Ash trees (Fraxinus) have been revered since ancient times and are mentioned often in mythology and folklore.
In many cultures, the ash tree is considered to be a sacred tree with special powers. The ash tree is also the national tree of several countries, including Ireland, Latvia, and Poland.
Many of the residential streets in my hometown are lined with a rare variety of ash trees. These trees are not very friendly, but they are not unfriendly either. They stare at the abyss with a degree of neutrality and calm that is unsettling.
In many traditions, the ash represents the World Tree, Yggdrasil, or the Tree of Life and it is often associated with healing, love, and protection. In some cultures, it is said that if you burn ash wood, you attract prosperity while others believe that if you carry ash leaves, you attract love. Regardless of the specific meaning attached to it, the ash tree has long been a source of inspiration and wonder.
Please note that the ash tree is no longer believed to be the world tree from which the Norse god Odin hung during his spiritual rite of passage. Many scholars now believe that the yew was the tree in question.
Ash tree symbolism has been up for interpretation throughout the years and in this blog post, we’ll explore some of the different ways that people have interpreted the ash with its symbols and meanings.
Mastership and power, protection, money, love and fertility, healing
In England and France during the 1800s, people believed that if you buried fingernails and toenails from someone with a fever or toothache under an ash tree, it would cure them.
Details About the Ash Tree
Fraxinus is one of 29 genera in the olive family and it contains around 65 species of trees that are hardy and grow quickly.
These trees are mostly native to the northern temperate zone, but a few can be found in tropical areas. They can thrive in any type of soil and are tolerant of windy and polluted conditions.
Leaves are usually pinnate and deciduous in most species. The small flowers appear in panicles during early spring, and in some cases, before the leaves even sprout.
There are four-lobed or irregularly cut petals that range from two to six; these petals can be either separate or united at the base. Lastly, the fruits each contain one seed and have wings–these are more commonly known as “keys”.
The common ash tree is native to Europe and the Caucasus. It can grow up to 140ft tall and its black winter buds are a distinguishing feature.
The leaves have seven to eleven leaflets, each up to 5in long. In eastern North America, the white ash tree is a popular shade tree that grows quickly, while the black ash tree is medium-sized and does better in the wild than in cultivation.
Throughout Europe’s history, strong and tough ash wood has been utilized by warriors of the Bronze and Iron Ages to create spears and shield handles. Achilles is known for killing Hector with an Ash spear.
Even during peaceful times, this type of wood has had many uses including tool handles, oars and sports equipment just to list a few. The ash tree is also one of the prime trees used for coppicing- meaning it provides humans with sticks and poles since ancient times.
The ash tree has many purposes, but one of its most important is that it provides food for livestock. In the Alps, ash leaves are second only to elm as fodder for cattle, sheep, goats and deer because they are so full of nutrients and easy to chew.
Lopping ash trees on the farm was traditionally done to provide food for cattle, but as artificial supplements and breeds that don’t need such provisions have developed, this practice has become questioned by farmers.
Today, more and more Alpine farmers are looking for ways to return to traditional methods and animal breeds.
Dry ash keys can last on the tree well into winter and even beyond. Traditionally, ripe ones were prized by herbal physicians.
Hippocrates, the Greek physician who lived in the fourth century BCE, was one of the first people to sing ash’s praises in herbal medicine texts.
Tea brewed with leaves gathered in spring or early summer can act as a laxative and diuretic by increasing urine output and uric acid excretion while also promoting regularity. Ash keys are also yummy additions to salads eaten during springtime.
The ash remedy helps cure gout and rheumatism in classical homoeopathy and the tree essence also enhances a sense of strength and flexibility.
Folklore, Myth and Symbol Of Ash Trees
According to Greek mythology, the nymphs of the ash tree, known as Meliae, were said to be the daughters of cloud and sea spirits.
In Classical times, the ash tree was sacred to Poseidon—the god of the ocean—and sailors would often take pieces of its wood aboard their ships as good luck charms during long journeys at sea.
Many years later, in the 19th century, Irish migrants going to America did the same thing. The ash tree’s ancient Irish name, nion, connects it to the Irish god Nuadu (as well as the British equivalent Nodens or Nodons), who had a large temple of healing near the Severn river until around 500 CE.
The meaning of both names is “cloud-maker”, which is similar to Greek tradition where ash twigs were used in rain ceremonies.
In Welsh mythology, the ash tree is more closely associated with Gwydion. He is the master druid who learned from old Math–the wisest person in all of the Welsh legend. Druids are magicians and seers, and Gwydion revealed more magical powers than anyone else of his kind.
The connection between the ash tree and druidry was confirmed when a first-century solar spiral decorated staff made from an ash tree was discovered on Anglesey island.
The ash tree’s power over water comes from the sun, as reflected in its ocean charms and rain-making rituals. The era of intense human sun worship roughly corresponds to the Bronze Age, when warriors switched from yew hunting weapons to ash spears designed for battle.
This is reflected in the Greek tradition, where Hesiod says that the “third and brazen race of men” was born from an ash tree.
Similarly, Icelandic Eddas (the main collection of Norse myths) report that the first man was made of ash wood (and the first woman was made of elm).
The “neither” here refers not to the biblical first human, but rather to the leading Aryan invaders of Neolithic Europe during the second millennium BCE. With their arrival came a whole new era of global power struggles—one signified by the ash spear.
While it is commonly believed that the ash had something to do with the Norse World Tree, Yggdrasil, this is not accurate. The Eddas describe the tree poetically as the “evergreen needle-ash”, which is a metaphor for a conifer-yew tree.
The ash is neither evergreen nor has needles. The myth of a “World-ash” is a 19th-century misconception that still unfortunately exists today. Although, the ash is arguably one of the most majestic deciduous trees in the maritime climate of northwestern Europe.
Ash Tree Symbolism
The Latin name for Ash, Fraxinus, is derived from the word for “firelight” and it is believed to represent the light of knowledge and wisdom and is traditional for the yule log.
The ash tree has long been associated with prosperity, protection and healing. In some cultures, it is also seen as a symbol of sea power.
Mastership and Strength
The ash tree has long been known as a symbol of strength and mastership, with its sturdy branches and deep strong roots. This reputation is even evident in its scientific name, Fraxinus excelsior, meaning “superior ash.”
All of the mythological and practical significance combined with its imposing presence make the ash tree a fitting symbol of mastership and strength.
But even with all their might, ash trees still face threats such as the invasive Emerald Ash Borer beetle, reminding us to appreciate and protect these symbols of power in our midst.
An ash tree in front of the home can serve as a powerful protector from harm, while also promoting integrity among its inhabitants.
Carrying a piece of ash wood (or incorporating it into a charm) will protect against negativity, and will additionally guard against accidents, snakes, and drowning.
The Greek goddess of justice, Nemesis, is said to carry an ash branch. It makes sense that she would since the ash has a very impersonal quality that can be directed to create magic.
Ash trees have been revered since ancient times and have a long history of symbolism and meaning in different cultures around the world.
The ash tree is extremely tough and elastic. It is known to represent the linking of the inner and outer worlds.
The wood from this tree is often used for purification practices as it is very good at removing and cleansing internalized strife.
Additionally, mental purifications, protection spells, and sea magic all benefit from utilizing components derived from the ash trees.
Whether you see the ash tree as being sacred or simply as a beautiful addition to nature, there is no denying that these magnificent trees have a long-standing place in human history.