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Top 5 Trees in Celtic Mythology

scottish woodland

1. Oak Trees

The oak was the ruler of the forest having many connections throughout the Celtic World with religion, ritual, and myths and many practical uses. For the Druids – the Celtic priesthood – it was an integral part of their rituals and was also a meeting place. According To the 1st century Geographer Strabo, Druid’s in Galatia, Anatolia, met in a sacred Grove of Oak Trees they named Drunematon, to perform rituals and carry out other Druidic business. In 1 CE, Plinny the Elder, writing in Hispania Naturalis, documented how Druids in Gaul performed a fertility rite involving a Druid cutting mistletoe from the branches of an Oak Tree and the ritual sacrifice of 2 White Bulls. Oaks also played important parts in Welsh Mythology. In the Math fab Maonwy, the last of the 4 Branches of the Mabiniog, the Sorcerers Gwydion and math create a maiden they called Blodewedd or Flower faced from the blossom of the Oak, the Broom, and Meadowsweet. She was created as the Bride of their Nephew, Lleu Llawgydd, who could not marry because of a curse placed on him by his Mother Arienrhod. He married Blodewedd who never learned the social conventions never having experienced the learning process of growing Up. She had an affair With Gronw Pebyr and together they planned to Kill Lleu. He Was Badly Wounded By Gronw But Turning Into An Eagle Flied Into An Oak Tree To Escape Being Murdered. The Oak Appeared To Be A Refuge Between The Living World And The World Of Death And He Remained There Until Gwyddion Found And Cured Him.

oak tree woodland scotland
Oak Tree

2. Ash Trees

The ash tree was once the queen of the forest, but today it is just another ordinary tree. Ash trees have been around for hundreds of years and they can grow anywhere. They are very useful because they make great firewood and they also produce lots of leaves for us to eat. Ash trees are often used to decorate buildings and homes. People love them because they are beautiful and they smell nice too!

3. Apple Trees

The apple tree and it’s fruit had numerous functions in ancient Celtic mythology, legend, and folklore. Not surprisingly apples were seen as symbols of fertility and as a means to achieve immortality. In Welsh and Irish traditions the Island of Avalon was the final resting place of King Arthur and the home of Queen Guinevere and her sisters. It is also known as the Isle Of Apples. Another Irish tale, Aidan Chona Roi, or the Violent Death Of Cú Roi, tells how the soul Cú Roi was held in an apple that lay in the stomach of an eel that only ever appeared once a year. In a story from Ulster cycle, Aided Chon Ruaidh, or the Adventure Of Conle, tells how Conle was given an apple by a mysterious supernatural woman. This sustained him from hunger and thirst for one month without diminishing as it was eaten. However, it made him crave to see the lady again. Eventually, she returned and took him on a crystal ship back to a happy land full of women and maidens.

4. Hazel Trees

Hazel trees provided the Celtic people with wood and edible nuts, and they played an important role in Welsh and Irish traditions. The ancient Irish religious center at Tara was once called Fordruim and was said to be hazelwood. The elite band of warriors known as the Fianna was expected to be able easily to defend themselves with nothing more than a hazel staff and a shield. The elite band was known as the Fian, and they were expected to be able quickly to defend themselves with nothing more than a hazel staff and shield. In many tales, the hazel was considered to be a fairy tree, and its wood was sacred to poets, who considered it inappropriate to burn it as firewood. In Wales and Scotland, the hazel was considered sacred to fairies, and hazel rods were used as divining rods, to find underground water sources, and witches also made their wands out of hazel, and hazel sticks were used as divining rods to find underground water sources too. In a tale from Irish mythology the Salmon Of Knowledge was caught by the bard Finnegane, or Finegas, who ate it, and was given all the knowledge of the universe after eating the hazelnut that fell into the pool from nine trees surrounding him. This knowledge was then passed onto Finnegane, who ate the salmon, after which he became the greatest of all poets.

5. Yew Trees

Yew trees are famous for their longevity. Scientists study the growth rings of trees to determine their age. Some scientists claim that new methods can provide greater accuracy, but others dispute this. Regardless, some people believe that some yews alive today grew in Celtic times and perhaps even before. According to the Woodland Trust, the Fortingall yew in Perthshire is estimated to be about 2,000 to 3,000 years old, possibly an older tree is the Ancient yew in the churchyard of St Cynog‘s church in Defynog which may be up to 5,000 years old, another yew of similar age grow in the churchyard of Saint Digain’s church in Llangernywy village, known as the Llangernywy Yew. A legend attaches to it telling how every Halloween a voice comes from the tree naming each and every person who will die in the coming year. One man named Simon ap Rhodri refused to believe this and on Halloween waited beneath the yew to hear who would be named. His own name was called out and he died within the next year. The druids were believed to have revered yews as sacred and they would have been aware of the tree’s longevity and regeneration qualities. It also had poisonous properties which they might have used. The drooping branches when in prolonged contact with the earth can take root and form roots that support the main tree. The core of the yew may be rotting. The needle of the yew was poisonous and could kill. This along with its longevity and regeneration qualities made it become associated with both death & resurrection.

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