At the time of the Spring Equinox, or Ostara, the Alder is flourishing on riverbanks, roots in the water, bridging that magical space between both heaven and earth. The Alder month, called Fearn by the Celts, and pronounced fairin, is a time for making spiritual decisions, magic relating to prophecy and divination, and getting in touch with your own intuitive processes and abilities. Alder flowers and twigs are known as charms to be used in Faerie magic. Whistles were once made out of Alder shoots to call upon Air spirits, so it’s an ideal wood for making a pipe or flute if you’re musically inclined.
Alder tree in Celtic mythology – balanced between male and female –
Fearn, F – The alder represents the third letter of the ogham alphabet ‘Fearn’ and the fourth month in the Celtic tree calendar.
In Celtic mythology, the alder tree was symbolic of a balance between female and male principles since it possesses both female and male catkins on the same branch.
The alder is a member of the birch family generally found near streams, rivers, lakes and wetlands. It is known for creating a fertile, lush environment for surrounding animal and plant life.
Tree of fairies for the ancient druids
The druids also associated the tree with courage and the evolving spirit, and linked it with death and resurrection. This belief was shared in Austria too, where the wood of the alder was thought to make the dead come back to life.
Alder wood good for building
The sap, leaves and bark of the alder were all used to make dyes; green from the leaves, red from the sap and brown from the bark. The dyes were often used to tan leather. Wood of the alder is flexible and resistant to the rotting effects of water.
Due to these qualities it was often used to build bridges, pipes, milk pales and pilings for causeways across marshlands. Parts of Venice were built on alder pilings.
In medicine, the alder leaves and bark, which contain tannins, were used as an antiseptic and an astringent to treat skin wounds, rashes and swollen glands.
According to the Woodland League of Ireland, the value of the alder to the Irish in the past was for making clogs, masts of ships and shields. Alder wood was particularly impressive as a shield.
It is so hard that if an opponent buried his axe in the shield, he would find it almost impossible to withdraw it. This would render him defenceless and an easier target to attack.
The alder supports more than 70 different insects, many of them specific to the alder, meaning they can’t survive on another tree.