Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Sacred Groves and Writing: On Enchantment and Elder

Lady Ellhorn is my muse. 
She is the "figment of my imagination" that I turn to when I am stuck with my stories. 

She has never failed me. 

But all magic comes with a price. 

It may be a compulsion to write or create that distracts from other things in your day, that makes you feel incomplete until you attend to the muse. Or it could be days of writer's block before the onrush of inspiration. Or perhaps a day where the laundry just doesn't get done...or creativity doesn't get done because of laundry, appointments, or life getting in the way. The price can simply be the time and energy it takes to complete your passion. As I often tell my children, nothing "worth its weight in salt" comes without effort.

The poem "A Song of Enchantment" by Walter de la Mare expresses the fickle magic of creativity:

A song of enchantment I sang me there,
In a green-green wood, by water's fair,
Just as the words came up to me
I sang it under the wild wood tree.
Widdershins turned I, singing it low,
Watching the wild birds come and go;
No cloud in the deep dark blue to be seen
Under the thick-thatched branches green.
Twilight came; silence came:
The planet of Evening's silver flame;
By darkening paths I wandered through
Thickets trembling with drops of dew.
But the music is lost and the words are gone
Of the song I sang as I sat alone,
Ages and ages have fallen on me -
On the wood and the pool and the elder tree.

The English Elder tree, the Sambucus nigra or Ogham "Ruis," is the most enchanted of the Ogham trees. Beneath her roots lies a gateway to the Otherworld, the fairy realm. The Elder Mother, or Lady Ellhorn, can be associated with Titania, Shakespeare's Fairy Queen. The Elder tree is also used for spirit contact and symbolically for connection with our own subconscious and the collective unconscious...the otherworld without and the otherworld within. Like in Walter de la Mare's poem, the outer landscape mirrors the one within.

The Elder is such a powerful and revered tree that its wood should never be cut without obtaining permission from the tree first. In Celtic society elders often grew near a sacred spring or well, as they were a deep source of magic themselves, but were also planted by homes to grant the dwellers the Elder Mother's protections. 

When I received my Ogham stave pouch, I placed great significance on the wood that I would pull out the very first time. It was Elder. I admit I was a bit taken aback, because at that time I felt my affinity was to Oak. But upon reflection I realized Elder was trying to tell me something about the pattern of my life and my art. From then on I turned to that wood for advice, comfort, and inspiration. When I practice yoga, I give my intentions to the Elder Mother and wish for a greater connection to her.
My Lady Ellhorn Talisman of Eldritch, a custom order from WytchenWood shop on Etsy.

The Elder tree is symbolic of sacrifice (which is why it is an appropriate wood in the Harry Potter books for Dumbledore's wand, by the way). "Ruis" means red and is symbolic of blushing or the embarrassment we may feel when we make mistakes. Thus the Elder Mother teaches us that all great gain comes with sacrifice. Loyalty to Lady Ellhorn, however, in the form of tapping into our own inner otherworld and tending the roots of our creativity, can result in wondrous enchantment!

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All images, unless otherwise noted, are from Pinterest.


  1. What a beautiful and informative post! Your journey through the sacred meaning of elder trees whisked me away for a few enchanting moments. And in a stroke of serendipity, I noticed your last image features text I'd created for Pinterest quite a while back on a sheer whim (great minds must think alike!). I love the inviting light at the end of that lane of trees--surely magic is waiting for us there (and perhaps hearts are most knit together when they're sheltered beneath the boughs). I never knew that elder trees are also used for spirit contact--your article makes me want to listen that much more closely next time I'm out in the woods! Thank you for this lovely respite that inspires us to breathe deeply and tune into the wisdom and magic behind the leaves <3

  2. I love all your Pinterest pins! I didn't realize that one was yours...consciously at least, because all your pins and Facebook posts are such inspiration to me. Thank you for letting me use it! And I hope you find magic as usual on that nature walk!