Nine Sacred Trees of the Druids
Today Druids often meditate in the forest close to nature as they have a love of trees and believe that there are nine sacred trees.
An old song preserves the names of eight of the nine:
Choose the willow of the streams,
choose the hazel of the rocks.
Choose the alder of the marshes,
choose the birch of the waterfalls.
Choose the ash of the shade,
choose the yew of resilience.
Choose the elm of the brae,
choose the oak of the sun.
The ninth is not mentioned but is presumed to be the thorn, or hawthorn. Each tree described had a special symbolism. All were sacred to one or more gods, providing an invaluable resource both for practical and magical purposes.
The wood from these trees was used annually to light Beltane fires to mark the begining of the summer. Rituals were performed to protect the cattle, crops and people, and to encourage growth. Special bonfires were kindled and the smoke from the sacred fire, was deemed to have protective powers and would be used to purify croplands and cattle. Embers from the fire would be used to relight the hearth fires of every home.
Druids have an association especially with Oak and the mistletoe that grew on its branches...we all know the association with mistletoe at Christmas!
I love using oak, it is a beautifully coloured wood which can mellow into an almost golden colour.
But why did the druids value oak so highly?
Well, they believed the oak to be the tree of life at the centre of the earth. An old Irish proverb “Fairy-folks are in old oaks” continued the belief that the oak tree was a doorway to other worlds.
For the Druids oak was associated with death and re-birth, indeed the sun god “Lugh” was especially associated with the oak tree. He was depicted in drawings as almost tree like wearing a crown of mistletoe.
Oak groves were often associated with Saints. Derry, in Northern Ireland where I live is one such place.
Derry translates as “Oak”, Durrow as “Oak Grove” and Kildare [Cill-Dara] means “Church of the Oak”.
Indeed St Columcille founded his monasteries in oak groves of which Derry is one. It is said that he refused to allow oak trees to be felled, even when they were needed to build his churches. Imagine that?
So the oak is an ancient tree with its own symbolism. I love using oak, but I especially love using Irish Bog Oak which lived anything up to 5,000 years ago and felt the sun on its leaves.
Through preservation in the natural boglands of Ireland “Irish Bog Oak” is preserved as a dark brown or black wood. Every time I handle it I feel privileged. Amazing.