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The Power of the Willow Tree

Friday, 27 August 2010 08:42

Written by Glennie Kindred

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The Power of the Willow Tree
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The Willow is the tree most associated with the moon, water, the Goddess and all that is feminine. It is the tree of dreaming, intuition and deep emotions. Symbolically it belongs to the beginning of spring, when all of life is stirring in the depths and begins to shoot outwards once again. In the ogham alphabet, the willow is Saille which became anglicised to "sally" which means a sudden outburst of emotions, action or expression (to "sally forth"). The Old French "saille" also means to rush out suddenly and the Latin "salire" means to leap. This is the underlying energy of the willow, and the key to understanding the powerful spirit of this beautiful tree.

The early spring festival of Imbolc, Oimelc or Imolg is one of the two great female fire festivals among the yearly cycle of four. Imbolc is celebrated at the beginning of February and, like the willow, is sacred to Brigit, Brigantia, Bride, being the maiden aspect of the triple Goddess. It celebrates her re-emergence as a young virgin from the mountain fastness of her mother Cailleach - she who is of winter, the burial mounds and dark places. Cailleach, the crone aspect of the triple Goddess, drinks from the well of youth and is transformed into Bride/Brigit who is her other self. This is the Celtic version of the Demeter/Kore story, representing the mysteries of life, death and rebirth. Imbolc is sacred to women and the power of the feminine principles of inspiration, illumination and seership. In Ireland, Bride is the Goddess of healing and smithcraft. The church transformed this festival into Candlemass and kept much of the pagan symbolism. It is a time of initiation and of beginnings and celebrates the renewal of the potency of the Earth Mother and the union with the male principle of the returning light.

The willow has much to teach us in its associations with our feminine aspects. By spending time with willows, or using the wood to make a talisman or wand, by taking it herbally or as a Bach flower remedy, we can deepen this connection. Spending time with willow trees at the full moon can only increase the potency of the insights and understanding to be gained. Working with the willow in the early spring, when the willow energy and the Earth's energy are aligned, is also a particularly potent time to explore its aspects.

The willow has always been known as a tree of dreaming and enchantment, and it was associated in Celtic legend with poets and with spells of fascination and binding. This is the willow moon energy, which puts us in touch with our feelings and deep emotions, and it is the ability of the willow to help us to express these, let them out, own them and charge them in fantastical leaps of inspired eloquence and understanding. Our deep unconscious thoughts speak to us through our dreams. If you have lost touch with your dreams or wish to increase their potency, make yourself a willow wand and sleep with it under your pillow. You will find your dreams will immediately become more vivid and meaningful. Studying your dreams, writing them down, opening your intuition to interpreting them can lead to healing emotional problems and releasing tensions in your life.

This movement on the emotional level, of allowing the emotions to come through to the surface, is the power of the willow's essential energy. Deep emotional pain blocks the energy of the body and can cause many illnesses. The willow will allow the person to move through the many levels of sadness, express the pain though tears and grief, and, by moving through these emotions, facilitate healing. The Bach flower remedy Willow is to be taken by those who have suffered adversity or misfortune in life and remain embittered by it. Willow will help the movement out of this negative state to a greater interest and involvement in the present.

When you are either over-stimulated by your feelings or cut off from them, connecting with a tree with a water attunement will greatly help. If you are attracted to a particular tree, then follow this and reach out to the tree with an openness and a willingness to accept your intuitive responses. Physical contact with a tree will help balance your body's energy, and as you stand or sit with a tree you might receive some insights and inspirational thoughts. If you feel you have made a deep connection with a tree and want to end that communication, move slowly out of it and focus some love-light around the tree. It has been proven that the plant world is greatly enhanced by this. An attitude of thanks and gratitude for nature is also a sure way of opening up the channels of communication with trees and plants.

On a herbal level, willow bark has been used for its pain-relieving qualities for at least 2,000 years. The Salix alba (white willow, withe, withy) contains salicin, which is converted to salicylic acid in the body. Salicylic acid is closely related to aspirin, the synthetic drug that has displaced willow bark from popular use. Willow bark reduces fever and relieves rheumatism, a common ailment in these damp isles. A decoction can be used for gum and tonsil inflammations and as a footbath for sweaty feet. The bark is collected in the spring time, being careful not to ring the tree or it will die. The decoction is made by soaking 3 teaspoons (15ml) of the bark in a cup of cold water for 2 - 5 hours. Then bring to the boil. Strain and take a wineglassful each day, a mouthful at a time. The bark can be dried, powdered and stored in an airtight container.

Black willow (Salix nigra) is the pussy willow and has black bark as opposed to the light greens of the white willow. Its properties are much the same, but herbally it was used in the past as an aphrodisiac and sexual sedative.

Goat willow or sallow willow (Salix caprea) is used in very much the same way as the white willow, but sallow bark tea is recommended for indigestion, whooping cough and catarrh. It can also be used as an antiseptic and disinfectant.

Culpeper says in his Complete Herbal "The moon owns the willow" and it was known as the witches' tree and the tree of enchantment. Robert Graves suggests that witch, wicker and wicked are all derived from willow. Willow rods are certainly used for binding magical and sacred objects and the popular witches' broom is traditionally made with an ash handle and birch twigs bound with willow.

Willow wands are used for any ritual associated with the moon and as a protection on deep journeys into the underworld and the unconscious. The willow will always enhance inspired leaps of the imagination and is recommended to be used when seeking to assimilate the teachings of a wise woman or master, because understanding another person's enlightened place is made easier. Also when seeking to understand ancient ways, so that you can assimilate these past levels of information, and quickly move through the underlying emotions, to appreciate humankind's patterns and utilise this information for change.

By working with the moon and the cycles of the moon, we reconnect to the duality of the light (waxing) and the dark (waning) and the tides, the seas, water and the qualities of water which include flowing, surrender, harmonising and accepting. Moon magic puts us in touch with our emotions and unconscious, which balances out our solar rational conscious views. The moon represents the Goddess and everything which reflects and suggests the power of women.

 

 



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