OE wyrtig, adj: Garden-like, full of plants;
On anum wyrtige hamme, Homl. Skt. ii. 30:312



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Wyrtig - In early sources


In Early Sources...

Hazel trees
Corylus avellana

Growing hazel trees in your garden


Hazelnuts are found in very early British sites, some dating as far back as 9,000 BCE. They are common on Romano-British and early medieval sites in Britain, and were clearly an important food, not surprising as they do not need to be roasted before eating, and store well. They are rich in protein, unsaturated fats, thiamine, and vitamins A, B6, and E.

Hazel thicketHazel trees also respond enthusiastically to coppicing, sending up many strong, straight wands that have been used for:

  • Weaving baskets and other containers

  • Hurdles for fences

  • Wattle for walls

  • Bentwood for walking sticks

  • Staples or "spars" to fasten thatch to roofs

  • Witching rods favored by dowsers searching for groundwater

Hazel nuts in their caps  Medieval Names

  • Corylus is from the Greek krylos, "hazel"

  • Avellana is Latin for "of or from Avella, Italy"


Hsl vel hsel-hnutu abellan; corilus, hsel, hiesel; abellans, hesel

Capitulare de Villis






St. Gall


as wyrte seulon to lungen sealfe banwyrt 7 brunwyrt betonican 7 streawberian wise suerne wuda 7 isopo saluie 7 savine 7 rude garclife 7 haesel cwice medewyrt dolhrune.

Lacnunga 14

These plants shall soothe lungs bonewort  & brownwort betony & strawberry plant southernwood & hyssop sage & savine & rue agrimony & hazel quitch meadwort pellitory.

Lacnunga 14

Spew drenc . genim ellenrinde niewearde . 7 hamwyrte 7 hundteontig lybcorna gecnua swie wel ealle e wyrta do on ealo menge onne . Ȝenim onne wa mela hsles oe alres asift onne ful clne tela micle hand fulle do on e mang lt neahterne standan ahlyttra swie wel . geswet mid hunige gedrinc scenc fulne micelne.        

                                          Lcbok II.liii

An emetic. Take elder bark the lower part . houseleek . and a hundred libcorns  pound them well  put all the plants into ale mix then . take then fine meal of hazelnuts or alder  sift then very clean  put in a good large handful amidst the rest  let it stand for a night  clear it very thoroughly . sweeten with honey  drink a large glass full.

Leechbook II.lii


wi on gif hunta gebite manne t is swira ry scearpan neah fromweardes lt blod on grenne sticcan hslenne weorp onne ofer weg aweg one ne bi nan yfel

Lcbok II.lxviii


In case a hunting spider bite a man, that is the stronger spider [make] three cuts nearby  in the direction of the bite   let the blood run onto a green stick of hazel  throw it then over the road away; then there will be no harm.

Leechbook II.lxviii


ft wi onfaelle genim t fruman hslenne sticcan oe ellenne writ inne naman on asleah ry scearpan on gefylle mid y blode one naman weorp ofer eaxle on yrnende wter and stand ofer one man a scearpan aslea t eall swiginde gedo.

Lcbok II.xxxix

Again, for abscess take first a hazel or an elder stick, write your name on it, cut three scores on it, fill with your blood your name, throw it over your shoulder into running water and stand over the man. Strike the cuts, do that all in silence.

Leechbook II.xxxix


Fionn mac Cumhaill

A salmon swimming in the Tobar Segais, the Well of Wisdom, ate nine hazelnuts ― one from each of nine hazel trees surrounding well ― and thus knew all there was to know.

Time passed, and a boy called Demne, the servant of the poet Finn Eces, was asked to turn a salmon, which was the Salmon of Wisdom, that was  cooking over the fire. When a drop of hot fat fell on the boy's thumb, he put his thumb into his mouth to ease the burn. When the fish was cooked, he brought it to his master, who asked him, “Have you eaten any of the salmon, my boy?”

“No,” he replied, “but I burnt my thumb, and put it into my mouth.”

“What are you called,  my boy” asked his master.

“Demne,” said the boy.

Fionn is now your name, my lad,” said his master; “To you was this salmon given to be eaten, and indeed you are the Fionn.”

From then on, whenever Fionn mac Cumhaill  put his thumb into his mouth and sang teinm laida  (which means, "chewing hazel-nuts, the source of wisdom), then whatever he didn’t know would be shown to him.


The Gaelic names for hazel are caltainn or coll. In the Old Irish alphabet of 18 letters, each letter was linked with the name of a tree, probably as an aid to memory, and coll was the letter C.

Ailm Elm
eith White birch

Coll Hazel

Dair Oak

Eadha Aspen

Fern Alder

Gort Ivy
Huath Hawthorn

Luis Rowan

Nuin Ash

Onn Broom
eithe Water elder Ruis Elder

From a 13th century MS of
the works of Hadewijch

Hadewijch of Brabant

Hadewijch was a mystic who lived in the early 1200s. She wrote religioius poetry that made use of the the images as well as the style of contemporary German Minnesnger. For Hadewijch, the blooming hazel signaled the arrival of spring, and also the risks inherent in loving:

Though, sadly, it is now cold winter,

with short days and long nights,

soon brave summer will stride in

to rescue us from sadness…

the hazel will give to us fair blossoms,

the season's overt token. ...


When the season turns again,

Though everywhere the peaks and dales

Are dark and wan,

The hazel tree is already in bloom ...

[Love] made me like the hazel,

Who flowers too too soon in a dismal season;

Whose fruit you must await a long time.

             Hadewich, “Under the Blow," c. 1230 CE


Please note: Many plants have been used in past and present times for medicinal purposes, and as one of the focuses of Wyrtig is the history of gardening, these uses are discussed here. However, common sense requires that you consult your family physician or other health care provider before using any plant materials for medicinal purposes. The old saying that "A doctor who treats him- (or her-) self has a fool for a patient" is no less true in herbal medicine than in any other branch of the healing sciences. Herbal remedies should not be used by the uninformed; medical advice should be sought before using any herbal remedy.


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