The Magic of the Elder Tree

Elder wood can add power to your magic, facilitate change, protect from evil spirits, and be used in exorcisms.

Elder is sacred to Goddesses Freya and Holda, as well as to the Crone Goddess. I myself experience elder as invoking the Great Goddess, Creator of All Things. Some folks, myself included, meet a Goddess called “the Elder Mother” living in the tree.

Before I talk further about the magical properties of elder wood, I want to explain that I do woodworking as a shamanic rite, making amulets for myself and others from various woods, including elder. All photos of elder show one-of-a-kind talismans I’ve designed and made. One reason I started woodworking was to discover mystical powers a specific type of wood might have that go unmentioned in any books, blogs, etc. When woodworking, I experience a wood type firsthand and at length; this intimate, direct experience creates a chance for the wood to speak to me, sing to me of its powers, and bless me with them. When sanding elder, it appears primordial to me—the original archetype of a tree mystically.

Elder wood’s energy—as distinct from the energy of elder berries or elder flowers—is suited only to a person who
* serves a Goddess (other than the Goddess within oneself. I am not diminishing the importance that viewing self as deity has for some people. I’m instead stating what’s needed to work with elder wood.)
* works hard on surrendering to that Goddess
* strives for humility
* and devotes substantial time to serving humans (as opposed to serving non-corporeal beings. My emphasis on humans doesn’t diminish the importance of serving spirits. I’m simply stating what’s needed to work with elder wood).

If the above requirements are met, elder wood can safely provide all the marvelous magic described in the three paragraphs that kick off this post. For anyone other than the type of person I described, elder wood energy might automatically backfire harmfully on them. So I dare not sell an elder wood talisman without cautionary statements.

To readers who lack confidence: if you underestimate your devotion to the Goddess, the importance of the service you provide your community and/or family, your surrender to Her, and its humility, then your under-estimation might not let you realize that you can use elder wood when many others cannot.

Magic is everyone’s birthright, but not every magic is right for everyone. I’m comfortable with elder, adore it, but I couldn’t work with a garnet stone if my life depended on it.

If you think elder is safe for you though you don’t fulfill the requirements listed, trust yourself. My belief in elder’s restrictions is purely my own. I’ve never seen it in lore. It is something the Old Gods of the Druids told me directly. Even if it appeared in traditional material, lore is not law. You are the ultimate authority on you.

Lore provides food for thought. Though my theory—that elder wood use is restricted to certain persons—isn’t spelled out in traditional material, I analyzed lore and found it congruent with my ideas. Here’s that analysis:

Lore forbids cutting from the elder tree without its permission. There is also a tradition of saying, before cutting into an elder tree, “Lady Ellhorn, give me some of your wood, and I will give you some of mine when I grow into a tree.” There’s also a tradition of spitting on the ground by the elder tree, to protect oneself from the tree.

However, I myself, when harvesting from a plant, might spit by the plant to give it some of myself in exchange for its giving some of itself to me. This practice is something I came up with myself, but I intuit—and it just makes logical sense—that spitting by the elder tree gives some of one’s own “wood” to the tree. In other words, spitting gives part of yourself as an offering to the tree, just as I do when I spit by a plant.

I also experience my own spitting by a plant as giving myself to the service of the Great Mother. A forgotten tradition of spitting by an elder tree with that motive would be congruent with the attributes I sense are in the individuals who can enjoy elder wood’s magic, especially given the following:

To help alienate people from the Old Religion, the Christian church created new lore supporting the falsehood that elder trees are evil. Spitting to protect oneself from the tree could easily have been part of this alienating lore and a bastardization of spitting as an offering to the tree. Not that I know of any lore saying that you spit by a tree as an offering to it, but I think there’s a good chance that idea could be found in lore. After all, if I came up with the idea of spitting by a tree as an offering, other people must have had the same idea ever since the first trees existed, in which case my/their idea could have entered lore.

One could, of course, argue my line of reasoning. I may totally change my mind about elder, someday. However, my theory about elder’s restricted use is based in my actual interactions with the Elder Mother, as well as in related observations that spanned a few decades. Only after those interactions and observations led to my theory did I analyze it in terms of the lore I’ve mentioned. (Let me tell you a tiny bit about those experiences and observations. Elder wood is not the sole magic suitable only to the sort of individual I’ve described. I practice many of those types of magics safely. Yet I’ve watched them used by a good number of individuals, including skilled practitioners, who do not meet the requirements I described, and those magics backfired big-time on those folks.)

You might consider spitting on the ground outdoors, as a one-time offering to the Elder Goddess and the Great Mother, before you first work with elder wood magically.

Lore tells us to never burn elder. Many folks, myself among them, believe that includes pyrography. (Pyrography is the art of burning designs into wood. As examples of pyrography, here are more one-of-a-kind talismans I’ve designed and made:)

I wood burn designs on many of the talismans I make but, luckily, elder wood is lovely as is. Even if a piece of it has no pattern, its color is usually scrumptious enough to make it fabulous looking. Not that a piece of elder has to be pretty in order to be a good talisman. But, for me, beauty has its own magic. Besides, in some ways, I find every last piece of wood in existence gorgeous.

I want to add that the serious, hard-working Elder Mother is also lighthearted, gentle, and merry, if you get to know Her. A far cry from the dour depictions often given of Her, She enjoys my joy and whimsy.

Making amulets is a joy for me. My talismans are available exclusively to my newsletter subscribers. Crafting amulets solely for folks traveling alongside me feels true to who I am. If you don’t subscribe yet, click here for a free subscription:

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