POPLAR / ASPEN LORE
- Tree of the Fall Equinox – (Aprox. September 22)
- Latin name: Common Poplar – Populus Balsamifera; Trembling Poplar – Populus Tremuloides; Balm of Gilead – Populus Candicans; Black Poplar -
- Celtic name: Eadha (pronounced: “Eh’ uh”).
- Folk or Common names: All Poplar – Popple, Alamo, Aspen; Trembling Poplar – American Aspen, White Poplar, or Quaking Aspen; Balm of Gilead - bombagillia.
- Parts Used: Bark and buds (sap)
- Herbal usage: Poplar can be used as a tonic, chiefly used in treating fevers. The infusion has been found helpful in treating chronic diarrhea. Balm of Gilead buds can be used as a stimulant or tonic. A tincture of them is useful for complaints of the chest, stomach, and kidneys, and for rheumatism and scurvy. The sap collected from the buds can be used to make a healing ointment and can be used as an external application in bruises, swellings, and some skin diseases. Teas can be made from the Poplar buds and are useful in helping treat arthritis and rheumatism.
- Magical History & Associations: In Gaelic tongue the tree was called Peble and Pophuil in the celtic way. Poplar is generally a plant of Jupiter, Saturn and the Sun and is associated with the element of water. Its color is rufous (red) and the bird associated with Poplar is the Whistling Swan. The stones associated with Poplar are Amber, Citrine Quartz, Sapphire and Swan Fluorite. The Anglo-Saxon rune poem seems to refer to the Poplar as being associated with the rune “berkano”. Heracles wore a crown of Poplar leaves in triumph after killing the giant Cacus (the evil one) and retrieving Cerberus from Hades. The upper surface of the Poplar leaves was thus darkened from Hades’ smokey fumes. Poplar trees are sacred to the Mesopotamian goddess Ua-Ildak. The Grass King of Grossvargula, who was seen as having fertilizing powers, went on horseback wearing a pyramid of Poplar branches and a crown. He led a procession of young men about the town and was then stripped of his branches beneath the Silver Lindens of Sommerberg. Poplar (Aspen) is said to be the tree of the Autumn Equinox and of old age, and is known as the shield makers’ tree. The Black Poplar was a funeral tree sacred to Hecate as death goddess, to Egeria, and to Mother Earth. Plato makes a reference to the use of Black Poplar and Silver Fir as an aid in divination. The Silver Fir standing for hope assured and the Black Poplar for loss of hope. The Grove of Persephone in the Far West contained Black Poplars and old Willows. In ancient Ireland, the coffin makers measuring rod was made of Aspen, apparently to remind the dead that this was not the end. In Christian lore, the quaking Poplar (Aspen) was used to construct Christ’s cross, and the leaves of the tree quiver when they remember this fact.
- Magickal usage: The Poplar’s ability to resist and to shield, its association with speech, language and the Winds indicates an ability to endure and conquer. The Poplar is known as the “Tree that Transcends Fear”. Poplars symbolize the magick of joy, the aging of the year, resurrection and hope – and are connected to the Otherworld. Poplar can be used in magick done for success, passage and transformation, Hope, rebirth, divinations, shielding, endurance, agility in speech and language, protection, and love – and as an aid in astral projection. Balm of Gilead buds can be carried in tiny red bags to help mend a broken heart. These buds should be kept as close to the heart as possible. Balm of Gilead buds can also be placed under the pillow and slept on to heal a broken heart. It may take several days to feel relief, but this really works. Balm of Gilead is also effective for grief, homesickness and the blues. Poplar can be used in protection charms of all kinds. Poplar is a good wood to burn in balefires and ritual fires since it offers protection. Shields can be made of Poplar since the wood is thought to offer protection from injury or death. Add some Balm of Gilead resin to your tinctures to enhance the “fixing” of the scent and to offer some added protection to the tincture. Carrying Poplar helps to overcome the urge to give way under the burden of worldly pressures, and aids in determination. Poplar buds can also be carried to attract money and can be burned as an incense to create financial security. Siberian reindeer-hunting cultures carved small goddess statues of Poplar (Aspen) wood. Groats and fat were then offered to the figures with this prayer:”Help us to keep healthy! Help us to hunt much game!”
Poplar buds are also sometimes added to flying ointments and was also used in astral travel. A medieval recipe for a flying ointment called for Cinquefoil, Poplar leaves, soot and bat’s blood obtained at the wake of the new moon. The trembling leaves of the Poplar tree can be ‘read’ to divine messages from the God and Goddess, and also from spirits that drift into woods. The Poplar is the sacred World Tree of the Lakota nation. For the sun dance ceremony, a Poplar is carefully cut and lowered, then is re-erected in the center of the dance circle. While being carried the Poplar must never touch the ground. Green branches, a buffalo skull and eagle feathers were used to decorate the Poplar for this ceremony.