When I saw Violet in the school cafeteria the next day, I couldn’t help staring at the arrangement of threaded, holly berries that adorned her head. The bright red berries looked striking against her black hair.
“You’re looking very festive,” I said, slipping into the empty seat beside her.
“Holly is the sacred tree of protection,” she replied matter-of-factly.
“Oh?” I straightened, my curiosity aroused. “Protection against what?”
She shrugged. “Protection against evil influences or negative energies.It’s been used for centuries. Holly trees planted outside the home help to ward off evil and keep away unwanted visitors.”
From Where the Moths Dance
Ancient tree lore tells us that our ancestors held strong beliefs in the magical and spiritual properties of trees. Our relationship with trees was, and still is, of particular importance to the Celts, the Druids, and Wiccans.
Certain trees have long been revered for their protective properties. They were planted to provide protection from evil, protective amulets and talismans were made from their wood, their berries and leaves were scattered around homes to ward off malevolent spirits. Early Irish history tells of five great trees that protected the land – three ash trees, a yew, and an oak.
In Wicca lore, a staff of ash was hung in doorways to ward off evil spirits, while the leaves of the ash were scattered in the four directions to protect the outside of the home.
The oak was especially sacred to Druids. Twigs of oak were placed around the home to provide protection, while carrying a piece of oak wood would protect the bearer from harm.
The yew is considered the most powerful tree for providing protection from evil. Yew trees were associated with places of burial, where they were believed to protect the dead. In Britain, yew trees are often found growing around old churches.The Irish revered the yew tree above all others, and it is said that a yew tree guards the doorway between this life and the next from evil spirits from the Otherworld. Incredibly, a yew tree can live for more than 2000 years.
The ancient Celts viewed the willow as the Tree of Enchantment and Mysteries, and the Druids used to carry wands cut from its branches for protection. A willow branch hung over a door was believed to protect the occupants from evil.
Rowan trees have long been used for protection. They were sacred to the Druids, and were considered one of the most sacred trees of the Wiccans. Rowan trees were often planted in graveyards to protect the spirits of the dead, and were planted near homes to protect the occupants. Boughs of rowan were hung over stables to keep livestock from harm. Talismans were made from the wood and carried to ward off evil. Two twigs tied together with a red thread to form a cross was commonly used as a protection amulet. The wood is still used today to make wands and amulets.
Hawthorns are commonly found on burial mounds all over Ireland. The leaves were scattered in the cradles of newborn babies as protection, and hawthorn placed in or around the home was believed to banish evil.
Hawthorn in winter
Holly is considered one of the most protective trees. It was sacred to the Druids and was often planted beside houses to guard against evil spirits. Holly berries were carried for protection.
As well as having amazing healing properties, eucalyptus trees, when planted around a graveyard, were believed to protect it from evil spirits, and the leaves were carried for protection.
When standing silently beside ancient trees, touching the bark of their solid, deep-rooted trunks, as sunlight filters through the overhead canopy of their leaves and branches, providing homes and shelter for birds, insects and wildlife, it is easy to understand why our ancestors honoured the tree spirits and believed that these wonderful beings of nature held such divine and magical associations.
Note: All photographs taken by Nick Carter, apart from Rowan tree, and Rowan berries, courtesy of Thinkstock, and Hawthorn berries, courtesy of Pixabay.