Jul 31, 2013

Elder the Tree of the Fae and the Dead in magickal herbalism

Elder is the small  tree or bush,  or shrub,   of Sambucus genus , in the family of Capriefoliaceae, or more  recently Adoxaceae, of order  Dipsacales.   In this article, we will be addressing the Sambucus nigra species,  commonly known as Elder, Elderberries, Black Elder or European Elder.
Botanical illustration of Elder
(Sambucus nigra L. )

It can grow up to 20m, when conditions are favorable,  it  really does prefer wet soils but can grow in sunny , dry, though well fertile soil ,  as well. 

The leaves are opposite, up to 30cm long , pinnate, and complex, divided into leaflets,  anywhere from 5 to 9 leaflets, though most often 5-7. The flowers are with five petals, small, ivory white , arranged into racemes,  and the fruit, formed in autumn are  dark purple or black berries, arranged in hanging clusters. Once You’ve seen an Elder, You should be able to recognize it anywhere easily, even If You are not really into botanic taxonomy and systematic J

It’s flowers and ripe berries , berries    processed ( cooked ), are medicine, and  are of great value in treating cough, upper respiratory tract infection, bronchitis, febrile conditions  such as influenza A and B ( studies  confirmed ), and in cosmetics it’s a very good astringent and skin tonic.  The syrup  is the most common supplement made with Elder , found in pharmacies, but can also be served as a refreshing, non alcoholic beverage.  The bark, roots, and leaves contain cyanogenic glycoside sambunigrin, which as other cyanogenic glycosides in contact with certain enzymes  release ( create ) hydrogen cyanide, much like with apple seeds. This goes to say, eating bark, leaves or roots, or making infusions of them, ingesting them, is  harmful, and  potentially lethal.

Now onto magickal and spiritual uses.

Elder is a tree with a lot folklore associated with it. It’s a Druid tree, in Celtic countries it was called Ruis, and of course it has it’s Ogham symbol. It is said that the Druid have used it for both good and evil, that us to both heal and protect, as well as to curse. Also folklore associated with the plant also either praises the plant , either  points out it’s bad influences, such as in following, old , English rhyme:

“Hawtorn bloom and Elder flowers
Fill the house with evil powers” [1]

Also  the Elder tree is believed to be inhabited by the entity called Elder Mother, which is apparently some form of Dryad, hence a fae, and a  protective spirit of the tree, which is heavily  angere d  If the tree is taken down, cut , or broken by people. Even harvesting it, should be done with care, and cunning folk, pagans and other people, even have a  custom of chanting a rhyme to the Elder mother, asking her to allow them to take a small piece of the tree.

This is also true in Balkan peninsula  traditional witchcraft, where the Elder enjoys quite a small cult, whatmore, other than Elder Mother inhabiting it, it’s a tree that is often inhabited by the spirits of the dead as well,  those that did not move on. They are also protective of the Elder and use it as mean of communication. In a fairy tale I heard as a child, girl kills her sister, out of rivalry to marry her husband, who just so happens to be a prince ( lol ) and  on the place where she buried her, an Elder tree grows, and some shepherd makes flute out of it. However anytime the flute would be played, the mournful voice of the killed girl would be heard, singing about her sad faith and blaming her cruel sister. On one occasion the prince hears this, and finds out the truth,  and chases the evil sister away.

In yet another fairy tale, this one being Slavic in origin, certain emperor Trojan has a goat ears which he kept well hidden and out of sight for whole his years. If anyone would see them he would  have them killed.  Which meant every single of his barbers could cut his hair or  shave his beard only once lol. One of them,  a cunning Young men, insisted that he did not see anything weird on emperors head, and this is what saved his life , and made him  king’s dear and “recurring” barber. Ah, but the secret troubled him badly,  and he complained to his master. Master told him, that whatever his secret is he should confess to someone who can not tell anyone else, or at least dig a hole in the groun d and say it in the hole. Which is exactly what the young men did. Only, on that place, from the ground, an Elder tree grew up. Again, some shepherd made a flute, but the only thing the flute would play, was a  very catchy, fascinating melody that would speak of King Trojan’s goat ears. The word spread out swiftly, and the  emperor eventually forced the young barber to tell him the whole truth. He had the poor Elder cut down to the last branch, and did not kill the  young barber, but did not keep him as his personal barber either. [2]

That was a nice intro into the magickal  belief , that flutes made of Elder,  are extremely valuable magickal tools. Other than that they can be used as wands, Elder flutes, when played can conjure the spirits of the dead,  or fascinate Fae , is the player is skillful.  Elder , of course makes a  great wood material for wand, and is mentioned as such even in some classical grimoires.

As mentioned earlier, Elder can be quite a “double-headed doctor” , so despite the fact that it can bring bad luck to home, when strategically spread throughout the house it can protect it from intrusion, enemies and lightning. In Hoodoo, it’s also strategically and ritually placed around the home, in specific manner,  to prevent Law officers to enter Your estate [3]

Elder can also , when carried protect one from attacks of all kind, and arranged strategically in home, can prevent evil from entering the house. And grown near home it protects it  from “ravages of sorcery, and shields it from lightning”   [4]

It has strong healing power , as it has magickaly used to treat many conditions, rheumatism, toothache, warts, fever and other.

Grown near home other than protection brings prosperity and conjugal happiness, and it is believed that carrying berries can help one resist need to commit adultery ( lol )  

It is correspondent to the planet Venus and element of Water.  Now let’s go through few suggestions on how to use Elder:

Simple healing spells with Elder

·         “Take an elder twig and knot it thrice. Enchant it by visualization

             and spoken spell, and then carry it in your pocket. Elder has

             long been held to be an effective charm against rheumatism. “[5]

·         You can charm a wart away by rubbing it with  small elder  twig, then leaving it in mud-y place to rot

·         You can alleviate or cure the  toothache  If You bite on / chew an elder twig , then place it in the wall saying : “Depart thou evil spirit!” [6]

·         Poke an elder twig in a complete silence into the ground to lose a fever  [7]

To curse a person

Write the name of one You wish to curse on a piece of paper, in red ink, 9 times. Fold it, press with Your dominant hand thumb and call out their name. Than place a stone on it.
Next, take some Elder flowers, or dried herb, and hold it in Your hand to charge it, feeling the anger and wish to cause trouble to the person or entity. Next , sprinkle some on the N, E, S, W not fare away from the stone and paper are,  as You   say ( each time )

N.N. te madligo ! Senti dolorem , infelicitatem, insomnos ! Per triduum, postquam te exsolvo !”

Sprinkle the rest over the stone and the paper.  To undo, after three nights remove the stone, and torn the paper,  and scatter the m shreds  in  some  body of flowing water saying : “Te exolvo ,  te libero , menes, et corpora tua fiat sana. Fortunatus erit or simply express that You release them from the curse, and wish them no other harm.

The curse will cause pain, bad luck and nightmares for three days. Same can be achieved , If you just got to the crossroads and sprinkle some Elder to four corners while saying the same.

Now, I posted the curse , for informative and educational purposes, does not mean I advocate harmful magick, nor that You can blame it one me when something bad happens to You because You really wanted to get back to someone for just being annoying. Maybe You like to torture people, I don’t care, don’t need to know, If You decide to cast this, or any other curse it is Yours, and Yours only decision and responsibility.

Hoodoo spell, To force a magician to undo spell cast on You

Make a poppet to represent the enemy,  attach to it paper with their name, photo or personal concerns. If You  do not know their name write “enemy who crossed me” , “enemy who hexed me” or something similar. 
Light a purple candle, and tie the poppet’s   hands and legs behind their backs , so that the poppet  is in submissive kneeling position. Place it in some small box, where it can barely fit, and pouring little by little Elder flowers over it into the box  read the following:

Psalm 8th

Psalm 18th

Bible, Exodus 15:3 – 15:9

And you can add ( If it feels right to You ) Isaiah 14:5

Finally say,  three times :
“I command You, to release me of Your evil thoughts, evil deeds, and all evil  and harmful actions against me. I command and compel You to do this in the name of Father  (+) , Son (+) and Holy Spirit (+)! Amen !"
Make cross sign over the box where indicated.

If the person is really nasty, evil, and eager to harm You no matter what the price, alongside Elder flowers, add equal amount of Blackberry leafs, and use  it to cover the poppet in the box.
Close the box and place in some corner. When You feel like You can shake it, saying  the words from above.
Many Blessings, Shadow :)

NOTES: This article was written and composed  b y myself,  and If You wish to use any part of it  elsewhere online, feel free, but add  credits: Shadow of Shadows magick place, Shadow-333@hotmail.com  ,  or a  direct link to  this post 

[1] Rhyme can be found here : http://www.ecoenchantments.co.uk/myogham_hawthornpage.html , it’s an common, old English rhyme, probably well known to You anyway

[2] I read this tail as a kid, it’s  quite  popular here , in Estern Europe, and it has a nice twist  how the barber evaded the punishment of death, and You can find, the sugarcoated synopsis in English here : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Goat's_Ears_of_the_Emperor_Trojan
[3] According to Catherine Yronwode, as stated in “Hoodoo herb and root magic, a material magica of a African American conjure” , the ritual, requiring Elder twigs,  five inches long, and St. John TC roots,   to repel  the law officers Is given it this book, which I highly recommend
[4] Cunningham Scott,  “Encyclopedia of magical herbs”  page 109th, Llewellyn publications, 2009th
[5] Dunwich Gerina, “Herbal magick” page 74th, New Pages Book, 2002nd
[6] As under [4]
[7] As under [4]
CREDIT IMAGES :  Elder tree botanical   illustration  is retrieved from: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Illustration_Sambucus_nigra0.jpg   and posted here for illustrative ,   educational  and   explanatory purposes only, without ill will 

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