Alder (Mar 18 – Apr 14)


  • 4th Moon of the Celtic Year – (March 18 – April 14)
  • Latin name: Smooth Alder – alnus serrulata.
  • Celtic name: Fearn (pronounced: fair un).
  • Folk or Common names: Alder, Gummy/Gluey (European), Rugose/wrinkly (Tag), Tree of the Fairies.
  • Parts Used: Parts Used: Branches, wood, bark, leaves.
  • Herbal usage: Alder is in the hazelnut family and was used by Native Americans as a medicinal plant. Tea can be made from bark and is useful in treating  diarrhea, coughs, toothaches and the discomfort of childbirth. A potion made from the bark can also be used externally as an eye wash or for a wash for  poison ivy, swellings and sprains.
  • Magical History & Associations: The birds associated with this month are the raven, the crow and the gull; the colors are crimson, green-brown and  royal purple; the day is Saturday; and the gemstone is fire-garnet. The Alder, a Masculine herb, is associated with the element of fire, and the planet of  Venus. The Alder is sacred to Bran the Blessed and Cronos (Saturn). Alder is also sacred to Faery kings and elf kings – from the word Alder comes elder (not  the tree) as in ‘elder’ kings. The Fey of the Alder have been described as water spirits or as “Dark Faeries”. They are very protective of  the tree and when they leave their trees, this Faerie will take the form of a Raven. In tree Folk-lore, the Alder is known as the tree of fire – In the  battle of the trees, the Alder fought in the very front line. It is described as the very “battle witch” of all woods, the tree that is hottest in  the fight.
  • Magickal usage: The month of Alder is a good time to do magick designed to celebrate the connection and tie between all women, and the mother-daughter  bond. The Alder has applications in magick done for spiritual decisions, duty, prophecy, oracular strength, intelligence, mental prowess, resurrection, air  magic, water magic, strength, spirituality, teaching, weather magick, and protection from outside forces. Alder leaves or twigs can be carried in a pouch to  act as a protection charm and as a powerful force in psychic battles. Ash talismans or charms can also be carried to aid in the preservation of ideas. The  Alder is known as the “fairy’s tree” in Celtic lore, so is good for fairy magic. The faeries are said to like to dance under the trees when  they are flowering. Carrying Alder twigs or flowers acts as a charm for communicating with the fey. Alder is often used in resurrection magic and also used  in building/construction magic. Alder wood is often called the “wood of the witches”. Whistles may be made of out of young shoots to entice Air  elemental spirits. This gives a Witch the ability to summon, control and banish elementals or the four winds. It is also the ideal wood for making the  magical pipes and flutes for use in magickal ceremonies. Alder produces a red dye from the bark, a green dye from the flowers and a brown dye from its twigs.  Some Witches use these dyes in coloring ritual garb with the red dye signifying fire, the green dye: water, and the brown dye: earth. While the Witch is  dying her robes, she should say:”These leaves from trees, these herbs and flowers,         Make holy with your living powers         Raise the power! Bestow the magick!         Set earth’s seal upon my magick!”

    When harvesting bark or leaves from the Alder, remember to ask the tree if it will allow you to take the    parts and be sure to leave the tree an offering of thanks when you are done. To prepare Alder wood for use, beat the bark away with a willow stick while    projecting your wishes into it.

Lunar Energies & Esoterica: Alder

LUNAR ENERGIES & ESOTERICA: ALDERby Muirghein uí Dhún Aonghasa (Linda Kerr) & Epona  

Alder is the time of birthing, after the inception in Birch, the quickening in Rowan, and the premature urgings of Ash. Alder is the beginning of a new cycle, just as the Spring Equinox brings forth new life on the earth. Also at the Equinox, the days and nights are of equal length, and an egg can be balanced on its end. Try it!
This balance is an important part of Alder, in more than physical terms. We also have the balance of yin and yang, male and female, fire and water. A symbol of this balance is the Alder King of Celtic legend, a man whose rule is based not on fear, but on sensitivity, understanding, and reverence. He works in harmony with his queen and the natural order of life to make sure he, and his people, are connected to, and in balance with, the earth (for more on the Alder King, see “Bran and the Sacred Kings of the Alder Moon,” pg. 28).
The glyph of this moon is “I am a shining tear of the sun,” from the ‘Song of Amergin,’ in The White Goddess. Take a moment to think on this, before you continue reading.

One meaning of this glyph is the dual nature of Alder: it is a tree of both water and fire. Alder grows in and around water, yet is known for its ability to make charcoal and gunpowder. Alder pilings lift buildings out of the water, and in the same way, Alder acts to lift our spirits out of the waters of the first three moons, and onto the dry land of the spring and summer months ahead. Alder also acts as a bridge between the two halves of the year, connecting and balancing the fire and water aspects, and the male and female sides of ourselves.

You can use the energies of this moon to reconnect with the earth, and bring your inner natures into balance. Now that the storms of Ash have passed, we can quit trying to attack each other, and learn to work together in harmony, especially with the opposite sex. A left-over effect of Ash is that the men are pretty fed up with the women. Be sensitive to each other now, act responsibly, and understand how your actions can affect others. This must be done now, when the balanced energies of nature are all around us, or things will get really out of skelter by Holly moon.

The hardest thing to overcome in this moon is self-doubt and doubts about other, but these are a natural consequence of new beginnings and birthings, when we look toward the year ahead. This is a good time to honestly examine these doubts, so you will know what you have to deal with in the future moons. The Alder can help you through this, and give you joy and hope for the future.

The Hazel Nut

Folklore & Practical Uses: ALDER


by Muirghein uí Dhún Aonghasa (Linda Kerr)

Alnus glutinosa L. – European Alder, Black Alder. Native of Europe, Asia, North Africa; naturalized in southeastern Canada and northeastern North America.
A. rubra – Oregon Alder, Red Alder. Evergreen and redwood forests from Northern California to Alaska.
A. serrulata – Hazel Alder, Common Alder. From Nova Scotia south to north Florida, west to east Texas and north to Kansas.
A. rugosa– Speckled Alder, Tag Alder. Across Canada and Great Lakes region.

Description & Uses

Alders are small, shrubby trees found in swamps or on the banks of ponds and slow-moving streams, where they help prevent soil erosion with their closely interlaced roots. The alder is easily recognized, even in winter, by its catkins, which look like a tiny fir-cone, and by its broad oval, ridged leaves. It flowers in the spring before the leaves appear, and has ripe berries in the fall.
The wood of the European alder, which grows to 30-40′,1 is very durable and lasting in water — most of Venice is built on piles of alder, and has lasted for centuries.2 The wood is known in the Highlands as Scottish mahogany, and is used for making chairs, as well as water pipes, pumps, troughs, and sluices.3 It was also used heavily in boat construction.4
The Hazel alder is too small to be of commercial value as timber, but the Oregon alder grows to a good size — up to 120 ft in the Puget Sound region5 — and is one of the principal hardwoods of that area. The American Indians made canoes and dugouts from the trunk of the tree, and also made cooking vessels, troughs, and food containers from the wood.6 Its only fault is that it decays so quickly in contact with the weather and the soil.7
The alder doesn’t make good firewood (again, the Oregon alder is an exception8), but it does make better charcoal than any other wood. Even after its other uses as a timber had declined, alder charcoal was still considered the best type for making gunpowder.9
All parts of the alder are an excellent source of natural dyes. The bark makes a reddish color, called Aldine Red, when used alone, or as a foundation for other materials, yields a black dye. The bark and young shoots together give a yellow dye, and with a little copper added to make a yellowish-grey, is used in some of the flesh colors in embroidering tapestries. The fresh shoots dye cinnamon; when dried and powdered they give a tawny shade. The fresh wood makes a pinkish-fawn dye; the catkins make a green dye.10
The bark and young shoots contain tannic acid, but also have so much natural dye matter that they aren’t very useful for tanning. The leaves have been used for this, however. The leaves are also clammy and slightly sticky, hence the specific name of the alder, glutinosa, and will catch flies on their surface when spread in a room.11


The American and European alders have similar medicinal properties; the parts used are the bark and leaves of the European alder, and the bark and cones of the American alders. The medicinal parts are tonic and astringent, according to Grieve,12 and astringent, bitter (acts on the mucous membranes of the mouth and stomach to increase appetite and promote digestion), emetic (causes vomiting), and hemostatic (stops bleeding), according to Lust.13 On any species, the fresh inner bark and root bark are emetic; dry and age these before use, or let the decoction stand and settle for 2-3 days, until its yellow color has turned black. Hutchens says this will strengthen the stomach and increase the appetite.14
Use a decoction of the bark externally to bathe swellings and inflammations, and as a gargle for an inflamed or sore throat and laryngitis. The decoction is good as an external application in gangrene, ulcers and other skin problems. Boiling the bark in vinegar produces a liquid with several uses: it’s an approved (according to Hutchens) remedy to kill head lice, relieve the itch and dry up the scabs. This vinegar is also good for other skin problems and scabs, and to tighten the gums (as a mouthwash), clean the teeth and soothe a toothache.15
The cones, being astringent, are useful in heavy bleeding, both internally and externally. They are also used as a stomach tonic in diarrhea and indigestion, and are good for fevers. Grieve says peasants in the Alps were frequently cured of rheumatism by being covered with bags full of the heated leaves.16 The berries, combined with apple cider, make a good worm medicine for children. The treatment is supposed to be most effective when given on the full moon, and must be repeated in four weeks to clear out the remaining larvae.17


The Irish consider the alder to be an unlucky tree. They feel its a bad thing to pass by one on a journey, and they also don’t like to fell an alder, as the timber cuts white and then turns a startling, brilliant reddish-orange, rather like blood.18
Other superstition or emotion attached to the alder seems to be almost nonexistent; “perhaps because it was a tree of swamp and marsh and impenetrable valley floors, which needed the exorcism of natural history. Yet once enjoyed, an alder swamp along a Cornish stream, for example, remains perennially and primevally enchanting — the trees alive and dead, moss-bearded and lichen-bearded, the soil and the water like coal slack and blacksmith’s water, in between the tussocks of sedge.”19Notes:

1 Brimble, L.J.F. Trees in Britain. 1946. MacMillan and Co. Ltd., London, pg. 239.
2 Green, Charlotte Hilton. Trees of the South. 1939. The University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, NC, pg. 112.
3 Grieve, Mrs. M. A Modern Herbal (2 volumes). 1931. Dover Publications, Inc., New York, NY, pg. 17.
4 Green, pg. 112.
5 Peattie, Donald Culross. A Natural History of Western Trees. 1950. Bonanza Books, New York, NY, pg. 399.
6 Green, pg. 112.
7 Peattie, pg. 400.
8 Ibid, pg. 400.
9 Brimble, pg. 241.
10 Grieve, pg. 17.
11 Ibid, pg. 17-18.
12 Ibid, pg. 18.
13 Lust, John. The Herb Book. 1973. Bantam Books, New York, NY, pg. 122.
14 Hutchens, Alma R. Indian Herbology of North America. 1973. Merco, Ontario, Canada. Published in London, England, pg. 4.
15 Ibid, pg. 4.
16 Grieve, pg. 18.
17 Hutchens, pg. 4.
18 Grigson, Geoffrey. The Englishman’s Flora. 1955. Phoenix House LTD, London, England, pg. 246.
19 Ibid, pg. 246.



A Journal of Celtic Spirituality and Sacred Trees

Celtic Astrology – March 18 – April 14 is the Month of the Alder, The Trailblazer

Celtic Meaning of the Alder Tree

The Celtic meaning of the Alder deals with giving and nurturing among the sacred Ogham for many reasons.

Namely, its root system provides rich nutrients to the soil, more so than other trees. The alder can successfully restore poor soil conditions back to healthy Ph levels.

Primarily a wetlands and swamp tree, the alder’s root system is often submerged in watery areas. As such, the Celts observed their roots serving as intricate shelter systems to fish, specifically trout and salmon. Further, the alder’s leaves easily decompose in the water providing rich nutrients to all manner of water creatures.

These acts of generosity and shelter against harsh conditions can be translated in our own lives. By simply standing firm in our own positive environment, we can affect those around us in positive ways. By emitting our signals of tranquility, and peace, we are enhancing the lives of others just be sheer association.

Although it is primarily associated with the element of water, the alder gracefully crosses into the realm of air and fire as well. For example, ancient legend indicates the wood of the young alder is traditionally used for crafting whistles, pan flutes and recorders. This establishes the alder’s claim to the air element.

Within the realm of fire, the alder’s coloring transmutes into a fiery orange after it is cut, indicating to the Celts that the alder secretly harbors sacred flame within its flesh. To prove the point, the alder (although a poor firewood) makes a pristine grade of charcoal, and was perfect for steadily hot conditions utilized to forge fine Celtic weaponry.

In this respect the alder reminds us that we have hidden powers within us that if tapped, provide magnificent resources that allow us to live out our highest ideals.

The Properties of Trees


The Properties of Trees




Below is an extensive list of the properties of different trees:


Alder: Prosperity, security, stability, house moves


Almond: Abundance, prosperity, fertility and love without limits


Apple: Fertility, health, love and long life


Ash: Expansion of horizons; travel, especially by sea; courage, healing, strength, prosperity


Aspen: Clear communication, good news from afar, eloquence, protection against theft, healing


Avocado: Increasing the desire of someone for you, growth of beauty in self or environment


Bamboo: Protection especially of household boundaries and against the negative thoughts of others; good luck, especially in money matters


Banana: Fertility, male potency, prosperity


Banyan: Good luck and optimism


Bay: Fidelity, marriage, preservation of family home, pleasant dreams, abundance


Beech: Knowledge, formal learning, positive change


Birch: Cleansing, health, new beginnings, protection of young children and animals


Boxwood: Discovering hidden treasure, new sources of income, developing forgotten talents, unexpected good fortune


Cedar: Good luck, fidelity in love, mature relationships


Cherry: New love, increasing divinatory abilities, fertility


Chestnut: Abundance, expansion of opportunity, employment


Chestnut, Horse: Money, healing, courage


Coconut: Fertility, motherhood, the flow of new life and energies; give protection against all negativity, especially psychic attack


Cypress: Long life, healing and comfort in sorrow


Dogwood: Clear focus and determination, tests and examinations


Elder: Increases clairvoyance; overcomes negative feelings; healing; good for older women


Elm: Tree of quiet sleep, of family love and giving and receiving in equal measure


Eucalyptus: Cleansing, healing, clarity of thought, overcoming obstacles and misunderstandings


Fig: Wisdom, creativity, fertility, harmony and balance


Fir: Birth and rebirth, new beginnings, cleansing, unexpected gifts and money


Hawthorn: Courage, marking boundaries, purification, protection male potency, cleansing and protection


Hazel: Wisdom, justice, good luck, fertility, knowledge and inspiration, psychic powers


Holly: Protection, especially of the home against all negativity and harm; overcoming impossible odds, persistence; also a tree for money and material gains


Ivy: Fidelity, married love, committed relationship, restoring lost love


Juniper: Protection against all negative forces, purification, prosperity, new beginnings, justice


Larch: Protection, especially against thieves; optimism


Laurel: Protection from illness; success and realization of ambition; winning through in spite of difficulty


Lime/linden: Justice, co-operation with other, partnerships of all kind, dealing with officialdom


Mango: Health, permanence, lasting happiness


Maple: Long life, health of children, fertility, riches of all kinds, pleasure


Myrtle: Stable relationships, married love, fertility, matters concerning young people; also preserving youthfulness; peace, money


Norfolk Island Pine: Assurance that you and your family will never go without the necessities of life


Oak: Knowledge, power, independence, confidence, success, courage, prosperity and potency


Olive: Peace, mending of quarrels; forgiveness, especially of our own mistakes; abundance, healing and fertility


Orange: Love abundance, fertility, marriage, passion, luck and money


Palm: Fertility, potency, energy, starting again, rejuvenation


Pear: New life, health, girls’ and women’s needs, fertility


Peach: Marriage, pregnancy and birth, abundance, happiness, fertility, wishes and long life


Pine: Ending destructive relationships or habits; cleansing negativity; friendship in adversity, knowledge, protection from all harm, money


Redwood: Ambitions, limitless potential, success, spiritual growth, focus, courage, strength, concentration and increased mental acuity


Rowan/mountain ash; Protection of the home, intuition, increasing psychic powers, healing


Silver Banksias; Protection of all kinds, allowing one to let go of sorrow, grief and destructive habits or relationships


Sycamore: Protection and the granting of wishes; increasing influence over others and situations


Tamarind: Love, especially new love and the rebuilding of trust


Vine: Rebirth and renewal, joy, ecstasy, passion, good luck in games of chance


Walnut: Prophetic powers, prosperity, health, increase of mental powers, fertility, granting of wishes


Willow: Intuition, moon magick, healing, prophetic dreams, making wishes comes true, increasing psychic energies, understanding the emotions of others


White Mangrove: Nurturing self and others, being sensitive, intuitive, caring, balanced and in touch with life force


Yew: Endings, of new and good things coming out of the old, of permanence, aims that are slow to come to fruition, enduring strength, what is of worth, union between two people after difficulty