Yew: Gatekeeper to the Shadow Lands…

I wanted to kick this series back off with a tribute to the mighty, magnificence of the Yew…

The Yew’s name comes from Eihwaz, the rune for the World Tree, Yggdrasil. The herb is associated with Yule, because it is the Tree of Death as well as the Tree of Life, it represents the cusp between life and death. I believe the original World Tree of ancient Celt and Norse mythology to have been a Yew, instead of an Ash…

The bark of the oldest trees takes on a molten-like look… Very anthropomorphic… It has been the Guardian of burial grounds for thousands of years – The forms of the faces, arms and hands, parts ‘n’ pieces of creatures, that have been laid to rest  beneath the shelter of it’s poisonous branches, can be seen in it’s knarled, twisting trunk… Newer trees wrap around the dead Yew inside, and continuing as the branches reach down to touch the ground…  Writhing and twisting around the original, until they are no longer distinguished as different trees, but one… Growing and dying, and living again… Over and Over…

True to it’s association with eternal life, a Yew even when appearing diseased or thought dead, will often spring forth fresh branches, and some have lived several thousand years…

The Yew is held as sacred to Hekate and the Furies. Funeral wreaths dedicated to Hekate were crafted with it, and in Roman religion, black bulls were prepared for sacrifice to Hekate by being wreathed in Yew. As well as being a tree commonly planted in graveyards, Yew branches are laid upon the graves to remind us that death is a door. The ancient Celts used the canopy of the Yew to swear oaths, as the roots of this great tree would carry their words to the Underworld. Where their Ancestors could hear them, and bare witness…

I personally hold this tree sacred to the Cailleach also  –  ‘The age of the Yew tree, the age of the eagle, the age of the Hag of Beara’

To the herbalists of old, the evergreen Yew was associated with Saturn and Pluto, hence it’s long standing association with Death, Nigromancy and the Otherworld. The Yew, according to some, is also connected to Mercury, the Trickster, especially in it’s capacity to travel between worlds, especially for acquiring knowledge from the Otherworldly denizens.

I have personally used Yew in workings and in ritual involving contacting my Ancestors, communing with the spirits of the Dead, ceremonies of remembrance, Necromancy, traveling & journeying to the Otherworlds and communing with their denizens (the Yew happens to be one of my favourite trees to seek out when journeying forth to the Otherworlds), as well as for any work that involves graveyards and Sciomancy…

I’m hoping to talk about Sciomancy soon…

With a great deal of  care, attention and knowledge, burnt offerings can be crafted from the bark and it’s blood-red balsam, but remember Yew is extremely poisonous! So any part of the Yew should always be burned in moderation, and in a well-aired place. I would hazard to say that Yew should always be burned out of doors, as I wouldn’t even like to try it in my house, even with the windows open. Burn this as offerings to your Underworld Gods, for spirit contact, to commune with your Ancestors. Sprigs of Yew can be placed on altars, or left at grave sites. I’ve actually been meaning to carve a Yew wood fetishe, a spirit vessel, for a while now, but I don’t seem to find a lot of spare time recently. I use the red, fleshy berries in a manner of ways, not all of them wholesome. Dried they can be added to charm bags, bottles, and the like for good and for worse…

The Yew’s spirit is the Gatekeeper to the Shadow Lands. She is an Ancient Matriarch which holds many stories beneath her bark; Sitting amongst her serpentine roots, with ears to listen, she might tell you a few. Of the inspiration of death… Of the beauty in decay, and of  the power to renew and transform through total surrender… Beautifully haunting tales will bleed  forth from Her, tales that will make your heart ache so bad you fear it might break, physically break… Tales that will make your souls sing… Tales that will linger with you forever… You never return from a journey with the Yew in quite the same way as you were before you left…

I have found that the spirit of the Yew loves libations of ale and cider, and She will be much more willing to work with you should you offer these before any working is to take place, as well as after. The spirit is stern, but loves riddles. She also loves gifts. Respect and honour (and pour out/leave offerings to) Her, and you’ll be well on your way to having a very important ally in your Witchery, contacting the denizens of the Otherworlds and a means to commune with your Ancestors.

You can read the first article in this series here: The Power of the Wetlands – Fen, Bog & Marsh


 

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12 responses to “Yew: Gatekeeper to the Shadow Lands…

  1. I found this post really interesting. The Yew is the most predominant tree that floats about in my subconscious. Have you read ‘the yew: a history’ by fred hageneder (I think I’ve spelt the name right!)? It’s an absolute treasure trove of information on the yew tree and he puts forward a very convincing argument for the Yew being the world tree instead of the popularly assumed Ash. He also links the Yew to the cult of Demeter. Really interesting book.

    I would LOVE to hear more about your experience of working with the Yew. Because of how poisonous it is I’ve never even attempted to use any physical parts of the tree.

    Thanks for the tip on cider! 🙂

    • Thanks Nellie, ‘The Yew: A History’ happens to be one of those books on the top of my list for egtting next! Far too many books, far to little time and money!

      And you’l be happy to hear that I’m hoping to post a bit more about working with the Yew soon… 🙂

  2. Very interesting article. Thanks so much for the info.

  3. Thank you for the wonderful post, and the amazing photos! The yew is a very powerful Gateway tree, and I agree with you on it being the tree that is most like Yggdrasil (which the Eddas refer to as a “needle-ash”). It’s mt favorite tree.

  4. I’m loving these recent posts, and I like the new look! Well done!

  5. I just found your blog, how Im not ever sure, lol, but as soon as I started reading I was enchanted. I just wanted to say thank you for such a wonderful post and such a wonderful blog! I will be looking through it more tomorrow, once I get some sleep, but I can tell its going to be wonderful.

    I feel like Im gushing. But thank you. And I will continue to read.

    • Sweetheart, thank you ever so much for your kind words… I’m extremely glad that you like my wee musings so much, and thank you for introducing me to your own blog… ;-p *hugs*

  6. It’s a fabulous book, you’ll read it over so many times!

    Looking forward to the Yew posts!

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