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Ann Théato, International Psychic Medium and Spiritual Tutor, investigates psychic development, mediumship techniques, and paranormal science, so that you can come to understand your own innate psychic ability and expand your knowledge, whilst learning to develop a curious mind.
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This Week’s Episode
“Medicinally, every part of the tree – actually it is considered to be a type of small bush – every part is used – berries, flowers, leaves, bark, pith and roots – to cure a variety of ailments such as epilepsy, asthma, inflammation of the eyes, fever, colds and flu, sore throats and bruises and as such, it is known as the Medicine Chest of the Country People” – Ann Theato
MEDICINE CHEST OF THE COUNTRY PEOPLE
In this week’s podcast, Ann Théato explores the spiritual and medicinal qualities of the elder tree. The elder tree has been revered for centuries for its healing properties and its association with the divine and in this episode, Ann explores both the many ways in which the elder tree can be used as a medicinal herb and its spiritual significance.
Why the elder tree is considered sacred
How to make elderberry rob
The beneficial properties of the elder tree
Why country people talk to the bees
How to make a flute from an elder twig
The history of the elder tree
How to spiritually honour a tree
Thank you for listening!
Why not share it now
Or ask a question over on Psychic Matters! Podcast Facebook page
Thanks for listening.
Why not share it now?
Or ask a question over on Psychic Matters! Podcast Facebook page
Hello everyone, my name is Ann Théato and welcome to the Psychic Matters podcast, episode number 88.
Thank you to all those who have subscribed to my new YouTube channel for the podcast. I was hoping to have launched my first video by now, called Hag Stones – A Portal to The Multiverse – but unfortunately, my life has taken a temporary but very sudden swerve in a completely different direction, so everything is on hold. I think it was John Lennon who said, “life is what happens to you while you are busy making other plans”. Well life is very much happening to me at the moment and my best laid plans and the direction I was heading in, have all temporarily stalled.
But that’s all okay and it makes life another big adventure, giving me more adventures than I bargained on having and amongst the chaos of my current existence, I had to postpone some podcast interviews and that means, I actually don’t have a podcast prepared for this week and as I’m not going to be home, in the Psychic Matters studio, I can’t record one using my fancy equipment and I don’t have access to all my files and records and interviews and guests either.
I find myself in the Republic of Ireland this week, having had to drop everything and fly over here in an emergency. Now, I have never missed creating, recording and producing a podcast episode in three years and so, in the spirit of guerrilla podcasting, whereby I WILL make a podcast come what may, I am recording this using just my iPhone headphones and clutching at the germ of an idea.
If this sad and sorry state of affairs tugs at your heart strings – please consider making a donation to the podcast to help support my work – you can do that at https://www.buymeacoffee.com/psychicmatters. Whilst I was in the throes of despair creating this episode, I put a call out on the Psychic Matters FB group page asking for someone to buy me a coffee and you guys instantly responded. I honestly wanted to cry. THANK YOU so much for your generosity and your kind comments in keeping me going at the moment. There is a lot going on behind the scenes.
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In this week’s podcast, I explore the spiritual and medicinal qualities of the elder tree. The elder tree has been revered for centuries for its healing properties and its association with the divine and in this episode, I will tell you all about the many ways in which the elder tree can be used as a medicinal herb and I explore its spiritual significance.
If you have a common elder tree growing close by, it may be that you never need to go to the doctor again. Because medicinally, every part of the tree – actually it is considered to be a type of small bush – every part is used – berries, flowers, leaves, bark, pith and roots – to cure a variety of ailments such as epilepsy, asthma, inflammation of the eyes, fever, colds and flu, sore throats and bruises and as such, it is known as the Medicine Chest of the Country People.
An elderflower decoction makes a good anti-inflammatory mouthwash or gargle for swollen painful gums and sore throats. The flowers were used in skin washes to improve the complexion, to soften the skin and to relieve sunburn, eczema, acne and psoriasis. Elder flowers can be beaten up in the batter of cakes or muffins to give a delicate texture; the dried berries and flowers can be used to make wine and teas and vinegars with many healthful benefits and elderberry tea is known to be a cure for colic and stomach upsets. Elderberry juice can often banish the pain of sciatica. The bark of older branches if the elder and the roots can be used to create a black dye, the leaves yield a green dye, and the berries yield a blue & purple dye. The Romans made use of the Elderberry juice as a hair-dye and even Culpepper tells us that ‘the hair of the head washed with the berries boiled in wine is made black’.
The elder tree can grow up to 30 feet tall but typically reaches a height of 10 to 20 feet. It has dark green leaves, divided into five to nine leaflets and produces creamy-white flowers in the summer and in the fall, it produces small dark purple berries, commonly used in jams, jellies and pies. You may well have had elderflower cordial 0 which is a sweet floral syrup, often mixed with sparkling water or champagne – it’s a very light refreshing drink in the summer months.
The wood of the elder tree is easily cut and polishes well and it was therefore used for making butchers skewers and shoemakers pegs and various turned articles such as fishing rods or mathematical instruments, needles for weaving nets, combs. The younger wood is exceedingly light and has been used by watchmakers and those who make delicate instruments.
The elder is a deciduous tree native to Europe, Africa and parts of Asia. It is known to have antiviral, anti-inflammatory and immune boosting properties.
One of my personal great discoveries is that it has insect-repelling properties. And years ago, when I had an allotment in London, there was a water tank on my plot and in the late Spring and Summer I used to be eaten alive by the mosquitoes that lived in that water tank but I discovered, there was an elder tree growing just across the way. So, I used to ask it permission to take a few leaves, and then rubbed them every afternoon on my arms and legs – any exposed flesh – and it absolutely stopped those mosquitoes from biting me. I did look a bit green and streaky – like one of those little boys from Peter Brook’s film Lord of The Flies, but hey, it worked. I believe that most insects find the unpleasant odour of the leaves offensive, so if you bruise the leaves and wear a spring in your hat or rub them on your face, the flies will leave you alone. I didn’t find I smelled bad. But I guess I don’t know. We all like the smell of ourselves? Perhaps I was a bit pungent for others, who knows? Anyway, it worked! The whole tree has a narcotics melon no plant will grow in its shadow. Elders are common in woods and waste places because the seeds germinate easily and seedlings spread quickly because they are not eaten by rabbits or other small animals.
On this basis you can also make up a decoction of the leave and spray plants to keep off attacks of aphids. Badgers will also rub their bodies vigorously against the roots of the tree to kill lice in their fur and I wonder if a decoction would kill head lice. Disclaimer: this is not a recommendation it’s just a pondering! Sheep and cows will eat the leaves yet, horses and goats on the whole, wont. Carl Linnaeus – who was one of our forefathers in modern ecology, discovered that sheep, if they are suffering from foot rot, can cure themselves by eating the bark and the young shoots of the elder and he also discovered that elder flowers were fatal to turkeys and peacocks and the berries have a serious effect on chickens!
Fast forward to 1990 when scientists in Bulgaria found that elderflowers had antiviral action against a virus called herpes simplex type 1, which is the virus responsible for causing cold sores. And Israel is way up there in scientific exploration and their clinical evidence shows that elderberry extract is very effective in inhibiting various strains of flu virus. Interestingly, in the UK here where I am, the elder keeps its place in the British Pharmacopoeia and for centuries here, we have used something called Elderberry Rob (R-O-B). I used to make Elderberry Rob every single year – basically what you do is you take a 1lb of elderberries and crush them in a saucepan – I used to bash them up a bit with the potato masher – then a lb of brown sugar – and then simmer it on a low heat until it becomes a syrup. Wait for it to cool – put it through a sieve and then put it in an empty jam jar. And every time me or one of the kids got a head cold or a sore throat in the winter, I’d take a spoon or two of the Elderberry Rob in some hot water and drink it down. Sometimes I’d add Ribena or blackcurrant cordial to give it a better flavour for the kids or I’d add a dash of homemade raspberry brandy for myself to give it some wings! It was like one of your grandmothers old fashioned recipes and it really works to soothe the symptoms of a cold and lessen its hold on the body, it was brilliant. Highly recommend. Also, it’s great fun taking the berries off an elder bush – because it really is a bush, rather than a tree – but I’d take them off with a fork – it was just fascinating – watching all those tiny little berries popping and jumping in a bowl. Then I’d amuse myself with the fork and hold it close up in front of my right eye and peep through the prongs at a photograph of my ex-partner and imagine what he’d look like in prison. You gotta entertain yourself, haven’t you folks! When you’ve been hard done by!
Anyway, back to the elder tree. So, elderberry rob has been a well-established cure for the common cold for centuries and now in this modern-day era, science has now proven that elderberries produce something called Viburnic acid, which induces perspiration, reduces inflammation in the body, boosts the immune system and is really useful for soothing bronchitis, purify the blood and cleanse cells.
During the war, elderflower ointment was largely used for wounded horse and the Blue Cross, which is an organisation that promotes the welfare of animals – used to make special appeals for supplies. Farmers would use the leaves in their granaries to keep the mice at bay and the leaves would also be boiled up with linseed oil and used to apply to bruises, chilblains and dare I say it, haemorrhoids. Never thought I’d be using that word on my podcast.
I just love elder trees; they absolutely fascinate me. Let me tell you about the history. The word elder comes from the Anglo-Saxon word Aeld which means ‘fire’. The soft pith in the branches pushes out easily and the resulting tubes were used as bellows. Ancient Greeks used the branches of the elder to make small flutes and musical pipes and it was often referred to as a pipe tree or bour tree. It comes from the honeysuckle family and its Latin name is Sambucas Nigra and Sambuca of course, is Greek for musical instrument.
Historically the elder tree is surrounded by myth, superstition and folklore. There is a medieval belief that you could do certain things to ward off evil spirits. And although the elder tree is not mentioned directly by Shakespeare in his play, Love’s Labour’s Lost – there is a reference in that play to something called Flap Dragon, which is a game they used to play – now don’t do this at home folks! – but back in Shakespeare’s day, they used to set raisins alight and catch them in their mouths. Like I say, do not do this at home folks – for obvious reasons. But back then, this game which they called, “Flap Dragon” – if you played it successfully – it was believed that you could ward off evil spirits, much like the thought that the elder tree could also protect you from evil spirits or witches too. in England it was believed that carrying an elder twig tied in 3/4 of a knot in one’s pocket, could help to prevent or alleviate rheumatism.
People believed if you chastised a child with an elder switch, that child would stop growing!
It has also been said in myth and legend – that the disciple of Jesus who was called Judas Iscariot hung himself on the elder tree and the tree therefore became an emblem of sorrow and death. And it’s hard to believe that a man could be hung on such a small bush – and there is no scientific or historical evidence to say that this is true – it’s all myth and legend – gossip and heresay – but it is interesting to know that an edible fungus called ‘Jews Ear’ grows almost exclusively on the elder and that this fungus has become a famous medicine for curing throat infections.
According to popular belief, the Dutch physician Boerhaave, never passed an elder without raising his hat, in deference to its medicinal qualities.
Years ago, in England the elder tree was grown on purpose, close to English cottages for protection against witches and illness and the countryfolk in the olden days, were always petrified to prune it . It had such a superstition around it, that they thought if they pruned it, they would be pursued by bad luck, so they would always ask permission from the tree. I think it’s a good idea – I would always ask a tree or a bush for permission to prune it, I think its respectful and gives them some advanced notice, that this is what my reasons are for asking, and this is what is happening. I used to do it with the ants on my allotment – ask them to leave – or the wasps in the wasp’s nest by the entrance door – I asked them to leave – they told me they didn’t want to so I asked that we abide with each other and if they agreed not to sting me, I would agree to them staying. And we lived happily side by side.
And here in Ireland there’s a wonderful tradition of telling the bees. It’s an ancient practice whereby beekeepers would let their bees know about any significant life events. Things like births or marriages or deaths in the family or even long absences – always very important to let the bees know. It was or still is believed that if the bees are not informed, they may leave the hive and stop producing honey. Because there is a huge belief not only in Ireland but in cultures and traditions around the world, that bees are not merely insects but they are sacred insects with an important role in the world and they are seen as a link between the human and spiritual worlds.
And so, beekeepers go to the hive, softly whisper the news to the bees while gently tapping the hive and the bees are invited to share in the family’s joy or sorrow. Sometimes they might even drape a piece of black fabric over the hive if there’s been a death in the family, so that would be a sign of mourning. And also, if the beekeeper themselves die, the new beekeeper must go to the hive and introduce themselves formally as their new owner and ask for their acceptance as their new master/mistress.
Telling the bees is also thought to bring good luck and prosperity not only to the hive of bees but also to the beekeeper and her or his family. So, if there was a wedding in the family, the hive would be decorated and a small piece of wedding cake would be left outside the hive, so that the bees too could partake in the celebrations.
The intimate relationship between bees and their keepers have led to a lot of different folklore. They say it is bad luck to buy or sell hives, because when you sell one, you sell your luck with your bees. Instead, bees were bartered for or given as gifts. If bees flew into a house, a stranger would soon call. If they rested on a roof, good luck was on its way.
Bees and humans have a relationship that extends far beyond superstition. In reality bees play a crucial role in human survival. Approximately 70 of the top 100 crop species which provide nourishment for 90% of the world’s population, depend on bees for pollination. If bees were to disappear, these plants would die out, leading to a catastrophic ripple effect up the food chain that could endanger countless animal species. The loss of a beehive is much more severe and the loss of a source of honey as the consequences can be life threatening. The tradition of telling the bees serves to emphasise the deep bond that humans share with these remarkable insects.
It’s all fascinating, isn’t it?
Anyway, back to the elder tree and the customs regarding it’s twigs and sticks – there is An old custom among travelling people back in the 1700’s 1800’s which, forbade them to use elder wood to kindle their camp fires and any gleaners of firewood – people that would go out and pick up little sticks for the fire, would look really carefully through the faggots in case a stick of elder found its way into the bundle that they were about to put on the fire.
Green elder branches were buried in a grave to protect the dead from witches and evil spirits and in some parts of England, it was a custom for the driver of the hearse, to carry a whip made of elder wood.
By clipping two or three times a year, an elder hedge can be made close and compact in growth and there is a tradition which says an elder stake in the ground will last longer than an iron bar of the same size, because it grows so strongly in the ground. The tree’s ability to regenerate quickly after being cut down is seen as a symbol of new life and growth.
Russians believe elder trees drive away evil spirits. In Russian folklore, elder trees are believed to have protective properties also. The belief in the protective power of elder trees is rooted in the ancient Slavic mythology where it was associated with the goddess of love and fertility.
In Sicilian folklore elder wood is believed to have protective properties and according to the legend carrying a stick of elder wood would protect you from snake bites and could also be used to fend off a robber. elder wood crafts such as walking sticks and canes are still popular in Sicily and the elder tree is still used in traditional medicine and herbal remedies.
In Denmark the Elder was connected with magic. In Danish folklore it was believed that the elder tree was inhabited by a spirit or dryad known as the “Hylde-Moer”, who was the protector of the tree and the surrounding area. It was believed that if the elder tree was cut down without proper respect or without asking permission from the “Hylde-Moer”, she would haunt the person who cut it down all the property where it was located. To avoid angering the “Hylde-Moer”, it was customary to ask for her permission before cutting down an elder tree and to leave offerings such as food and drink as a sign of respect. It was also believed that the “Hylde-Moer”, had healing powers and that the elder tree had medicinal properties and for this reason the elder tree is highly respected in Danish culture and often used in traditional medicine.
In Serbian folklore elder wood is also believed to have protective and lucky properties and it’s commonly used in various rituals and celebrations including weddings and according to tradition is considered good luck to have a stick of elder wood present during a wedding ceremony that stick of elder wood is usually decorated with ribbons or flowers and is often carried by the bride or groom as they enter the church all the wedding venue and again it’s believed that the elder wood stick will protect the couple from evil spirits and bring them good luck and prosperity in their marriage.
The elder tree has a rich spiritual history and is considered a sacred tree in many cultures around the world.
There are many ways in which you can spiritually honour the elder tree if you have one growing close by:
- you could leave offerings of water or milk or honey or gifts at the base of an elder tree as a way of showing gratitude and respect.
- you might like to meditate quietly in front of that elder tree meditate on its wisdom and its energy.
- you can focus on the trees branches or the trees leaves or flowers depending on the season and visualise its energy flowing into you and bringing healing and peace.
- you could create your own ritual to honour the elder tree light candles or burn incense or recite a prayer or a mantra to connect with the trees energy in the spirit world
- or maybe you just want to use its products: elderflower cordial: elderberry syrup – bring those into your diet.
- maybe make yourself some elderberry rob when the season allows – asking permission of course always from the elder tree first.
Thank you so much for joining me on this episode and I’ve really enjoyed telling you all about one of my favourite trees: the elder. It truly is, the medicine chest of the country people.
To get the show notes for this episode and a full download, please visit, my website anntheato.com and click on the podcast tab.
Meanwhile, I wish you all a wonderful couple of weeks, don’t forget to support and subscribe to my new YouTube Channel @psychcimatters – and as soon as I can get back to my real life – some fabulous videos will be coming very soon!
My name is Ann Théato and thank you for listening to Psychic Matters.
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