O Tannenbaum: My Witchy Winter Solstice Tree as Fir Magick

O Tannenbaum: My Witchy Winter Solstice Tree as Fir Magick December 11, 2018

What is the difference between my Witchy Winter Solstice Tree and a Christmas Tree? Practically nothing. Except perhaps the spiritual way in which we welcome this most auspicious holiday guest to our home. Oh, and the necessity that it be a living Fir tree. Artificial trees can be festive, and in some cases necessary and practical decorations. However, for a Witch’s tree be part of the Winter Solstice MAGICK, only the real deal will do.

It really does satisfy me in a deeply ironic way that the over-culture is celebrating pagan traditions with me during the holiday season. I dearly appreciate every sprig of fir, holly, ivy and mistletoe that deck our halls. I adore the wreaths of evergreens on all the doors, sharing in the magick of eternal life through nature’s cycles. Every twinkle light on the boxwoods, delights me to no end, but my favorite of all Winter Solstice traditions is the American “Christmas” Tree, or as a Pagan might call it, our Solstice Tree.

Blessed Yule ornament on Heron’s Solstice Tree

In my pagan world-view, trees are considered the priests of the plant realms. Therefore, trees have much to offer and teach us. Fir trees are associated with the planet Jupiter, and the element of Earth, and they symbolize immortality, taking the long view and seeing situations clearly. Therefore, the magick of bringing a fir tree inside the house at the Winter Solstice becomes a spell of abundance, good health, and the constancy of life’s cycles. With their aid, we celebrate the dawning of winter by peering into the deep, dark night, and glimpsing our future.

Yes, the tree will technically “die” once cut, but part of the lesson to be found here is that nothing really dies, it merely changes form. Also, the life-cycle transmutes energy in a chain from the sun to the highest order of organism, but nothing escapes their turn to die: everything in the cosmos will rise, thrive, decline, die, to decay, and nourish the next generation who will rise from their compost. This is the same way that every plant and flower we harvest for magick lends their power to our workings, there is a sacrifice, to be sure. But as long as we “fairly take and fairly give,” with respect to our plant allies, then this magick can be very potent. We are honored to receive the life-force that the fir tree lends to us. This sympathetic, evergreen magick is old, and hallowed.

“O Tannenbaum! O Tannebaum! How lovely are your branches!”

Perhaps this excitement I feel over a lit and decorated fir tree is my German heritage stirring up from genetic memory? Tannenbaum is a German word for a fir tree. You should know that the famous carol O Tannenbaum was not originally a Christmas song. According to wikipedia, the lyrics “refer to the fir’s evergreen quality as a symbol of constancy and faithfulness.[source]” The modern lyrics were written by composer Ernst Anschütz, in 1824. I’ve included my own English/Pagan adaptation below, that we use to welcome and hallow our tree.

Frank the Frasier Fir, Heron’s Solstice Tree 2018

Solstice Tree Magick: The Hunt

When my children and I go on the hunt for the perfect tree, we visit the tree-yard the same as most Americans. I wish I could say that we go into the woods and personally chop one down during a ceremony of some sort, but they are not native to Eastern NC, alas. But in a ritualistic way, we give our patronage to the same growers every year, and we have our own family traditions for how we select our perfect tree friend. This is – hands down – my favorite part of our family traditions. Just thinking of my children playing among the trees every year makes me weep with maternal joy.

Visiting the Tree Yard – Heron Michelle

Introductions and Consent

As I stroll among the rows, I open up my perception to feel the trees, spiritually. I speak to them, touch them gently and croon softly to them all my love. I tell them each how beautiful they are. I’ve been known to hug a tree, no lie. Inevitably, one of us will lay eyes on a particular tree and it will feel like greeting a long-lost friend. It is a tug on the heart-strings. Spiritual sparks fly, and it’s love at first sight.

This year, my son was the first to find the one, and he called me over. He was adamant that *this tree is our tree.* I agreed wholeheartedly. But just to be sure, I *asked* the tree *out-loud* if he’d like to come home with us and lend us his power. I send the energetic ping, and I receive his consent. He was so very happy that I recognized him. If a tree’s energy can dance, The One responded with a little jig.

Frank the Frasier Fir agrees to come home with us – Heron Michelle

Onto the roof-top of the car he goes, and we drive home singing carols. My 14 year old son is taller than me for the first time, so he carries the tree inside the house, as I make the way clear. The energy of the room shifts the moment he enters. His aura is the brightest, shiniest being here  and the delight he brings me is palpable. This has been a tough season for our family, and this lovely being brightened the dark corners of my life in a way that nothing else could right now. I welcomed the tree aloud, and as my eyes wandered among his branches, the name FRANK jumps loudly into my head, unbidden.

Well, alrighty then! Pleasure to meet you, Frank!

Pagan Symbolism throughout the Wheel of the Year

Another thing that might make my tree rituals a little different than a Christmas Tree, is the symbolism we employ with our decorations. A few years ago, I switched to using red and white lights. This is how I pay homage to the Beltane Maypole lore of using red and white ribbons. In that fertility spell, the red represents menstrual blood, and the white represents semen. I’ve run across the witching lore of recycling the trunk of one’s Yule tree to become the next year’s Maypole, but unless you’ve got ceiling height for a 12 foot tree, I don’t think that is likely for the average family. Instead, I suggest harvesting the base of the tree for next year’s yule log, and then on New Year’s day we burn the rest of the tree to light our way, purify us, and bless the coming year.

At Yule the next year, we burn the log, and save some ashes. Then at Imbolc, we ceremonially use those ashes to bless the Earth into which we plant our new seeds of intention. The Magick is passed from Sabbat to Sabbat, in one form or another, until at last we arrive back at Yule and invite a new tree. So, for me, it is imperative that at least one of us have a live tree. I’m happy for that to be me.

Pagan Tree Decorations

My decorations were almost all found in typical shops, but with a keen eye, you can find straight-up witchery even in the Walmart. Like these golden pentacles pictured on the left, that even have the inverted pentacle inside. We are all about music in our family, so I also like to find little instruments for the tree, too. This wee lute makes me stupid-happy.

Pentacle ornaments from Walmart – Heron Michelle

Otherwise, I go for natural elements, like some glittering apples, blown glass icicles, crystal snowflakes, golden deer, and antlers, and many feathered birds. My favorite decorations are of the Art Nouveau styled fairies.

Deer, icicle, Cardinal Bird, and my favorite Fairy Ornament – Heron Michelle

It is easy to find antlers, and horned and hoofed animals as Winter Solstice themes. For me, these are all the faces of the Horned Lord of the wild woods, the Green Man, Cernunnos, Herne or even Pan.

Antler, snowflake and apple Ornaments – Heron Michelle


But it wouldn’t be a witch’s tree without this official issue, Harry Potter World, Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry ornament. I’m a Ravenclaw, by the way. <cackle>

Official Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry Ornament – Heron Michelle

Crowning the Tree

Of course, the topper is the most important crowning of the tree, and in my house, we return to the golden, glowing five-pointed star. Just like the reborn sun on Winter Solstice morning, it shines brightly and shows us the way through the long, dark night of winter. I add to my topper gilded berries, poinsettias, and representations of birds as though they roost in his branches.

Poinsettias are Aztec Magick

I also push silk poinsettias into the deep places between the branches. There is much Aztec magick associated with this red and green Poinsettia, “as a symbol of purity and a need for sacrifice,” as written in an article by Sandra Kynes called A Pagan Perspective on the Poinsettia. Kynes goes on to write, “While the red poinsettia symbolizes the returning sun, the color red also represents the life-giving blood of the Goddess, her power of regeneration, and the promise of renewal to come in the spring. ”  Source

Shining star, berries, poinsettias and birds crown my Solstice Tree. – Heron Michelle

Hallowing the Winter Solstice Tree with Song

Heron’s English Adaptation of O Tannenbaum, by Anschütz (1824), for Pagan celebrations of Winter Solstice

O Tannenbaum, O Tannenbaum,
Your branches are so lovely!
They are green when summer days are bright,
They are green when winter snow is white.
O Tannenbaum, O Tannenbaum,
Your branches are so lovely!

O Tannenbaum, O Tannenbaum,
You give us so much pleasure!
How oft at Solstice tide the sight,
O green fir tree, gives us delight!
O Tannenbaum, O Tannenbaum,
You give us so much pleasure!

O Tannenbaum, O Tannenbaum,
Forever true your color.
Your boughs so green in summertime
Stay bravely green in wintertime.
O Tannenbaum, O Tannenbaum
Forever true your colour.

O Tannenbaum, O Tannenbaum,
You fill my heart with music.
Reminding me on Solstice Day
To think of you and then be gay.
O Tannenbaum, O Tannenbaum
You fill my heart with music.

(original source)

However you celebrate the Winter Solstice, may the joy of the season light the night, and guide you safely into the coming year.


About Heron Michelle
Heron Michelle is a witch, priestess, mom, artist and shopkeeper living in Greenville, North Carolina. Connect with her on Facebook: Witch on Fire: Heron Rising Services and follow her on Twitter @HeronMichelle13. You can read more about the author here.
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