The Letter

The Tree
The Thirteenth Consonant

Place on the hand
The second joint of the little finger

Color ~ Ruadh – Red-haired, blood red

Stone ~ Dark Green Malachite

Bird ~ Rocnat - Rook
Note ~ d
Planet ~ Mars
Goddess ~ The Morrighu

Flower Essence ~ Red Chestnut, Walnut, and Star of Bethlehem
Symbols ~ any symbols of death and rebirth.  For my altar I use a bird’s nest holding both eggs and the skull of a bird.

Message ~ Endings and Beginnings

Word oghams ~ Redness, Passion

The elder tree is a waterside tree that has always been associated with witches.  There is an Old English superstition that a child placed in an elder cradle will pine away or be pinched black and blue by fairies.  In Ireland, elder sticks were said to have been used by witches as magic horses.  The flowers and inner bark are famous for their therapeutic quality, but the scent was held to cause death and disease.  Folklore has labeled it as an unlucky tree.  English folklore states that those who use it to burn "bring the devil into the house."  Elder's white flowers make elder another aspect of the White Goddess.

Elder’s magical properties: her planet is Venus and her element is water.  She is used for exorcism, protection, healing, prosperity, and sleep.  Elder was used in burial rites.  Witches and spirits were thought to live with the elder as they bled red sap when cut.  It is worn to ward off attackers.  It can be hung over a doorway to keep out evil, and has power to release spells cast against you.

It is a tree of death and rebirth and was called Ellen or "Witch Mother" by the Scandinavians. Animals do not graze by her.  The rabbit will not eat her.  Her berries make good wine and the tree bares fruits well into December.

Elder is a sign of evolutionary change, a transition from one state to another.  Old things are passing away and new things will take their place.  It is a time of letting go of what holds you back.  It is important to come to terms with change during this cycle. Everything changes and transforms.  All life is beginnings and endings, birth, death, and rebirth.

Ruis is the beginning in the end and the end in the beginning.  The Moon of Completeness, the tree symbolizes exorcism, prosperity, banishing and healing. The personality of the elder tree comes from the “elder mother” who dwelt in the tree. In Europe and Britain wise people still show respect by touching their hats.

Witches would often turn themselves into elder trees; one famous witch turned a king and his army to stone. The rollright stones in Oxfordshire are said to be a Danish King and his men on the way to battle the English.

The king ask the witch his fate she replied
Sevenlong strides thou shalst take,
And if Long Compton thou canst see
King of England thou shalst be.

Because he was almost at the crest of a hill he was confident.  So he rode forth and on the seventh stride a long mound rose up before him blocking his view.  The old witch continued:

As Long Compton thou canst not see,
King of England thou shalst not be,
Rise up stick, and stand still stone,
For king of England thou shalst be none,
Thou and thy men hoar stones shall be,
And I myself an elder tree.

In an instant the Danish king and his men were turned to stone. The warriors loyal to the king became the Kings Men stones set in a circle and those that questioned his authority became the Whispering Knights huddled together a part from the others. The King became the Stone King still in shock. The witch resumed her guise as guardian elder tree.

Local customs and traditions around this legend say on midsummer’s eve if people sought out the elder tree and danced with elder garlands in their hair at midnight the Stone King would turn his head to watch the dancers.

The Winter Solstice or Mean Geimieach in Gaelic, occurs around December 21st of 22nd. It is the dark of year and the shortest day.

Botanical Information
The common elder is a shrub and grows up to 30 feet in damp areas, near the edge of woods, and close to dwellings.  Elders are grown for their black berries, which are used for preserves and wine.  There are scars on the leaves, which have the shape of a crescent moon.  Elder branches have a sponge-like pith in their centers, much like the marrow of long bones, and an elder branch stripped of its bark is very bone-like.  The red elder is a similar plant, which grows in higher elevations, but is typically shorter.  Red elder is found in North America, and it is cultivated along with other native species, but common elders are seldom seen in cultivation.  Elders are members of the Honeysuckle family.

“I am a wave of the sea
On a boundless sea I was set adrift”

This moon truly is one of ending and rebirth.


I am a wave of the sea,
Rolling on forever onward,
Gathering strength
Pausing for none.
Sunbeam riding on the ocean wave,
Firefly riding in the sky,
Amazon riding on the ocean beach,
Old moon rising up on
Everything is beautiful
In the earth and sea and starry sky
Old moon fades and young moon grows
Our life will never die.
On the earth, in the air, Through the fire, by the water,
I am FLOWING, the Elder moon’s daughter
© Chris Carol 1979