Willow, the colour of the lifeless one
owing to the resemblance of its colour to a dead person.
Hue of the lifeless.
Beginning of loss, willow.
Strength of bees.
Book of Ballymote 1391
Willow fact file
Our largest willows are the white and crack willow that can reach 80ft in height. The willow species rather like the whitebeams consists of an array of specialist species some of which only grow in Scotland or in Northern areas of England.
The four main tree species are:
1/ Crack Willow (S.fragilis)
2/ White Willow (S.alba)
3/ Bay Willow (S.pentandra)
4/ Almond Willow (S.triandra)
The fourteen small tree/shrub species are:
1/ Sallow, Goat Willow (S.caprea)
2/ Grey Willow (S.cinerea)
3/ Purple Willow (S.purpurea)
4/ Common Osier (S.viminalis)
5/ Eared Willow (S.aurita)
6/ Tea-leaved Willow (S.phylicifolia)
7/ Dark-leaved Willow ( S.myrsinifolia)
8/ Creeping Willow ( S.repens)
9/ Downy Willow ( S.lapponum)
10/ Woolly Willow ( S.lanata)
11/ Whortle-leaved Willow ( S.myrsinites )
12/ Mountain Willow ( S.arbuscula)
13/ Net-leaved Willow ( S.reticulata)
14/ Dwarf Willow ( S.herbacea)
Celtic traditions sometimes encouraged trees to be planted at burial sites so the spirit of the corpse can rise into the sapling above, willow probably being a preferred choice as it is said to ease the passage of the soul at death. To wear willow is to grieve openly and the tree I suspect encourages us to be open to our deeper emotions.
Witches brooms may be bound with willow to dedicate the broom to the goddess and the moon. Its leaves, bark and wood maybe be burnt as incense for similar reasons.
Celtic lore speaks of willow connected to in-between states and otherworld experiences. Her connection with water enhances that as water represents that more fluid otherworldly state, the cycle of life and death and returning to the source.
Gypsies cut willow on Green George day (23rd April) to propitiate water spirits, bless the crops, herds,pregnant women and heal the the sick or needy.
As a provider of early nectar the tree is associated with bees who the Celts regarded as perfect examples of community life all working together to achieve their goals, and as beings from the Other-lands.
The Sumerian goddess Belili rules over the moon, love and the underworld and therefore is connected to willow as are other powerful goddess archetypes such as Hecate and Cerridwen. Women were warriors and leaders in Celtic Society and often trained the young men in battle. The old adage of the Willow bending in the wind rather than resisting it comes to mind as we recognise the power of the feminine source.
Willow is a great medicinal healer containing Salicylic acid the main ingredient in asprin. Its leaves and especially its bark can be used to ease rheumatism, headaches and other inflammations in the body.
Its wood is light and tough and has been used for rafters and floors and a certain white willow species for cricket bats. The stems/branches are strong and very flexible making them ideal for weaving baskets, hats and making coracles.
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Poetry of flowers
Join me to explore the flora of the British Isles on this blog. My intention is to attempt to capture the unique quality and beauty of each species of flower, tree or shrub. For every species featured I will be growing many more wildflowers to celebrate the joy of their existence, their intrinsic conservation value and bewildering array of uses. For nearly 30 years I have noted, studied and explored wildflowers in the field much to the patience of the walker beside me. To share this passion is a heartfelt plea to respect, preserve and care for all British Wildflowers no matter how common they seem.