“The Old Forest was indeed ancient…; and in it there lived yet, ageing no quicker than the hills, the fathers of the fathers of trees, remembering times when they were lords. The countless years had filled them with pride and rooted wisdom, and with malice. But none were more dangerous than the Great Willow: his heart was rotten but his strength was green; and he was cunning, and a master of winds, and his song and thought ran through the woods on both sides of the river. His grey thirsty spirit drew out of the earth and spread like fine root-threads in the ground, and invisible twig-fingers in the air, till it had under its dominion nearly all the trees of the Forest from the Hedge to the Downs.”
– The Lord of the Rings- J.R.R Tolkien
Latin Name: Salix alba
Folk Names: Sallow, Osier, Saugh Tree
Ogham Letter: Saille
Planetary Ruler: The Moon
Sacred To: Persephone, Hekate, Selene, Artemis and Haides.
Botany: The white willow (salix alba) is a tree in the salix genus of around four hundred species of deciduous trees and shrubs. It is native to Europe and Central Asia, growing anywhere between thirty to a hundred feet tall. The bark is greyish-brown, smooth on newer branches but deeply gnarled on older branches and the trunk. Leaves are two to three inches long and are a pointed oval shape, and are a pale silvery green shade. Male and female flowers appear as silky catkins in the spring, starting off white but turning yellow. Willow of all species are water-loving and are planted in areas prone to flooding.
Crafts: Willow is employed in numerous ways. It is burned to make charcoal for drawing and the flexible ‘withies’ are used in wickerwork to make baskets and art. Willow is also used to make human-shaped wicker frames for green men, so the foliage can be woven into the figures. Branches of willow make beautiful pale creamy-coloured wands and the withies are used to bind birch twigs to an ash handle to make the traditional witches’ besom.
Healing: Willow bark has long been used to relieve pain and reduce fever and is used to make asprin. The sap can be applied to acne and a skin wash can be made from a decoction of the bark and leaves, which can also be used to treat dandruff.
Magical Uses: The sacred groves of Persephone were filled with willow trees so powdered willow bark shavings make a good ingredient in any incense dedicated to Persephone and other chthonic deities. Being of a watery virtue willow is used in any workings involving dreaming, intuition, emotional healing and lunar rites.