Taxus baccata

Tree of Resurrection, Tree of Eternity

Winter Solstice, December 21st

Fifth vowel and last letter of the Ogham alphabet - Idho

Planet: Saturn and Pluto

Element: Earth and Water

Symbolism: The Tree of Life, Immortality, Rebirth, Protection, Longevity, Change, Divinity, Strength

Metal: Lead

Stone: Olivine

Birds: Eagle, Hummingbird

Colors: Black, Dark Green

Deity: Banbha, Dione, Artemis, Persephone, Hecate, Astarte, Odin. Yew embodies the crone aspect of the triple Goddess. Yew is one of the Guardians of the Underworld that assist in guiding souls from one world to the next.

Sabbat: Winter Solstice

Runes: yr and eolh (positive benefits of transformation.)

The Green Man Tree Oracle

by John Matthews & Will Worthington

PERSEVERANCE LEADS TO ACHIEVEMENTThe perseverance associated with the yew is that of all life, which continues in the face of overwhelming odds and grows stronger because of it. Much of the yew's symbolism is concerned with transcendence, the transformation that arises from death (not necessarily a physical death.)   The association could also be because of  the Yew's connection with tales of doomed love, in which only the lovers' tenacity keeps them together, and sometimes results in their reconnection beyond the grave.

Idho is similar to the Gaelic word for salmon. Both are considered the oldest of their kind (oldest tree.... oldest fish....) and have a connection with wisdom. It is possible the original compilers of the Ogam lore recognized this link, and sought to combine the enduring quality of both wisdom and perseverance in the name of the letter.

The Green Man wisdom here is clear - he suggests that if we continue to persevere, the tasks we undertake are more likely to be achieved.


The Green Man Tree Oracle

Green Man Tree Oracle


Magickal Properties

Immortality, renewal, regeneration, rebirth, everlasting life, transformation, protection against evil, connecting with ancestors, shamanism, dreaming, heightening psychic abilities, and olde magick. Yew is used in spells to raise the spirits of the dead. Burn Yew to contact spirits of the deceased. Carve Ogham characters onto sticks of Yew for divination use. Yew wood is very strong, great for making wands, bows, spears, relic boxes, and dowsing rods.


Medicinal Properties

Every part of the Yew is very poisonous except for the fleshy part of the berry (used as a diuretic or laxative.) Even the seed inside the berry is deadly. Historically the Yew poison was used in small amounts as cardiac stimulant. It was also known as the Forbidden Tree because it was used to stimulate abortion. The leaves and bark contain small amounts of an anti-cancer agent Taxol that inhibits cancer cell growth.


The Yew is a medium sized British evergreen with a very long lifespan (at least 2000 years) and it grows red flashy berries called arils. Many ancient Yews are found in churchyards. It is believed that some of the circle arrangements were planted to protect the power spots in the community.  

Yew grows well in the shade of other trees, but little will grow under Yew shade.


Old Yew, which graspest at the stones
That name the under-lying dead,
Thy fibres net the dreamless head,
Thy roots are wrapt about the bones.


There is a documented case of an incident at St. Mary's churchyard in Selborne, January, 1990 where an ancient Yew fell over as a result of a terrible wind storm. 


The root ball was lifted out of the ground, and with it came the bones of as many as 30 of the tenants of that graveyard. 


The bones and the roots were entwined with each other. 

Archeologists were called in and allowed to use this rare opportunity for a dig...

The Yew is the only living creature biologically capable of living indefinitely.


Deirdre and the Yew Tree


At the birth of Deirdre, daughter of the bard Phelim, a druid foretold that the girl would grow to be so beautiful that wars would be fought over her and many would die because of her.


Some who heard the prophecy warned that she would be put to death there and then before she could bring about these horrors, but Conor MacNess, king of Ulster, said that he would marry her and keep her safely hidden from the world. He set her aside under the care of Lavercham, his old nurse, and visited her from time to time, to see the first part of the prophecy, at least, fulfilled. Deirdre was indeed stunningly beautiful.


When she was almost old enough to wed, she told her nurse how much she pined for a younger man, and Lavercham became the link between Naoise (one of the three handsome sons of Usna) and Deirdre (the betrothed of the king.)  Their love grew strong and reckless, and eventually they fled to Scotland, protected by the two brothers of Naoise. There they lived peacefully for some years.


But King Conoro did not give up his desire for Deirdre, and by subterfuge and treachery he enticed them back to Ireland. War and bloodshed ensued, and the three fine sons of Usna were killed, leaving Deirdre at the mercy of Conor. For a year and a day she lived with him, but in that time she never spoke or smiled.


In the end she committed suicide, and from her grave grew a Yew Tree. "The branches twined and spread across the wide countryside until they found the branches of another Yew which had grown from the grave of Naoise." 

from "The Celts" by Frank Delaney, and Myths of the Sacred Tree by Moyra Caldecott 


by Liz and Colin Murray


The easiest place to find the Yew tree is within the ancient cemeteries. In all truth, any particular Yew may well be far older than the cemetery that surrounds it. The Crowhurst Yew in Surrey is reputed to be at least 1,600 years old. This capacity for age is given the Yew by its peculiar form of growth. Its branches grow down into the ground to form new stems, which grow to become trunks of separate but linked growth. In time, the central trunk becomes old and the insides decay, but a new tree grows within the spongy mass of the original. So the Yew represents great age, rebirth and reincarnation. The Yew is the fountainhead of youth in age and of age in youth, the new year that is born from the old, the new soul sprung from ancient roots in a seemingly fresh new body. 

The Celtic Tree Oracle by Liz and Colin Murray


In Breton Legend, the tree is said to grow a root into the open mouth of each corpse buried in the graveyard. This root is a symbol of rebirth with the spirit reborn in much the same way as the tree itself is reborn.

Yew trunk tends to hollow out as time passes, leaving no tree rings to determine its age.

Yew grows new trunks from the original root bole, symbolizing death and reincarnation.

Winter Solstice


Winter Solstice comes at the  middle of winter and marks the longest nights. The ancestors energized hope for the Sun's eventual return and the Earth's renewal by making a "spiritual cradle" or psychic space for the newly conceived light to eventually fill. Winter Solstice celebrates the presence of Spirit and the power of faith and hope that our visions of the future will come into manifestation.

In the mythic cycle of the Goddess, She becomes the Hag of Winter who goes to seed and becomes bone. Containing the seed of Her own rebirth, She releases Herself from the physical world to conceive Herself anew as the Infant Light so the new solar cycle can begin. 

It is out of the darkness that flowers eventually emerge, babies are born, and inspiration for poetry and ideas is nurtured on the page and through our voices. Surrender to your dreaming and celebrate the dark where your inner life is honored and nurtured. Re-light your inner lights. What dreams do you carry inside? What are you visioning or hoping for?

excerpt adapted from Women's Rites, Women's Mysteries by Ruth Barrett 2004 and We'Moon '07


Tree Magick by Gillian Kemp


Tree Magick

by Gillian Kemp


Just as the Yew tree possesses 

an immortal ability to renew itself, 

so too do you. 

Living for centuries, it is a silent witness 

to the passing of time. 

Evergreen, its red, waxy 

cup-shaped berries, 

enclosing a small poisonous seed, 

predict protection. 

A good thing in your life will continue, 

just as a branch grows down 

inside the hollow trunk, 

embedding itself in the soil to sprout a new tree. 

If you remain working quietly at what you want, 

like the inconspicuous small 

green female flowers, 

you will attract your aim. 

Communication will surprise you 

in the same way that the large 

bright yellow flowers on male trees 

throw out clouds of yellow pollen 

when ready to mate.

The Great Goddess




Warrior Queen, Queen of Heaven, Goddess of love and fertility, Mother Goddess, call upon Astarte for resilience, independence, and success. You can and will survive life's battles and achieve your goals with her behind you, riding her Chariot and wearing horns of the bull.  

The Yew Fairy 

is a venerable being indeed. She is the oldest of the tree spirits and has a depth and power that are hard to understand. Yew is an ancient evergreen, from the depths of the primeval forests that reigned across the globe before the arrival of broad-leaved trees.


Because Yews are able to root their branches, they are virtually deathless, and one Scottish yew tree, the Fortingall Yew in Perthshire, is reputed to be 9,000 years old. Yews are often planted in churchyards, and are connected with death, rebirth, and initiation mysteries.


The Yew Fairy carries the breath of the unutterably ancient, from cave and grave, from shadowed forest where the sun never penetrated. The wisdom of the Yew Fairy is beyond words, but may come to you as visions. These should bot be dissected, for they are unlikely to be comprehended by the conscious mind. They Yew Fairy forms a connection with the eternal, carrying ancestral knowledge as well as opening the doorway to future generations. She can bring you close to loved ones who have passed on. She also brings a sense of perspective, for all our concerns are dwarfed by the passage of the centuries.


The Fairy Bible by Teresa Moorey

The Fairy Bible by Teresa Moorey


from The Wisdom of Trees by Jane Gifford


As a tree whose possible life out spans that of all other trees as well as much of the course of human history to date, the yew is symbolic of the sum of all wisdom. Just as the yew contains the lessons of all the other trees, so, it is said, so we contain all the experiences, knowledge, and understanding of our ancestors. The yew tree reminds us of this possibility. It emphasizes the relatively brief span of a human life and the short-term nature of many of our beliefs and practices, which so often prove inadequate over time. As the culmination of the spiritual journey, the ultimate lesson of the yew is the transcendence of death.

OGHAM The Celtic Oracle by Peter Pracownik and Andy BaggottOGHAM The Celtic Oracle
by Peter Pracownik and Andy Baggott

The Yew is the grandfather and grandmother of the Celtic woodland. The longest living of the native British trees, it sees the wheel turn many, many times and so understands well the cycles of energy that unfold in mankind time and again. It can live thousands of years and when the central trunk begins to decay, a new tree sprouts from within to keep the cycle of life turning. It is thus the tree of death and rebirth and hence transformation. The most sacred and mysterious of magical sites were found in the groves of yews and indeed many ancient churches have yews growing in their grounds that predate the arrival of Christianity and indicate an ancient sacred site.

It is said that a fence post made of Yew will easily outlast one made of iron and has earned the title "Yew of Resilience."

Pray Peace



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