Trees

Yew

The second tree that I have been journeying with recently is the Yew tree, Taxus baccata. Typically associated with the Samhain season, I have found myself really connecting and learning about this tree this Spring season with my wonderful book ‘Walking with trees’ by Glennie Kindred as my companion.

Like Willows, Yews are dioecious meaning that trees are either male or female. In the Spring the male trees produce an array of flowers covered with golden pollen. This pollen is carried by the wind to the smaller flowers of the female trees that will go on to produce the red berries in the Autumn.

Yew trees were deeply revered by our ancestors as the ‘tree of immortality’ due to their longevity and ability to regenerate. After the last ice age, around 80% of Europe’s forests were comprised of Yew. Fossil records provide evidence of Yew trees growing around 250 million years ago. With human evolution stretching back just 6 million years ago, there is no doubt humans evolved and lived around these fascinating trees from the very beginning. Known to live for thousands of years, a Yew tree only becomes classed as ‘ancient’ at around 900 years, compared with 400 years for an oak tree. Many of our ancient Yews have been lost in Britain. However those that remain often guard sacred sites, burial mounds and some were probably planted as markers for navigating by.

Yew trees are able to grow in the harshest, most barren and polluted lands and have survived many changes in the climate. They have some fascinating survival strategies including being able to slow down their growth and remain dormant for longer than a human lifespan. They are known to become hollow, to increase their strength, and the foliage that drops down inside the trunk provides a rich compost from which an aerial root can regenerate and grow a new tree inside the old one.

All parts of the Yew tree are poisonous (bark, leaf, sap and seed) other than the red flesh of the fruit that is wrapped around a poisonous seed. This is probably what earned the tree it’s more recent name of the ‘tree of death.’ Whilst it is important to be aware and respect their poisonous qualities, their ability for regeneration and survival under almost all conditions means for me, it is a tree to be celebrated too in this Spring season of rebirth.

Yews are a tree I cannot wait to spend more time exploring this year. Whilst I will not be using any parts of the physical tree for incense or medicine, I will certainly work with its energy and qualities in my own life when I feel in need of some perspective, inner strength and ingenuity.

Wellbeing, Wheel of the Year

Spring Equinox

In astronomical terms, the Spring Equinox marks the beginning of the Spring season in the Northern hemisphere. This year; in 2021 the Spring Equinox falls on Sunday March 21st.

The word ‘equinox’ comes from the Latin word meaning ‘equal night’ and twice a year, on both the Spring and Autumn equinoxes, night and day length are in balance. The light has slowly but surely been increasing from it’s lowest point at the Winter Solstice in December. It will now continue to expand, overtaking the hours of darkness, until it reaches its peak on our longest day at the Summer Solstice on June 20th.

In the natural world the Spring Equinox heralds a time of birth, renewal, new beginnings and an increased energy. As the light increases, the days warmer conditions become more favourable for life to return with vigour. The time of year can be symbolic for us too as a time to shake off the Winter and welcome new ideas and energy.

Being aware of what is going on in our outer world can help us to connect to and learn more about our inner worlds. In this article I will discuss where we are currently in the seasonal cycle and suggest ways in which we can use this to cultivate inner reflection and growth.

Element: Air

This time of the year is associated with the element of air. The energy of air can encourage movement, change, new beginnings and a freshness in ideas or perspective. It can bring lightness into our mind and bodies and dissolve the stagnation that may have gathered over the winter months.

As with all the elements, air can possess more and less helpful qualities. When in balance this energy can feel like a ‘breath of fresh air’ in our lives. It may feel cleansing, stimulating and renewing. When out of balance this energy may leave us feeling rushed, unsettled, overwhelmed and with racing thoughts.

Outer observations

The word that resonates with this season for me is growth. This time of year is a feast for the eyes, ears, heart and soul. It is impossible to spend time outdoors and not witness signs of colour and life bursting out. Green rushes back into the colour palette, filtering its way through the ground and out through unravelling leaf buds. The energy of birdsong alerts us to a new season and as the first flowers open, their delicate yet vibrant petals uplift and expand.

Other words associated with this time of year include: birth, renewal, life force, opening, expansion, growth, new beginnings.

Inner reflections

The time of year can be a guide for inner reflection. It may help to spend some time in nature, and just notice and observe the season that we are in. What words would you use to describe it? Be aware of what feelings it brings up for you. This will be different for us all, depending on where we are in our journey.

Our Spring Equinox Wellbeing Guide is now available to download for free. It contains journal prompts, and a guided mindfulness practice to help you to connect with the energy of the season.

Foraging

Spring Greens!

Eating seasonally is one of my favourite ways of feeling more aligned with earth’s cycles and come Spring I really start craving fresher, zingier and lighter meals with lots and lots of greens. And just as if Nature intended, our gardens and woodlands are bursting full of Spring greens, that nourish and cleanse our bodies after a heavy winter.

After consciously gardening to keep and enjoy wild edibles over the years, there has been plenty coming up over the past few weeks. They have filled our teapot and topped most of our dishes and both my mind and body are starting to feel lighter and clearer after the long Winter months.

One of our favourite ways to enjoy wild greens is in a pesto. It is simple, quick and delicious. We use it to dress salads, vegetables, pasta and potatoes. We don’t follow a recipe and embrace it varying each time but start by popping a big handful of greens into a blender along with a squeeze of lemon, some seeds (or nuts) a glug of olive oil, salt and pepper and I often add a handful of peas to give a nice freshness and sweetness.

We also add chopped greens to the top of almost any dish, or into soups, salads and pasta dishes.

Some are wonderful enjoyed in a fresh spring tea or cold water infusion. My favourite for this are Cleavers and the Nettles.

As with everything, once you get your eye in, identifying plants becomes almost second nature but it takes time to learn, we are always cautious, avoiding anything unless we are sure – there are poisonous lookalikes out there so cross reference, learn from someone and take your time – it is worth it. We still enjoy adding a few extra plants to our repertoire each year.


Here are just a few greens I use on a regular basis as they are local and abundant to me. They are often an important nectar source in early Spring so we only ever take a small proportion of what is growing leaving lots for the wildlife who depend on them. There are lots of other tasty greens not listed here and getting to know those in your garden is a good place to begin.

Foraging, Trees

Willow

I feel very lucky to have received some wonderful books for my birthday this year, one being ‘Walking with Trees’ by Glennie Kindred (one of my favourite authors and nature connectors).

It has inspired me to form an even deeper connection with some of our lovely native and naturalised trees in Britain and I thought it might be nice to share some of my journeying here, starting with Willow a beloved tree all year round, but particularly special in Spring.


Willows are one of the first trees to grow in Spring, symbolising regeneration, new beginnings and letting go of the old.

There are over 400 species of willow worldwide but the most common to Britain are White Willow, Goat Willow, Crack Willow and Common Osiers or basket willow.

The trees are dioecious meaning they are either male or female, with the striking ‘Pussy Willow’ catkins growing on male Goat willows before the leaves grow. The female flowers develop with the leaves later in the Spring. Both the flowers and leaves are very important nectar and food source for many insects throughout the year.

It is thought that the the words ‘Wicca’ and ‘Witch’ were derived from the word ‘Willow’ and the tree has many ancient associations with healing, rituals and magic.

Traditionally Willow has been used as a pain relief, with the bark containing salicin, from which Aspirin was derived in 1899.

I love using Willow in any rituals connected with the Moon, releasing stuck emotions, old energy, welcoming the new, connecting with our intuition, welcoming Spring, emotional healing and lifting the spirits.

I burn both the bark and leaves, hang up bunches of Willow leaves and collect a few stems in early Spring to put in water and watch the catkins open.

Traditionally willow leaf infusions have been used for sore throats, toothe ache and helping to eliminate toxins from the body. The bark is used in treatments for rheumatism, muscle aches and stiffness and indigestion.


Willow is a wonderful tree to get to know more, growing near water she always offers a seat of peace beneath her branches to soften and watch the world go by. I look forward to walking beside her during the months ahead and sharing some more about her magic!