In Robert Grave’s book The White Goddess: A Historical Grammar of Poetic Myth, first published in 1948, we find a description of the Celtic Tree Calendar, which Graves suggests was used by ancient Celtic peoples. There is no evidence of this, and Grave’s work has been criticized by many scholars, some of whom call the tree calendar a ‘fabrication’ and a modern invention. One could argue that the Wiccan Rede is also such, having been penned as recently as 1964, yet it is still viewed as sacred by followers of Wicca. It also should be noted that the Celtic Tree Calendar is two decades older than the Wiccan Rede.
There is a fine line between fabrication and inspiration. Fabrication implies an intent to deceive while inspiration is a creative idea imparted by divine influence. Unfamiliar concepts are often regarded as fabricated or invalid simply because they are new. Inspired works do not always come with footnotes and references to back them up.
The origins of the Celtic Tree Calendar are irrelevant, as it still provides a fascinating study of tree lore and it’s mystical associations. It has been adopted by many druid groups and others who follow a Celtic mystical path. Witches and Druids often look to the tree calendar when choosing the wood for their personal wands. Some trees on the calendar may be difficult to locate where you live. If you feel an affinity with a different tree than the one specified by your birth date according to the calendar, then follow your heart and choose your wand wood from that tree instead. You may also wish to acquire seeds for your chosen tree, and grow the wood yourself. Blackthorn, for example, is especially hard to find in the United States and I had to order seeds from the UK. Take note of any special planting instructions for each type of tree, including the type of soil and when to plant.
The Celtic Tree Calendar
- Birch: December 24 to January 20
- Rowan: January 21 to February 17
- Ash: February 18 to March 17
- Alder: March 18 to April 14
- Willow: April 15 to May 12
- Hawthorn: May 13 to June 9
- Oak: June 10 to July 7
- Holly: July 8 to August 4
- Hazel: August 5 to September 1
- Vine: September 2 to September 29
- Ivy: September 30 to October 27
- Reed: October 28 to November 24
- Elder: November 25 to December 23
Specific days, such as Samhain (October 31st) has been attributed to Blackthorn, and the Winter Solstice (December 21st) has been associated with Yew. It is interesting to note that this calendar does not begin with November 1st, the beginning of the Celtic new year. We do not know how these specific dates were arrived at for each particular tree, but each tree corresponds to the Ogham characters. Ogham is an Early Medieval alphabet used to write the early Irish language (1st to 6th centuries), and later the Old Irish language (6th to 9th centuries). The Ogham has evolved into a system of divination, in which the first character is linked to the Birch tree, where the tree calendar begins.
Below are some of the magical associations of each tree in the calendar, including Blackthorn and Yew.
BIRCH: Beginnings, healing, renewal, tradition.
ROWAN: Protection, dedication, imagination, grounding.
ASH: Communication, ambition, poetry and storytelling.
ALDER: Ferocity, defense, prophetic utterance, strength.
WILLOW: The moon, clairvoyance, empathy, sensitivity.
HAWTHORN: The faerie realm, plant spirits, male sexuality, virility.
OAK: Power, protection, druidry, doorway to the Otherworld.
HOLLY: Immortality, new life, regeneration, protection.
HAZEL: Knowledge, wisdom, mystical inspiration, illumination.
VINE: Harvest, fruitfulness, Mabon, Autumn Equinox.
IVY: Life, death and rebirth, rootedness, healing, binding.
BROOM/REED: Flexibility, water, cleansing, purification.
ELDER: Endings, sacrifice, death, protection.
BLACKTHORN: Strength in adversity, protection, light in darkness, witchcraft.
YEW: Ancestor communication, spirit contact, rebirth, regeneration.