The Elder Tree is a powerful symbol of life energy and creativity.
The Elder has been honoured for a very long time and megalithic long barrows were sometimes elder leaf shaped. It is also called the "witch's tree". Certainly the village hedge-witch would have used the elder extensively, as herbally it is wonderfully rich and potent in all its parts - leaves, flowers, berries and bark.
The presence of the Old Mother energy of the tree probably also accounts for the association with wise women. It is said in Irish folklore that it is the elder stick and not ashen ones which are used by witches for their magic horses. The earliest folk tales praise elder's ability to ward off evil or malevolent spirits and to undo evil magic. There are very strong superstitions about not cutting down the elder. In ancient time, at Samhain, the last of the elderberries were picked with solemn rites. The wine made from these berries was considered the last sacred gift of the Earth Goddess and was valued and drunk ritually to invoke prophecy, divination and hallucinations.
The Elder has survived in cities and towns, and even manages to find its way back out of cracks in concrete. It flourishes near abandoned dwellings and in churchyards - in fact wherever the nitrogen content is high. It survives on the common lands, wastelands and along railway lines - so even if you live in the city it can still be found.
You can spot it in June with its abundance of tiny white flowers. And it is for those flowers that I am writing. In our family we have a tradition of making Elderflower champagne. But sadly I never wrote down the recipe. So I’ve had to look it up for .
You will find it makes a refreshing and sparkling summer drink. It is only mildly alcoholic and it is easy to make. So follow this link – thank you BBC!