Trees

Using the wood, leaves, and fruit products from certain trees can enhance your altar energies. Most trees were sacred to specific deities in one culture or another. Even today, these trees are valued for their scents, their energy patterns, and their magickal qualities. Acorns and pine cones can be used to decorate the altar during certain seasons of the year, as well as for specific purposes. Clusters of leaves make eye-pleasing bouquets, particularly in the autumn, with their variety of colors and textures. Wood can be made into wands or purchased in the form of boxes or other objects.

Apple: In Greek legend, Gaea, the Earth Mother, gave an apple and its tree to the goddess Hera as a wedding gift. When an apple is cut crosswise, a five-pointed star, symbol of many goddesses, is seen inside. This fruit symbolized immortality to the Norse and the Greeks, and earthly desires to the Christians. It represents beauty, goodness, renewal, death, and rebirth. Use it to represent the ending of one cycle of life and the beginning of another.

Ash: This tree has been considered sacred by several ancient cultures. Among the Norse, it is associated with Yggdrasil, the World Tree, which had its roots in the well of wisdom. The Irish Druids fashioned the wood into wands and spear shafts, while in Greece it was considered a tree of the god Poseidon. It symbolizes grandeur and prudence.

Bay: In ancient Greece, the bay tree was considered sacred to Apollo and often made into crowns or wreaths as rewards. It was believed to ward off evil spirits and protect property. Bay twigs with leaves were used by Roman priests to sprinkle holy water.

Birch: This tree has always been associated with the Goddess. It is a symbol of the returning summer. Sprigs of birch were worn on the Summer Solstice and other ancient holidays.

Cedar: A symbol of immortality and sacred to Osiris, the evergreen cedar was used for coffins in ancient Egypt. The Romans fashioned statues of cedar, and many Native American tribes used it in purifying smudges. To ground yourself, place the palms of your hands against the ends of cedar needles.

Cherry: The cherry was particularly sacred to Far Eastern cultures, where it was a symbol of immortality. The Chinese goddess Hsi-Wang Mu guarded the celestial cherries that only ripened every one thousand years. Doorway guardians, who warded off evil spirits, were carved of cherry wood. In Japan, Kono-Hana-Sakuya-Hime was goddess of the cherry tree.

Cypress: To the Greeks, cypress was sacred to Underworld deities such as Persephone; they also associated it with Cronous, Apollo, the healer Asclepius, Cybele, Aphrodite, Artemis, Hera, Athena, and the Fates. The cypress symbolizes death and returning to the abyss of regeneration; the Greeks buried their dead heroes in cypress coffins, and the Egyptians also fashioned cypress into mummy cases. A variety of cypress in Japan, called binoki, is used for Shinto ritual fires.

Elder: Sacred among the Celts, this tree was associated with the White Goddess and the Summer Solstice. Wands of elder wood can drive out negativity and evil spirits.

Elm: This tree symbolizes dignity.

Fig: Called the "fruit of heaven", the fig tree has been sacred throughout the Middle East as a symbol of life and plenty. It was sacred to the Roman goddess Juno.

Fir: Burning the needles of this evergreen tree will cleanse the atmosphere and bless your entire house.

Hawthorn: This tree has long been associated with fairies and Otherworld beings. It is considered unlucky to bring the flowers into the house except on May 1. It symbolizes hope.

Hazel: The Druids taught that this tree symbolized wisdom, knowledge, poetry, fire, beauty, and fertility. They ate its nuts to gain inspiration and eloquence.

Holly: Considered a lucky tree, holly is said to ward off evil spirits. The ancient Persian followers of Zoroaster made an infusion of holly leaves and berries for their religious rituals. The Druids believed it to be sacred as a plant symbolizing death and regeneration, while the Norse thought it sacred to the Underworld goddess Hel, who ruled over the dead. In both the Celtic and Norse cultures, holly was used in celebration at Winter Solstice and hung in homes of common people as protection against evil spirits. Holly was also given as a friendship gift during the Roman Saturnalia in December.

Juniper: This was a sacred tree to the Celtic Druids, who burned juniper berries and thyme as an incense. It symbolizes protection.

Mistletoe: This parasitic plant, which grows primarily on oaks, has been held as sacred throughout ancient European cultures. It was considered a tree by the Druids, who cut it with great ceremony by using a golden sickle. Both the Greeks and Romans connected it with the Underworld. Its power of death followed by rebirth is shown in the Norse myth when the god Baldur was slain by an arrow of mistletoe and was subsequently reborn. Take care using this plant, as the berries are poisonous to both animals and humans. Nevertheless, mistletoe symbolizes the sweetness of kisses and affection.

Oak: Considered the most sacred of all trees in Europe and the Mediterranean, the Greeks said it was the first tree with roots that ran down into the Underworld. Because of its magickal qualities of strength, long life, endurance, and immortality, oak groves in the oracular shrine in Dodona were sacred to Zeus and to prophecy. The Roman goddess Diana had a shrine in a great forest at Nemi, where a perpetual fire of oak wood was kept burning; her priest, called King of the Wood, ruled there. The Celts worshiped in oak groves and used acorns in their prophesying. Oak was sacred to the Norse god Thor because lightning, caused by his might hammer, frequently struck oak trees. Oak was also sacred to Cybele, Jupiter, and Herne the Hunter. As late as the nineteenth century in England, Christians often gathered under "Gospel Oaks" to hold their meetings. This tree symbolizes courage and hospitality.

Orange: An emblem of fertility in China, it was the custom to give twelve oranges as gifts on the New Year. This conveyed wishing the recipient happiness and prosperity.

Palm: In Egypt, palm fronds were frequently laid on coffins or offered to the goddess Hathor. Among the Greeks and Romans, the palm frond was a symbol of Victory. Nike, the Greek goddess of victory, was often portrayed holding a palm branch, and the palm was also sacred to Astarte, Isis, and Aphrodite. The Greek word for palm is the same as that for "phoenix", which ties this tree to the Underworld, death, and rebirth. Carvings from ancient Babylon show the palm tree as the Tree of Life.

Peach: In many Eastern cultures the peach symbolized long life and immortality. At one time, Chinese children wore peach pits as amulets, and peach boughs were hung over doorways for protection.

Pear: Pear wood was often used to carve goddess statues in the early Mediterranean cultures. The pear was sacred to the Greek goddesses Hera and Aphrodite, and to the Roman goddess of vegetation, Pomona. In China, the pear represented longevity.

Pine tree: The pine has religious significance in several Mediterranean and Far Eastern cultures because of its connection with immortality, rebirth, and fertility. It represents the life force in Japan and China. Japanese Shinto shrines and ritual tools are made from pine. In the Mediterranean region, during ancient ceremonies honoring the goddess Cybele, this tree represented the body of her consort Attis, who was annually slain and then reborn. Among the Greeks, Etruscans, and Romans, the pine cone was a symbol of fertility and abundance. This tree was also sacred to Artemis, Aphrodite, and Dionysus, who held a pine cone-tipped wand. Burn pine needles to cleans and purify your home.

Pomegranate: This fruit was considered sacred to many Mediterranean and Middle Eastern goddesses, such as Astarte, Demeter, Aphrodite, Hera, and Persephone. Because its many seeds represented fertility, the womb, and rebirth, it was used in the Greek Eleusinian Mysteries.

Poplar: A tree of the Earth Goddess and Persephone of the Underworld, poplar was said to have regenerative qualities. Myth says that this tree grew at the entrance to Calypso's cave and that Hercules wore a wreath of its leaves when he traveled into the Underworld. It symbolizes courage.

Rowan: This tree is also known as American Ash in the Western Hemisphere. A tree of the Goddess, rowan is through to bless the property on which it grows.

Spruce: The Navajo Indians of North America made brushes and wands of spruce for use in their sacred rituals.

Willow: This tree was connected with the moon and water, and had the qualities of both creativity and death. It was sacred to Hecate, Circe, Hera, Persephone, and to Apollo in his aspect of god of poetry and prophecy. The Chinese Kuan Yin is said to use a willow wand to sprinkle the water of life. Many Prairie Indian tribes considered willow to be symbolic of seasonal rebirth. In Ireland, priests, priestesses, and artisans sat in willow groves to gain inspiration.

Yew: This tree has long been associated with the Underworld deities and was connected with both immortality and death. It was sacred to the goddess Hecate, who ruled with Persephone and Hades in the Greek Underworld. One of the five magickal trees of Ireland, yew symbolized the Triple Goddess in Her death aspect. A scared tree of the Druids, yew was associated with death, rebirth, and the Winter Solstice. The berries are poisonous, and the tree itself symbolizes sorrow.

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