shop with tung oil. That's not so unusual... tung oil gives a water resistant, glossy finish which is easy to apply. However, the oil is processed from the tung nut and there's not a word of warning to anyone who may suffer from nut allergies. A nut allergy isn't at all trivial, it's a serious, extremely rapid, potentially life threatening condition, that can however be avoided by simply avoiding any contact with nuts or nut products. In my opinion, a warning from the seller would be thoughtful, even if it's not legally required.

It's been pointed out to me that this seller no longer publicises his christianity. Maybe he's had a crisis of faith or maybe he's decided to come out of the broom closet, but at least he appears to be more honest about his beliefs now which is good. Faith is all about honesty. And if he really has joined the growing number of pagans in the world then I bid him welcome.

16 Aug 2009

Copying on Etsy

Well, I suppose it was bound to happen sooner or later, and sure enough another Etsy seller has started copying my ideas. Part of the reason I left eBay was because so many sellers were copying my work (I got to 84 *Stick Stoats in 3 years before I gave up counting!) and I’m sad to see it starting to happen on Etsy as well. I’d imagined, naively I guess, that the people who make up the Etsy community wouldn’t stoop to steal ideas from one another, partly because there seemed to be such a strong community spirit and sense of honour there, and partly because they are mostly high quality artists, artisans and crafters who shouldn’t need to steal ideas. However, a seller calling themselves WoodenTreasures has started to sell pendants suspiciously similar to the ones I’ve been selling there for the last 7 months. One curious coincidence is that I sold my first pendant on Etsy on the 13th of January and they listed their first one (in the same style as mine) on the 13th of August… and as the number 13 is said to be lucky for Witches I'll take that as a good omen! ;-)

It’s the first time I’ve seen a direct rip off of my work on Etsy, and I have to say I’m disappointed. (There is a seller with rune dice roughly the same shape as mine, but they’re made from plastic and appear to have the symbols marked on in no particular order, so they don’t count as a copy.)

However, unlike some I’m not out of ideas of my own yet, and will shortly be presenting the wonderful world of Etsy with something new for your delectation and delight… made, of course, with my usual care and attention to detail, not to mention traditional methods, natural finish and all round eco-friendliness!

**So look out for my new range of hair sticks and shawl pins, all exclusive to me of course! ;-) Maybe I should also go into button production, doing the work with power tools would be both quick and easy so I’m sure I could offer them at a very reasonable price…

*Stick Stoats was a name I came up with to categorise the ever-growing band of folks who were directly copying almost everything I put up on eBay. It was a kind of club for people who, due to their almost total lack of any kind of original thought, felt themselves duty-bound to rip off any ideas of mine that appeared even remotely successful. At one point I actually included their names in several listings, but they showed themselves to be singularly lacking in a sense of humour and insisted that I remove them from public view. There were also sellers who were copying chunks from my listings straight into their own pages, or making their photos resemble mine, or wording their item titles in an exceedingly similar way. However, the title of Stick Stoat was solely confined to people attempting to craft wands, pendants, pentacle talismans and the rest to look virtually identical (at first glance, anyway) to the ones that I make. I think what I found the most insulting wasn't so much that people admired my work enough to want to emulate it, but that they all seemed to do it so badly! Not one of them appeared to have any kind of practical woodworking skill or talent, let alone any idea of genuine pagan spirituality, and I'm extremely glad to note that most of them seem to have failed dismally in their attempts to make a fast buck from the pagan community.

**That's a joke, I haven't the slightest inclination to copy anyone else's items, ideas, style, range or life. (Good grief, did you really think I would?)

1 Aug 2009

Storage Bags for Wands and Pre-Written Spells

I've had several emails recently asking me why I don't do what it seems every other online wand and rune seller does and provide cute little bags for you to keep your wands or runes in, an instruction sheet for runes and ready made spells for you to dedicate/consecrate/bond with your new wand. I explain in every rune listing just why you don’t get a bag or instructions with them, so I’ll just tell you here why you don’t get wand bags or ready made, one-size-fits-all magic spells from me!

Basically, I don't give you a wand bag because you don't need one. It won't keep your wand "safe", all it will do is keep the dust off it, and you shouldn't leave it lying around for long enough for it to collect any dust! In order to buy or sell online you should be over 18 and as that means you are an adult, I give you credit for being able to take adult decisions, such as how and in what to keep your wand. I don't expect you to keep your wands in a bag just because you're (falsely) led to believe that everyone else does. In reality people keep their wands in bags, boxes, drawers, wrapped in cloth, on their bedside table, in the sideboard, on a shelf, pretty much anywhere you can think of! One of the nicest suggestions I've heard was from a customer of mine who said she keeps her collection in a glass vase, proudly on display to the world. If you feel it would be nice to have a bag for your wand then you should make one yourself, by hand. We all know that when it comes to sewing, "hand made" is not the same as "hand sewn" and tradition informs us there should not be any trace of machine working near your magical tools. However, exactly how you choose to store your own magical tools is entirely up to you, and I'm not going to start dictating to you what you should or shouldn't do because it's not my decision… in fact it's none of my business what you do with your wand!

I don't provide other people with spells because I don't trust “off-the-shelf” magic myself. In order to be meaningful a spell should be in your own words, so it sounds like your own speech pattern rather than sounding as if you're reciting something you've learned. Remember how terrible those poetry recitals were at school? You'll find it difficult to be sincere while casting spells if you can hear yourself sound like that! Magic needs to be spoken from the heart, and your own words are obviously better for that than somebody else's. Also, you can never be entirely certain of the intent of the person who wrote the spell you are going to perform, and I can't believe there's going to be a huge amount of sincerity in something people produce for money. And as for printing it on expensive, parchment type paper (rolled up so they can call it a scroll!) for you to stick in your Book of Shadows... I'm very nearly speechless! Your Book of Shadows is probably the most intensely personal magical item you will ever have, containing your own spells, recipes, thoughts, hopes, fears and dreams. The reason it’s important that it’s handwritten is because the effort you put into writing provides a strong personal bond; adding part of yourself is in itself a magical act. The thought of gluing a piece of paper in it that contains a commercially printed version of mass produced magic just makes me shudder!

I try not to put any of myself into the magical items I create, because they're not for me to use. I sincerely hope they would be thoroughly cleansed before anyone used them for anything anyway, so there wouldn't really be much point. What I'm getting at is that your magical implements are yours alone, they shouldn't really even be touched by anyone else, and any magic you perform should contain your will and intent rather than someone else's, and only you can put that into words.

26 Jul 2009

The Removal of Stones from Beaches and Rivers

I’ve been slightly perturbed recently by the growing number of rune sets appearing for sale online that are apparently made from pebbles taken from beaches or river banks, as well as the increasing practice of selling these stones as they are for others to use in their craft. Obviously I’m not aware of how things work anywhere other than the UK, but the practice of taking stones, sand, pebbles or shingle from a beach is illegal in this country, not least because beaches are “property” and can be owned just like fields! Above the high water line a beach is treated just like any other land and can be owned by anyone (quite often the National Trust, although there are at least 5 or 6 privately owned beaches in my area) while between the high and low water marks it is owned by the crown. In a similar way, riverbanks and beds are someone’s property. In the cases where the river forms a boundary between two neighbouring properties, unless otherwise stated the line of the boundary follows the centre of the river, thereby allowing the ownership of one bank each. So quite clearly any removal of stones (or anything else, for that matter) from these places is common theft. There have been cases of keen gardeners being prosecuted for taking large rocks from local beaches or Dartmoor to use in their garden rockeries, so the legal implications are potentially quite serious… do you really want a criminal record, let alone a hefty fine? But apart from the legal side of things, and probably more important from a pagan perspective, anyone carrying off stones or pebbles from any part of the countryside is damaging the environment and helping to destroy natural ecosystems and our wonderful landscape. It might seem harmless to just take a small bag of pebbles or a pocket full of smooth stones, but these individual actions added together mount up and really do have a detrimental effect. There are beaches not too far from where I live that have beautifully smooth round stones that people have literally carried off by the truckload, and as a result the beaches no longer protect the cliffs from the effects of the sea and major erosion is taking place with large areas of the cliff face crumbling into the ocean. On a larger scale, the removal of a protective shingle ridge just offshore to build Plymouth breakwater in the early part of the nineteenth century has had a devastating effect on my local coastline, with one village having been completely destroyed and several more, together with a major road, seriously threatened. The road has been given an expected lifespan of just 30 years before it disappears for ever, and many millions of pounds have been spent on sea defences for the villages, although it looks as if ultimately they too will be lost. The same can be said of the practice of taking large quantities of those wonderful stones with natural holes worn through them (called “Lucky Stones” where I come from) in order to sell them. In any case, these mini wonders of nature aren’t meant to be sold, they’re meant to be found on a walk along the beach as a gift from the Gods and cherished as such, rather than be turned into an article of commerce. So please, think carefully before you buy articles that may be made from natural materials that really should have been left where they were.

19 Jul 2009

Choosing a Magic Wand

The magic wand is an extremely important tool for many practitioners of magic, and widespread throughout almost all magical traditions, but how do you go about choosing the one that’s right for you? Well firstly, remember that although its use is practically universal, if you don’t feel comfortable with the idea of using one then don’t bother! If you feel you don't need one then you probably don't need one, so there's very little point buying one! The purpose of a wand is as a focussing device or pointer, to direct energy to the place you want it to go, either directly, by pointing towards the actual geographical location or metaphorically, as you send your shot of thought-power out into the general universe. Basically it’s a prop; it helps set the scene and create the right atmosphere and acts as an aid to your visualization and concentration, but just because many people find it useful and some even indispensable doesn’t mean that it’s absolutely necessary!

For many people an important consideration will be how much it will cost, and there is no easy way to decide how much to spend. The craftsmen and women who make these items are entitled to charge a fair price for their time, effort, expertise, and materials, although there are a few who see the supply of magical tools as a way of giving something back to the pagan community, of using what they have and what they can do to help other seekers follow their own paths. It probably depends on whether or not they depend on the income from their craft to pay the rent and put food on the table, or if they have a “proper job” and make magical tools in their spare time. Either way, if you want something that’s well out of your financial reach it’s always better just to forget about it and move on. More expensive doesn’t mean better or more effective, and the novice especially would be well advised to choose plainer, cheaper options, at least until they’ve tried several different materials and decided on the one or ones they prefer.

A wand can be made out of any material at all in theory; however they tend to fall into three categories, wood, metal or stone. Which you choose is entirely up to you, a matter of personal preference, as is whether you prefer your wand to be very plain or incredibly ornate, close to its natural state or highly decorated. Many people believe that a wand will find it's rightful owner, so if you find yourself constantly coming back to one that on the face of it just isn't your style don't be surprised, the wand you work best with is not necessarily the one you fall in love with the look of! However, in order to make the job of choosing a little easier, take a few decisions at this stage to narrow the field somewhat. It may help to make a list, but be prepared to be flexible! For instance, do you want it to be entirely made by hand, or would you tolerate a small amount of machine use, such as the use of an electric lathe in wood turning or an electric soldering iron for metal work? Roughly what kind of size and shape do you feel comfortable with? (You can at least have a few "dummy runs" with this one!) It doesn’t really matter whether you prefer the look and feel of a perfectly straight wand, or something curved, spiral or as jagged as a lightning bolt, as long as you can visualise your energy flowing through it. Energy (or magic) has no physical form and isn’t hampered or impeded by going round corners or through small gaps. Many believe that this energy travels through space and time in a kind of spiral vortex anyway, and I’m quite sure it’s capable of finding its own form regardless of what shape you try to make it! Equally, the size of your wand is not important to it's effectiveness, so it's entirely up to you whether you use one that could double as a staff, or one you can hide in your pocket. Each type has its strengths and limitations in use, not to mention the physical differences of weight, practical size, toughness, etc. Obviously it wouldn’t be sensible to have a delicate, slender crystal wand, however beautiful it is, if you do your rituals on a concrete floor and have a tendency to drop things! By the same token, not many people would relish the thought of clutching an uncovered metal wand while working out on an exposed hillside on a cold and windy night! Your wand should be comfortable to hold so it doesn’t make your muscles ache; should not get either hot, sweaty and slippery, or so cold your fingers freeze; have no very sharp or rough edges to catch on you or your clothing; should not be too heavy to hold in your outstretched hand for a little while; should not be so long as to be a hazard if you work in a confined space; and it’s probably a good idea if it could withstand being dropped occasionally! Many people don’t associate practical decision making with the choice of magical tools, and while it’s perfectly OK just to fall in love with a particular item, being sensible is always a good idea. Imagine where you will be using your wand, where you will keep it when not in use, and how you will carry it, and try to be practical in your choice. Then it’s time to listen to your inner voice, and most people find them selves drawn to one material, or even a specific type of wood, metal, crystal or whatever. Try to hold different kinds of metal to see how they feel to you, if you handle various crystals one is bound to become your favourite, and make the effort to touch trees or wood of as many different varieties as you can. Small tumbled crystals are cheap and easy to come by, most wood workers would be happy to let you have a few small samples of various woods so you can get the feel of them, metal may be more difficult, but the water pipes in your house are probably copper, and you may well own jewellery in gold, silver or pewter. You can research the various magical properties; most things have correspondences drawn from accepted wisdom, and traditional uses. They also have their own guardian angels, ruling elements, significant day of the week, planetary ruler, colour, gender; the list is almost endless, and easily researched on the internet. Some of these correspondences are the same in most of the lists, but some differ dramatically. It is important to remember however, that it will be you who is using your wand, so if you feel that oak is feminine and can aid intuition then don’t worry if the rest of the world disagrees, what you feel is right for you is right for you! After all, what is actually meant by accepted wisdom and tradition is only that this thing worked for most people most of the time, there are no guarantees and no rules, so learn to make your own decisions!

One thing that really should be taken into consideration when choosing any magical tools is the ethical implications of the item. Find out about the origin of the wands you look at and ask questions of the seller. Was this crystal ethically mined with regard for the Earth and respect for the workers? Is this wood from our endangered Tropical forests? What impact will arise from me buying something that contains paint derived from the petro-chemical industry? Also assure yourself that the seller actually knows their product as I’ve seen too many bits of coloured glass passed off as amethyst and random sticks labelled as something rare and exotic. The best defence against getting duped by fakes is to become an expert yourself, so do your research! Get books from the library with good quality photographs and descriptions, so you know what to look for and can tell the difference between elder and mahogany, citrine and sandstone, or lead and silver. If the seller is also the maker of the wand they should be able to answer your questions without any trouble, but if they sound unsure it’s probably wise to be cautious! Anyone who works with wood, metal or stone should have an in-depth knowledge, either from experience or formal education, or both, so don't be afraid to ask complicated questions. As far as I can tell, anyone who really knows thier subject is more than happy to tell you about it, in great detail and at great length! If you're buying on the internet at a site such as Etsy or eBay it's always a good idea to look at a person's feedback, it doesn't tell the whole story, but it will let you know how long they've been selling and how many happy (or otherwise!) customers they have. You can also look at the items they've sold in the past to get an idea of what they could make if you decided to ask for a custom wand.

It may or may not appeal to you to purchase an item already cleansed, blessed or charged with some form of energy, it’s probably not actually dangerous, and may well be perfectly fine as long as you’re sure that the rituals were done in exactly the same way as you would do them yourself, but it’s not easy to be certain. At best, it’s a well-meaning waste of time and at worst you could end up with someone else’s feeling or intent influencing your magical work. In any case, if you want your wand to react to you and truly be yours then you should be the one to do any rituals for it! I would always advise anybody to be very cautious if the seller gives out a list of rules, or strict instructions such as how to consecrate or enliven your wand by anointing it with three drops of your blood taken from the middle finger of your left hand, after being pricked with an unused silver needle at exactly midnight under a full moon wearing a green robe with your ruling planet in the fourth house, etc, etc, etc. If you need step by step instruction join a reputable coven or working group, and learn from people who actually know what they’re talking about. No one can tell you that unless you follow their directions to the letter and do things the one true way then your wand won’t work. They may have made it, but they took your money and handed it over to you - so it’s your wand, and you can do what you want with it. Don't be taken in by sellers describing a wand as "powerful", "strong", "potent", or anything else that implies it has power of it's own, it doesn't! When all’s said and done, no matter how beautiful, ornate or expensive, it’s basically a stick, and it will remain just a stick until you’ve built up a working relationship with it, there is NO MAGIC in it… the magic comes from within YOU! Don’t ever forget that!

Finally, I have to say that the very best magical tools are the ones you make yourself, but if you’re unable to do your own crafting then there are some lovely examples fairly easily obtainable. With time and use they’ll become just as personally yours, just as familiar, comfortable and comforting as your favourite pair of old jeans, and quite likely just as scruffy to look at! But to you they’ll be precious beyond gold and totally irreplaceable. Just choose carefully, ask lots of questions, and don’t spend more than you can afford!

General Tree Lore

This is all the information I've gleaned over the years that doesn't fit in the "Magical Properties of Wood" page, and includes ancient and modern practical uses for the timber, leaves and bark, as well as various beliefs and superstitions.
It is a work in progress, so if anyone has any further suggestions for inclusion I would be very pleased to hear from you!
As with all my work, I hold the copyright for this list so it is illegal for you to copy it without my permission. However, although you need to ask, I always give permission for anyone to use it for their own personal use, to include on their website or to distribute as a training aid, but it must not be sold!
It is my property and I choose to make it freely available to all, don't let others make you pay for it!
Alder - Deciduous tree that can reach 70' tall, common lining waterways throughout Britain and is the only broad leafed deciduous tree that bears cones containing its seeds. The wood has had many uses over the years due to its strength and the fact that it's resistant to rot when waterlogged. During the Iron Age, when the low-lying area known as the Somerset Levels around Glastonbury Tor was usually under shallow water, people built raised walkways out of rough planks with Alder supports, and today the Bridge of Sighs in Venice, Italy, along with most of the old part of the city, is still supported by Alder piles driven into the soft mud below the water. However, it is not used for fences because the wood quickly decays in dry soil. In Saxon times it was said that the best shields to carry into battle were made of Alder, the wood is very dense but not at all springy so it deadens any blows received from enemy weapons! It was the preferred material for well-buckets and before the use of cast iron became widespread the timber was used to make water pipes as well as animals' drinking troughs. It has been used to make fine chairs, especially in the Highlands of Scotland, where it is known as Scottish Mahogany, and was so popular for making the clogs worn in Lancashire mill towns that demand exceeded supply and they had to be made from Birch instead.  Also in Lancashire, it was recorded in the 1790's that on May Eve lads would compliment lasses by hanging a bough of an appropriate tree on their doors or eaves; Birch for a pretty wench, Oak for someone merry (who likes a joke) Sometimes it was less polite; Hazel nut for a dirty slut, Alder for a scolder, Willow green for a forsaken queen. It is a popular choice with guitar manufacturers for making the bodies of electric guitars and is used for the famous Fender Stratocaster, amongst others! Other uses include cartwheels, spinning wheels, bowls and spoons and it also makes excellent charcoal. The wood is good fuel as well, as it ignites quickly, has a pleasant smell and does not spit sparks. The bark yields a dye that will colour woollens red and cottons yellow, if the shoots are cut in March they give a cinnamon dye and the catkins can be used to dye green. In more recent times, varieties of Alder are often planted on mine spoil, or landfill sites because they will grow readily and quite quickly amongst pollution that wouldn't be tolerated by most other trees.The leaves make good, nitrogen rich compost.
Ash - The Ash tree is a member of the Olive family, and provides the toughest and most elastic of British timber. It is said that if you sleep with Ash leaves under your pillow they will induce psychic dreams. It has been believed that the leaves will cure snake bites and the wood will cure leprosy. It has often been used to provide the traditional Yule log and is said to draw lightning. It is usually thought of as being the great World Tree of Norse legend, with its top high in the land of the Gods, the trunk in this world and the roots reaching down to the land of the dead. It is indeed extremely deep rooting, and Ash seedlings can grow in the unlikliest of places, such as on top of a wall, because the roots reach down far enough to take nourishment from the soil beneath. It is one of the first trees to lose its leaves for the Winter, with most of them being blown off by the first cold winds. Ash wood was traditionally used for bows and spears, and also in shipbuilding. In 1466, Edward II passed an Act which directed "That every Englishman should have a bow of his own height of yew, ash, wych hazel or amburn; and that butts should be made in every township, which the inhabitants were to shoot at every feast day under the penalty of a halfpenny, when they should omit that exercise."These days, the wood is used for furniture, axe handles, ladders, oars, walking sticks and baseball bats, as well as the bodies of acoustic guitars.It makes excellent logs as it gives out little or no smoke when seasoned, and is one of the few timbers to burn well when it's green. The seeds have been pickled and used as substitute for capers.
Bay - Used for crowns and wreaths for heroes and poets. The leaves were used in incense and said to assist with divination. It was said that standing under a Bay tree during a thunderstorm would ensure that you did not get struck by lightning and a sprig of Bay over the door would protect the house from witches and serpents. These days its only real use is for the leaves as flavouring in cookery.
Beech - The name means book, as some of the earliest versions were made from thin slabs of Beech. The tree gives such dense shade due to the amount of foliage it produces that nothing will grow beneath it. The wood is not used for large objects, even though the tree grows very large, because it is brittle and short grained as well as being very susceptible to wood worm. It has been used for stonemason's mallets, boot lasts, hat boxes, chairs and in Europe it is made into parquet flooring. Chips of Beech wood are used as a fining agent in Budweiser beer and the pulp is the basis for the textile known as Modal. It makes good charcoal and excellent logs, as its heating power surpasses almost all other timber, but there was a belief that it was unlucky to put it on the fire since to bring it into the house invites Death in as well. The leaves make excellent compost and were said to make the best mattresses, lasting for seven or eight years and being far superior to straw for the purpose. Many animals feed on the mast, or nuts, and it is said that feeding pheasants on the mast renders their flesh delicious.
Birch - It was Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834, the youngest of 13 children, his father was the vicar of Ottery St Mary, not far from my home) who spoke of the Birch tree as "Lady of the Woods". Although delicate looking, it can grow and thrive at high altitudes and in Arctic environments where few other trees will grow at all. It is a relatively short lived tree, maturing in 70 - 130 years and then rapidly declining in health and vigour. The wood is relatively soft and not very durable, until the recent trend for Birch veneered lounge and kitchen furniture, its chief use was for broom handles and whisky barrels, and for the charcoal for smoking both hams and herrings. The bark is very durable and is used for roofing and canoes, it makes a suitable surface for writing on and can be twisted into torches as it contains a good deal of oil. It is widely used for tanning. The leaves can be used to make a yellow dye and the wood gunpowder. The sap of the Birch tree can be tapped and made into wine. This tree was one of the materials used to manufacture poison gases during World War 1. In Lancashire, it was recorded in the 1790's that on May Eve lads would compliment lasses by hanging a bough of an appropriate tree on their doors or eaves; Birch for a pretty wench, Oak for someone merry (who likes a joke) Sometimes it was less polite; Hazel nut for a dirty slut, Alder for a scolder, Willow green for a forsaken queen.
Blackberry - The Blackberry Bramble bears both hard green fruits and ripe ones on the same branch at the same time, which is unusual. The Celts regarded blackberries as the food of the fairies and it was considered taboo for anyone to eat them. It was believed that passing through a loop of bramble rooted at both ends would cure hernias and paralysis.
Blackthorn - Small deciduous tree much used for hedging, it flowers very early in the Spring, before the leaves are out and it used to be believed that it was dangerous to bring the blossom into the house. The tree has come to represent fate or outside influences that cannot be avoided. It is believed to be the ancestor of the domestic Plum tree, and old neglected Plum trees do sometimes have sharp spines very similar to the ones that make Blackthorn such a good tree for hedging. In ancient Greece the wood of the Blackthorn was used to keep sacred fires burning and they believed, with many others, that it afforded protection from witchcraft. Used for walking sticks and the Irish shellaleagh. The blue-black fruit called sloes are added to gin to make a warming cordial. The dried leaves have been used as a substitute both for tobacco and tea.
Box - This is the hardest and heaviest of all European woods. It was made into printing blocks and engraving plates, because the edges of such blocks apparently wear better than tin or lead, and it is said to be almost as good for this purpose as brass. In modern times it has been used for making measuring rulers and flutes and is the traditional material for carving white chess pieces. The root was used for dagger handles. The trees are most familiar from their use for hedges and mazes in formal gardens. The art of topiary, clipping Box trees into interesting shapes, is said to have originated in Rome and been invented by a friend of Julius Caesar.
Broom - Its tough, flexible branches were used for making brooms and baskets. After grasses it's one of the first plants to colonise sand dunes and will grow in salt spray. It was widely planted as cover for game and to shelter plantations until the plants were established. The wood is mainly used for decorative veneer. The tough bark fibre has been used for paper and cloth, and the bark for tanning.The fresh green tops of the shoots used to be added to beer before the introduction of hops, to make it taste bitter and render it more intoxicating. The flower buds have been pickled as substitute for capers and the seeds have been used as a substitute for coffee.The leaves and tops yield green dye.It was believed that the strong smell could tame wild horses and savage dogs.
Cherry - The cherries from the Wild Cherry tree, or Gean, are a favourite food of thrushes and blackbirds, although too sour to be eaten by people. It was believed to harbour evil spirits as soon as it grew old enough to keep bad company. The wood is hard and will take a high polish, a rich red colour, it is used to make fine furniture.
Elder - It has been said that the English summer starts when the Elder is in flower and ends when the berries are ripe. The tree is a symbol of grief, and at one time green Elder branches were buried in graves to protect the dead from witchcraft and it was traditional for the hearse driver to carry a whip made from Elder. Permission must be asked of the Elder Mother before cutting the wood and only after it has been granted, by her keeping silent, can the work commence. It is said that if a twig is tied into 3 or 4 knots it can be carried as a charm against rheumatism, and an Elder branch hung above the stable or byre door stops fairies stealing the milk or horses being hag ridden. The juice of the bruised leaves really do keep flies away and a sprig attached to a horse's bridle or rider's hat will enable them to avoid being bothered by the troublesome insects; an infusion of the leaves dabbed onto the skin or simply rubbing the skin with the crushed leaves also works. It was believed that if a child is whipped with an Elder switch he will stop growing, but a cure for warts was to rub them with a green Elder stick and then bury it in the mud, as the stick softens and decays so will the wart disappear. If you stand under an Elder tree on Midsummers Eve you have a good chance of seeing the King and Queen of Fairyland and thier entire court retinue pass by. Also, on Christmas Eve, if you take the pith from the branches, cut it into round, flat shapes, dip it in oil and float the pieces on water, when lit the flames will reveal everyone in the vicinity who practices magic. It was said that if you bathed your eyes with the sap you would be able to see both fairies and witches. It is not considered wise to go to sleep under an Elder tree for risk of being taken away by the fairies, and it is a fact that nothing will grow beneath one. The wood has been used for meat skewers, net making needles, toys and combs. In the countryside, it has always been considered a neccessary hedging plant and it is said that an Elder stake in the ground will last longer than an iron one... possibly because it will grow roots and shoots from even a large log.
Elm - Young Elm leaves were used to feed cattle and apparently the cows thoroughly enjoyed them, and it was commonly planted round fields as grass will grow freely above its roots, although it takes so much nourishment from the soil that little else will! The young leaves can be used to feed silk worms. The wood is not subject to splitting but will not take a high polish, however, once seasoned it does not crack and is very durable under water. It has been used for ships keels and blocks for rigging, coffins, wheels and furniture. The timber is extremely tough so it was commonly used to line carts and wheelbarows. In the days before cast iron it was used for water pipes, and apparently the "Great Main" of London was constructed from Elm, and was much used for picture frames as it does not warp. The inner bark is very tough and has been used for mats and ropes. The wood of the Wych Elm is said to be effective as a charm against witches, and small pieces used to be put in the milk churns to stop witches turning the milk sour.
Fig - In ancient times, the Fig tree was dedicated to Bacchus. The wolf that suckled Romulus and Remus was said to have rested under a Fig tree so the Romans considered it sacred. The wood, although of a spongy texture, is very durable, and was used in Eastern countries to make coffins for embalmed bodies.
Gorse - It has been believed that burning the fresh shoots and blossom will calm the wind.
Hawthorn - The tree, although small, lives to a great age. It is much used for hedging as it forms an almost inpenetrable thorny barrier if kept clipped to encourage bushy growth. Cows and horses will eat the leaves, seemingly without injuring thier mouths on the sharp spikes. It is a country belief that Hawthorn flowers bear the smell of the great plague, and they are mainly pollinated by carrion insects because they have a faint smell of decomposition, although strangely some people find they smell sweet. Flowering branches used to be carried in wedding processions as a symbol of hope. The bark yields a dye that will turn wool black. The wood is fine grained and takes a high polish but never attains any size, and it has been used for combs. It makes the hottest firewood there is and it is said that charcoal made from it will melt pig iron without the aid of a blast.
Hazel - Most often seen as a many branched shrub, but will grow into a tree and is said to reach 60' in height. The wood is tough and elastic, with the thin shoots used for baskets and fences (hurdles) and the larger branches for walking sticks. Before fibre glass and carbon fibre fishing rods were commonly made from Hazel wood. Forked twigs from the Hazel have been used for water divining or dowsing for centuries as they are said to be sensitive to water. The nuts have been believed to impart knowledge, wisdom and fertility, and were one ingredient in an hallucinogenic beverage drunk to induce visions. They are also commonly used in love potions and aphrodisiacs. In Lancashire, it was recorded in the 1790's that on May Eve lads would compliment lasses by hanging a bough of an appropriate tree on their doors or eaves; Birch for a pretty wench, Oak for someone merry (who likes a joke) Sometimes it was less polite; Hazel nut for a dirty slut, Alder for a scolder, Willow green for a forsaken queen.
Heather - Heather is a well known flowering plant that thrives on acid and infertile soils, and which grows almost everywhere in the world except the places that remain frozen year-round, deserts, and the tropics. The word "heathland" derives from heather, as does "heathen", which means "people of the heath" or, more simply, country dwellers. Generally small to medium sized, semi-evergreen shrubs, they can have flowers ranging in colour from snowy white through to the deepest purple. They are familiar companions of Gorse on moorland areas of Britain, where they get nibbled into rounded tussocks by sheep, and their myriad of sweet-smelling, nectar-rich flowers can colour a whole hillside. These flowers are beloved by bees, and produce excellent honey. "Lucky Heather" has been popular in Scotland and with Romany gypsies for centuries, it is usually white flowered, and carrying a dried sprig  in the pocket or pinned to clothing is thought to bring general good fortune... which is why it used to be almost indispensible as part of bridal bouquets. Burning the tips of the shoots is an age-old charm to bring rain. The branches have been used to make brooms and also twisted into rope or twine, which was used to secure the thatch on roofs, and it has been used in upland areas for the thatch itself. It is said to make comfortable mattresses. The thickest and largest stems can be used for the handles of tools such as rakes or hoes, because the wood is extremely tough. It can be used to make yellow dye, and the bark has been used in tanning.
Holly - Evergreen and grows well under larger trees, although in order to really flourish it needs space, light and air. The glossy dark green leaves have wavy edges surrounded with sharp spikes where they grow low down on the tree, but higher up where they are out of reach of grazing animals they have smooth edges and just a single point at the tip. The wood is almost white with barely visible grain, but needs to be well seasoned or it will warp and split. It takes dye well, and has been used as a substitute for Ebony when dyed black and was much used for teapot handles and marketry. It was used for spears and it makes good walking sticks and the thin green shoots were used to make birdlime. It has been used to decorate houses in Winter for centuries, long before christianity was brought to Britain, and the Druids believed that by bringing branches of Holly indoors they were offering hospitality to the sprites and faeries by giving them somewhere to shelter from the harsh weather. It was believed that if a Holly tree was planted near a house it would repel poison and protects against lightning and witchcraft. The berries are poisonous to people, but readily eaten by birds.The leaf of a South American variety of Holly is the source of Yerba Mate, and the leaves of another type have the highest caffeine content of any plant.
Ivy - Evergreen climber that can damage young trees and old walls, it is a member of the Ginseng family. It has two distinctly different forms of growth, while living as a climbing plant it has five pointed leaves and sends out new shoots on alternate sides of the main stem, bears neither blossom nor berry and the wood is very light weight and not very strong. However, on reaching the tree canopy far above the ground it changes its leaves to an oval shape with a pointed tip, has flowers and fruit, and branches into three at each intersection, the wood at this stage is much heavier, denser and stronger because the plant has to bear its own considerable weight. Ivy will grow readily from cuttings, and if cuttings are taken of the climbing stage they will grow as climbers until they reach enough light and space to branch out into the bushy form, but if cuttings are taken from the plant where it has already attained the status of blossom and fruit bearing, the new plant raised will remain bushy and never revert to being a climber. Ivy is peculiar in that it bears flowers in the Autumn and fruit in the Spring, thus providing a vital food source for many birds and insects. Ivy formed the poet's crown and the wreath of Bacchus. A wreath of Ivy used to be presented to newly married couples as a symbol of fidelity and it was believed that if you gave a small piece of Ivy to a friend then the friendship would be enduring. Floating a few Ivy leaves in wine, or drinking from a cup made from Ivy wood was supposed to provide protection from intoxication!
Larch - This is the only coniferous tree that loses its leaves in the winter. It was introduced into Britain in 1639 and has subsequently been widely planted for its durable timber. It grows very rapidly, six times faster than Oak, and the wood is tougher, stronger and more durable than that of any other conifer, with the possible exception of the very slow growing Yew. The young trees are used to protect slower growing and less hardy species while they establish themselves and a Larch wood rapidly enriches the soil beneath. It is used for telegraph poles, pit props and railway sleepers, it was widely used for ship building and is still much in demand for building houses where it is the usual choice for floorboards. It will take a very high polish so it is popular with cabinet makers, it resists woodworm and it is said that gilding has a better effect over Larch than over almost any other wood. Large quantities of turpentine can be collected from mature trees during the summer months by simply boring a hole in the trunk and inserting a tube. The thick liquid that flows from the tubes only requires straining to be ready for use. It has been used in both human and veterinary medicine and also for making various sorts of varnish and polish as it dissolves most kinds of natural wax.
Linden/Lime - Widely planted in parks and large gardens, and also along pavements in suburban areas, it is a tall tree with foliage of a slightly paler green than most trees, but only really flourishes on a lime rich soil. The tree was dedicated to Freya and so was a symbol of love and romance. It was said to be the tree of peace and believed to help unearth the truth, and also that it would never get struck by lightning and was protective against evil and witchcraft. When it is in bloom in late June or early July the flowers perfume the surrounding area. These flowers are popular with bees, and honey made from Linden blossom is regarded as having the best flavour and the highest value of any honey in the world. It is mainly used in medicines and liqueurs. The flowers themselves, when dried, can be used to make a refreshing drink known as Linden tea, which has been believed to be effective in the treatment of indigestion and hysteria. The wood, called basswood in the USA, is the lightest of any European broad leafed tree, and apparently it never becomes worm-eaten, but it is neither strong nor durable. It has been used in the manufacture of pianos and organs and for artists' charcoal, but is best known as being especially suitable for fine carving due to its whiteness and close grained texture. The exquisite flower and figure carvings at St Paul's Cathedral, Windsor Castle and Chatsworth House by the artist Grinley Gibbons were almost exclusively executed in Lime wood. It is also used for window blinds and various other musical instruments. The inner bark can be woven into coarse matting and twine which is used by gardeners as it is light weight but strong and elastic. It is also woven into small baskets. This inner bark, together with that of the Ash tree, was used for writing upon by the ancients, and called by the Romans liber which is the Latin word for book and the root of the word library. The foliage will be eaten by cattle either fresh or dried, and if the sap is drawn off in the spring it yields a considerable quantity of sugar.
Maple - The wood takes a high polish and is used for the backs of violins, and it can be cut so thin without breaking that you can see the light through it. It is used for bowling pins and various musical instruments including bassoons and the backs of violins. Burr Maple, the timber obtained from parts of the trunk with many offshoots, possesses a most beautiful grain that has always been much in demand for highly expensive tables. If a Roman nobleman reproached his wife for spending too much on her clothes and jewels, she would "turn the tables" on him and remind him just how much he paid for his Maple table! It also makes good fuel and excellent charcoal.
Oak - Box and Ebony are harder, Ash and Yew are tougher, but no other timber possesses both hardness and toughness in such a large degree. In Greek myth the Oak was the first of the trees to be created and there was an Oak grove at Dodona sacred to Jupiter that was said to whisper prophesies when the leaves moved in the breeze. Jason's ship the Argo was said to have been built from Oak. In ancient Rome a wreath of Oak was awarded to men who saved the life of a citizen, and was considered the highest honour when awarded for services to the Republic. Oak has also been the usual choice for the traditional Yule log, and it was believed by many that Brent geese grew from the branches of Oak trees! In this country at the time of the Norman Conquest the worth of an area of forest was measured not by the value of the timber but by how many pigs could be kept on the acorns from the Oak trees it contained. If the new leaves are killed off by a late frost or an abundance of insects the tree will grow a new crop and thus maintain its growth for that year. It is estimated that up to 1100 types of insect live in, on or around a mature Oak tree. The wood was used almost exclusively for building ships and buildings for centuries, because the wood does not readily splinter when hit by a cannon ball, but is now mainly used for furniture. Oak is peculiar in the fact that it can be used for the frames of ships and buildings whilst it is still green, or freshly cut, and if properly constructed, as the timber dries out and shrinks the joints become tighter thus holding together better than if they were fixed with nails. The bark was widely used for tanning. Oak galls, formed by the larva of a small wasp and commonly called Oak Apples, were known as Serpents' Eggs and considered a powerful ingredient in spells and charms. The wood of the roots is used for tool handles and the hilts of knives. In Lancashire, it was recorded in the 1790's that on May Eve lads would compliment lasses by hanging a bough of an appropriate tree on their doors or eaves; Birch for a pretty wench, Oak for someone merry (who likes a joke) Sometimes it was less polite; Hazel nut for a dirty slut, Alder for a scolder, Willow green for a forsaken queen.Not only is the Oak the National tree of England, but also France, Germany and the USA, as well as several other countries. It is the state tree of Iowa, Illinois, Connecticut and Maryland.
Pine - Very hardy tree with an extensive root system enabling it to thrive where little else survives and explaining why in even the most windswept locations Pine trees are rarely uprooted by the wind, rather the trunk snaps in two. Because of its height and its tendency to grow on exposed hilltops, the tree is associated with far sight and clear vision. Produces a huge abundance of pollen when in flower in May and June which forms golden clouds surrounding the tree. It has been collected in cloths spread on the ground beneath the tree and used in spells for money because of it's resemblance to gold dust. If a pinch of the pollen is thrown on an open fire it flares up briefly in a spectacular way and it was believed to be sulphur dust dropped to the ground during thunderstorms. The bark has been used for roofing and is also very buoyant so can serve as a substitute for cork. The wood was widely used for shipbuilding and the tree also provides turpentine and resin.The Scots Pine is the National tree of Scotland.
Rose - Has come to symbolize deadly beauty.
Rowan - Does not grow large but retains its graceful shape and never requires pruning as its branches rarely die. It will thrive in any type of soil, but requires plenty of light and air so does not do well if crowded by other trees. The flowers open in May, forming large loose clusters of creamy white, but they have little scent. The berries are much loved by thrushes and blackbirds, and they will quickly strip a tree of fruit, and they can be used to make a somewhat bitter tasting jelly. In times of hardship the berries have been ground and used as a substitute for flour, and they can be made into a drink said to resemble perry. It is said to whisper secrets to those who know how to interpret the sound of the wind in its leaves and has long been thought of as a sure protection against witchcraft. It is planted in church yards to scare away demons who might disturb the sleep of the dead, and at garden gates to ward off evil spirits. It is believed that using a walking stick or staff made from Rowan wood will protect the traveller from evil and ensure a safe return. All parts of the tree can be used for tanning and dyeing black. The wood is very tough and its main commercial use is for poles and barrel hoops, although during Tudor times it was made into bows.
Sweet Chestnut - A large and handsome tree with large glossy leaves that cover the branches in Summer, it is very long lived and there are said to be trees that are over 700 years old. The ridged bark grows in a spiral pattern. It flowers in May and June and gives off such large quantities of pollen that it can be seen lying on the surface of any nearby ponds looking like sulphur dust. The timber is very similar to Oak, but loses all durability once it is over 50 years old. However, wood from the young, growing tree has been much used in the construction of buildings and furniture, as well as being used for pit props and wine barrels. These days it is mainly used for hop poles, and because it is durable if partly in the ground it is made into stakes and fences. It is not suitable for firewood as it burns badly, sending up a great deal of sparks while just smouldering rather than burning brightly. The leaves make excellent compost. The glossy dark brown chestnuts have been an important source of food to rural communities in Europe, where there are many ways of preparing them, however in Britain the crop is not so abundant and they are usually simply roasted. Chestnut meal was used for whitening linen and making starch.
Sycamore - A very hardy tree, Sycamore will grow erect even in windswept positions so is commonly planted for shelter close to exposed houses. It represents growth, persistance, strength and endurance. The wood has long been used for plates and platters and is still used for turning cups and bowls. In Scotland the tree was commonly used as a gallows by noblemen for hanging vanquished foes or disobedient servants.
Willow - The wood of the White Willow was used by builders for floors and rafters and it is said to make excellent barrels. Another variety, the Cricket Bat Willow, is (of course) used to make cricket bats. Goat Willow, commonly called Pussy Willow because of the early buds that are covered in fine grey silky hair, was once carried to church on Palm Sunday to take the place of genuine palm leaves. The long flexible shoots of another sort, the Osier, are used for baskets and hurdles, and used to be grown in great quantities for this purpose. British Willow baskets have long been considered the best in the world, they were thought of as luxuries by the Romans. The Willow tree has long been associated with melancholy and it is believed that sitting beneath one will banish sadness and depression. It is also said that while sitting beneath a Willow tree you are protected from enchantment. In Lancashire, it was recorded in the 1790's that on May Eve lads would compliment lasses by hanging a bough of an appropriate tree on their doors or eaves; Birch for a pretty wench, Oak for someone merry (who likes a joke) Sometimes it was less polite; Hazel nut for a dirty slut, Alder for a scolder, Willow green for a forsaken queen.
Yew - Very slow growing and long lived evergreen, with several trunks arising from the roots. It flowers in February and March and gives off clouds of golden pollen. All parts of the tree are poisonous to people and animals if eaten, with the exception of the fleshy part of the berry surrounding the seed. It provides the toughest timber of any British tree, and it was much used for bows, apparently William Tell used a bow made from Yew when he shot the apple from his sons head. In 1466, Edward II passed an Act which directed "That every Englishman should have a bow of his own height of yew, ash, wych hazel or amburn; and that butts should be made in every township, which the inhabitants were to shoot at every feast day under the penalty of a halfpenny, when they should omit that exercise." Yew trees were at this time almost invariably planted in English churchyards in order to provide the wood for the construction of bows.The wood is also very hard and durable and is said to outlast a post made from iron if in the ground. However, probably because it grows so slowly and does not have a single thick trunk the wood is not much in demand for anything other than fine furniture. When cut the tree shows two colours of wood, with the softer, growing timber making a much paler rim around the rich dark red heartwood that is useable timber.
Copyright mazedasastoat.

The Magical Properties of Wood

This list contains only the magical properties of the wood, not those of leaves, bark, roots or any other part of the tree or plant. These might be found in another of my guides called "General Tree Lore". It is not a comprehensive list, either of the trees themselves or of the properties generally prescribed to them by magical practitioners, but it includes most of the Ogham woods and most types that I make wands from.
It is a work in progress, so if anyone has any further suggestions for inclusion I would be very pleased to hear from you!
As with all my work, I hold the copyright for this list so it is illegal for you to copy it without my permission. However, although you need to ask, I always give permission for anyone to use it for their own personal use, to include on their website or to distribute as a training aid, but it must not be sold!
It is my property and I choose to make it freely available to all, don't let others make you pay for it!

Alder - Alder is said to be good for controlling and banishing elementals, especially of fire or water as the tree has strong links with both elements, and it can apparently be used for the healing of wounds. It is allegedly attracted to water, so is used for dowsing. Legend has it that the Alder tree is a favourite of the Elven King's daughter. It is strongly associated with resurrection.
NOTE: I no longer recommend Alder for “whistling up the winds” or any other weather magic, as that was based on the twigs of the Alder tree being hollow, thus enabling witches (or anyone else) to make them into pipes. I have never been altogether happy with this supposed tradition because I have never found a twig of Alder that is either hollow to begin with or would be easily hollowed out! I have long suspected that this particular magical use has been mistakenly attributed to the Alder, and would actually be more relevant to the wood of the Elder tree, which does often have hollow twigs that do indeed make excellent pipes for many purposes. I have noticed that people commonly confuse Alder and Elder when simply reading about them, although the two trees are very different once you see them. Therefore, I have decided to replace the “weather magic” part of the properties with wound healing, as that tradition is based on the fact that Alder appears to bleed when cut due to the sap turning red when exposed to the air, and I know that’s true! I hope I haven’t caused too much confusion, but I feel I really have to go with what I know to be true or at least something I can see the sense in!
Apple - Apple is probably the best choice for any kind of fertility spells, or any magic to do with increase, plenty or abundance. It is a good protector of the home and cultivated land, and is said to be good for gardening magic. Traditionally, the home of the Unicorn is said to be beneath the Apple tree, and it is also where he is most easily caught. Legend tells us if a pure young woman sits quietly under an Apple tree, the Unicorn will come and gently lay his head in her lap and allow her to feed him apples.
Ash - Best known for being Yggdrasil the World Tree in the Northern Tradition, Ash has a powerful affinity with the powers residing in water. It is good for magic to do with healing and karma, and is said to provide protection from drowning. It can be used in spells that require focus and strength and it is said to banish mental strife. It is said that an Ash staff hung above the door will ensure protection of the home.
Bay - Traditionally, Bay is used for purification and healing, and is said to bring strength and protection. It can also be used to increase psychic powers.
Beech - Beech is said to be excellent for any spells concerning prosperity or plenty and to increase the capacity for learning.
Birch - Birch is traditionally used for cleansing rites and driving out evil spirits. It is useful for matters concerning protection and healing, but its great strength is in rituals to do with birth, rebirth and renewal, or any kind of new beginning. It can be used in exorcism.
Blackberry Bramble - Blackberry Bramble, or Briar as it is also known, provides strong protection of the home. It is useful for spells concerning money or prosperity, and it is said to aid in the healing of burns.
Blackthorn - Also known as Quickthorn or Sloe. Blackthorn provides very strong protection, especially of the home, and can be used in magic to deter unwanted visitors. It is said to protect against malevolent magic. It can also be used in exorcism.
Camellia - Camellia is said to be useful in matters concerning riches.
Cedar - Cedar is good for magic to do with healing, purification, money and protection, and is useful for clearing an area of negativity prior to performing ritual. It is an intensely solar wood and has strong links with both death and immortality.
Clematis - Clematis is said to be useful in magic to attain goals and achieve aspirations.
Cherry - Cherry is useful in any magic concerning romantic love or lust, and is said to be an aid to divination. It has the ability to bring individuals to the threshold of a new awakening.
Cypress - Cypress can be used in magic for healing and longevity and is said to provide comfort and protection.
Elder - Elder is the retreat of the Elder Mother, powerful matriarch of the hedgerows, woods and semi-wild places. She is the one who takes revenge on the despoilers of the countryside, and you cross her at your peril. It is said that you should never burn Elder wood on your fire, or the Elder Mother will burn your house down in retaliation. The wood of the Elder tree is especially highly charged magically, and can add power to any magical undertaking. Along with Hazel, it is said to be one of the best woods for wands. It is seen as a threshold tree, guarding portals to other realms, and legend has it that it never gets struck by lightning. It is believed that an Elder stick will kill serpents and drive away robbers, and the twigs have been carried during wedding ceremonies for good luck. It can be used for protection or exorcism rituals, and to bring healing, prosperity or sleep. It is particularly good for making women more sexually attractive to men, and for increasing the male libido!
Elm - Elm can be used in any magic to do with love, whether romantic or any other kind.
Fennel - A Fennel wand was traditionally carried during classical times by the followers of Dionysius. It has commonly been used for purification rituals, and is said to be good for magic to do with protection and healing.
Fig - Fig is excellent for spells to do with romantic love and emotional balance. It is said to bring harmony between the sexes and to help with impotence and infertility. If placed above the door of your home it is said to ensure a safe return from a journey.
Gorse - Also known as Furze or Whin. Gorse is strongly connected with the Sun and can be used in magic for money and protection. It is associated with new love and is said to feed the flames of passion! It is said to be effective when used in magic to do with fresh starts or new ventures.
Hawthorn - Hawthorn, or May as it is also known, is excellent for magic to do with general happiness, because it dispels negative energy and strife and brings hope. It is useful for cleansing and purification, and is believed to ease enforced chastity and increase male potency. It is also said to bring good luck in fishing!
Good for matters relating to general happiness, hope, purification, cleansing and male potency. Also said to bring good luck in fishing!
Hazel - Hazel is an exceptionally magical tree, as well as being extremely useful on the physical plane. It is best known for being the Celtic Tree of Wisdom, and is said to bring luck, fertility, intelligence and inspiration. Together with Elder, it is said to be one of the best woods for wands. If you hang it in your window it will protect your house from lightning, and it is also supposed to help make wishes come true!
Heather - Heather is one of the classic woods to carry for good luck and protection, and for centuries it was almost indispensible as part of a bridal bouquet. It has traditionally been used in magic to bring rain, or to enhance beauty. Beloved by the Faeries, it can apparently open a portal from this world into the Faeries' realm. It is said to promote generosity of spirit and to bring a better awareness of others' needs. It also encourages passionate love, but, paradoxically, can also provide protection against violent assault, especially rape. Wearing the wood is said to bring a long life.
Hebe - In classical Greek myth Hebe was the cupbearer to the Gods and poured for them the draughts of nectar and ambrosia which brought them everlasting youth. Her temples were seen as places of sanctuary, and if criminals gained entrance they were pardoned, many of them leaving their fetters hanging from the trees in Hebe’s sacred groves as an offering of thanks to the benevolent Goddess.
Holly - Both the Holly tree and the wood are held to be sacred, so it’s a good choice for consecration. It has a strong association with fire, and signifies the virtues of balance and directness. It is closely linked with combat and is said to bring courage and protection whilst fighting for a just cause and also to ward off evil spirits. It is good for magic to do with material gain, and is said to enhance beauty. It can also be used in spells for physical revenge.
Honeysuckle - Honeysuckle is said to increase psychic awareness, to enhance clarity and to encourage creativity. It can be useful in magic concerning protection, money and prosperity.
Horse Chestnut - Horse Chestnut is an uncommon wand wood, but said to be useful in magic to encourage healing and attract money.
Ivy - Ivy is good for love magic, especially if it relates to fidelity or constancy, and is said to promote faithful friendship. It is useful for anything to do with protection and healing and can be used for binding spells. It is said to provide protection from intoxication!
Larch - Larch is said to provide excellent protection and is especially good for protecting from theft.
Linden (Lime) - Commonly known as Lime. Linden is said to be protective and can be useful in magic to do with love and luck. It is associated with immortality and is said to promote peaceful sleep.
Magnolia - Magnolia is said to bring fidelity in love. It helps learning from past experiences and clarifies true identity. It eases restlessness and confusion and helps to maintain balance during difficult changes, and it also promotes a sense of freedom and relaxation.
Maple - Maple is good for any magic to do with prosperity, love or longevity. It is said to bring success and abundance, but also to teach humility.
Nettle - Nettles main use is in exorcism and the casting out of evil spirits, but it is also useful in magic for protection and healing. It is said to promote lust!
Oak - Oak is known for its properties of strength and endurance, and can provide strong protection. It is excellent for magic to do with power or dominion, and can be helpful in spells to do with prosperity.
Pear - Pear is believed to increase enthusiasm and energy, while also bringing deep personal peace and security. It  can aid clarity and simplicity, boost confidence and reduce stress. It is said to enhance personal power and vitality, increase your enjoyment of life and encourage spontaneity. It is particularly good for magic to do with physical love and spells to increase lust, and is said to be effective in making you, or anyone else, into a better lover!
Pine - Pine is excellent for healing, it is said that just its presence in the sick room can speed recovery. It has traditionally been used for fertility and money spells, and considered to be useful for magic involving change or shapeshifting. It protects against all forms of negativity and can be used in exorcism rituals.
Plum - Plum is excellent for all aspects of healing, and is also a good protector as it helps to disperse negative energy and evil. It makes a first class general purpose wand.
Poplar - Poplar is useful in magic to attract money and bring eloquence, and provides strong protection against theft. It is also said to be able to aid the ability to fly!
Rhododendron - Rhododendron is said to help with the process of focussing on knowledge and enhances one's awareness of enemies.
Rose - Rose is most strongly associated with charms to do with romantic love, but it is also excellent for emotional healing. It is said to bring luck and protection, and can be used to aid divination and enhance psychic power.
Rosemary - Rosemary has always been used for remembrance, not just of people or past events but also to encourage learning and increase divinatory powers. It is excellent for magic concerning healing and purification, love and lust and is said to bring peaceful sleep and to enhance youthfulness. It is strongly protective and can be used for exorcism.
Rowan - Rowan is very protective, especially against lightning and evil witchery, and can be useful in healing. It is said to increase psychic powers and bring power and success. It is allegedly the best wood to use if dowsing for metal. It is also the traditional choice for Druid's staffs.
Sweet Chestnut - Also known as Spanish Chestnut, Sweet Chestnut is said to be useful in all workings to do with romantic love, and is also believed to be effective in matters of fertility.
Sycamore - More correctly called Great Maple. Due to a mistranslation, Sycamore has been mistakenly credited with being sacred to the Egyptians. It is believed to promote relaxation and harmony, whilst at the same time raising energy levels and banishing lethargy. It is good for any magic to do with prosperity, love or longevity. It is said to bring success and abundance, but also to teach humility.
Thistle - Thistle is believed to be very strongly protective and is used in magic for the breaking of curses. It is said to bring strength and to aid healing. 
Vine - The Vine is held to be sacred in many cultures throughout the world, but holds a particularly important place in the Greek tradition as being the special plant of Dionysus. It has been used as a symbol of joy and exhilaration, but also of wanton lust and abandon. It is also symbolic of resurrection and transformation, and is useful in magic dealing with these themes.
Walnut - Walnut is good for magic to help with male impotence or infertility. For those who need it, this wood can bring independance and autonomy, and is said to aid critical thinking. However, it can also encourage aggression, jealousy and inflexibility, so it needs to be used with respect for both yourself and others.
Willow - Willow is a very magical tree that increases psychic energy, so it’s excellent as a general purpose wand. It is believed to share the essence of snakes. It is useful for magic concerning healing and fertility, and it is said to aid divination and bring inspiration. Its powers are strongest at night, under the moon.
Yew - Yew has for centuries been associated with death and immortality and is sacred to the crone aspect of the Goddess. It is seen as forming a direct link to the ancestors and can serve as a pathway to ancient wisdom.
Copyright mazedasastoat.

16 Jul 2009

About me

I live in the very far South of Devon, surrounded by rolling farmland and close to the coast, with my partner Andrew with whom I’ve enjoyed over 27 years of unmarried bliss! We share our home with an assortment of rescued cats and dogs who spend most of their time making sure there's no room for us on the sofa. I’ve always lived in this area, we live in a hamlet 4 miles from the village I was brought up in and I’ve never lived more than 9 miles from there. We live in the last house in the village, which is exactly where a witch ought to live! We have an acre of garden, which had been part of a disused and neglected orchard until we arrived 12 years ago, and our bit only had two trees left. I have no idea how long it had been an orchard, but we have a map dated 1894, and it’s clearly marked as an orchard on that. On one side we have a single track lane that leads to the beach, on another we have the garden of our next door neighbour, and the other two sides are next to the rest of the old orchard. There are quite a few Apple trees left in there, mostly cider apples, but it mainly gets used for grazing sheep or bullocks nowadays and nobody bothers with the apples. It’s been in the same family for at least 4 generations, and the oldest surviving family member assures me it’s never been sprayed, so I think it definitely counts as organic! There are trees on all sides of the garden, as well as a few scattered about inside, and these provide almost all the wood I use. Wood from the varieties of tree that I don’t have I usually scrounge from my friends’ gardens, although I have been known to screech to a halt by the side of the road to pick up a fallen branch of something I wouldn’t have otherwise. It means I never know what I’m going to have available, or how long it will be before I get some more after I’ve used it all up. I don’t think it’s right to cut trees for wood to sell, unless they’re the sort of trees that are grown like crops and regularly coppiced or pollarded anyway, like Hazel and Willow in some parts of the country. I don’t think it matters how many offerings are made to the tree, it’s not going to like you hacking off great lumps simply in order to line your pockets! In any case, the traditions surrounding the ceremonial gathering of materials for magical purposes were really designed for people collecting what they needed for their own personal use, and one person cutting one small branch for a wand or staff isn’t going to do a tree a lot of harm. Not to mention the fact that most of these traditions are very old, they come down to us from a time when the population was a lot smaller and there was a lot more countryside than we have left today. Probably 90% of the wood I use comes from my own trees, and the same percentage is lost by “natural wastage”, which is usually winter gales, but includes tractors and too-wide trailers, hedge trimmers and my delightful grey squirrels! Don’t get me wrong, I thoroughly approve of wildlife, (except perhaps when it’s released indoors by one of the cats in the middle of the night!) but I do wish the squirrels didn’t strip the bark off the trees because it kills quite large branches that are capable of causing a lot of damage when they fall. The rest is what needs to be cut back, usually because it’s blocking access to somewhere or has become unsafe for some reason. I tend not to use regular prunings for any of my items as I don’t feel the wood has quite the same energy. I try to stay as close as possible to the traditional way of working with the wood, I refuse to use power tools of any kind on magical items and every bit of the work is done by my own muscle power. For bringing out the natural beauty of the wood and providing a protective finish I use organic, vegetable derived oil, but you can choose to have pure bees wax polish if you prefer on commissioned items.

I’ve officially been a witch for about 25 years now (since Beltane 1986) although I tend to think they’re born not made, so you could almost double that figure! I’ve never hidden my beliefs and I’ve seen attitudes towards the Craft change over the years; I think it’s an awful lot easier to come “out of the broom closet” now than it used to be! I’ve always made things one way or another; I sew and knit, I paint, I’ve even dabbled in crafts that are quite involved like papermaking, mosaics and stained glass. But working with wood is my favourite by far. From time to time it’s provided me with a primary income, but mostly it’s been a hobby, and in any case I don’t think it would ever make me rich! I’ve made many pentacles, wands, staffs (or should it be staves?) pendants and rune sets over the years for friends and friends of friends, as well as having a very occasional stall here and there, and not long before Samhain 2005 someone suggested that I should try selling some items on eBay. After careful checking, there didn't appear to be any items available that were like the ones I make, so I thought maybe there might be a place for them in the larger pagan community. Until then almost all my work had been on a commission basis and people were usually recommended to me by someone they knew, so the slightly more commercial aspect of online selling was very new to me. It took me until about Yule to get my act together and actually get some listed, but the response was phenomenal. I think I take for granted living here surrounded by countryside, with wood for wands quite literally dropping at my feet. It would appear there are many people who aren’t so lucky and find it difficult if not impossible to find their own wood, but I shouldn’t be surprised. After all, the vast majority of people do live in an urban environment these days, and even with access to the countryside gathering wood isn’t particularly easy. In Britain every inch of land belongs to somebody, even if it’s only the local authority or the Crown, and unless you gain permission from the landowner the simple act of breaking off a twig from a tree can potentially land you in serious trouble. Even picking up sticks from the ground is, strictly speaking, illegal and so not worth the risk. You could end up facing charges of trespass, criminal damage, vandalism, theft and goodness knows what else! Admittedly, there is a very small amount of common land left, but what you can actually do there is quite limited, often dependant on the time of year, and you have to be entitled to use the land by registering your rights. So I seem to be answering a need by gathering what I can find on my own land and working with it in the way people have done for centuries, and I’ll carry on doing it for as long as I can!

You’ll notice from my listings that I don’t bless, consecrate, empower, enliven, charge or even talk to the wands I sell. Nor do I lecture potential buyers about only doing good and the “Rule of Three”. This is because it’s none of my business what you decide to do with your life, and just because you might buy something from me doesn’t give me the right to tell you how to live. Witchcraft is about responsibility as well as power, and it’s up to you to square up to your own conscience and deal with any potential karma. I try not to impress any of my personality or my own thoughts or feelings into any of the things I make for other people, it seems like an imposition and besides, there isn’t really much point when it would (hopefully) be thoroughly cleansed before anyone used it anyway!