hÚath (OO-ah) Hawthorn (Crataegus spp.)
Huath (HOO-ah), hawthorn – Like willows, hawthorns have many species in Europe, and they are not always easy to tell apart. All are thorny shrubs in the Rose family (Rosaceae), and most have whitish or pinkish flowers. The common hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna)
and midland hawthorn (Crataegus laevigata) are both widespread.
They are common in abandoned fields and along the edges of forests. Both are cultivated in North America, as are several native and Asiatic hawthorns.
Hawthorn is a druid sacred herb which is associated with the Summer Solstice.
Hawthorn is the classic flower used to decorate a maypole as it is considered to be a herb of
fertility. At one time Beltain was once reckoned as the day the hawthorn first bloomed.
Hawthorn is sacred to the fairies, and is part of the tree fairy triad of Britain “Oak, Ash and Thorn” and where all three trees grow together it is said that one may see fairies.
Duir (DOO-r) Oak (Quercus spp.)
Duir (DOO-r), oak – The oak of myth and legend is the common oak (Quercus robur L.). It is sometimes called the great oak, which is a translation of its Latin name (‘robur’ is the root of the English word “robust”). It grows in the lowland forests, and can reach a height of 150 feet and age of 800 years.
Common oaks are deciduous, losing their leaves before Samhain and growing new leaves in
the spring so that the trees are fully clothed by Beltane. Common oaks are occasionally cultivated in North America. Oaks are members of the Beech family (Fagaceae).
In Scandinavia the oak is considered to be the tree of the Thunder God, Thor”. Pliny writes that the Druids performed all their religious rites in oak-groves, where they gathered mistletoe from the trees with a golden sickle. The word “Druid” means wise man of the oak. Strabo describes three Galatians tribes (Celts living in Asia Minor) as holding their councils at a place called, “Drunemeton”, the “oak grove sanctuary”. Druids of Gaul ate acorns as a way of divining the future.
Kildare, where St. Brighid founded her abbey, derives from “Cill-dara”, the Church of the
Oak. The sacrifice at Nemi took place at Summer Solstice, which brings us to the battle between the Oak King personifying the waxing wear, and the Holly King, who ruled the waning
year. At Midsummer, as the year began its turn towards the dark again, the Holly was victorious, but at Midwinter, the Oak King defeated the forces of darkness once again, revealing himself as a Vegetation God who must die each year so that Life can be renewed. It is not surprising, then, that images of the Green Man carved in wood and stone in medieval churches most frequently show oak leaves growing out of his ears and mouth.
In the Welsh story “Math, son of Mathonwy”. The hero Lleu is betrayed and killed, but after his “death” he turns into an eagle and perches atop a magical oak tree on a plain, where he suffered “nine-score hardships”.
In Cornwall, a nail driven into an oak cured toothache, while in Wales, rubbing the oak with the palm of your left hand on Midsummer’s Day kept you healthy all year.
Tinne (CHIN-yuh) Holly (Ilex aquifolium)
Tinne (CHIN-yuh), holly – The holly is a shrub growing to 35 feet in open woodlands and along clearings in forests. Hollies are evergreen, and stand out in winter among the bare branches of the deciduous forest trees that surround them.
Hollies form red berries before Samhain which last until the birds finish eating them, often after Imbolc.
Hollies are members of the Holly family (Aquifoliaceae).
The common holly is often cultivated in North America, as are hybrids between it and Asiatic holly species The Holly or kerm-oak is the evergreen twin of the Oak and rules the dark or waning part of the year. The Sun-king is called the Holly King or Dark Successor (Tanist) in the Druid Calendar. The Oak and the Holly form the pillars of a bridge that crossed the “Rainbow
River” flowing into the entrance of Gwynvyd.
The Romans, observed the custom of sending holly boughs, along with other gifts, to
In Arthurian legend, Gawain (representing the Oak King of summer) fought the Green
Knight, who was armed with a holly club to represent winter. The holly is the plant badge of the Scottish clans of Drummond, Innes, Maclean, MacNab and Matheson.
Holly has been used throughout the ages as a protection against evil. It was also hung around houses as a protection against lightning.
Coll (CULL) Hazel (Corylus avellana)
Coll (CULL), hazel – The hazel is the source of hazelnuts. The wood of the hazel shrub has been used for centuries in the making of wands. It forms a shrub up to 20 feet tall, inhabiting open woodlands and scrubs, hedgerows, and the edges of forests. The filbert nut in North American is Corylus maxima, a related species.
The European hazelnut is cultivated in North America, primarily as an ornamental.
Hazelnuts are in the Birch family (Betulaceae).
Hazel wood is one of the nine traditional firewood’s that is part of the Balefire, which the Druid’s burned at Beltane. Hazel is known as the tree of Wisdom. Staffs made of Hazel were once considered as a sign of authority among the Druids.
Celtic legend tell of a grove of Hazel trees below which was a well, a pool, where salmon swam. These trees contained all knowledge, and their fruit contained that knowledge and
wisdom in a nutshell. As the hazelnuts ripened, they would fall into the well where they were eaten by the salmon. With each nut eaten, the salmon would gain another spot.
In order to gain the wisdom of the Hazel, the Druids caught and prepared the salmon. But Fionn, the young man stirring the pot in which the salmon were cooking, accidentally burned his thumb with the boiling stew. By reflex, he put his thumb into his mouth and thus ingested the essence of the sacred feast; he instantly gained the wisdom of the universe.
The Hazel is a tree that is considered sacred to the Faeries. A wand of hazel can be used to
call the Fey forth. In Irish folklore, the Hazel tree was the home of “Bile Ratha”, the poetic
Forked hazel sticks are used to find water or buried treasure.
Quert (KWAIRT) Apple (Malus spp.)
Quert (KWAIRT), apple – When most of us think of apples, we think of the domestic apple, but the ogham tree was most likely the European crabapple (Malus sylvestris Miller). This tree grows to 30 feet in moist fertile soils in oak woodlands, and has been extensively cultivated. The fruits are small versions of the domestic apple, and also show the pentacle when cut across.
Cultivated crabapples in North America are usually Asian species, but this species is a common rootstock for apple trees. Apples are in the Rose family (Rosaceae).
The Common Apple or Wild Apple (Malus sylvestris) is native to Europe and Western Asia. Petrified remains of apple slices on saucers have been found in tombs dating back over 5,000 years.
In Scotland, the Crabapple is the plant badge of Clan Lamont, whose Highland territories
were around Cornwall and Argyll.
In Norse tradition, the Apple is the tree of immortality. The Goddess Idunn was the keeper
of the apples, which she fed the Norse Gods and Goddesses to keep them forever young.
Apple wands were also used in Norse love rituals.
The Earth Goddess, Gaia, gave Hera, the Queen of Heaven, an apple tree when she married the Chief God, Zeus. That tree was kept in the Garden of the Hesperides, guarded by the dragon, Ladon. One of Hercules’ tasks was to fetch an apple from that tree.
In Celtic tradition, the Otherworldly Avalon was also known as the Avallach, the Isle of Apples, ruled by Fairy Queen, Morgan le Fay. This is the land of fairies and the dead, where King Arthur was taken to be healed by his sister, Morgan. Like their cousins to the North, the Celts attributed the power of healing and youth, or rebirth, to apples.
Apples are sometimes buried in churchyards in an effort to feed the dead.
In the Welsh “Câd Goddeu” (The Battle of the Trees), the Apple is described as the noblest
tree of them all, the tree that symbolized poetic immortality.
In the Irish Druid tradition, the Silver Bough is cut from a magical Apple tree, where silver
apple shaped bells played a mystical tune, which could lull people into a trance state. Druids could make contact with the Otherworld during a trance enhanced by this silver apple bough.
The Druid Merlin was purported to work in a magical Apple Grove guarded by birds, revealed to him by his master, Gwendolleu. He was said to receive the gift of prophecy from the Faerie Queen, conferred through the consumption of one of her magic apples. Merlin was also said to take shelter under anapple tree during his bout with madness.
Bards (poets) and Ovates (shamans) carried apple branches, (with bronze, silver, or gold bells), called the “Craobh Ciuil” (Branch of Reason) as symbols of their office.