by Ellen Evert Hopman
illustration by Will Hobbs

Alder thrives in damp areas – wet lands, flood plains, river banks and moist lowlands, the types of places that ancient people commonly sought out for habitation. Ancient Celtic tracks and roads were made of its wood due to its ability to withstand rot. Alder was used in piles for lake dwellings, for water-mill wheels, house foundations, canal locks, milk pails and pipes. There was an ancient Celtic God named Alisanos, the Alder God. Alder was also known as “Bran’s Tree”. Bran is the ancestor God of the Celtic Cult of the Sacred Head. He was a Celtic hero who instructed his followers that after his death his head was to be placed on a pillar so that he could continue to give them counsel. Later they were told to bury his head at the White Mount, the site of the present Tower of London as a powerful talisman of protection.

As long as the head remained buried Alba would be safe from invasion. Arthur made a fatal mistake by digging up the head, the Saxons invaded not long after. But Bran’s sacred birds, the ravens, have dwelt at the site ever since.

Alder makes an excellent charcoal for gunpowder, smith’s fires, and potter’s ovens. It is a tree sacred to Phoroneus, inventor of fire, and to Astarte and Her son, the Fire God. Fresh cut Alder wood turns red as blood. The bark gives a red dye, the twigs a brown dye. The cones make a black dye and the inner bark of the root dies yellow.

Irish tradition states that the first man was created from an Alder, the first woman from a Rowan.

Alder bark is prepared for medicinal use by carefully scraping off the dead outer bark and using the green, living tissue underneath. Alder bark can be simmered in water to make a wash for very deep wounds. The leaves and bark are simmered into a bitter tea for tonsillitis and fever. The leaves are used in poultices to dry up breast milk.

The Penobscot Indians used Alder bark tea to stop cramps and vomiting and in a Seven Herbs formula that was taken before a sweat lodge ceremony. The seven herbs were; Alder bark, Witch hazel twigs, Fir twigs, Cedar branches, Sweet-flag, Prince’s-pine, Lambkill, and Brake. The Mohegan used Speckled Alder twigs in decoctions for sprains, bruises, headache, and backache. The inner bark of Alder is used in poultices to stop swelling. The fresh juice stops itching. Alder bark tea can be used in the vagina as a douche or in the rectum for hemorrhoids.

Alder leaves were once gathered while they were still damp with dew and used to cover the floors of a house plagued by fleas or other insects. Adhering to the leaves the insects died. Alder pollen is a favorite of bees. Grouse eat the leaves, buds and seeds, beaver and rabbit chew the bark.

about the author:

Ellen Evert Hopman is a Druid Priestess, herbalist and author of “Priestess of the Forest: A Druid Journey”, “A Druids Herbal – Of Sacred Tree Medicine”, “Walking the World in Wonder – A Children’s Herbal” and other volumes. Visit her website for more!


Bibliography
Adams, Barbara Means, Prayers Of Smoke, Renewing Makaha Tribal Tradition; Celestial Arts, Berkeley, CA 1990

Baker, Margaret, Discovering The Folklore Of Plants; Shire Publications Ltd., Aylesbury, Bucks, U.K. 1975

Beith, Mary, Healing Threads, Traditional Medicines of the Highlands and Islands; Polygon, Edinburgh, Scotland, 1995

Brunaux, Jean Louis, The Celtic Gauls: Gods, Rites and Sanctuaries; Seaby, London, 1988

Calder, George (translator), Book of Ballymote: Auraicept Na nEces (The Scholars Primer); Edinburgh, 1917

Carmichael, Alexander, Carmina Gadelica, Hymns and Incantations; Floris Books, Edinburgh 1992

Cunliffe, Barry, The Celtic World; St. Martin’s Press, New York, New York, 1993

Cunningham, Scott, Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs; Llewellyn Publications, St Paul, MN 1986

Ellis, Peter Berresford, Celtic Women; Wm. B. Erdman’s Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, MI, 1996

Erichsen-Brown, Charlotte, Medicinal and Other Uses Of North American Plants; Dover Publications Inc., New York, NY 1989

Evans-Wentz, W.Y., The Fairy Faith In Celtic Countries; Citadel Press, New York, NY 1990

Farrar, Janet and Stewart, The Witch’s Goddess; Phoenix Publishing Inc, Custer, WA 98240

Frazier, James G., The Golden Bough, The Roots of Religion And Folklore; Avenel Books, NY 1981

Friedrich, Paul, Proto-Indo-European Trees; The University of Chicago Press, Chicago, IL 1970

Green, Miranda J., The Celtic World; Routledge, London, 1995

Green, Miranda J., The World of the Druids, Thames and Hudson, London 1997

Grieve, M., A Modern Herbal, Dover Publications Inc., New York, NY 1971

Hoagland, Kathleen, 1,000 Years of Irish Poetry, The Gaelic and the Anglo-Irish Poets From Pagan Times To The Present; The Devin-Adair Company, Old Greenwich, CT 1981

Hopman, Ellen Evert, A Druids Herbal For The Sacred Earth Year; Inner Traditions/Destiny Books, Rochester, VT 1995

Hopman, Ellen Evert, Tree Medicine, Tree Magic; Phoenix Publishers, Custer, WA 1991

Kelly, Fergus, A Guide To Early Irish Law; Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, Dublin, 1991

Kondratiev, Alexei, The Apple Branch; The Collins Press, Cork, 1998

Lust, John The Herb Book; Bantam Books, New York, 1974

Markale, Jean, The Druids; Inner Traditions, Rochester, VT, 1999

Matthews, Caitlin & John, The Encyclopedia of Celtic Wisdom; Element Books, Rockport, MA 1994

Matthews, John, The Druid Sourcebook; Blanford Press, London, 1996

McNeill, F. Marian, The Silver Bough, Vol. One; William Maclellan, Glasgow, 1977

Meyer, Kuno, Selections from Ancient Irish Poetry; Constable, London, 1959

Moerman, Daniel E., Medicinal Plants Of Native America; University of Michigan Museum of Anthropology Technical Reports, Number 19, Ann Arbor, MI 1986

Mooney, James, History, Myths and Sacred Formulas of the Cherokees; Bright Mountain Books, Ashville, NC 1992

Naddair, Kaledon, Keltic Folk and Faerie Tales; Century Hutchinson Ltd., London, 1987

O’Boyle, Sean, Ogam, the Poet’s Secret; Gilbert Dalton, Dublin, 1980

Rees, Alwyn and Brinley, Celtic Heritage; Thames and Hudson, New York, 1989

Ross, Anne, Pagan Celtic Britain; Columbia University Press, New York, NY 1967

Saintine, X.B., The Myths Of The Rhine; Charles E. Tuttle Co., Rutland, VT 1967 (Reprint of the 1875 edition)

Squire, Charles, Celtic Myth and Legend; Newcastle Publishing Co. Ltd., USA, 1975

Stone, Merlin, Ancient Mirrors Of Womanhood; Beacon Press, Boston, MA 1984






Related posts:
  • Place related post plugin php here...
Comments

This entry was posted on Friday, February 13th, 2009 at 1:42 pm and is filed under Guest Authors. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


1 Comment so far

  1. bu2ful1 on February 24, 2011 4:07 am

    I came to this site after having a dream that I should be using alder bark for my sore throat – well here it says it was used for tonsillitis so I will give it a go. Plenty of alder trees here on this damp land in Wales – now I know how precious they are. Thanks for all the great info.

Name (required)

Email (required)

Website

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Share your wisdom