Blackthorn & Yew Woods

“Neither would they cut withes of hazel or willow for creels and baskets, nor would they cut trees of pine to make a boat, in the black wane of the moon. The sap of wood goes down into the root, and the wood becomes brittle and crumbly, without pith, without good. The old people did all these things at the waxing or at the full of the moon.”

~ F. Marian McNeill, The Silver Bough Vol.I (p.58)

Today is the Full Wolf Moon. In the tradition of my ancestors I chose this day to perform a wood harvest.  I left with the rising of the sun and first went to visit Grandmother Yew. I told her (out loud) what I wanted, why, and what I would give in return. “Old Mother give me of thy wood and I will give thee some of mine when I am a tree. Let your spirit continue to flow through the branch though it be separated from your body.” I put my saw to the branch and suddenly hear the croaking of crows. In the Old World it is thought she gives answer in the cackling of geese. Here the Monster Woman of the Woods does through crows, ravens, and the rustling of wind through the leaves of trees. The branch was long. It went on and on, but when I was finished dividing it up it looked like I’d never touched the old Yew, so big it was. After the cut I wipe the stump left behind with spittle on my thumb; “Thank you Grandmother. May you not suffer from disease nor infestation. May you be fertile and long-lived.” I pour out a libation and leave a handful of good tobacco leaves deep in the crook of the Yew’s main trunk.

Yew wood cut for wands

Then it was off to the opposite end of town to visit the old Blackthorn hedges. I found many suitable branches and collected a goodly amount of sharp thorns. There were holes everywhere amidst the roots. A good hiding place for snakes and rats. I drop my offering of tobacco leaves inside the holes. Fitting for a chthonic tree of winter. My load is heavy so I return home to drop it off. Then I set out again, this time closer to home. I walk down the hill of Forest Grove to the second oldest Holly tree and ask to take one of its many children. It agrees, accepts my offering of cider, and I walk away with a few pieces for a wand and a good strong piece for a Holly staff.

Holly in fruit

I walk back up the hill and visit my favourite lone Hawthorn tree. I have been visiting it for years. It flowers and fruits every year now when at first it never did. The gas company has a line near it and they hacked at some branches last year. I performed a ceremony of separation and took the branches and re-cut the nasty hack jobs so the tree wouldn’t get infected. I see one suitable branch to take, but it’s been through a lot and I still have a few pieces of Hawthorn at home. I simply say hello, give a blessing, and promise not to collect the branch until Beltuinn.

The lone Hawthorn

I walk a bit further up the hill along the dirt path and come to an Elder that was killed last year by a combo-death team of the gas company and invasive Blackberry vines. I cut it down and take the pieces which haven’t rotted. I leave a libation, a blessing for its one surviving offspring, and a curse for the blackberries in that spot. I walk closer to home on the crossroad-ridden path by my house to a middle-aged Rowan tree. I perform the same ceremony as with the other trees, but unlike the others the Rowan receives a libation of my best Pomegranate-Raspberry mead. I chose a tall branch of many widths good for a staff, multiple wands, runestaves, and beads. There are birds and squirrels all around me singing and nattering. The Varied Thrushes sing so beautifully. I was enchanted. I return home with my spoils, label them, and put the wood in an old bucket indoors by a heater to dry and cure. Most of the woods require the bark to stay on for this process or they’ll crack so I leave all the barks on. And now I wait.

Holly & Rowan StaffsThe complete wood harvestFrom left to right: Rowan, Blackthorn, Yew, Holly, and Elder

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  • Riverhorse says:

    Thanks for sharing about the Wolf Moon. I enjoyed reading about your time with the trees and am wondering how you’ll carve the wood. Wands, runes, oghams, digging sticks, ??? etc… I am a huge fan of your art and stories.
    Blessings, Riverhorse

  • scott says:

    A fine lesson on wood harvesting. I usually use rainwater to circle the intended cut. Your communion sounds, well, sound!
    Thanks again.

  • Kim says:

    Thanks Sarah you answered my questions about how a person collects wood from trees that are still on the tree. It was a beautiful Wolf moon here last night and I actually found myself wondering about what you would be up to, which surprised me because I don’t normally think of people that I don’t know in person.

  • rachael says:

    blackberry roots make great medicine. maybe they were there because you need them. pull the roots and use them for colds, coughs, and stomach upsets.

    • I still have some I harvested a while ago. There is blackberry everywhere here, both native and invasive. You can’t swing a squirrel without hitting a blackberry vine!

  • jonquil says:

    the elder especially has a lovely tint to its’ bark.

  • Beautiful! I like how you mentioned the Woman of the Woods uses the crows and ravens to speak. It reminded me of a few days ago, I was leaving a creative dance class I take my 20 month old son to (lots of fun for us both) and as I drove onto the road a crow swooped up in front of my windshield and then out of nowhere an eagle swooped down and caught it! Eagle carried it to what looked like small yew or emerald cedar and sat there staring at me as I drove by, me totally mesmerized…..I kid you not this really happened last Tuesday morning… I wonder what it meant, if anything. Just a hungry eagle or something meant for my eyes? What do you think? I can still see those eagle eyes boring into mine… so eerie!

    • Do you really like crows? Maybe the eagle was saying “screw crows, look what I can do”. It could also mean spring is coming soon – eagles are associated with the sun. Or it could mean someone’ s gonna cream you or win an important argument against you.

      • Haha! Maybe! I’m not really attached to crows though, I like them but I have to admit I’m a birds of prey fan. I sure like the idea of spring coming early… Nettles and dandelions!

  • Windwalker says:

    I realize you may not reply to older posts, but I’m completely enamored with what you said about giving the tree some of your wood one day, and I have to ask whether you came up with that on your own or if it’s a line/variation of something else. It’s just so… animistic