Silver Fir

Ailm  (AHL-m), Silver Fir


The Letter

Silver Fir
The Tree
Silver Fir, Pine
Season ~ The First Season ~ The Winter Solstice

Place on the hand
The Pad on the Palm Beneath the Thumb

Color ~ Alad ~ Piebald

Bird ~ Aidhircleog ~ Lapwing

Goddesses ~ Druantia, Queen of the Druids

Symbols ~ Things Hidden
Planet ~ Moon, Astraea
Metal ~ Silver

Animal ~ Horse

Message ~ Signifying Insight, Day of Liberation, Leadership
Note  ~ C

Word ogham ~ cry, loudest of groans, beginning of an answer, beginning of a calling

"I am the womb; of every holt.

I am an infant; who but I peeps from the unhewn dolmen arch?”

The tree known a "fir" in Tree Ogham is actually the Scots Pine, the only large conifer native to the British Isles. This impressive tree can grow to over one hundred feet tall, and once grew in great forests covering much of Scotland.

The elm, though a deciduous tree and outwardly not very similar to the pine, shares one important quality, that of its great height. It can grow to 150 feet. Both of these trees can live several hundred years.

Perhaps the towering presence and long life of Ailm are the reasons for its association with leadership. We see this image in Sir Walter Scott’s tribute to the clan chief in The Lady of the Lake (now used as the theme song of the President of the United States):

Hail to the chief who in triumph advances! Honor’d and bless’d be the ever-green Pine! Long may the tree, in his banner that glances, Flourish, the shelter and grace of our line!

The Word Ogham meanings of Ailm seem to refer specifically to the sound of the letter, A.  Ailm signifies a "cry of pain or wonder." We groan, "aaaaah!" in distress, breathe "ah!" in awe, and shout "aha!" when the pieces of a puzzle fall into place.

Choose Ailm for your emblem if you seek insight - the "aha!" moment when you comprehend the meaning or pattern in what had previously seemed a tangle of confusion. Ailm holds forth the promise of such a breakthrough moment - and the reminder that this is only the beginning of answers.

The silver fir is the first tree of the year falling on the Winter Solstice.  It is a goddess tree and is sacred to Artemis, the Moon Goddess (Greece).  The triangular shape represents the trinity of the Goddess.  It represents strength and the sun, the source of life.  Also corresponds to the Balsam tree. Its sister tree is the yew or Scotch pine in Britain.  In Hebrew it is called Tamar for Ishtar.

The Silver Fir is associated with the moon and with the planet of Jupiter. Its colors are piebald and light or pale blue. Its birds are the eagle and the Lapwing, and its animal association is the red cow. Its stones are Tourmaline and Amber - and it is a feminine herb. This tree belongs to the triple aspect Goddess in Celtic lore, offering learning, choice and progress. The tree is sacred to many Goddesses: Artemis (the Greek Goddess of Childbirth), Diana and Druantia among them. It is also sacred to the Gods Osiris and Attis, both who were imprisoned in Fir/Pine trees.

The Silver Fir is used for magic involving power, insight, progression, protection, change, feminine rebirth, and birth. The Silver Fir and the Yew are sisters standing next to each other in the circle of the year and their foliage is almost identical. However the Yew is known as the tree of death and the Silver Fir is the tree of birth or rebirth. The Silver Fir was a sacred tree to the Druids who felt that it stood for hope. The Silver Fir wood is used for shapeshifting and magic involving change, since it offers a clear perception of the present and the future. The wood chips are sometimes used as incense and the wood can be used in the construction of magical musical instruments. Burning the needles of the Silver Fir or sweeping around the bed with a branch that has been blessed will protect a new born baby and its mother. In the Orkney area of Scotland, the new mother and baby are 'sained' by whirling a fir-candle three times around her bed. For a 'Weather Witch', the cones of the Silver Fir warn of wet weather and foretells when a dry season approaches. Charms made of Fir can be given as good luck tokens to departing friends. In its appearance (and in its current, and undoubtedly ancient, use) the Silver Fir is the quintessential Yule tree. Its branches can be used as decorations at Yule time either as wreaths or as garland, where it will provide protection for the household and its occupants.

Silver Fir is considered by many to be a tree denoting birth or the beginning of things. It stands at the head of the series of vowels in the Ogham system, while the Yew, considered a tree of "death," stands at the end of that series. This is a tree of regeneration. When it is cut down, and appears dead, new stems grow from the still-growing roots. Its resinous wood produces a strong purifying flame, which was used in Celtic ceremonies of birth and death. It symbolizes the growing light of the reborn sun at midwinter emerging from darkness.

Fir indicates rebirth: a transformation from a weak state into a strong one. It is raw, basic force of health and vigor. This is a highly elevated state of being. From the height of this perspective, objectivity is gained and wisdom is found as a result of the objectivity. The Silver Fir is the beginning of the path to finding truth and life. It implies the need for secrecy on this path.

Ailm indicates that there is to be a rebirth: a great transformation for the better, where new knowledge, objectivity, and leadership will be gained. There may be an opportunity to see an old challenge from a new perspective or to exercise domination in the near future. This Ogham also implies the need to conceal these new beginnings. The early phases of new things need to be done in secrecy so that they will not be disrupted. A new creative direction is likely to influence things. Along with discretion there is the need to learn from the past. Take care in choices. 

Ailm indicates a transformation from a weak state into a strong one.  It is a sign of good health and strength.  This is a highly elevated state of being.  Ailm is the beginning of the path to finding truth and life.  The Ailm indicates that there is a great transformation coming.  Strength will be gathered and new insights and objectivity gained.  You may be called upon to lead, but the challenge of the call may be painful for you may not be able to meet it with full maturity or objectivity. 

The challenge presented in the Silver Fir Ogham is that a rebirth will be hindered. This may be because something that needs to remain a secret will be revealed before it is acceptable. You are cautioned to closely guard and protect that which is yet to come.  Wait for the proper time of readiness.

Herbal Uses: The Silver Fir is one of the tallest trees native to Europe, sometimes exceeding 160 feet tall. The wood of the Fir is beautiful and is often used in making musical instruments and in the interior of buildings. The sap from the Silver Fir can be manufactured into a turpentine like oil that is a pale yellowish or almost water-white liquid of a light, pleasant fresh turpentine like odor. It is a diuretic, and stimulates mucous tissues if taken in small doses. In large doses it is purgative, and may cause nausea. The oil also has some uses as perfume and in essential oils that can be added to homeopathic bath and beauty products.

Botanical Information
The silver fir is one of the tallest trees in Europe, sometimes over 160 feet tall.  It is named for its silver gray bark.  By its appearance it is best known as the "ideal" Yule tree. It is common in central Europe, while other conifers populate the north.  It is evergreen and produces cones that fall apart while they are still on the tree. Silver firs are rarely cultivated in North America, but several similar native species are.  They are members of the Pine family.

*** Personal note - there is a lot of confusion on the placement of Ailm, Idho, and the Extra Day. In the White Goddesss, Graves speaks of Ailm as if it were on the Winter Solstice but then says, the day of the divine child's birth, the Extra Day. Then in his section on Idho he says Idho is placed on the Eve of Winter Solstice. In my own experience and practice, I have finally decided, based on my own personal take on it all, to place Idho on the Eve of Winter Solstice and Ailm on Winter Solstrice, with Mistletoe on the Nameless Day, or the Extra Day of the year, truly a special day in its own right.