- 13th Moon of the Celtic Year – (Nov 25 – Dec 23)
- Latin name: Dwarf Elder – sambucus ebulus; Elderberry – sambucus canadenis.
- Celtic name: Ruis (pronounced: roo ish).
- Folk or Common names: Lady Elder, Elder, Elderberry, pipe tree, bore tree, bour tree, Eldrun, Hyldor, Hyllantree, Ellhorn, Sambucus.
- Parts Used: Bark, leaves, flowers, berries, wood.
- Herbal usage: The Elder has many medicinal uses, and can be used to treat over 70 conditions. The bark can be used fresh for headaches and to promote labor, or can be dried and powdered and used in small doses as a diuretic. The leaves and flowers can be made into drinks, poultices and salves. Elderberry flower water is useful for soothing sunburns. The berries are safe to eat when eaten ripe, and they can be used to make wines, jams and teas.
- Magical History & Associations: The Elder is a tree of Venus and is associated with the element of air. The bird associated with the month of Elder is the rook, the color is blood-red, and the gemstone is dark green malachite. The Elder also is associated with Black Horses, Ravens, and Badgers. The Elder is linked to the eternal turnings of life and death, birth and rebirth, and creativity and renewal. It represents the end/beginning and beginning/end. It is sacred to the deities of Bran, Venus, Hel, Callech, Holda, the White Goddess, the Great Goddess, and Pryderi (The Celts believed that it was during the time of Elder that their sun or solar spirit was held prisoner, just as Pryderi was forced into exile). The Elder is the Old Crone aspect of the triple Goddess, wise old energy at the end of the year’s cycle, and is sometimes called the “death tree” because of this. Funerary flints found in megalithic long barrows were Elder leaf shaped, suggesting the association of Elder with death goes back a long way. Elder is also called the “witch’s tree” and certainly the village hedge-witch would have used the elder in healing and Magick. The Elder is also associated with a dryad (tree spirit). Early European legends tell of a dryad called Hylde-moer, The Elder Tree Mother, who lives in the Elder tree and watches over it. Should the tree be chopped down and furniture made of the wood, Hylde-moer would follow her property and haunt the owners. Similar tales tell that if a child’s cradle were made of Elder, Hylde-moer would pinch the child black and blue and give it no peace or rest, therefore it is considered unlucky to make a cradle out of Elder wood. The Elder is also seen in a negative light by the Christian religion, since Judas supposed to have hanged himself from an Elder tree and the cross used to crucify Jesus was supposed to be made of Elder.
- Magickal usage: The month of Elder includes the Winter Solstice, which is celebrated as the Sabbat of Yule, a day to mark the return of the Sun. Therefore, calling upon the Sun God or Goddess is good to do during this month. Elder has the Magickal powers of Healing, Visions, Faery Magick, Spirituality, Cleansing, Sleep, Exorcism, Offering, Love, Protection, and Prosperity. Elder is often used to produce visions. At Samhain, the last of the Elderberries were picked with solemn rites. The wine made from these berries was considered the last sacred gift of the Earth Goddess, and was valued and drunk ritually to invoke prophecy, divination and hallucinations. Elder twigs were woven into head-dresses to enable the wearers to see spirits. The Elder is very useful in Magick dealing with Nature Spirits and the Fae. Wood spirits are said to live in Elder forests, and wood elves are said to come to listen to music played by flutes made with Elder wood. The Elder has strong protective qualities. Tiny twigs of Elder or dried Elderberry can be worn in a bag around the neck as a charm for protection against physical or psychic attack. As a protection against evil (and later against witchcraft) Elder branches were hung in doorways of houses and cowsheds. Elder can be used to bless a person, place or thing by scattering leaves and berries to the four directions, and over the thing or person being blessed. It is said that if you stand under an Elder tree, you will never be struck by lightening. Elder was also buried in graves to ward off evil spirits, and is considered protection against earthbound, “physical” spirits like vampires. Elder as Vampire-Repellent is older folklore than the lore about garlic. When you put Elder on a threshold or windowsill, you can force a vampire to count over the thorns and the berries until morning comes, because vampires are obsessive-compulsive about counting things. Also, Elder blossom were worn at Beltane to signify witchcraft and magic, and Elder twigs can be used to undo evil magic. Elder is a traditional wood for making Magickal tools, like besoms and wands. It is said in Irish folklore that it is Elder and not Ash which is used by witches for their magic ‘hobby horses’ and besoms. Justice was often dispensed under an Elder, so the hilt of a coven sword was often made of Elder wood. Elder is also a good wood to use to make Protective Wands. There are very strong superstitions about not cutting down or burning an Elder (maybe caused by a fear of releasing the tree’s Hylde-moer – or maybe out of a deep respect for the tree), so be sure to remember to ask the tree if it will allow you to take a branch. It is traditional to say this before you cut a branch:”Lady Ellhorn, give me of thy wood, And I will give thee of mine, when I become a tree.”
Some people like to leave a small gift of some kind when they do harvest a branch – or you can do something practical like untangling the tree’s ivy, clearing up around the trunk, watering in dry weather, or tidying up trash from around the tree.