Skip to main content

E is for Elderberries.....

All parts of the Elder plant is toxic, including the berries that are so frequently used in foods and certain wine production. The only way to consume the berries of elders safely is to cook the MATURE berry. There are some sources that believe as long as the berry is fully ripe, that it is harmless.

Every other part of the elder plant, though, is highly toxic--the leaves, branches, bark and especially the roots--containing a glycoside that produces cyanide when it has been metabolized by the body's digestive system. So, medicinal teas made with elder leaves should be consumed with caution. The wines and marmalade made from mature berries are perfectly safe.

The power of the poisonous Elder tree has been revered since ancient times, where the presence of an Elder tree was meant to ward off evil and protect the area from witches.. though, conversely, several folk tales have witches congregating beneath the Elder trees, especially when they were ripe with fruit.

There is also the belief, in some regions, that to cut down an Elder tree is to ask to be cursed by the Elder Mother, a tree spirit that would be released to take revenge. The only way, it is said, to be safe from the curse of the Elder Mother is to first ask her permission to cut down the tree. Variations of the following chant were used to protect the woodsmen from the spirit's revenge:

  Old girl, give me some of thy wood and I will give thee some of mine when I grow into a tree.  

Elderberry Days

Guard me, elder mother, let not the wood-ax fall,
protect with your mighty strength my tender fruits, my wistful leaves.
Guard us, let not the woodland foe destroy us all,
As nothing, for all mankind, in this world, his greed will appease.

Fear not! Hear my promise, oh, gentle, forest child,
think nothing of the heartless woodsmen as they stomp and curse and burn.
They will be the ones to tremble in the wild,
when the forgotten might of nature, at last, and all at once returns. 

                                                                                             --- e.a.s demers


  1. I am so immature. I'm snickering at giving wood to the old girl. {hee hee}


    1. LOL...uh oh, I didn't even think of how that line sounded-- (which is distressing, because I'm normally so adept at playing the double entendres for all they're worth) *darn it*

  2. A tree that could curse you--how cool is that! I'm fully on the side of enlightenment and understanding, but there's part of me that pines for the dark places in the forest. The idea that we once regarded so much myth as real, and used magic as an explanation for the inexplicable...there's something darkly romantic about that, and it intrigues me.

    Of course, if we'd held to those beliefs, I'd likely died of pneumonia as an infant. So there's that...

    Thanks for the awesome series! I've been away from the A/Z for a few days. Yours was the first stop upon my return!


Post a Comment

Share your thoughts!

Popular posts from this blog

Y is for Yeth Hound.....

Yeth Hound--- one of the incarnations of the "Black Dog" myth, this one located specifically, in Devon, England.

"Black Dogs" appear in myths across the world, most are associated with death and bad omens... i.e. Hell Hounds.

The Yeth Hound is said to be the spirit of an unbaptised child that takes the form of a headless black dog. The Hound wanders the woods at night making pitiful wailing sounds (though, I'm unclear as to how it makes wailing sounds without having a head).

The Black Dogs were possibly one inspiration from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's ghost dog in The Hound of the Baskervilles-- "an enormous coal-black hound, but not such a hound as mortal eyes have ever seen."

Heed Not, the Lonesome Cry
Heed not, the lonesome cry, the baleful wail echoing through the woods. Seek not, the black hound's sigh, look not where the headless creature stood.
One sound, your limbs will shake, your heart filled with the deepest dread. One glimpse, your sou…

B is for Banshee.....

Irish bean sidhe and Scottish Gaelic bean sith, literally, woman of fairyland.

The mythology and legend surrounding the Banshee is a bit mixed. The most readily accepted story is of a hag-like creature wailing the impending death of someone nearby-- most ancient Gaelic families, especially the more well-to-do families, had their own Banshees that attached themselves to the lineage of the family name. I suppose it was a sign of station for a family to be able to claim their own Banshee--- I mean, who needs an exciting/ tongue-wagging-inciting skeleton in your cupboard when you've got a Banshee wailing in your rafters?
The origins of the more familiar Banshee may have stemmed from the ancient Keeners-- women who were employed to sing a lament at a funeral. The best Keeners were in high demand to "wail" and "weep" for the great personage who had fallen.

The Great families would boast a bean sidhe or bean sith-- a fairy-woman Keener--and having foresight, the Keene…

S is for Siren.....

Sirens--- the beautiful, the terrifying.
Vicious, but, seemingly opportunistic creatures who lured sailors to their deaths by the sound of their captivating songs. Whether the stories of these creatures were a result of surviving sailors attempting to explain their near-miss in an effort to divert the fault of their shipwreck from their hands, or whether as a warning for those leaving to ensure their fidelity to the women they left behind, is unclear...

Considered the daughters of Achelous(river god), and though they have been blamed for the death of many sailors, they were not, however, sea deities. They have sometimes been called Muses of the lower world, their sad song causing the body and soul of those sailors who hear them to fall into a fatal lethargy.

In early myths, Sirens were the combined form of birds and women. Sometimes with a large female head, their bodies covered in bird feathers, their feet...scaled. Later myths show them as female figures with the legs of birds, tho…