Saturday, October 03, 2009
Here I've done it again. Life has gotten in the way, and I hardly have time to breathe, let alone blog. But for the past couple of weeks, I've been ruminating about everything I want to tell you about Elderberries and quite frankly October couldn't be more perfect month to broach the topic, for no tree is so magical, nor none surrounded by as much folklore and mystery than that of the Elder. Alas, it is the tree upon which it is purported that Judas hanged himself, as Langland's Vision of Piers Plowman stated:
'Judas he japed with Jewen silver, And sithen an eller hanged hymselve.'
Although the branches of the Elder are so willowy that I find it hard to believe that anyone could hang himself upon such a tree. But perhaps, as another tradition states, the tree only became that way after the cross of Calvary was made with it:
'Bour tree - Bour tree: crooked rong
Never straight and never strong;
Ever bush and never tree
Since our Lord was nailed on thee.'
But the Elder's mystery and folklore predate Christianity. Heathen myths of northern Europe talk about Hylde Moer, the Elder-tree mother who lived in the tree and watched over it. Should the tree be cut down and furniture be made of it, Hylde Moer would follow her property and haunt the owners. In fact, if one wanted to cut from an Elder tree, he had to first ask permission and not cut until consent was given through silence to prevent ill luck from befalling him.
Numerous other bizarre superstitions regarding the Elder extend well beyond the small borders of northern Europe. Russians believe the Elder tree to drive away evil spirits, Bohemians go to it with a spell to take away fevers and Sicilians believe that sticks from the Elder tree will kill serpents and drive away robbers. In England it was once thought that the Elder tree was never struck by lightening and that a twig of Elder tied into three or four knots and carried in one's pocket would prevent rheumatism. Some in Britain also collected Elder leaves the last day of April and affixed them to their doors and windows to prevent witches from entering their homes. In Denmark, one might see the fairy king and all his attendants go by, simply by sitting under an Elder tree on Mid-summer's Eve.
But more exciting than all this folklore, is what I shall get to in my next post: the medicinal benefits and folk remedies that come from Elderberries.