L. Sambucus nigra
protection, healing & purification
Libra, Venus & Midsummer
children, the fae, femininity & water
Folklore has intertwined the elderberry tree and fairy folk. Food left underneath the tree’s branches is considered an offering to them and it has been advised against sleeping under an elder as the risk of an encounter. Fairies are also said to prefer the music of pipes made from elder wood above all others.
In general, elder trees have major protective energy, especially around the home and children. When grown around the home it prevents evil from entering and repels bad energy.
It connects the spiritual and physical realms, while protecting those transitioning between them by using wreaths, wands, incense, etc.
It’s also used for purifying, cleansing, blessings and consecrations. It has associations with Libra, Venus, femininity, Midsummer & water.
Used for both emotional and physical healing. And both the flowers and the berries have been used in folk medicine for centuries.
The elder self-seeds, but also propagates with runners. Cuttings taken from newer, greenish branches will root when planted and grow into another tree.
The tree has a tendency to be rather bush-like. Instead of one nice, tall trunk, the elder tree grows with many low branches & multiple trunks unless pruned. However, they can grow up to 13 ft tall & around 6 feet across.
Elderberry trees prefer to be cool and moist rather than hot and dry. And they absolutely do not tolerate drought. Partial shade is preferred. They love water, but need proper drainage. If left in standing water they can develop root rot.
Generally, they are a hardy plant and thrive in the wild in many, many places. They don’t even need very good soil to thrive. If you have the space, it's an easy plant for a beginning gardener.
If planting for fruit specifically, consider planting in pairs if space allows. Elderberries benefit from cross-pollination, so 2+ trees will give you far more fruit.
Beware though, if you’re growing elderberries for the fruit, birds absolutely love the berries! It can be tricky to harvest or wildcraft them because of this.
Magical tools can be made from elder wood. Wands, wreathes, amulets, and also wind instruments. Something about the core of the elder tree’s wood makes it easy to remove. The nature of the wood also makes it easy to polish up as well. And thus, easy to fashion pipes and whistles out of the wood. Fairy folk supposedly love the sound of these instruments.
Traditionally, the wood is not used for burning, as it will cause the fire to “spit and scream.”
These tools can be used in many ways, but lend themselves to spells for healing, protection, abundance, or purification. Wreaths or bundles of leaves can be hung for both protection and to repel bugs and the diseases that they bring. Pipes can be used in rituals and flower petals can be scattered in protection circles.
Elder flowers are also used in the beauty industry. Try using them during a Libra moon for beauty spells. Infuse them in a bath or in a facial steam.
And, of course, elder trees have a long history of medicinal use. Teas and syrup made from elderberry can help relieve symptoms of a variety of respiratory illnesses from the flu to sore throats to bronchitis. Perhaps it’s because the berries have very high levels of vitamin C and antioxidants.
Remember: homemade remedies are no replacement for actual medical care. They are intended to help relieve symptoms, but they won’t help much if you need antibiotics!
Elderberry syrup is available premade in many grocery stores and pharmacies, but if you have access to fresh berries and want to try an effective homemade remedy here’s the recipe:
2 ounces of cooked berries (see below)
1 cup of honey
2 cups of water
Saucepan and spoon
Combine cooked berries and water in a saucepan over a low heat. Bring to simmer and reduce water by half.
Strain plant matter through cheesecloth and return liquid to saucepan.
Add honey, heat to 115 degrees F, and mix until honey is dissolved.
Store in the refrigerator.
No more than 1 tablespoon 3x a day for adults; kids 1 teaspoon.
It’s important to never, ever eat raw berries. They are toxic raw and can cause vomiting and a whole mess of other digestive issues.
So just don’t!
Berries can be easily cooked by boiling in water, then reducing to a simmer & cooking berries for about 20 minutes or until they are soft.
Cooked berries can be used for all sorts of kitchen witchery, like making wine, jam, juice and more.