Donate to The Henge of Keltria General Fund
THE BARD’S PATH
There are hundreds of charms, spells and methods of divination that use trees or parts of trees, but I’ve chosen some of the more obscure (and humorous) methods that I could find.
In Wales, a play entitled "Cyniver" describes how youths of both sexes seek for an even-leaved sprig of the ash tree. The first of either sex that finds one calls out "Cyniver", and is answered by the first of the other sex that succeeds; 'and these two, if the omen fails not, are to be joined in wedlock'.
Starting at the bottom leaflet on the left-hand side of the even ash-leaf and say:
As each work is spoken, 'count a leaflet around the
leaf until the rhyme is completed.. When the rhyme is finished, continue by reciting the alphabet until the bottom right-hand leaflet is reached. The letter given to
The acorn is considered a symbol of immortality and to carry one will prevent illness and ensure a long
In 1830 it was reported that 'A failure of the Crop of Ash-keys portends a death in the Royal Family. The failure in question is certainly, in some seasons, very remarkable; and many an old woman believes that, if she were the fortunate finder of a bunch, and could get introduced to the king, he would give her a great deal of money for it'.
Pliny states in his "Natural History", that for protection
against snakes, 'So great are the virtues of this
tree, that no serpent will ever lie in the shadow thrown
by it. We state the fact from ocular demonstration, that
if a serpent and a lighted fire are placed within a circle
formed of the leaves of the ash, the reptile will rather
throw itself in the fire than encounter the leaves of the
'They say that the Ashe is so great a force against poyson, that the circutie or shadowe of the same there hath not bene knowen any maner of venemous beast to abyde.'
In Devonshire in 1838, farmers would say that if an adder is seen, draw a circle with an ash rod around it and the snake will never leave it.
For snakebite, repeat three times: 'Bradgty, bradgty, bradgty, under the ashing leef'. 'Braggaty is said to mean mottled, like an adder'. Exactly what this chant will accomplish is not stated.
For protection from storms: 'When some tempest doth aryse in the ayeer we oughte anone to make a fyre of foure staues of an asshe tree in crosse wyse aboue the wynde and thenne afterwarde make a crosse uponit, and anone the tempest shal torne a syde'.
For protections from witches: 'A bunch of Ash Keys carried in the hand preserves the bearer from Witchcraft'. 'If you take an Oake Aple (acorn) from an Oake tree, and open the same: you shall finde a lytle woorme therin wich if it doth flye away, it sygnifies warres: if it creepe, it betokens scarcenes of Corne: if it run about, then it forshewes the plague.'
In Scotland in 1776 it was reported that to draw a circle around oneself with a sapling of an oak would protect from 'any harms apprehended from the Fairy tribe'.
In Sussex, mothers would teach their children to say:
Also in Sussex was a thorn tree of great age which the locals believed could save a dying person if carried around it three times and bumped against it three times. But as it happened in the early 1800’s, 'The Goodies of the village obtained the Doctor's and sick man's consent to restore him to health, and having carried him round the tree bumped the dying man and had the mortification of carrying him back a corpse'.
The elder tree is believed to protect against the "charms of witches" and both its branches and leaves would be hung on doors and around windows. Also, witches themselves are said to be unable to pass through where the elder guards the way.
If a bough of hawthorn is hung outside the house on the door, it will bring good fortune to all within, but under no circumstances should any part of it, particularly the flowers, be taken into the house or disaster will strike.
If a man tells a woman that he loves her while they are standing near a blackthorn, they are guaranteed a happy marriage. Carrying a blackthorn leaf in a purse or wallet will bring good fortune. Wishes will be granted if made beside a blackthorn. Carrying a piece of the wood in the hand will reflect "ill-wishes" and protect against the 'perils lurking in the road'. (Technically, the blackthorn is a bush, not a tree. But this stuff was too good to leave out!)
Divination can be performed by burning hazel nuts
in a fire. Toss two nuts into the fire and if they lie still
and burn together, it portends a happy marriage or the
start of a good relationship. A similar ceremony is performed
in Ireland. In this, each of the nuts is given the
name of a "lad or lass" before being thrown into the
fire. If they burn quietly together, the couple will get
I'll end this article with an excerpt from the story "The Death of Fergus Mac Leide" which was composed around 1100. In this lay (or narrative poem), Iubdan, king of the Lepra and Lepracan explains to Fergus's fireservant, Ferdiad, which trees may and may not be burned (and why!):
'O man that for Fergus of the feasts dost kindle fire,
whether afloat or ashore never burn the king of woods.
Monarch of Inis Fail's forests the woodbine is, whom
none may hold captive; no feeble sovereign's effort is it
to hug all tough trees in his embrace. The pliant woodbine
if thou burn, wailings for misfortune will abound;
dire extremity at weapons' point or drowning in great
waves will come after. Burn not the precious appletree
of spreading and low-sweeping bough; tree ever decked
in bloom of white, against whose fair head all men put
forth the hand. The surly blackthorn is a wanderer and a
wood that the artificer burns not; throughout his body,
though it be scanty, birds in their flocks warble. The
noble willow burn not, a tree sacred to poems; within
his bloom bees are a-sucking, all love the little cage.
The graceful tree with the berries, the wizards' tree, the
rowan, burn; but spare the limber tree: burn not the
slender hazel. Dark is the color of the ash: timber that
makes the wheels to go; rods he furnishes for horsemen's
hands, and his form turns battle into flight. Tenterhook
among woods the spiteful briar is, by all means
burn him that is so keen and green; he cuts, he flays the
foot, and him that would advance he forcibly drags
backward. Fiercest heat-giver of all timber is green oak,
from him none may escape unhurt; by partiality for him the head is set on aching and by his acrid embers the eye is
made sore. Alder, very battle-witch of all woods, tree that
is hottest in the fight - undoubtingly burn at thy discretion
both the alder and the whitethorn. Holly, burn it green;
holly, burn it dry; of all trees whasoever the best is holly. Elder that hath tough bark, tree that in truth hurts sore:
him that furnishes horses to the armies from the fairymound
burn so that he be charred. The birch as well, if he
be laid low, promises abiding fortune. Burn up most surely
and certainly the stalks that bear the constant pods. Suffer,
if it so please thee, the russet aspen to come headlong
down; burn, be it late or early, the tree with the trembling
branch. Patriarch of long-lasting woods is the yew, sacred
to feasts as is well known: of him now build dark-red vats
of goodly size. Ferdiad, thou faithful one, wouldst thou but
do my behest, to thy soul as to thy body, O man, 'twould