Five Trees Featured in Celtic Lore

Image by mbll from Pixabay

This article was first published on 21st January 2021 on #FolkloreThursday.com under the title Top 5 Trees in Celtic Mythology, Legend and Folklore by zteve t evans.

Animists

It is believed that the ancient Celtic people were animists who considered all objects to have consciousness of some kind. This included trees, and each species of tree had different properties which might be medicinal, spiritual or symbolic. Of course, wood was also used for everyday needs such as fire wood and making shelters, spears, arrows, staffs and many other items. Trees also supplied nuts and berries for themselves and their animals as food. Some species of tree featured in stories from their myths, legends and folklore and presented here are five trees that played an important role in these tales and lore.

Oak Trees

The oak was the king of the forest having many associations throughout the Celtic world with religion, ritual and myth and many practical uses.  For the Druids – the Celtic priesthood – it was an integral part of their rituals and was also used as a meeting place. According to the 1st-century geographer Strabo, Druids in Galatia, Asia Minor, met in a sacred grove of oak trees they named Drunemeton, to perform rituals and conduct other Druidic businessIn 1 CE, Pliny the Elder, writing in Historia Naturalis, documented how a Druidic fertility rite held on the sixth day of the moon involved a Druid cutting mistletoe from the branches of an oak and the ritual sacrifice of two white bulls.

Oaks also played important parts in Welsh mythology. In the Math fab Mathonwy, the last of The Four Branches of the Mabinogi, the sorcerers Gwydion and Math create a maiden they named Blodeuwedd or flower-faced from the blossoms of the oak, the broom and meadowsweet. She was created to be the bride of their nephew, Lleu Llaw Gyffes, who could not marry a human woman due to a curse placed on him by Arianrhod, his mother.  He married Blodeuwedd who never learnt the social conventions never having experienced the learning process of growing up. She had an affair with Gronw Pebyrv and together they plotted to kill Lleu. He was badly wounded by Gronw but turning into an eagle flew 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 Gwydion found and cured him.

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16 thoughts on “Five Trees Featured in Celtic Lore

  1. Pingback: Five Trees Featured in Celtic Lore — Under the influence! | Die Goldene Landschaft

  2. Reblogged this on Apollo's Raven and commented:
    The following is a reblog from UNDER THE INFLUENCE! that was posted by ZTEVETEVANS on APRIL 7, 2021. The article entitled, “Five Trees Featured in Celtic Lore” is based on the Celtic belief that all objects have consciousness of some kind, which included trees. Each species of tree had different properties which might be medicinal, spiritual, or symbolic. Wood from trees could be used for everyday needs such as firewood for heating and cooking, and lumber to make shelters, spears, arrows, staffs and many other items. Trees supplied nuts and fruit for people and animals to eat. Five species of trees playing an important role in Celtic myths, legends, and folklore are discussed in this article.

  3. Thanks zsteve. I have always loved trees and enjoyed your post. Richard Mabey had a chapter on Yew Trees in The Cabaret of Plants. Backs your info plus adds an interesting point about Ley Lines too. Cheers Meg

    Meg Philp Storyteller

    >

  4. Interesting post Zteve, The Oak tree is my favourite tree apart from the Cherry blossom tree. Thank you for sharing your knowledge. !! Have a great weekend and stay safe.

  5. Thanks for sharing this. I was aware of these trees being sacred in Celtic culture, but I learned many details regarding their properties and symbolism from your post that I previously ignored. The apple tree reminded me of the silver branch and its magical traits that feature in the stories of Bran and Cormac.

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