Even his mellifluous name, willow, evokes every twisting nuance of the tree’s lunar, watery nighttime vibration. Indeed, wherever willow (Salix) appears in literature, folklore, or art—which is quite often, throughout cultures and continents—he seems to be shrouded in mystery and magic.
As willow is masculine, and the moon is generally perceived as feminine, you might think of willow as the moon goddess’s devoted ethereal priest, and one who is quite the master of his vocation.
Divine Masculine Support
In Under the Willow Tree by Hans Christian Andersen, a lovesick young man named Knud embarks upon an ill-planned foot journey in winter to revisit his childhood home, in large part because his aching heart feels drawn to a willow tree there, which he and his lost childhood love referred to as “the willow-father.” Along the way, he encounters a different willow tree, under which he lies down, has a beautiful dream, and dies. The following passage illustrates the willow-father’s energetic likeness to a supportive masculine divinity.
A willow-tree grew by the roadside; everything reminded him of home. He felt very tired; so he sat down under the tree, and very soon began to nod, then his eyes closed in sleep. Yet still he seemed conscious that the willow-tree was stretching its branches over him; in his dreaming state the tree appeared like a strong, old man—the “willow-father” himself, who had taken his tired son up in his arms to carry him back to the land of home, to the garden of his childhood, on the bleak open shores of Kjøge.
When a loved one dies, it is always painful no matter how much peace one has made with the concept of death. Perhaps this, at least in part, is why willow—a tree long famed for its ability to soothe pain—is associated with death. Additionally, the water element (with which the willow is almost synonymous) is associated with the western compass point, as well as sunset, autumn, and endings. What’s more, willows adorned gravesites in ancient Rome and were featured on headstones during the Victorian era.
Deities associated with both death and the willow are many, and include Hecate, Persephone, Orpheus, Loki, Ishtar, Cerridwen, Circe, Belili, and Poseidon. In sabbat fires willow wood represents death.
Like the water element with which it is so aligned, willow’s wood is a strong and flexible conductor of energy. This makes willow—sometimes referred to as the tree of enchantment—a natural and popular choice for magic wands, particularly for people who feel a strong connection with nighttime, emotions, and the moon.
Willow can also be employed as a sort of broom to sweep away negative or stagnant energy. In fact, willow is a traditional addition to witch’s brooms, and the goddess Quan Yin is often pictured with a willow branch to wave away demons.
Particularly in Japan, willow trees are associated with ghosts. In Ancient Tales and Folk-lore of Japan, author Richard Gordon Smith writes, “In Japanese pictures of ghosts there is nearly always a willow tree.” On the other hand, in China, during the spring festival Qingming (or “Tomb Sweeping Day”), willow branches are placed on doors and gates to prevent wandering spirits from entering.
Willow, with his deep, mystical personality and abiding affiliation with the water element, is quite the lunar aligned tree. As you may know, the moon is associated with the qualities of receptivity, intuition, and magic. So, if you’d like to embody these qualities more fully, try the following ritual:
LUNAR ALIGNMENT RITUAL
When the moon is full or almost full and is bright in the sky (extra credit if it’s on a Monday or when the moon is in Cancer), gather a moonstone or a piece of moonstone jewelry, a glass, a bottle opener, and a bottle of red wine (or grape juice if you don’t drink). Visit a willow and sit or stand in reverent contemplation. Pour yourself a glass of wine (just a tiny bit is fine) and then pour the rest of the wine around the base of the willow as a libation. While holding the moonstone in your left hand, drink the wine mindfully, enjoying the moonlight and the tree’s company as you do so. Thank the willow and the moon before returning home. (It’s best to spend the rest of the evening relaxing at home, as you’ll be extremely receptive to all forms of energy after this ritual.)
Although there are hundreds of species of willow, all of them feature sap rich in salicylic acid, which has been used as a pain and fever reducer since very ancient times. Even today, it’s the most conventional medicine for this purpose in the form of the active ingredient in aspirin. Energetically, willow can be employed for help relieving all forms of pain, including grief and emotional pain.
WILLOW RITUAL TO RELIEVE THE PAIN OF A BROKEN HEART
If you feel that your heart is broken because of a breakup or loss, visit a willow when the moon is in Cancer. Sit comfortably in his shade and allow him to soothe you. Simply notice your breath as it goes in and out. Let yourself relax deeply and allow yourself to be soothed, coddled, and consoled.
Willow is one of the original thirty-eight flower remedies developed by homeopathic medicine pioneer Dr. Edward Bach. It’s employed for support with taking full responsibility for your life and feeling empowered to create positive change. It also helps you to release the belief that other people or situations have power over you, as well as the belief that the success and happiness of others somehow creates a shortage of these qualities. In general, willow helps you to know that there are plenty positive life conditions for everyone, and supports you in becoming the master of your own destiny. If this sounds like something that will support you, try taking two drops under the tongue twice a day for one month. You might also soak in a warm bath into which you’ve added forty drops of willow flower essence.