A few years ago I planned a series of posts for my old blog called “The Magic of Trees”. I had long felt an affinity to nature in general and trees in particular and I wanted to share that love with the world. But it never really took off.
But the reason for that was not because it wasn’t a good idea, rather it wasn’t the right space to share such a series, and I wasn’t in the right frame of mind to write it either. Now that I’m here and creating a collection of memories and resources for us as WB grows up, I feel it is the perfect time to begin exploring the ancient myths and wisdom relating to each of the trees in the forest.
This is something I have done on a smaller scale before – our wedding theme was “Autumn Leaves” and each table was named after a tree. We cut out a leaf shaped placemat for every guest and then I wrote little snippets of information on each one about the trees. The idea was that it would break the ice and get people talking by sharing these little thoughts about each tree.
I’m hoping that this new series will continue on that theme, reminding me of how truly unique and special each tree is and starting a conversation between us all about the beauty and power that lies within nature. Will you join me?
I’m beginning with the Alder because according to most articles relating to the Celtic Tree Calendar, the dates 18th March – 14th April are attributed to this tree. I’ve found that there are differing thoughts and opinions on this, but I am choosing to use it for the ease of going with the most commonly attributed dates.
So what’s so special about the Alder?
Alder is highly resistant to rotting, and so it has been used throughout the ages in areas where the wood would come into contact with a lot of water including boats, river- and lakeside buildings, clogs, water pipes and pumps.
The wood has also been used extensively in furniture making, as the knots in the wood make interesting decorations and it polishes up well.
Interestingly, woodworm seem to be attracted to Alder and so freshly cut wood was often brought into the home during Spring so that once the eggs were laid it could be burned in the fire. The sticky leaves were also strewn on the floor to “catch” insects in a similar way.
Alder leaves and bark have been used in the past to treat inflammations, rheumatism, skin diseases and mouth ulcers, and the leaves have also been added to boots or shoes to relieve aching or burning feet during long journeys.
Its deep connections with both water (its ability to withstand rot) and fire (its red catkins and red wood when cut) provide a basis for meditation to balance out our inner emotional and intuitive selves (water) with our fiery emotional outer projections (fire).
Folklore and Legend
The Alder has been associated with various legends including that of King Bran of Welsh mythology, King Alder or the Elf King in Irish mythology, and the Alder Woman in German tradition.
Themes relating to this tree often focus on courage and battle . As the wood turns red when cut, many believed that it was bad luck to cut the tree as it appeared as if it was bleeding. However this red dye has also been used to dye the skin before going into battle. Finding the courage to face our own inner demons in order to find the love within could be just as poignant here.
Traditionally it has been thought that the Alder was a place where the Faery Realm met, once again bringing this idea of balancing out two worlds, the inner and outer or seen and unseen worlds.
Where and how to find Alder
Alder is native to Britain and Europe and is most commonly found alongside riverbanks and streams. At this time of year its red catkins give it a “fiery glow” and it is often possible to see the catkins and new leaf buds alongside last year’s cones as they often stay on the tree throughout winter as the seeds fly away in the wind or float away on water.
The Woodland Trust have a great information page all about the Alder and how to spot it, which you can find here.
Want to know more?
To find out more about the folklore and legends connected to Alder, check out The Goddess Tree
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