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The Elder Mother – The Spirit Of The Elder T...

The Elder Mother – The Spirit Of The Elder Tree

obeah woman whispers kathryn emma the house of twigs THoT

“Well, the Romans and the Greeks,” said the old man, “used to call her a ‘Dryad,’ but we don’t understand that word. Out in New Town, where the sailors live, they have a better name for her. There she is called ‘Elder Tree Mother,’ and you must pay attention to her; listen to her, and look at that glorious elder tree!”

– Hans Christian Anderson ‘The Elder Tree Mother’

 

Come sit for a spell, Dear Seeker, and listen to the tale of the Elder Mother. You’ll find her wherever the elder tree grows for it is said her spirit makes a home of this humble little tree. That is why you must never cut down or burn elder, for she’ll spit and curse you should you dare. 

In European countries, she was and still is known as Hylde-Moer. The Greeks and Romans knew her as a dryad, and closer to home in Lincolnshire, we call her The Old Lady.

The Elder Mother is a wizened old woman, the crone aspect of the triple formed goddess. She is the matriarch of the forest, often overlooked in favour of oak or silver birch, but there nonetheless, humble and powerful, beautiful and wise. Every part of the tree is useful, though all apart from the flowers and berries can be poisonous, like the witch, both harmful and healing.

In the late spring / early summer, she flowers, showing off cascades of tiny white flowers. Their perfume is divine, their flavour delicately delicious and makes the best wine, perfect for ecstatic ritual. Drink it and sit beneath her boughs, commune with the granny of the woods. In late summer / early autumn she produces small berries, enticingly dark and juicy, and these can be used in wines and juice drinks, or made into an elixir that will last the winter through, boosting the immune system with vitamins and antioxidants.

Elder features in the Ogham, the Celtic tree alphabet. She rules the thirteenth and final month, right up until Samhain, firmly linking the Elder Mother with not only the witch, but with the cycle of life, death and rebirth, indeed the elder will root and grow from any part of herself.

This tree is linked to the witch and the occult and yet so many miss or ignore her. It is their loss, for the Elder Mother has many secrets to tell the witch, if they would but only find her and listen.

Find the Old Lady, I’ll wager she grows near you. Look for her on the edges, in those inbetween places, those forgotten corners  and liminal spaces and you will be rewarded, for the witch and the elder go hand in hand. Some say she is a witch herself, transformed into a tree. Seek of her all that you would know But a word to the warning, do not underestimate this seemingly humble old hag, or you will not be treated kindly!

The night was dark and the moon was full, and everyone slept silently. I crept from the house, and outside into the cool night air. The silver glow from the moon spilled over the garden, making the grass and the treetops shimmer in the breeze. I stepped off the path and onto the grass, feeling it beneath my feet, the firm earth below. I closed my eyes and breathed in deep, taking in the scent of my night garden. I moved along the side of the house and then away, into the corner where she grows. 

All was dark, in this corner, the glow from the moon only reaching the top of the trees. ‘I’m here Old Lady, I whisper to the tree, sitting beneath her boughs. I close my eyes and chant a song to her, for the Obeah woman sings to the spirits of plants and trees and wild things, and then I was silent as she whispered back to me. Stories of times past and times yet to come, for the Elder Mother has seen it all. When I opened my eyes, the sky was still dark, but the moon had moved, and was that a lightning of the sky on the horizon over there? 

I retraced my steps, from the tree, to the grass, to the path and then inside. I crept upstairs where everyone slept still, and climbed into the bed, still smelling the night air upon my skin and hair.  I slept. I dreamt of an old lady, walking slowly through the woods, leaning on a staff. She beckoned to me and I followed her through those woods and listened to her stories, for she has many to tell. Together we walked through those dreamland woods, the witch and the Elder Mother.

  • Author Posts
My name is Emma Kathryn, my path a mixture of non-Wiccan Traditional British Witchcraft and Obeah, a blend that represents my heritage. A Devotee of Hekate, my witchcraft is what is needed when needed. I live in the middle of England with my partner, two teenage sons and two crazy dogs.
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My name is Emma Kathryn, my path a mixture of non-Wiccan Traditional British Witchcraft and Obeah, a blend that represents my heritage. A Devotee of Hekate, my witchcraft is what is needed when needed. I live in the middle of England with my partner, two teenage sons and two crazy dogs.
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