10 Uncommonly Common Magical Trees, by Sandra Kynes
(Article originally published in The Llewellyn Journal.)
While the oak, hawthorn, and apple are rich in folklore and well known as highly magical, many trees regarded as common and maybe even run-of-the-mill have colorful histories and can give your magical practices a boost. You don't need to have a tree growing in your yard to work with it. A twig, leaf, nut, flower, fruit, piece of bark, or anything from a tree embodies its energy and can be used to represent it. In addition to objects made from the wood of a tree, infused oils, essential oils, hydrosols (i.e. flower waters), flower essences, and other products can be used for magic and ritual, too.
Sometimes, you may not have access to a particular type of tree or something made from it, but just as we use pictures and other objects to represent deities, we can do the same when working with trees. Let's take a look at ten fairly common trees.
Cherry trees have been providing a tasty treat that people have enjoyed for millennia. Believed to ward off the plague, during medieval times pieces of bark were hung over doorways and sometimes placed inside the home. Since the Middle Ages, the cherry has been associated with virginity and beauty as well as seduction.
Cherry pits, or stones, have been used as talismans to attract a lover and for divination to see whether or not a wish may come true. The procedure was to take a handful of cherry stones without counting them. Similar to divination with daisy petals, one at a time a cherry stone was placed on a table as a phrase was said. "This year" was said when the first stone was set down, "next year" was said with the second, "sometime" with the third, and "never" with the fourth. This was repeated until the last cherry stone was set down, revealing the answer.
For other uses, as part of a love spell, use cherry juice to consecrate a red candle. To heighten awareness during divination sessions, burn a small piece of cherry bark as incense before you begin.
A popular garden tree, dogwood is a showy attention-getter when it comes into bloom with its large, white flowers that are sometimes tinged with pink. In medieval Germany, carrying a handkerchief that had been dabbed in the sap of a dogwood on Midsummer's Day was believed to make a wish come true. Dogwood was believed to have highly protective powers. The tree was originally called dagwood because farm animal prods, which were known as dags, were made from the wood. Pronounced with an "a" sound (as in "father"), the tree name evolved in dogwood.
You can call on dogwood's protective energy by placing a few leaves under your welcome mat to serve as guardians of your home. Despite the misinterpretation of the name, you can think of the leaves as guard dogs. Carry a small piece of wood in a purse or pocket as a protective talisman. Burn a dried leaf to help banish what you no longer want in your life. Sitting under a dogwood is said to inspire new ideas and to help gain a new perspective on a situation or problem. The energy of the dogwood also provides emotional support.
The popularity of using hackberry has as a shade tree has increased because it works well as a substitute for elms, which have diminished in number due to Dutch elm disease. According to folklore in the Middle East, the hackberry's round fruit was believed to grow only in the moonlight. Because it was revered as a protective tree, small pieces of wood were used as amulets. There was also a belief that a person who slept under a hackberry would be protected from evil spirits. This tree is frequently host to the magical mistletoe.
With its historical lunar association, hackberry is perfect to incorporate into your esbat rituals for a boost in energy. Make a circle in the middle of your altar using its berries or leaves or carve its name on a white candle to burn during your ritual or spell work. Use a piece of hackberry wood as a protective amulet or burn it in a spell to raise energy around you or your home. To boost inspiration for creative projects, keep a picture of a hackberry tree in your workspace.
The lemon's exact origin is unknown, but it is believed to have been a natural hybrid. After it was introduced into the Mediterranean region, the lemon quickly became valued for medicinal purposes. Similarly, the lemon blossom became widely treasured for its fragrance. Crusaders took the fruit home with them and by the thirteenth century, lemons were being grown in the warmer regions of Europe. During the Middle Ages, the lemon was believed to protect against poison, the plague, and bewitchment. In art, it became a symbol of faithful love and fertility.
Well known for its cleansing and purification properties, spray a little lemon hydrosol to prepare an area for ritual or wherever you need to freshen and move energy. Use lemon oil or juice to prepare candles and to purify magic or ritual objects when they come into your life. Lemon raises awareness, increases psychic abilities, and inspires movement to a higher spiritual plane. Place a drop or two of the essential oil in the melted wax of a candle to enhance meditation or divination sessions.
This popular garden shrub is beloved for the fragrance of its flowers that hang in large inverted pyramidal clusters. Regarded as prophetic in Wales, lilac flowers were an indication for the coming summer season. If the buds formed late and then opened quickly, the summer would be mostly rainy. If the flowers faded faster than normal, summer would be very warm. In Russia, it was believed that a baby placed under a lilac bush would receive the gift of wisdom. For seventeenth-century settlers in North America, lilacs were a link to the homeland they left behind. It was the second flowering shrub transported from Europe (rose was the first).
To enhance dream work and encourage prophetic dreaming, place vase of fresh-cut lilac flowers in your bedroom. For defensive magic or to break a hex, burn a dried leaf or a few of the small flowers, and then scatter the cool ashes outside. To boost the power of a love spell, use the flower essence to prepare a candle. Lilac fosters peace and happiness and deepens spirituality.
Well known for their fiery autumn colors, maple trees seem to grow almost everywhere. In medieval England large burls, a rounded outgrowth on a tree trunk, were often used to make drinking bowls. The traditional wassail bowl was made from maple. In parts of England, the maple was known as the maypoling tree. According to legend, the leaves became red in the autumn because the faery living in the tree painted them.
Of course, maple syrup is a prized product from the sugar maple. According to weather lore, if the first sap from a tree is not sweet, it will be a long syrup season. However, if the sap is sweet, the season for tapping will be short.
As part of a spell to attract or rekindle love, scatter a handful of dried red leaves on your altar. Also use red leaves to work with the faery realm. Place a green leaf under a green candle on your altar to attract prosperity. Before lighting a remembrance candle for a loved one who has passed beyond the veil, dab a little maple syrup on it to symbolically sweeten their transition to the otherworld.
In ancient China, the peach blossom was a symbol of renewal and fertility. According to Chinese mythology, a peach tree grew at the gate of the guardian spirits, giving the tree an association with protection. Because of this, people would hang branches and woodcarvings on their porches to ward off evil spirits.
During the Middle Ages in Europe, the peach was used for healing and sympathetic magic. In addition to treating ailments, herbalist Nicolas Culpeper noted that peaches fostered lust. Throughout Europe, the peach was a symbol of the female genitals and used as an ingredient in love potions.
For your own love spells, prepare a candle with peach kernel oil or flower essence before lighting it. To boost fidelity, sensually eat a peach with your lover. To foster happiness in the home, place a picture of three peaches in your kitchen. Hold a dried peach pit during meditation when seeking wisdom.
A valued shade tree, sycamores are frequently misidentified as maples because of the shape of their leaves. Sycamore has been known as a ghost tree because its pale, mottled bark gives it an eerie appearance, especially on foggy mornings and at dusk.
The ancient Greeks regarded this tree as a gift from the gods, and according to legend Hercules planted sycamores to honor his father Zeus. The Romans prized these trees so much that they poured libations of wine on their roots. During the Middles Ages, sycamore trees growing in a village was believed to keep the plague at bay.
Sycamore aids in opening the mind to receive information and interpret messages. Before any type of psychic work or divination, crumble a piece of dried leaf and then burn it to clear and prepare the energy of your workspace. To bring harmony and stability to your life, hold a branch during meditation.
It was common practice for Romans to bury a coin beneath a walnut tree as an offering to Pomona, the goddess of fruit trees. The Greeks dedicated the tree to Zeus and Persephone and associated it with prophecy. Germanic peoples dedicated the tree to Freyr and Thor.
Regarded as a magically protective tree, the walnut reputedly provided protection from lightning and supernatural forces. As a nut with two distinctive halves joined as one, walnuts were a symbol of marriage. According to Pliny the Elder, the association of walnuts with fertility was due to their resemblance to testicles. Others during his time noted that walnuts were an aphrodisiac.
Prepare a walnut in a protection spell, and then place it near the front door of your home. To provide clarity when making decisions, meditate while holding two walnut leaves. As part of a love spell, separate the halves of a walnut and write your name and the other person's name on each half. Tie them back together by wrapping red thread around them.
Usually found near water, the willow has been associated with sacred and mysterious powers as well as enchantment. Although linked with death and grieving, the weeping willow also has a long association with dispelling sadness and recovering from emotional darkness. It was often planted in cemeteries and depicted on gravestones for the dual purpose of both expressing and relieving grief. In Ireland, harps were often made of willow wood because it was believed that the tree's soul would come forth through the music.
Allied with moon goddesses, make a circle with pussy willow catkins and/or willow leaves on your esbat altar to aid in raising lunar energy. Use willow flower essence or make an infused oil to prepare a pink or red candle for love spells or a white candle for divination. Willow can aid you in contacting faeries and other nature spirits.
Get to Know Trees
In addition to working with trees magically, get to know the trees in your neighborhood by going for walks or spending time in your backyard. Gaze at them and touch them; be aware of their energy as well as their spirits. Getting to know trees does more than boost the energy of magic and ritual, it expands our connection with the green world. Trees also provide a meaningful connection with the past and with our ancestors. They help us find the beauty and sacredness of this world and to feel it deep in our souls.
Article originally published in The Llewellyn Journal. Copyright Llewellyn Worldwide, 2021. All rights reserved.