The Elderberry…….or Sambuka Nigeria is a truly enchanting tree; a tree as old as time, steeped in magickal lore and mysteries. So with the dark season now upon us there’s no better time to bring this beautifully dark tree to light.
Today we see her hauntingly dark berries and we think of natural holistic cough syrups or tonics, due to her well-known reputation for being a restorative healing tree. Elderberries are reported to aid sinus infections, colds and flu. They lower blood sugar and prevent some cancers to name just a few of her healing attributes. Thats not even mentioning Elderberry mead, with it’s spices of cinnamon and ginger, which to say the least is beyond divine. Mead is Zen… just saying. Although her benefits are many, so is the lore and darkness of this mysterious tree.
The Elder is the thirteenth month on the Celtic tree calendar, a time of death and rebirth… and this tree has plenty of that. The Norse, the Anglo-Saxons, and many European societies believed that the Elder was sacred as a spirit of goddess stature resided and dwelled within the tree. This spirit known as the Elder Mother was a benevolent spirit if treated with respect and appeased. If one did not seek her approval or pay their due respects upon taking of her branches or berries, she would place a curse upon them sending bad luck, ills or worse to their door.
The Elder’s branches where hung atop doorways and windows for protection. Folk made flutes or wands of her hollow branches. The leaves where carried for protection, and it was thought your home was safe if an Elderberry tree grew near. It is a plant of Venus, and in the element of water the waves to the underworld. Her branches and roots lying within life and death. She is therefore used in spellwork for lovers, either light or dark workings. The Elder has many connections there.
It is said that Elder branches where placed in the dead’s coffins to aid their trip to the Underworld. In England it is said that branches of Elder burned on your hearth would bring the Devil to sit upon your chimney so many only used her flowers and berries. Witches where said to inhabit the shrub, and it was known to be unsafe to sleep under an Elder’s branches. To do so would cause one to fall into a trance-like sleep during which time visions of the fae would come. Depending on whether the spirit or witch within the tree found favor with you, your visions could be lovely and serene or a completely dark nightmare. The Elder’s flowers having an intoxicating scent with sedative-like qualities and her roots giving off chemicals to keep other plants away. This plant is mysterious indeed.
So when Christianity swept through Europe all of the heathen folklore of this magickal tree did not sit well with those in power. The tree was first thought of negatively, as a plant of the devil and witches. Later it was transformed into a tree of religious stature said to be used for the wood of the Holy Cross. This story of Christ having to bear the weight of the heavy cross made of Elderberry wood to the place of his crucifixion is a bit odd, since Elder wood is hollow and porous and not at all a heavy wood. Thus showing that the Elder was among many Pagan beliefs and lore that was led to this fallacy.
Regardless through time the magick and lore prevailed with the Elder’s magickal attributes in tact. This lore will forever be if we see these beliefs as the gems they truly are. Take them to heart and pass them down for future generations to know and enjoy. I hope you do as well.
Dark and wild blessings )0( Raven