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Many thanks to the
British Library for providing this image
Egerton 747f. 11,
In Early Medieval Herbalst
Elder tree, Elderberry
Sambucus nigra, Black elder
elderberry in your garden
elnea; ellenrind, ellenrinde [elder bark]
ellenahsan [elder ash], ellencroppan [elder berries],
ellenrinde [elder bark];
Common names, early
Aeld (from OE fire, to kindle a fire, kindling),
The folklore of the elder tree is complex and a
little dark. This may be because all parts of this plant except the
blossoms are mildly toxic
until cooked, or because the flowers are white but the berries are,
ogham, the letter R,
Ruis, is drawn as a single straight line crossed by five
The leaves of the elder are compound, with three to
five pairs of leaves arranged along a central stem, and that may explain why
the sign for Ruis is identified with this tree.
The tree was thought to be
inhabited by or the property of a tree spirit -- some knew her as
Hyldemoer, Elder Mother -- and you were wise to ask
permission before taking its wood or fruit, and to leave a small gift in
In Britain, elder tree wood
wasn't used for firewood, but was often made into charms that kept evil
spirits, witches, ghosts, and lightening at bay. A
rowan tree was traditionally planted by the front door, and an elder at
the back, to ward off evil.
Elder wood was close-grained and
long-lasting; it was used in the laying of hedges, and was said to last
longer in the ground than an iron bar of the same diameter. It was
believed to be dangerous to sleep in the shade of an elder, but if you
stood beneath it on Midsummer Eve, the night before the summer solstice,
you might see the rulers of the Otherworld ride by, with all their court
The healing properties of the
elder have been known since ancient times, when it was used as a
diuretic, antiseptic, and insect repellent.
Elder Mother, give me
some of your
wood, and I
Wiš fotece genim ellenes
leaf 7 wegbrędan 7
gecnuwa lege on
7 gebind on
II, xxvii, 3
For foot-ache, take elder
leaves 7 plantain and
mugwort, pound, lay on,
Leechbook, II, xxvii, 3
wyrmętum lice 7 cweldehtum acrinde dust .
dust . ellen rinde
dust on norš
II, cxxxvi, 4
For a worm-eaten body and a quelled
oak bark powder
ash bark powder
powder from north
beneath the tree...
Leechdom II, cxxvi, 4
eferlastan ufewearde . wegbrędan
sealt on ealo gegniden
Laecbok II, lvi, 2
For painful diarrhea also
everlasting the upper part .
plantain, elder bark
salt in ale kneaded
Leechbook II, lvi, 2
Gif mon biž on wętr
ęlfadle žonne beož
him ža handnęglas wonne 7 ža
eagan tearige 7 wile locian niwer .
III, 350, 21
man has water-
elf disease then be his
teary 7 they will
do him žis to lęchedome .
eoforžrote . cassuc .
fone niožoweard . eowberge .
elehtre . eolone .
mersc-mealwan crop . fen minte .
dile . lilie .
attorlaže . polleie .
marubie . docce .
ellen . fel terre .
wermod . streawberjean leaf .
ofgeot mid ealaž .
do halig węter to sing žis gealdor ofer žriwa
Ic binne awrat betest
beado wręda swa benne
ne burnon ne burstan
ne wundian ne feologon .
ne hoppetan ne wund waco sian . ne
dolh deopian .
ac him self healde
hale węge .
ne ace že žon ma
že eoržan on eare ace .
sing žis manegum sižum .
eorže že on bere
hise mihtum 7 męgenum.
žas galdor mon męg singan on
Give him this for healing .
cockspur grass . pennyroyal . horehound
moisten with ale
give holy water sing
this charm over three times:
I have wrought best battle bandage
so that it will
not stream not burst
not wound not bind
not throb not deepen pain
but himself hold healthy ways
nor hurt you then any more
than earth in sea aches
Sing this many times
earth within you bring to bear
all her might and main.
This charm one may sing over wounds.
Leechbook III, lxiii
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.