Elder is the most mysterious tree in the old tradition. This wood has a rather dark symbolism, for it has always been connected with death, misfortunes and various chthonic beings. It was considered dangerous to sleep under its branches or to cut it down. Christianity adds even more dark aspect to Elder's symbolism: sometimes is said that it was the crucifixion tree, as well as the tree which Judas handed himself on.
Elder has long been associated with magic and witchcraft. It thought to evoke dreams, hallucinations and divine visions. However, this tree is one of the few ones that have the ability to dispel them as well. Elder spirit is aggressive and strong; and this wood can be unforgiving to dishonest person. It does well in detecting evil powers and is good for active protection against them. Bringing Elder inside the house can be very dangerous, for it may cause a misfortune.
Death aspect in the Elder meaning must be understood correctly. Death personified by this tree means 'ultimate end', summation, purge, cutting of the redundant. Unlike other trees, also connected with death (Blackthorn, Yew, Willow etc.), Elder's death implies no transformation – just the end. Nothing remains after this end: no mistakes, no achievements, no personal things at all – only emptiness and light. Elder brings completion for all things have been done, and paves the way for new life. It's important to emphasize that Elder does not create this life itself; it only gives a possibility for it to appear. That's why it signifies 'Life in Death and Death in Life'.
Perhaps, the most powerful of all woods, Elder must be used with extreme caution. It can be very good in matters of active protection from aggression and banishing the evil spirits, though, only in the case when the bearer is 'on the right side'. In addition to this, Elder is indispensable in all rituals which has a meaning of 'completion' or aimed at revealing the truth.
Keywords: mystery, impossibility to understand, end of all things, completion, honesty, power, banishing evil, active protection, chthonic beings, misfortunes, cutting off the redundant, summation, ultimate death, scorching light, the way for new life, secrets revealed.
Note: this archetype represents not the 'pure Elder', but rather intergration of Elder, Reed and Viburnum.
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