Mar 31, 2017

The magick of the Willow tree

"Culpeper says in his Complete Herbal "The moon owns the willow" and it was known as the witches' tree and the tree of enchantment. Robert Graves suggests that witch, wicker and wicked are all derived from willow."

By Glennie Kindred ( ) 

     Willows are trees and shrubs from the genus Salix, found in cold to temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere. Almost exclusively they’re all (around 400 species) hygrophytic to hydrophytic, which means they’ll be found growing on damp soil, in moist areas or straight out of the water.

     The leaves are typically narrow or lanceolate, though they can sometimes be oval as well, and occasionally with serrated edges. They have very strong roots, sometimes stoloniferous, very resistant, creeping, and even forming on the aerial parts of the plant. The Willows are dioecious, which means they have separate units bearing only male, and separate units bearing only female
White Willow ( Salix alba )
inflorescence known as catkins. Both type of flowers have reduced calyx and corolla, male flowers having typically 10 stamens, while the female ones having a single ovary, with a single seed. Another interesting taxonomic marker are the conspicuous paired stipules, which may or may not remain for a while during the late spring and early summer. Many willows also blossom before they form leaves. The catkins are tinted orange or purple once they fully form, and are usually well known even among the laypeople, as the Willow’s inflorescence type, being pretty and distinguishable that they are.

     People love to plant willows on “troublesome” grounds prone to forming pools, or puddles and retaining surface water for prolonged periods, as they will ameliorate this problem. They are in general very decorative so that helps too. They’ve proven themselves as an invaluable source to the natural versions of analgesic medicine and plant’s growth hormone.

     The analgesic compounds are salicylates, namely salicilin and salicylic acid found in the bark and leaves of the Willow (and also Poplar) trees. [1] Salicylic acid is a metabolite of Aspirin. Hippocrates suggested chewing on the bark to reduce fever and inflammation. The analgesic from the Willow seem to work slower than the Aspirin, but also seem to have a more lasting effect, particularly in treating headaches, lower back pain, osteoarthritis etc. [2] Indole-3-butyric acid (IBA) which is abundant in new branches, and stems is a powerful growth hormone of the plants [3] and can be used for propagation of cuttings of willows and pretty much any other plant equally well. People make the so called; “Willow water” to use it as a natural plant growth hormone. The Salicylic acid present in the willow water has an additional benefit, or fighting the bacterial and also some fungal infection to which the cutting are very prone to become victims.

      The wood is used in the furniture industry, and branches are sometimes used as wicker for the baskets.
       Willow can act as hyper-accumulators on certain types of soil, and are therefore used for phytoremediation of the soil.

     Willows in magick and spirituality
     Many species, or even varieties are used in magickal workings. This is probably due to the fact that the most of the Willows are rather similar, and share the traits which are observed in the “Doctrine of Signatures” so people naturally tent to use whatever species was available in their part of the world. In the Europe, the Willow used in magick has been the “White” willow or Salix alba, but also Salix babyloniaca or the Weeping willow. The latter, due to its availability pretty much worldwide, is often being used nowadays in magick. It’s a popular horticultural tree, that’s quite tolerant to the differences in soil types and composition, so it’s grown profusely across the northern Hemisphere.

     The Weeping willow is though, sometimes seen as unlucky due to its use prominently as a symbol of sorrow or death in art. In Shakespeare’s “Othello” we have a “Willow song” sang by Desdemona
From the Monet's Water Lilies series,
notice the branches of  Weeping Willow arching
over the water and the Lilies
in an act of despair. Claude Monet painted ten Weeping Willow paintings in 1919. apparently as a mournfull response to the tragedies of the World War I. [4] It’s perhaps this, paired with the feminine and Lunar nature of the plant, that lends to its occasional use in magick to “make someone weep” or cry. A Hoodoo friend of mine, tells me she’ll use the powdered or crushed leaves on a skull candle to either make someone cry, or help someone morn over some loss and consequently heal and move on.

     Willow and the unconscious

     Willow, is the bridge to unconscious and understanding our own emotions. Ruled by Moon and water, it makes perfect sense for it to be an agent per excellence for such. The Latin verb “salire” which means “to leap”, and is one of the possible sources of the Latin name for the genus, illustrates the spiritual power of the Willow to help one leap the gap between emotion and understanding. Or emotions and cognitive processes. It brings clarity when the confusion is caused by imagery, emotional outburst, and helps us go through emotional turmoil in a natural and healthy way, keeping us balanced should we start to waver, hesitate or “run amok” the path we need to take in any given time.
     Many consider it extremely beneficial when facing a sensitive dilemma of any kind, or struggling with emotions, to sit under a willow tree, or to hug it. Especially during the nights of the Full Moon, ideally near the body of the water so you can watch its reflection. This is said to intuitively bring solution to the mind. From personal experience, I can testify that this is indeed of great help.
     Willow can also help us understand the abstract imagery, dreams, visions, and makes an excellent divining rods.
     In Slavic, and particularly Balkan Slavic witchery it’s used to heal and soothe a child which is overly emotional, usually the children that cry hysterically, and sometimes also those that suffer from night terrors.
     For this purposes one needs to find a branch of Willow that touches the water surface, dips it into a vessel with water*, and give some of this water to the child to drink. [5]

     Willow and the feminine

     Willow is deeply connected to the feminine and the female energies. It’s associated with the various female pagan deities like the; Artemis, Ceres, Hecate, Persephone, Hera, Belili and others [6] It’s seen symbolic and sacred to the Brigid during the Imboloc by some.
     Sallow, as also sometimes referred to (some species more than others, in Europe Salix carpea for example) appears also as a symbol of female sexuality, fertility and female power to fascinate, charm and bind;

     “Willow is used for charms of fascination and binding, and during the spring moon we have the power of the Spring Maiden who fascinates and binds the power of the young King. Aphrodite is associated with the spring and the bright half of the moon, courtship and the union which blesses the land with fertility. British and Irish mythology is also rich with legends of the beguiling, Willowy Spring Maiden who is called Olwen, Niwalen, Gwenhyver, Cordelia, Blodeuwedd and many others, who initiate the young King into a deeply sexual experience.” [7]

     In the Balkans, Willow is used profusely in folk healing rituals, but some of them are reserved only from the women, and are therefore tabooed for men.  The example is the ritual that women, especially maidens and young girls do on the feast day of the St. George. They make a “belt” using a willow branch and tie it around their waist to be “as slim and fair as willow”, which is also an example of sympathetic magick.

     For the Slavic people Willow is a place that the water fairies love to frequent and dwell around, so they can be contacted there, or an offering for them could be made there. Caution was needed, as in the Slavic folklore, most of the water fairies are very malevolent and cruel, and should only be contacted in some dire need. It was usually only the desperate or those extremely skilled in magick who’d work with the water fae.
     Willow as a healer and “axis mundi” for the Slavic folk

     Among most Slavic people, the Willow enjoys the reputation of a sacred tree, which is a bit like the Ygdrassil or the Tree of life of Kabala, for it’s transcendental and connects various planes of existence. It is therefore considered the embodiment of the archetypical “axis mundi”, much like the Oak tree that only gained such reputation later in the Slavic culture and myth, mostly due to the patriarchal ways of community, making it a “male” counterpart to the willow. [8]

     Because of this transcendental, and bridging (like mentioned before the word Salix, is derived from the terms reffering to leaping) power, the willow was used to banish diseases to the “Netherland”, or other specific place, where from they could no longer return to ail the one performing the ritual.

     An example is a ritual where a person afflicted with the fever, particularly a persistent one, must roast a whole garlic bud, early in the morning before the first roosters sound themselves. Then he or she, takes it to the willow, shakes it three times vigorously apologizing for it and saying:

It is not the morning dew that I shake off from you,
But the fever that I shake off from myself” 

     A person then leaves the roasted garlic on the willow, and swiftly abandons the place, taking care not to turn back** and look at the spot, for any reason. [9]

     It’s still customary to hit children (mildly and affectionately, for it’s a symbolic gesture) in Serbia, Bulgaria, parts of Montenegro and Croatia on the Lazarus’ Saturday with willow twigs to ensure they remain healthy throughout the year. The willow branches are also commonly blessed in the Orthodox Christian churches on this day, to be used on the Palm Sunday, due to them being more readily available than the palm trees. [10] Young men and women will also customary hit each other with the willow twigs saying: “May you grow fair as willow”, in a belief that this will bring them vitality and fair appearance.

     Since this is meant to be a practical blog, here are a few ideas, that I’ve came up myself, on how to implement the power of willow in magick;

     The dream decoder spell

     Respectfully gather a small piece of willow bark, or a piece of Willow wood. You can use some branch and cut a small slice of it. Thank the tree and water it or leave it some kind of offering. This would ideally be done on a night of the full moon, or otherwise some Monday.

     When dry, some Monday, place this piece of this wood in a small blue, or a purple bag or sachet, preferably made of linen, along with a piece of Ulexite, Clear Calcite or Quartz. Light a blue candle and enchant the charm by holding it in the hands, breathing upon it and chanting;

     Nightly scenes that perish with light
       Confusing, forgotten or out of sight
       I understand now your omens and sign,
       For Willow and crystal conjure you fine” 

     Place under pillow to overcome confusing, irrational dreams, and to understand dream omens and the symbols of the subconscious mind in them, helping this insight heal the mental struggles which caused them.

     The New chance spell

     When experiencing a failure of some kind, and wanting to turn it around by finding another way to do it, a new perspective, or simply new hope and willpower, go to where willows grow. Respectfully cut a small, healthy branch from the tree, preferably the new, green ones. This should be done in spring, during the waxing moon, ideal time being Ostara.

     Plant it in the wet soil. You may dip it in the growing hormone to ensure it sprouts new roots swiftly and safely. Envision the solution you need, or simply wish for it strongly, water the cutting and chant:

           “Cut away yet, far from dead,
              Even when stricken with the strife,
              I embrace the new chance instead,
              Growing towards better life.” 

     As the little cutting grows, so will you find the solution and a way to turn your failure into success.

     Hoodoo spell to make someone weep or heal them
     To make someone mentally unstable and make them weep and cry. Inscribe a skull candle with the name of the person you wish to affect. It should be a black skull candle. Dress it with some condition oil appropriate to your need. Then sprinkle the candle or entwine it with some Couchgrass ( or Witchgrass ) and sprinkle with some crumbled leaves of the Weeping Willow. You can arrange these just below the eye sockets of the skull candle so it appears as if the skull is crying. Burn and speak appropriate words or power.

     To help someone heal from grieving too much, dress a white skull candle with some Healing or Tranquility oil. Sprinkle it with crumbled or powdered Weeping willow leaves and Balm of Gilead. If it’s a broken heart they suffer from add some Violet leaf or Heartease leaf too. Burn during the hours of the Sun and read the following Bible verse:

“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” ( Revelations 21:4 )

     Spirituality talisman

     It’s customary in some parts of Europe to collect some Willow tree juice on a piece of Linen fabric the day after Ostara , and then carry that a spirituality talisman. Here is what I think is an equally good alternative method.

     Cut a piece of willow branch, so you have a nice, small rounded slice. Gather respectfully on a night of the full moon, or some Monday while the moon is in the waxing phase. Inscribe one side of this talisman with the spiral. On the other you can inscribe an open eye, and your initials, or something of a sort. Let it dry, and when well dry, dress it lightly with some Master key oil, or other kind of appropriate spiritual oil. When the oil dries out, it’s ready. You can make it into a pendant or place in a small charm vial and use that as a pendant, and carry it on your behalf to raise your spiritual awareness, and help you connect to the spirit world more easily and swiftly. It will also help grow your natural spiritual talents. You can also put this in a charm or mojo bag with things like the Witches Burr, and Galangal root for example, for increase in spiritual power.

NOTE: This article was written and composed by myself. If you wish to use  any part of it  elsewhere online feel free but add credits: Shadow of the Shadows magick place, or " , or a direct link to this page

CREDITS AND REFERENCES: * In traditional Balkan witchcraft this type of plant remedy is usually made by soaking the plant material, usually a whole plant if herbaceous, or a bark, root etc., in a vessel with water; most commonly a pan, or a bowl, and leaving it outside or a window sill over night to catch the “brightness”, that is the spiritual energy radiated by Moon and stars. The Willow remedy was probably also made this way.
** This is a frequent taboo in some Slavic magick rituals and spells, particularly the healing ones. It’s firmly believed that if the practitioner turned around, they could catch a glimpse of the forces or spirits which are making sure the ritual comes to fruition, and could go mad or die because of it.

[5] Veselin Cajkanovic “Recnik Srpskih narodnih verovanja o biljkama” (lit. Veselin Cajkanovic “Dictionary of Serbian folk beliefs about plants”) Beograd 1994
[6] Cunningham, Scott “Cunningham’s encyclopedia of magic herbs”
[7] Retrieved from; for explanatory, educational and illustrative purposes, without any ill will
[9] Acc. to the  same source listed under [8]


The first image, the botanical illustration is from: 

The second one, which is the Claude Monet's image is from:,dpr_1.0,f_auto,w_950/joumqzbympg7vmxsqe4j.jpg 
both used here for illustrative purposes  without any ill intention