A to Z Herbarium: Elder
Protection, Healing, Prosperity, Sleep
The elder tree is closely associated with faeries and otherworldly realms. The elder is symbolically feminine, and there is a myth of a guardian spirit residing in the tree. In Denmark she is called Hyldemoer (Elder-Mother), and in English lore she is called Old Lady or Old Girl. Prior to cutting an elder tree, one should ask permission to avoid bad luck by reciting, “Old Woman, give me some of thy wood and I will give thee some of mine when I grow into a tree.”
Elder trees planted near a house offer protection from negative influences and gives prosperity to the household. Placing elder sticks around the house will protect against robbers and snakes. Elderberry oil can be used in blessings. Pregnant women can kiss the tree for good fortune for the baby. If you fall asleep under an elder tree, then it is said you’ll dream of fairy lands. Fairies can be summoned by blowing on a flute made from elder wood. This is best done at midnight, in deserted places away from humans.
Carrying elder berries will protect against evil and negativity. Putting them under your pillow will help you sleep. Carrying elder will also protect you from the temptation to commit adultery.
Elderflower tea is used to treat a multitude of ailments, such as hot tea for tonsillitis and sinusitis; cold tea for night sweats and to lower fever. It was once believed that elder leaves picked on May Eve could be used to cure wounds, and that warts could be removed by rubbing them on a green elder stick and then burning or burying it. To cure a toothache, one can place an elder twig in the mouth, stick it on a wall and say, “Depart thou evil spirit!”
Note: Elderberry seeds are poisonous, so don’t eat those.
Cunningham’s Encylopedia of Magical Herbs, Scott Cunningham, 2016, Llewellyn Publications