Sambucus canadensis

The Elder Mother; The Queen of Herbs

13th month of Celtic Tree calendar, November 25 - December 21

13th consonant  of the Ogham alphabet - Ruis

Ogham Ruis

Planet: Venus

Element: Water

Symbolism: Judgment, Transformation, Death & Regeneration, Fate, The Inevitable

Sacred numbers

Five: each elderflower has 5 petals, 5 yellow stamens, and 5 sepals which form a tiny green star.  

Thirteen: Elder is associated with all superstition surrounding the number 13. 

Stone: Olivine, Jet (Black Amber)

Flower: Dandelion

Birds: Pheasant, Raven, Rook

Color: Black, Dark Green, Blood Red

Deity: Hel, Hela, Holda, Venus, Hilde, The White Lady

Folk Names: Alhuren, Battree, Boure Tree, Eldrum, Elhorn, Hylder,  Lady Ellhorn, Old Gal, Old, Lady, Pipe Tree, Rob Elder, Sweet Elder, Tree of Doom

Medicinal properties

Traditionally all parts of Elder are useful medicinally. The berries and the leaves are both rich in vitamin C. The leaves can be made into ear drops to treat pain and inflammation. The flowers make a tea that is good for treating coughs and irritable throats, as well as being made into a skin cleanser and lotion. The bark of the new small twigs can be made into a laxative. The bark, roots, berries and leaves can all be used as a dye.  And the berries are good for making jam, wine, vinegar, and syrups.


Magickal properties

Exorcism, Prosperity, Banishment and Healing


The leaves and berries are used for protection and in breaking spells that were cast against you or to undo spells of evil intent. Growing an elder in your garden will protect your property from misfortune and harm. In Europe they planted elder in cemeteries to keep away the evil spirits.


The Elder Fairy

The elder is a tree of beginnings and endings, of birth and death, so the elder fairy is a spirit of transformation and the crossing of thresholds. Generally seen as an old woman, the elder fairy advises on what to cast away and what to take up.


The Fairy Bible, Teresa Moorey

She may provide a potent link with the Mother Goddess and facilitates contact with spirits of other trees. In a sense she acts as a mother figure within the woodland. She carries the wisdom of the Crone, and is mistress of the deepest magic. 


Witches were said to be able to turn themselves into elder trees. Gypsies believe that it is very bad luck to cut down and burn elder wood and that the Elder Mother will take revenge. This superstition arises from an instinctive realization that a lack of respect for Nature is dangerous, ultimately, to the human race. Elder's unruly growth hints at the untamable aspect of Nature, the black heart of the earth to which we owe our being. 

Elder fairy has an aged, feminine wisdom, too long mispriced in our culture, but with a little respect she will act as teacher.


The Fairy Bible, Teresa Moorey

OGHAM The Celtic Oracle

by Peter Pracownik and Andy Baggott

The Elder is a veritable medicine chest with its bark, leaves, flowers and berries all being used in herbal medicine to treat many ailments including bruises, wounds, colds, hayfever, respiratory illness and fevers. Its berries are particularly potent and the Druids regarded any that remained on the tree in December as a gift from the Earth Goddess. These were gathered and made into a sacred wine which was drunk to aid clairvoyance. Its wood is said to protect against enchantment, negativity and lightining and whistles or flutes made from elder have a reputation for aiding fairy contact. In Ireland the witches' broom had a shaft made of elder as opposed to the more traditional ash.

In the Celtic Tree Calendar Elder marks the darkest time of year and so is associated with death and the Crone aspect of the triple Goddess. Indeed, funerary flints have been found in megalithic long barrows in the shape of elder leaves and in others an elder leaf shaped portal has been carved out between two slabs of stone showing that its association with death goes back beyond the Celts into pre-history.  
Ogham The Celtic Oracle by Peter Pracownick and Andy Baggott

  People's perceptions of you in this life will reflect how you are perceived in the Underworld or Afterlife...therefore "Don't speak ill of the dead" is still today a strong belief and practice. Elder reminded ancient peoples of the need for honor and dignity in life as well as death.  


Elder meditation focuses on the review of your life. The "bad" points of your life seem to be most prominent now, only because it is time to overcome them and forgive yourself for what has already been done. You cannot go back and change the past, but you can learn from your mistakes and not repeat the errors, moving forward. Acknowledge, admit, and amend if necessary. This challenge is most rewarding for each of us. Now you can recognize the "good" things you have done.

Das Baum Tarot

The Elder Mother was believed to dwell in the elder tree. She worked a strong earth magick and punished those who used her tree selfishly. 


Elder wands can be used to drive out evil spirits or thought forms, and music on panpipes or flutes of elder have the same power as the wand. 

Elder should not be cut without first making a prayer, and don't burn Elder in fear of bringing about ill-luck. "Elder is the Lady's Tree, burn it not or cursed ye be"

Tree Magick

by Gillian Kemp


Your life becomes charmed because 

the Elder tree, superstitiously nicknamed 

"Elder Queen" and "Good Mother" 

protects trees, fairies, and you from harm. 

You may draw strength from advice rooted 

in bonds with your mother or grandmother. 

Just as the pith when dipped in oil and burned can be lit and put to float in a glass of water, new light will be shed on a matter you are reflecting upon. As the Elder flowers of Spring depart as ripe, purple berries in the Gall, the significance of what you put in reveals what you might expect. A dream may bring a prediction, should you fall asleep under and Elder tree.

Tree Magick by Gillian Kemp 


from The Wisdom of Trees by Jane Gifford


"The lesson of the elder is a difficult one. Not only are you asked to accept the inevitability of your own death, but you are also asked the far more personal and potentially embarrassing question - how might you be fated to be remembered, both for good and ill, were you to die today? In the dark days of winter, elder presents us with a mirror in which we must see ourselves truly reflected if we are to die with dignity and without regrets.

The Celtic Tree Oracle


The Celtic Tree Oracle


The circle will always turn afresh, change and creativity arising from the old and brining about the new. All is continuously linked as phases of life and experience repeat themselves in subtly different forms, leading always to renewal.

Folklore holds that it is unlucky to use Elder wood for a child's cradle, which should always be made our to Birch for a new start and inception. In the Ogham calendar, the Elder rules the thirteenth month. The Elder, with its distinctive, easily hollowed, pithy stems, is a tree of regeneration. It re-grows damaged branches readily and it will root and grow rapidly from any part.


This Ogham card is linked to the eternal turnings of life and death, birth and rebirth. It represents the end in the beginning and the beginning in the end; life in death and death in life; the casting out of the devils of the old year and the renewal and creativity of the new; the timelessness of the cycle by which the fading of old age is always balanced by the new start of birth.


The Great Goddess




Dressed all in white, Holda is a Goddess of Wisdom, Winter, and Protector of the housewife and mother. 

She rides the winter skies in her wagon. She watches over women while they are spinning flax. 

When she shakes out her featherbed it snows.  

She has two faces: To the good daughter she shows her grandmotherly beauty, 

but the bad lazy daughter sees only a frightful ugly old hag. 

She brought the souls of unborn children through her sacred pool, 

delivering them to their expected mothers, 

and later she would rock the baby cradles after the nursemaid fell asleep.

During the winter's Yule time, leave a bowl of milk on the table for Holda 

when you leave the house to go for ritual and worship. 

Offer the unused milk to your garden or livestock to enhance fertility.

Death is a symbol of rebirth, transformation, change, and initiation. The sun is rising; a new day is being born. The blooms symbolize the rejuvenation that we will experience by shedding our old skin, our worn-out ways, for the rebirth of self.


Death of the old is necessary for  the new to emerge. The old is like the compost heap, full of rich experiences from which new forms emerge. If we resist the changes we may experience emotional and/or physical pain. But if we exercise our creative imagination and visualize a new, more peaceful, at-ease self, a self the is in a better position than before, then we can move more easily through the unknown fathoms of death and let it take us from constrictive patterns of the past to emerge like the phoenix soaring upward. Death is getting down to the bare bones. It asks us to look at our true inner yearnings for emotional and spiritual peace. It asks us to be reborn through our union with a Greater Power.


The Herbal Tarot

The Herbal Tarot

Celtic Moon sign - Elder Moon


The elder is a very adaptable tree, quite able to regenerate itself in many ways. It can be rooted from a branch and re-grows limbs quickly, allowing it to recover from damage of both natural and unnatural assailants with equal ease. Born under the elder sign, you are able to live and prosper under any conditions. You will live many "lives" during your time here, and will carry those memories into every new venture. Think of yourself as a gypsy and a student, collecting experience and knowledge so that you may eventually become a great teacher. Written by Kim Rogers-Gallagher, and Llewellyn's Witches' Datebook 2000


The last full moon of the year represents completeness. 
Cast spells dealing with closure, and take stock of what you have achieved.


If the Elder is your Moon Tree your imagination is fertile. You can make something beautiful out of anything, and you always feel wealthy no matter how little you have. Most importantly, you know that love is free. You are likely to be happiest in a profession that allows you to care for others.

The Faces of WomanSpirit A Celtic Oracle of Avalon by Katherine Torress PHD

Poem of Elder


Deep within a silent place 

the birth of life is stirred.


"Secrets held within the dark," 

speaks the magic bird.


Death to Life the soul is told 

to "feel the womb so pure."


Oracles reveal the Truth

New Life will surely birth.



The Faces of WomanSpirit

A Celtic Oracle of Avalon

by Katherine Torres, Ph.D.

The Green Man Tree Oracle

by John Matthews & Will Worthington


Sacrifice requires us to set aside something we valie in a specifically sacred way. We give what is worthy, honoring our most holy ones and scknowledging the reality of the unseen side of life, which is too often ignored or neglected. We do not give out of fear or in appeasement, but to make space in our daily lives for the divine, for we believe that if we do so the Divine will make way for us. Sacrifice is a way of generous and unselfish giving to the whole of the universe, without something being lost. 

The Elder has strong associations with witchcraft and transformation in Britain. Witches were rather fond of turning themselves into elders.  Some traditions see the Elder as being a strong protection against dark magic, and if elder twigs are collected on St John's eve (just before mid-summer) they are a protection against any bad luck that may surround the Twelfth Night celebrations. In Christian tradition is provided the wood for the cross, and is the tree in which Judas Iscariot is supposed to have hung himself.  A superstition is that people living in houses built in the shadow of an Elder were likely to die young, and it was never used to make furniture.

The Green Man Tree Oracle by John Matthews and Will Worthington


I honor the energy of Elder, which sees the end from the beginning.

Throughout many lifetimes I have been here.

I have the knowledge that I have changed myself again and again.

I will start from where I am now, and continue to persist in my path.

I will succeed.

So mote it be.



Pray Peace



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