Ash Tree Magic and Folklore

Fraxinus excelsior, more commonly known as the Ash tree
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The ash tree has long been associated with wisdom, knowledge, and divination. In a number of legends, it's connected to the gods, and considered sacred.

Did You Know?

  • Newborn babies in the British Isles were sometimes given a spoonful of Ash sap before leaving their mother's bed for the first time, to prevent disease and infant mortality. Placing Ash berries in a cradle protects the child from being taken away as a changeling by mischievous Fae.
  • Five trees stood guard over Ireland, in mythology, and three of them were Ash. The Ash is often found growing near holy wells and sacred springs.
  • In Norse myth, Yggdrasil was an ash tree, and since the time of Odin's ordeal, the ash has often been associated with divination and knowledge.


Deities and the Ash Tree

In Norse lore, Odin hung from Yggdrasil, the World Tree, for nine days and nights so that he might be granted wisdom. Yggdrasil was an ash tree, and since the time of Odin's ordeal, the ash has often been associated with divination and knowledge. It is eternally green, and lives in the middle of Asgard.

In the words of the Old Norse poem Völuspá, Yggdrasil is “the friend of the clear sky,” so tall that its crown is above the clouds. Its heights are snow-capped like the tallest mountains, and “the dews that fall in the dales” slide off of its leaves. Hávamál adds that the tree is “windy,” surrounded by frequent, fierce winds at its heights. “No one knows where its roots run,” because they stretch all the way down to the underworld, which no one (except shamans) can see before he or she dies. The gods hold their daily council at the tree."

The spear of Odin was made from an Ash tree, according to the Norse poetic eddas.

In some Celtic legends, it is also seen as a tree sacred to the god Lugh, who is celebrated at Lughnasadh. Lugh and his warriors carried spears made of ash in some folktales. From Greek mythology, there is a tale of the Meliae; these nymphs were associated with Uranus, and said to make their homes in the ash tree.

Because of its close association not only with the Divine but with knowledge, Ash can be worked with for any number of spells, rituals, and other workings. The Ash appears as Nion in the Celtic Ogham alphabet, a system also used for divination. Ash is one of three trees which were sacred to the Druids (Ash, Oak and Thorn), and connects the inner self to the outer worlds. This is a symbol of connections and creativity, and of transitions between the worlds.

Other Ash Tree Legends

UK, England, Yorkshire, Malham Ash at Sunrise
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Some traditions of magic hold that the leaf of an Ash tree will bring you good fortune. Carry one in your pocket — those with an even number of leaflets on it are especially lucky.

In some folk magic traditions, the ash leaf could be used to remove skin disorders such as warts or boils. As an alternate practice, one could wear a needle in their clothing or carry a pin in their pocket for three days, and then drive the pin into the bark of an ash tree — the skin disorder will appear as a knob on the tree and disappear from the person who had it.

Newborn babies in the British Isles were sometimes given a spoonful of Ash sap before leaving their mother's bed for the first time. It was believed this would prevent disease and infant mortality. If you place Ash berries in a cradle, it protects the child from being taken away as a changeling by mischievous Fae.

Five trees stood guard over Ireland, in mythology, and three were Ash. The Ash is often found growing near holy wells and sacred springs. Interestingly, it was also believed that crops that grew in the shadow of an Ash tree would be of an inferior quality. In some European folklore, the Ash tree is seen as protective but at the same time malevolent. Anyone who does harm to an Ash can find themselves the victim of unpleasant supernatural circumstances.

In northern England, it was believed that if a maiden placed ash leaves under her pillow, she would have prophetic dreams of her future lover. In some Druidic traditions, it is customary to use a branch of Ash to make a magical staff. The staff becomes, in essence, a portable version of a World Tree, connecting the user to the realms of earth and sky.

The Celtic tree month of Ash, or Nion, falls from February 18 to March 17. It's a good time for magical workings related to the inner self.