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Henge Happenings
Issue 72
Samhain 2006

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   Issue 72

From the President
From the
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The Bard's Path
Tree Legends, Lore & Whimsy
Part Two: Charms, Magick and Divination

Poem for Priscilla

A Shadow at the Door

The Seer's Path
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THE BARD’S PATH
TREE LEGENDS, LORE AND WHIMSY
PART 2 - CHARMS, MAGICK AND DIVINATION

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.

Respect the tree and let it be,
From branch to root, nor touch its fruit!
Of itself the tree did grow,
From a dog who long ago,
Enchanted by the Fairies' power,
Was buried here in mystic hour;
Therefore we bid you let it stand,
And if you follow the command
You will be happy all your days,
But woe to him who disobeys!

- C.G. Leland

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'.

Pluck an even ash-leaf and say:
The even ash-leaf in my hand,
the first I meet shall be my man.
Then put the leaf into a glove and say:
The even ash-leaf in my glove,
the first I meet shall be my love.
And, lastly, into the bosom saying:
The even ash-leaf in my bosom,
The first I meet shall be my husband'.
Soon afterwards the future husband should make his appearance.

'An even-ash, or a four-leaf clover,
You'll see your true love before the day's over'.
'Even, even, ash, I pull thee off the tree,
The first young man that I do met,
My lover he shall be'.
The leaf must then be placed in the left shoe.

Starting at the bottom leaflet on the left-hand side of the even ash-leaf and say:

'An even ash is in my hand,
The first I meet will be my man,
If he don't speak and I don't speak,
This even ash I will not keep'.

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
this leaflet gives the initial of your boyfriend'.

The acorn is considered a symbol of immortality and to carry one will prevent illness and ensure a long
life. To bring back an absent lover, first take a small branch of oak with an acorn on it and a sprig of ash with
the "keys". Place them under the pillow for three nights in a row. Each night repeat the following:

'Acorn cup and ashen key,
Bid my true love come to me -
Between moonlight and firelight,
Bring him (her) over the hills to-night;
Over the meadows, over the moor,
Over the rivers, over the sea,
Over the threshold and in at the door,
Acorn cup and ashen key,
Bring my true love back to me'.


'It was once the practice to pluck the leaf in every case where the leaflets were of equal number, and to say:'

'Even ash, I do thee pluck,
Hoping thus to meet good luck;
If no luck I get from thee,
I shall wish I'd left thee on the tree'.

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
tree'.

'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:

'Beware of an oak, It draws the stroke;
Avoid an ash, It courts the flash;
Creep under the thorn, It can save you from harm'.

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
along well together. If they bounce or burst open, their courtship will be a stormy one. To select between two possible lovers, perform the following:

“Two hazel nuts I threw into the flame,
And to each nut I gave a sweet-heart's name:
This with the loudest bounce me sore amaz'd,
That in a flame of brightest colour blaz'd;
As blaz'd the nut, so may thy passion grow,
For 'twas thy nut that did so brightly glow!'

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
work advantage!'

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REFERENCES

An Encyclopedia of Fairies, by Katharine Briggs.
Encyclopedia of Celtic Wisdom by John And Caitlin Matthews
The Fairy Faith in Celtic Countries, by W.Y Evans-Wentz.
A Dictionary of Superstitions, edited by Iona Opie and Moira Tatem.
Celtic Gods, Celtic Goddesses, by R.J. Stewart.
Irish Druids and Old Irish Religions, by James Bonwick.
A Dictionary of Faiths & Folklore, by W.C Hazlitt.
A Dictionary of Irish Mythology, by Peter Berresford Ellis.
The Druids, by Peter Berresford Ellis.
Irish Earth Folk, by Diarmuid MacManus.
The Woman's Dictionary of Symbols and Sacred Objects, by Barbara G. Walker.
The Folklore of the Scottish Highlands by Anne Ross
The Book of Charms by Elizabeth Villiers


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