Willow - Botanicals

The Element Encyclopedia of Witchcraft: The Complete A-Z for the Entire Magical World - Judika Illes 2005


(Salix spp.)

Why does that willow weep? Why, indeed? Willows are identified with some of the most powerful goddesses of all including Artemis, Circe, Hecate, Hera, and Persephone. Although they are extremely beautiful trees, many planted purely for ornamental value, willows tend to possess somewhat of a doleful, ominous reputation. They have long been considered witch’s trees and witch’s tools.

Weeping willows are a specific type of willow (Salix babylonica). They were indigenous to China but spread westward and are now widely distributed. There are many species of willow; as a whole they are also extremely well distributed—miniature willows, only inches tall, survive in the Arctic Circle, while other species may be found in deserts and tropical areas.

Willows are graceful trees with lithe boughs and an affinity for water. Like alder, willows are often found near rivers, streams, swamps, and marshes. The willow is believed to love and crave moisture (hence the weeping willow’s affinity for tears) and so is under the dominion of the moon, the planetary body that rules water, women, and fertility.

Snakes are the creatures believed to most closely share the essence of the willow tree. The willow’s branches and leaves are believed to resemble the motion of a snake. In ancient Greece, willow branches placed under the beds of infertile women were believed to transmit fertility-generating snake power. (No doubt a more peaceful night’s sleep was to be had with willow branches beneath the bed rather than living, slithering snakes!)

Willows are also used to magically ward off snakes and prevent snakebite. Among willow’s other magical uses are for wish fulfillment and healing and love spells.

Perhaps because willows were associated with such powerful lunar goddesses, the trees came to be associated with witches in ancient Greece. “Willow” has long been a popular magical or craft name among witches—as exemplified by “Dark Witch Willow,” the character on the television series, Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Willows are associated with fertility and birth, but also with death. In Celtic areas, willows were planted in graveyards because it was believed that they encouraged the dead to rest peacefully and to refrain from roaming.

Image Thin, flexible young willow branches are a traditional binding to hold handmade witches’ brooms together.

Image Magic wands crafted from willow are believed especially beneficial for divination.