‘Linden (Tilia spp)’
“The linden tree in full bloom in the sunshine of early July is a sight to behold. The buzzing of the bees that adore it can be sensed upon approaching the whimsical tree, its light gray bark and emerald heart shaped leaves a perfect backdrop for the small ivory flowers wrapped in elf green crepe paper. What this tree from the fairytales of old inspires is pleasant healing steams, floral liquors and protection from Our Lady’s cloak, in particular for the babes and women with child. Yet, there is something wild about the older trees, something untame and even dangerous, shrouded in the pleasure of alluring branches, in the glamour within the eye of the beholder.
The genus Tillia has about thirty species and is in the mallow family, Malvaceae. Linden trees are known as ‘lime trees’ in Europe, T. eurpoea and ‘basswood’ in the US, T. americana. The name linden has its roots in the Anglo-Saxon Lind which is thought to come from shield. The wood was easy to work and used for shields. Another interpretation comes from the German word lindern, which means ‘to soothe’, this thought by some to be referring to linden’s folk medicinal use for sleep. Yet another interpretation is that the name Linden refers to the trees connection to the dragon or Lindwurm, more on that below.
The European lime tree is often used for landscaping purposes here in America and if not native to an area can often be found planted around bank parking lots or lining downtown streets. Linden has heart shaped deep green leaves, flowering in early July with a distinct lighter green bract on a thin stem of small creamy flowers. They smell of a mixture of cucumber, gardenia and honey, especially when wilted, it is incredible and intoxicating. Though there is not a copious amount of folklore for Linden, what there is inspires an enchanted reverence for this tree of dragons and dwarves.
There were magical powers associated with the Linden tree from ancient times. In the Balkans, it was forbidden to cut the linden tree down, except when a ‘living fire’ was needed from it. This was made by rubbing Linden with an oak branch to obtain fire, then using the fire for ritual purposes. Soothsayers from Scythia in Central Europe used to twine Linden leaves in their fingers for inspirations during their prophesying. Herodotus, a Greek philosopher told that the transvestite shamans received their powers from Aphrodite and would split the bark of the Linden tree three ways, wrapping them around their fingers and loosen them while they spoke their spells.
This tree is dedicated to Venus according to astrologers of the past, and has been connected with love from its heart shaped leaves. Some believe it was connected to wedded love specifically, from references to Greek mythology. From an old Slavonian love song: ‘As the Bee is drawn by the lime perfume, I am drawn to thee’. Lime flowers were not brought indoors in Germany because they were thought to give girls erotic dreams on account of their scent. There was (and may still be) a Lime tree that stood on the south side of a churchyard in Nortorf, Germany. It had three main branches and underneath the tree marriages, contracts, justice courts and festivals took place, with all contracts being made orally and sealed by pressing one’s thumb into the great tree. There are a few Swedish charms for both controlling women and arousing passions using Linden, found in Black Books of the early eighteenth century.
Linden was a women’s tree, as folk lore tells. Germanic and Norse people believed the Linden tree was sacred to Freyja and to Frigg (possibly the same Goddess, it is up for debate), and connected to fertility, birth and women’s sacred knowledge. Of Mary Magdalene, Christ’s female prophet, comes this lore —
‘she may have nofood save lime tree leaves and drink the dew that hung on it leaves, whilst sleeping in a bed madefrom them.’ —Wolfgang Menzel, 1854.
It was her favorite tree according to old sources. In Lithuania, the Linden was known as a woman’s tree and it was thought that the souls of women whom had died moved into this tree. Women’s graves were marked with a Linden cross. In Bulgaria, Linden trees were and are still locations for shines dedicated to Mother Mary.
In old Germany, Linden was a holy tree, also thought to be the residing place of faeries and dwarves. The elf King was supposed to live in this tree. It was known to be unsafe to visit the Linden trees after sunset. Some verses from a Swedish Ballad of Sir Thynne’ give a possible warning:
‘And it was the knight Sir Thynne’ went the hart and the hind to shoot,
So he saw Ulva, the little Dwarf’s daughter, at the green Linden’s foot.
And it was the knight Sir Thynne’, From his horse he springs hastily.
So goeth he to Ulva, the little Dwarfs daughter, all under the green Linden tree.
And it was Thora, the little Dwarfs wife. She at the hill door looked out.
And there she saw how the knight Sir Thynne’ lay at the green Lindensfoot’
It was also believed that dragons liked to lay beneath the Linden’s shade. Nigel Pennick in his book Dragons o f the West, 1997, writes ‘The Lindwurm of Central Europe is connected with the Linden tree. It is said to live in the earth for its first 90 years, in a linden tree for the next 90 and then in the desert for the final 90 years of its 270 year life’. He goes on the tell about how certain linden trees serve as central places within villages in the Central European landscape and how some of those trees are connected with both dragons and women. One tree from the Islands of Chiemsee, the largest Bavarian lake, has a painted image of the Mother Mary standing on a Lindwurm, attached to the tree. Another tree was called the ‘Murtenlinde’ and though [it] stands no more, was enclosed near St. George’s fountain, with a sculpture of St. George killing a dragon. A cutting from the original tree has been planted in its place. A German hero Sigurd was named so because he slayed a dragon. It was told that afterwards, he bathed himself in the dragon’s blood and transformed to have dragon scales all over his body, except the place between his shoulder blades, where a heart shaped Linden leaf stuck — this was his vulnerable spot.
Linden is a tree of tales and faerie stories. There was a legend that came from Berlin, telling of three brothers, the youngest of whom was in love with an Italian lord’s daughter. The well off Italian Lord forbade any contact between his daughter and the peasant boy, however soon after, the Lord was stabbed at a public event and the three brothers happened to be present. The eldest was accused of the murder, and to save their brother, both of the younger brothers took the blame. The judge was understandably confused and ordered all three of them to take Linden trees and plant them upside down at a certain churchyard — the linden would reveal the murderer by whichever one would not grow. The lindens all grew, the roots transforming into branches and within thirty years covered the churchyard with their shade. The three brothers were ennobled as Lords of the Linden and of course, the youngest got to marry the daughter he had desired. The Linden was a tree of justice in this tale, as it was in others, such as in the Rose Elf by Hans Christian Anderson, where the severed head of a woman’s lover was buried under a flowering linden tree, while a little elf hid in a Linden leaf and witnessed the murder. Eventually the elf and the bees helped avenge the evil brother whom committed the act.
From Germany and Hungary, people planted a Linden tree in their yard to keep witches from entering their homes. Certain linden trees belonging to a family could foretell death within the family, if a branch fell. This is similar to the death omens relating to oak trees that had been in a family for a long period of time.
Linden is a bee tree, the nectar from its sticky flowers attracting many insects, but especially bees. Honey from linden trees was so good, it was sold often for 3-4 times the price of other honey. The fruit of the Linden was soft and sweet, known as ‘hens apples’ from Inverness, Scotland. I have never personally noticed fruit on the tree before, something to look for. The leaves can be eaten young in spring salads and can be later given as animal fodder. The flowers with their small bracts can be made into delicious wines and elixirs, food of the Faeries to be sure.
Linden tea was and still is a remedy for insomnia, and linden baths were taken for both insomnia and nervous ailments. The tea was also used for headaches, very popular in France. The bark from the tree was steeped to bring out its (mucilaginous) qualities and used on the skin for burns and scalds. The leaves and flowers boiled in water was used as a wash for sores, freckles, ulcers, wrinkles and other skin problems. It was also applied to the scalp to stimulate the growth of hair. Lime flowers were used to cure epilepsy, called ‘falling sickness’, combined in an unpleasant old recipe with the gall of a black puppy — if the patent was female, then a bitch. Linden was also a heart remedy in times past.
The Native Americans used Linden (basswood) for many different ailments in their folk medicine. The Quebec Algonquin tribe used an infusion of the leaves as an eye remedy. The Cherokee tribe used the bark internally for dysentery, heartburn during pregnancy, weak stomach and bowels and also as a poultice mixed with cornmeal for boils. The bark from a tree struck by lightning was used as a poultice for snakebite. The Iroquois tribe used the leaves as a poultice for burns, scalds, broken bones and swelling. A decoction of the branches was used to wash babies who were struggling to learn to walk. An infusion of the plant was taken for sever pain and injuries and also used as a panacea. The Meskwaki tribe used poultices of the bark for opening boils and a decoction of the twigs for lung troubles.
As the linden is ruled by Venus, it certainly can be incorporated into love potions and philtres. The heart shaped leaves can be threaded on red thread and hung above the bedstead to encourage love between a husband [and/or] wife where it has gone stagnant. The flower wine can be taken by a couple for the same, as can the elixir. Visiting the tree on a full moon, in particular if that moon happens on a Friday, a woman can go and pray to the tree for her health or the health of a child. Wood harvested at this time with offerings can be carried as an amulet by a pregnant woman to protect her and her babe. A wooden equal armed cross or hand fashioned amulet can be brought to a woman’s birth for protection as well.
I have been blessed to find a large linden tree on an old homestead of some farmer folks who are willing to let me come and harvest this precious medicine during the summertime. The flowers in full bloom can be gathered, including the tight green bracts. When the flowers are perfectly open and overwhelmingly fragrant, they can be harvested, easy to pick with one’s fingers. It is best to go in the early morning to avoid the competition of the bees. The resulting harvest can be dried for tea and baths or made into delicious wine, elixirs or syrups. An infused linden honey is ambrosia to be sure, but only to the palate that would recognize the underlying cucumber floral flavor. It tastes so similar to honey, that many folks unfamiliar with linden do not catch it. Any of the medicines above can be taken for insomnia, stress, tension, irritability, headaches and for mild depression. This medicine is especially helpful for toddlers, children, elders and sensitive folks. It is quite a delightful medicine, with such a gentleness, it soothes and nourishes.
Many thanks to this healing and numinous tree, present still as apotent spirit in the old forests. As nourishment for the bees and caretaker o f women, it transforms itself, unwatched and unnoticed by many. May the glittering festival that surrounds the old lime tree carry on under starlight and moonlight, illuminated in the secret glades and meadows.
Linden Sweeping Tool
The branches of linden can be made into a sweeping tool for use during healing work, particularly appropriate for women. Harvest the smaller branches on a full moon while in full flower, probably during early July. Strip the leaves and flowers, drying them separately. Then dry the twigs, exposing them to moonlight through a window for three nights. After the third night by the light of a candle in a darkened chamber, bind the twigs with blue threads, enclosing a snakeskin around the handle. Thread nine snake vertebrae and attach to the place bound, near the handle. When it is made, pass the sweeper through a smoke of white roses Rosa spp, mugwort leaf and bud Artemisia vulgaris, angelica root Angelica archangelica and dragons blood resin. Speak these words thrice:
Snake of womb, snake of root, snake of venom white,
Surround this bark of moonlight twigs.
With our Lady’s healing light.
Protect and keep the beating heart safe from undue harm
By dragon claw and linden wood, I consecrate this charm!
Store this sweeping tool wrapped in a white cloth with dry linden leaves and flowers. Use it to protect women or children, by sweeping it around their body, removing all unwanted energy and offering a protective barrier as needed. It can also be used as a healing tool during a session, used for the same, and to remove illness. Or gift it to a woman friend whom is in need of great protection, to be hung above her bed.
Linden Flower Mead
To make 1 gallon of mead, you need about 2 quarts full of flowers including the light green bract, usually harvested in early July. Wilt them overnight, which means lay them out in a basket. Place them in a medium sized stone crock. Bring 1 gallon of boiling water with 3 pint jars of honey (two if you like a very dry mead) to boil on the stovetop for about ten minutes, stirring well to dissolve. Pour into crock and stir the flowers in. Wait until the mixture is completely cool, usually overnight, and sprinkle champagne yeast on top of the mixture and wait 15 minutes before stirring it in. Cover the crock with a linen cloth that is tied on with a string and rubber band, to keep out fruit flies. Stir twice a day with a wooden spoon that is not used for cooking. After about 10 days, filter into a clean gallon glass jug and fit with an airlock. Keep the wine in a place that is not too hot or too cold, in the dark. Bottle after 6 months and wait a year before drinking. If it doesn’t taste good, keep waiting, but it should be ready in about one year and three months. Lovely for libations and offerings during the light half of the year and for use in love magic.”
Under the Witching Tree:
A Folk Grimoire of Tree Lore and Practicum
by Corinne Boyer
Connecting with Trees
Working with Trees
***Before working with trees, please be knowledgeable about them. There are toxic / poisonous trees that one should not touch or handle in any way. Start with widely-recognizable trees, such as pine or oak, if you are a novice.***
Trees have held special magical meanings in cultures around the world. They are gateways to working with Earth energy and Earth magic. Each type of tree has its own special meaning, so utilize a tree that resonates best with your intentions. Here are some ways to work with trees within your magical path:
🌳Learn about trees. Read books; do research online etc. Recognize and identify them by sight. Know their seeds, leaf shapes etc. Learn both the magical correspondences and the scientific / botanical facts about them.
🌳Visit a tree and offer water or a small gemstone at the roots to honor its spirit. Touch the tree and pray for its well-being. Then thank it for providing oxygen, food (if it has edible parts), a home for small creatures, and shade. Say goodbye and do not pick fresh leaves or twigs etc from it.
🌳Go forest bathing. (Safely) venture into a local forest or heavily-wooded park. Ask the trees to recharge you and fill you with restorative verdant energy. Observe the natural beauty, listen to the birds singing, breathe calmly...take it all in. Reverently walk through the area and thank the trees for the healing.
🌳Pray over a ribbon. Speak your wishes to it. Then ask a tree's permission to work with you. If you sense confirmation and acceptance, loosely tie the ribbon on a branch or twig to help bring your goals to fruition.
🌳Collect three small fallen twigs and pray over them. Whisper your intentions into them. Then stake them into the earth to help anchor the energy in the material world and to manifest your desires.
🌳Sit at the foot of a tree and meditate, daydream, read, or have a picnic. Thank the tree for its shade and company when done.
🌳Collect fallen acorns, pinecones, or seeds from the foot of a tree. Place them on your altar and utilize them in spells and rituals.
🌳Plant a small tree if you have the outdoor space. Speak kind words to the plant and tend to it with care as it grows.
🌳Work with a twig to use as a magic wand. Bless it and wash it with blessed water first. Kiss the wand when done consecrating it (do NOT handle toxic trees or place them near your mouth).
🌳Utilize a tree stump as an altar table. Pray over the damaged, fallen, or chopped tree stump (do NOT purposely chop down a tree for this...find a fallen one that you have encountered by happenstance). Ask the tree its permission to give it a second life as an altar table. Place gemstones upon it and bless it.
🌳Hold a twig upright in each hand. Cross your arms over your chest. Close your eyes and think of your goals, your dreams, or simply meditate. Imagine lines of energy flowing through the twigs, up into the sky and down towards the earth. Envision your success and happiness. Hold that space and feel empowered. When finished, place the twigs in the shape of an X on the ground.
🌳Be a protector of trees. Join a tree-planting group or environmental protection & preservation society. Donate to public botanical gardens etc. as well.
I hope that these suggestions are helpful!
'The Virtues of Trees'
The Alder may be employed to provide protective and oracular virtues
The Ash is a potent and famed aid to all workings of healing and may be employed for acts of protection, curse lifting, love and divination.
The Aspen is protective and healing in virtue. To cure fevers and ague a rite employing the aid of the Aspen may be performed thus: The Patient is to cut from their head a lock of hair which is to then be bound and nailed to the tree with these words;
"Aspen tree, Aspen tree, I pray to thee To shake and shiver instead of me."
The Bay is to be planted by thresholds to impart a protective influence upon the home, in addition to its leaves being bunched to hang inside the home as a charm for the same and for the blessings of good health.
The Bay is also of oracular virtue and is burned upon the hearth fire so that the behaviour of the leaves may be read. Placed beneath the pillow upon retiring for the night, it will induce good and prophetic dreams.
The protective virtues of the Birch may be harnessed by the presence of bunches of the tree's twigs which are kept to drive away evil spirits.
The dark Blackthorn is of highly potent defensive virtues and an unrivalled aid to the work of blasting or 'Owl Blinking.' The West Country Wise folk will also harness the Blackthorn's virtues and potency for blessing, fertility and power.
The Elder is in Cornwall known as 'Lady Elder'. The Elder's influence may be employed to provide a protection for horses by the hanging of her branches within stables and above their doors. Protections may likewise be imparted upon the home by the fixing of bunches of Elder leaves to the doors and the windows. Thus is formed a Cornish charm against ill-wishing and the influence of the black witch.
A tree also of the Faery Folk, the Elder must not be burnt, for such a taboo act is sure to invite ill-influence from the spirit world. The ripe berries of the Elder are good for phlegm and for the sinuses.
Another tree of the Faery Folk; the Hawthorn must not be burnt. The West Country practitioner will perform acts of magic beneath the overarching wind-distorted Hawthorn that call upon the aid of the Faery Folk; especially for matters of protection. After such acts, offerings of food and drink must be made.
The Hawthorn is heavily associated with the coming of summer, the arrival of its 'May' blossoms being watched for as the traditional sign. In Cornwall, folk would visit a Hawthorn tree for celebratory May Day rites in which the tree is bedecked with candles and danced around joyously. The Hawthorn, however, does not make a good walking stick, for West Country lore holds that it will invite ill-fortune upon journeys.
The Hazel may be employed within rites and workings for wisdom, divination, and dowsing. It is employed also within traditional curative rites against the bites of the adder and other 'stinging' creatures .
The formidable Holly is understandably protective in virtue. It is hung from the door-handles as a Cornish charm for the protection of the home. The Holly is particularly protective against lightening; the influence being enjoyed by places both where it is installed in the form of a charm, and where the living Holly grows.
The strong Ivy is of highly useful restrictive, binding and protective virtue. The climbing Ivy, grown up the walls of the cottage, creates a verdant shell of protection around the home.
The Rowan, or 'Care', is of quickening virtue for all tasks and potently protective. To form a Cornish charm of personal protection, the red berries of the Rowan may be threaded and worn as a necklace. To impart protections upon the home, the Rowan may be planted near doorways, and in some Cornish cottages, the crossbeam of the fire is made of rowan wood in order to prevent evil entering the home via the chimney. To impart a potent protection on the home for the year; branches of the Rowan are to be hung over doorways on May morning. A farm near Castle Cary in Somerset, still by the early 1960s, held such faith in the protective virtues of the Rowan that bunches of the tree's twigs were collected and tied with red thread above the doors of the farmhouse, the cow shed, chicken coop and the pig sty. These charms were installed on May's Eve and on Hallows' Eve—two of the three 'spirit nights' of the year—"to keep the faeries and black witches at bay".
The Black Toad:
West Country Witchcraft and Magic
Part 3 - 'Old mother Green Cap: Plant Charms and Curse'
by Gemma Gary