Elder – We’ll start with the biggie. Elderberry is THE sacred faerie tree. It is very foolish to cut one down or in any way cause harm to an elder, as you are certain to incur the wrath of faerie for your indiscretion. There is an old folk tale that says if you build a baby crib out of elder wood that the faeries will come to steal your baby. Faeries don’t really steal babies – the tale is a warning not to cut down elders and use the wood for carpentry.
It is said that if you sit under an elder tree on Midsummer’s Eve that you may see faeries. There is one type of faerie (and not a particularly nice one) called Hydermolder that is associated with elders. They are nasty German-Scandinavian faeries that will come to get you if you harm an elder.
Elder flowers have a very tangy taste and are an excellent curative for colds and flu (see the herbal section) when used in teas. Elderberry syrup and wine are quite tasty, although they are very sweet. I use elderberry syrup (homemade, of course) whenever I feel an illness coming on. It usually stops the sickness right in it’s tracks or at least brings dramatic improvement. It also makes a decent cough syrup. I wove sickness banishing spells into its making which helps.
Elder flowers have many magical uses as well. Keep some on your alter to use with any spell in which you wish to request the aid of the Faerie Folk. I especially like to use them when I’m doing spells for prosperity, healing, and binding/banishing/protection.
Oak, Ash, and Thorn – These three trees are called the Faerie Triad because groves which include all three of these trees are supposed to be places where you can spot faeries. The thorn tree is actually a hawthorn tree which are very magical (as are ash and oak trees). Wands made of hawthorn are very potent. Just make sure you ask the tree for permission before you take a branch and leave a gift. Oak and ash can also be used for wands, but they are more often used for staffs. Ash wood is a good choice for a besom handle because it is strong and light. All three are druid sacred trees and part of the Celtic Tree Calendar (as is Elder).
Foxglove – a plant to use caution with as they are extremely poisonous. The heart medication Digitalis comes from foxgloves, but it is only used in very minute doses. Too strong a dose is fatal. So this plant can either save your life or take it. This is definitely a faerie trait – to have the capacity to help or harm depending on the situation. The brightly colored flowers look like little party hats, which may be another reason they are associated with faeries.
Mugwort – commonly used to aid divination or in flying ointments, it can also be used to help you see faeries. It is a common ingredient in dream pillows and is burned as an incense for divination. Used in a tea, it can help develop you second sight (the ability to see faeries and other supernatural beings and phenomenon).
Eyebright – same uses as mugwort, but can also be used as an eyewash. To make an eye wash, make an infusion (bring water to a boil, remove from heat, put in your herbs, and let them steep for 5 – 10 minutes). Let the infusion cool to room temperature, strain, and then use liquid as an eyewash to improve second sight or simply to soothe irritated eyes. Eyebright has anti-inflammatory and astringent properties which also make it useful for sore throats (see herbal section).
Ginger – a favorite spice of faeries. I know I like it! The root of the plant is dried and ground to produce this very popular seasoning. A pinch of ginger placed on your offering plate (along with your regular libations) is a very effective way to generate goodwill with the Fair Folk.
Strawberry – a favorite food of faeries and an excellent food to leave out as a libation for them.
Bluebells – not exactly a faerie plant, but certainly a witch plant. Bluebells planted outside your door are supposed to ring as a warning when you have a visitor coming. Because of their association with witches, people were afraid to have them growing in their gardens during the Burning Times.
Willow – a very magical tree, and one very much associated with the Goddess and the moon. There are many legends of willows being able to move around, use their branches like arms, and speak in whispers by rustling their leaves. There is a kind of nature spirit called a hamadryad that spends its entire existence in one tree. Willows are one of their preferred species of tree to inhabit, which may account for these legends. Also a good reason to be nice to trees and ask for permission before you cut into them.