Tree Magic: Magical Properties of Trees, Celtic Ogham, and More
We hear so much about the magic of herbs and crystals, but what about tree magic? Did you know our Celtic ancestors worshiped trees? Our ancestors believed trees housed powerful spirits and sometimes even gods themselves. Let’s dive into tree magic of the Celts, including the magical properties of trees and Ogham – the sacred tree alphabet. We’ll learn how to harness the potent energy of trees to make our own unique, green magic come to life.
Our Ancestors’ Tree Magic
Do you have an undying love for trees? As a child, did you climb trees and spend hours playing in the forest? As a child, one of my favorite things was spending time among the trees. Gazing up into their highest branches, leaning against them as I read, and just enjoying their quiet energy. Sadly, people in modern times spend 2/3 of their lifetime inside, which means most of the time they are away from nature. They’re away from the trees. Trees not only provide us with shade and oxygen, they also provide food, medicine, therapy, and magic. Our ancient Celtic ancestors knew it. I believe our connection with trees is in our DNA and tree magic is reawakening within us.
Celtic Tree Magic
The Celts believed trees had consciousness. The Druid priesthood met in forest groves to perform their rituals. Moreover, the word “druid” is originally came from “dryad” which was the Greek term for tree nymphs. Because the Druids were so connected to the trees, it makes sense other cultures would refer to them as tree spirits. Ancient woodhenges are all over England and Ireland, which is essentially the wooden equivalent of Stongehenge. They’re rings of wooden beams or trees used as sanctuaries. According to the Celtic tree calendar, the Celtic people honored 21 sacred trees. These were: the alder, ash, apple, aspen, birch, blackthorn, elder, gorse, hawthorn, hazel, heather, holly, ivy, mistletoe, oak, reed, rowan, scots pine, vine, willow, and yew trees.
The Ogham: Celtic Tree Script
Just as the Norse were given the elder futhark runes as a sacred alphabet, the Celts were given the Ogham tree alphabet. The Norse god Odin was given the Elder Futhark, while the Celtic god Ogma was given the Ogham. Following this divine gift, the Ogham was used as an alphabet and has sacred spiritual meaning. Each “letter” is representative of a sacred Celtic tree. In contrast to the Elder Futhark runes with their distinctive markings, the Ogham is a series of slashes. Both are used today for divination purposes. Find Ogham and runic divination sets online or in metaphysical shops.
Yggdrasil & The Norse World Tree
Trees are the center of hundreds of myths and creation stories worldwide. Yggdrasil is an ash tree in Norse mythology on which Odin hung himself and received the wisdom of the runes. The holly and evergreen boughs we use to decorate at Christmas-time is a nod to the old beliefs in the immortality and longevity of trees. Yggdrasil and The World Tree is a symbol of the three realms – the branches extend into the world of the gods, the trunk is the realm of the living, and the roots go underground into the world of the dead. Shamans work closely with tree magic on the spiritual planes when they “travel” up or down the World Tree to speak to the gods or retrieve lost souls.
Old Man Apple Tree and the Elder Mother
In Old England, every apple orchard was guarded by an ancient being. This ancient being is sometimes depicted as one of the faery folk and sometimes it’s thought of as a land guardian spirit. Or what the Ancient Romans called Genius loci. But no matter it’s actual form, the spirit is referred to as Old Man Apple and takes up residence in the oldest tree in the orchard. Some even believe he is the oldest tree. The wassailing tradition, in which a group of people visit the apple orchard and “bless” the harvest with singing and loud noises, is believed to honor Old Man Apple.
The Elder Mother is a folkloric figure in Norse and Germanic lands. She is the guardian spirit of the Elder tree. Very similar to the Old Man Apple concept. Except the Elder mother is feared and it’s said if you cut a branch from her without asking, great misfortune will befall you. In ancient times, people believed witches souls took up residence in the Elder. And let’s not forget that Elder is sacred to the faery folk AND a tree once used in old hedgerows. Hedgerows that were indeed liminal…and more so with the Elder tree gracing their presence.
Magical Properties of Trees
The magical properties of trees differ depending on the tree and culture. If you want to learn tree magic, learn the magical properties of trees in your yard, neighborhood, and local land. Here’s a list of a few trees and their magical properties:
- Alder: banishing, divination, healing, protection, psychic intuition, resurrection
- Apple: underworld, love, healing, goddess, garden, immortality
- Ash: balance, communication, fertility, harmony, healing, knowledge, love divination, prophecy, protection from drowning, transition
- Aspen: ancestry, astral planes, eloquence, endurance, healing, money, peace, rebirth, success
- Banyan: abundance, divine connection, immortality, longevity, luck, protection
- Bamboo: fortune, flexibility, longevity, luck, protection
- Beech: ancestry, creativity, friendship, protection, second sight, wisdom
- Birch: birth, blessings, creativity, crafting, fertility, goddess, healing, inspiration, love, protection, renewal
- Blackthorn: authority, protection, strength, truth
- Bottlebrush: abundance, banishing, energy, fertility, love, purification
- Camphor: banishing, cleansing, divination, exorcism, healing, love, lust, prophecy
- Cedar: balance, dreams, healing, immortality, longevity, prosperity, protection, purification, wisdom
- Cypress: grieving, healing, longevity, protection, solace
- Driftwood: not a tree necessarily, but important to include here. Driftwood has spent time merging earth with water. It takes on the sea’s magick, as well as retaining it’s earthly powers: grounding, moving, intuition, dreams, ancestor work
- Elder: blessings, creativity, fairies, good fortune, healing, magic, prosperity, protection, sleep, transition
- Elm: birth, compassion, grounding, healing, intuition, love, protection, rebirth, wisdom
- Fig: ancient ancestry, divination, enlightenment, fertility, good luck, love, prosperity
- Fir: birth, far-sightedness, protection, prosperity, rebirth, vitality
- Gorse: divination, fertility, prosperity, protection
- Hawthorn: ancestry, cleansing, fairies, family, fertility, happiness, love, marriage, prosperity, protection, purification, wisdom
- Hazel: creativity, divination, fertility, healing, knowledge, luck, protection, wisdom
- Heather: changes, healing, luck, passion, protection, spirituality
- Hemlock: cleansing, mysteries, shadow work
- Hickory: abundance, discipline, flexibility, kindness, protection, strength, transformation
- Holly: courage, death, divinity, healing, luck, protection, rebirth, unity, Yule
- Juniper: cleansing, healing, love, protection
- Magnolia: clarity, dreams, love, protection, truth
- Maple: abundance, communication, divination, grounding, love, money, wisdom
- Mimosa: happiness, love, protection, purification, sensitivity
- Oak: ancestry, fertility, health, luck, prosperity, protection, strength, success, wisdom
- Palm: abundance, fertility, flexibility, healing, potency, protection
- Pine: abundance, emotions, fertility, good luck, healing, immortality, love, prosperity, protection, purification, regeneration
- Rowan: blessings, centering, expression, fertility, grounding, healing, luck, music, protection, strength, writing
- Sequoia: enlightenment, eternity, growth, valor, wisdom
- Spruce: enlightenment, grounding, healing, intuition, protection, versatility
- Willow: birth, fertility, flexibility, grieving, healing, intuition, knowledge, motherhood, protection, relationships, wisdom, wishes
- Witch Hazel: healing, protection
- Yew: ancestry, death, divination, flexibility, immortality, rebirth, strength
Many of the magical properties of trees are the same, including: healing, love, and protection. This is because trees have been used for thousands of years as food and medicine, as well as for shade and shelter.
NOTE: Do your research on each tree before handling as some may be toxic.
Making Your Own Tree Magic
First, in making your own tree magic, learn the trees in your area. Visit your yard, garden, or neighborhood and identify the trees there. Don’t know the trees around you? Take photos and research online. Record your findings in your journal. Learn the trees’ magical properties, medicinal qualities, and scientific facts. Then try meditating on the tree’s image. Find guided tree meditations for free on YouTube and elsewhere online. Record your experiences and visions in your journal.
Foraging, Altars and Crafts
Forage for berries, needles, thorns, bark, seeds, cones, acorns, etc. from local trees and use these items in your magic. Place on your altar. Put in spell bags. Weave into arts and crafts. Branches of trees can be fastened together to make symbols like stars, runes, and more. Or carve a branch into a wand or staff. Your creativity with tree magic knows no bounds! Then don’t forget to take time and get to know the tree’s energy. Visit it on your walks, sit under it, give it offerings. By placing your hands on the trunk and feeling the tree’s energy, you’ll forge a connection with the tree.
MANY Ways to use Trees in Your Craft:
- Meditation, trance, and grounding under a tree
- Fallen branches and driftwood made into wands, staffs, and besom handles
- Woodworking: carve magical tools, dishes, and figurines out of branches and wood
- Barks, pods, seeds, and leaves can be dried out and used in arts and crafts
- Barks, pods, seeds and leaves dried out and added to spell jars, bottles, bags, etc.
- Adding topically-safe leaves and flowers to ritual baths, soaps, bath salts
- Pine branches used as natural besoms/witch’s brooms
- Pinecones dried out and scented or added to wreaths, centerpieces, etc.
- Make elder berries into syrup, jelly, tea, etc.
- Wooden slices used to make Runes or Ogham
- Make into birdhouses and fairy houses
- Edible fruits of trees eaten and used in kitchen magick
- Write petitions on leaves and burn in ritual fire or candle spells
Gods, Goddesses and Tree Spirits
There are many deities linked to trees. Obviously the Green Man, the primal forest energy that manifests as something akin to a walking tree. There’s an ancient Mesopotamian myth of a goddess named Inanna who brings a magical Willow into her garden and soon learns she didn’t get what she bargained for. Of course there’s Odin and the Norns of whom travel and care for the Norse World Tree. And the famous dryads, ancient Greek tree spirits of ancient oaks. I could keep going on.
Read More about Tree Magic:
- Whispers from the Woods by Sandra Kynes
- The Magic of Trees by Tess Whitehurst
- Celtic Tree Magic by Danu Forest
- Ogam: Weaving Word Wisdom by Erynn Rowan Laurie
- Tree of Salvation by G. Ronald Murphy