The mysterious, majestic alder (Alnus) has been sacred to the Irish, Welsh, and Greeks, and he inhabits the Celtic tree calendar between March 18 and April 14. Alder’s relationship with the elements is notably dynamic and multifaceted: his roots actively nourish the earth with nitrogen, his wood doesn’t burn well in fires but flourishes as charcoal, and his timber appears weak on land but becomes almost indestructible in water.
The Air Element
While many trees are in some way aligned with the air element—the element associated with ideas, words, healing, breath, the sunrise, the east, and new beginnings—the alder is particularly so. The branches can be fashioned into wind instruments, such as panpipes and flutes, and whistles made from alder have been employed to call on the magical energies associated with wind. Alder wood charcoal is used to burn incense (which is traditionally aligned with the air element) for ceremonial magic, and its smoke is employed to lend flavor to “smoked” foods.
Connection with the Otherworld
The alder tree is associated with the Welsh deity known as Bran, who employs his giant cauldron to resurrect the dead. (Although once he resurrects them, it is said that they are no longer able to speak, though they can gesture and otherwise communicate.)
Although resurrecting the dead is just a bit beyond the magical aptitude of most practitioners, if you’re a historian or a medium, or are otherwise concerned with connecting with humans who are not longer in physical form, alder can help. For this purpose, try sitting in quiet contemplation with an alder or taking the flower essence. If you happen to have an alder in your yard or would like to plant one, try this:
CROW ALLIANCE FOR OTHERWORLD COMMUNICATION
Do your best to attract crows (also sacred to Bran) to your alder tree with food and water. Once you strike up a relationship with them and they begin to trust you, ask them for help with connecting with the spirits of the dead.
Environmental and Land Healing
The alder—or more specifically a bacterium with which the alder has a symbiotic relationship—has an amazing ability to heal depleted land by replenishing nitrogen in the soil. This goes right along with the tree’s Greek name, klethra, which is derived from a word that means “I embrace, I surround.” If you’re stewarding land that could use some enriching and healing, consider planting alders and consciously enlisting them for the purpose.
Invisibility and Concealment
Robin Hood and other outlaws reportedly dyed their clothes green with a dye made from the alder in order to become less conspicuous in the forest. If you’d like to conceal yourself or your actions (for a noble purpose, of course), try this:
ALDER CONCEALMENT CHARM
Visit an alder the day before you need concealment and explain your mission and why you could use help. When and if you feel that the tree is in sympathy with your cause, respectfully gather two fresh alder leaves, wrapping them in clean green cloth. As a gesture of gratitude, leave two shiny dimes near the tree’s base. Take the leaves home and place them on your altar (or an empty surface). Before leaving the house the next day, place one leaf in each shoe. As you put them on, say:
Alder leaf inside each shoe
Hide me one and hide me two.
Grounded in your living green
Where I walk I’ll be unseen.
Is the alder a being of primordial masculine power? It would appear so, as there is an ancient Irish legend that names an alder tree as the material from which the first man was forged. Visit an alder tree to increase and align with your own masculine energy or to make peace with the masculinity of others.
A decoction of tannin-rich alder bark has been used in a number of herbal healing traditions as a mouthwash, gargle, skin wash, and blood purifier. It has a drying action that is said to soothe irritation and inflammation.
To support physical healing in an energetic way—particularly if your challenge has something to do with bodily fluids, infection, or inflammation—visit an alder tree. Sitting or standing in quiet contemplation, take a moment to tune in. Open up to the tree’s energy and allow yourself to receive an infusion of his healing vibration. Then deepen this effect by sitting with your spine against the trunk or hugging the tree for a good long moment.
In The Fairy Bible, author Teresa Moorey states that “the alder fairy may fly forth in the form of a raven. He can impart all the secrets of good defense to you.” As such, if you happen to be spending time with an alder and a raven appears, consider it a very magical omen. Increase your chances of this happening by placing a shiny object near the tree, such as a mirrored bead or a silver coin. Then when you see the raven, silently express your reverence and respectfully request magical guidance regarding psychic and all-purpose protection.