A to Z Herbarium: Ash
Woohoo! First post of the A to Z Challenge 2017. In case you can’t tell from the banner, the theme here is Magical and Medicinal Plants and Herbs. And the first entry is…
Sea Rituals, Health
Yggdrasil, the World Tree in Nordic lore, is an ash tree. It is associated with the god Odin, who hung himself on the tree and gained knowledge of the Futhark Runes. Similarly in Druidic lore, the ash tree symbolizes the Cosmic Axis of the universe, spanning through different realms and realities.
A traditional witch’s broom is made with an ash staff, birch twigs and willow bindings. It’s possible that ash was used as the handle because of its association with the World Tree, symbolizing a shaman’s or witch’s “flight” between worlds.
In some traditions, witches were believed to live in ash trees, such as the Germanic Askafroa (wife of the Ash), who was not very nice and tended to cause damage, but could be appeased if one made a donation to her on Ash Wednesday.
Small crosses of ash were used to keep a man from drowning at sea. A staff of ash hung over a doorpost would ward malign forces, as would ash leaves scattered in the four directions around a house. Ash leaves can also be placed under a pillow for prophetic dreams, or carried around to gain the love of that special someone.
The tree was used to cure multiple ailments, ranging from lameness and swellings in cattle, to curing children with whooping cough. For victims of a snake bite, twigs of ash were twined together in a circlet and hung around the neck. This practice apparently had something to do with the fact that snakes are supposedly afraid of ash wood and will not crawl over it (I imagine that’s due to creepy witches living inside).
In Irish lore, if an ash tree cast a shadow upon crops, then the crops would be ruined.
If you want your child to be a good singer, bury its first nail clippings under an ash tree. But not during a storm, as ash attracts lightning.
For the nerds: Gandalf’s staff was made of ash. (Though the Welsh Magician/God Gwydion did it first.)
Cunningham’s Encylopedia of Magical Herbs, Scott Cunningham, 2016, Llewellyn Publications
Green Witchcraft: Folk Magic, Fairy Lore & Herb Craft, Ann Moura, 2014, Llewellyn Publications