Capturing the world with Photography, Painting and Drawing

The Pagan tree and forest plants

Pagan tree beliefs trees

Trees, herbs, and plants are very important to Druids. They represent their sacred alphabet, they are used for healing, and many Druids name themselves after trees. Trees are the connection between the realms. Ireland was said to be divided into four lands, each occupied by a sacred tree with a fifth tree at the center.

The five most important trees are the oak, rowan, birch, apple, and yew:

The oak is connected with strength, protection, and stability. Some say that the very word Druid derives from duir, the old word for oak.

The rowan is useful for protection, youth, and prophecy.

The birch is symbolic of beginnings, renewal, regeneration, and cleansing. It is also associated with the bard.

The apple tree is the tree of life and is said to reside at the center of the otherworld.

The yew is associated with death and decay because it is very poisonous, but this unique evergreen tree also lives for thousands of years. It is related to the ovate and is frequently found near sacred wells.

Other trees, such as the ash, willow, and hawthorn also frequently appear in mythology and legend.

Pagan tree beliefs

Foremost among the herbs and plants most revered by Druids is mistletoe. Mistletoe is a parasite frequently found growing on oaks. It is said that mistletoe, which grows off trees rather than from roots in the earth, must never be allowed to touch the earth. It is sometimes called all-heal, but it is poisonous, so use it with caution. Verbena, or vervain, is gathered at Midsummer, whereas mistletoe is gathered at Midwinter. It is used as an offering to the gods. It is also considered a cure-all and is said to ward against evil spirits.

Herb robert


This herb has been used in medicine for centuries, although in the 20th century, particularly in Portugal it was hailed as a folk cancer remedy when the powdered leaves were taken with a raw, fresh egg yolk. Of course this has not been proven to work. Dioscorides described it and it was known to the old herbalists, who used it mainly for blood problems, as the stalks and leaves turn bright red in autumn, a sign to these old herbalists that it was good for the blood.

This plant is known by around a hundred names some of which refer to other plants more often, such as bloodwort (red dock), and red robin (not ragged robin) and cranesbill, which is native to the US and poisonous. However Stinking Bob is a name given to this herb which is unique to it, and refers to the smell given off by its bruised leaves. It is also called the Fox Geranium, some say because of its “foxy” smell after rain. It is native to hedgerows and woodland in Europe the British isles included, and to temperate Asia as it grows as far east as Japan and in the Himalayan regions.

No one really knows how it became Herb Robert, although there are several contenders for being its namesake, including Robert Duke of Normandy, who died in 1134, St Robert of Molesme, a French monk who died in 1110, and Robin Goodfellow or Puck, the mischievous elf who has a role in Shakespeare’s play “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” The Latin name Robertianum might be a corruption of ruber meaning red, rather than referring to any specific Robert, Robin or Rupert, names that seemed to have been linked to this plant.

The leaves of Herb Robert are the main part of the plant used for medicinal purposes and an infusion of these has been drunk and used as a wash for the skin, and for inflammation of the eyes. A poultice of the leaves has been used to relieve hardened breasts, to increase lactation in nursing mothers, to relieve irritated skin and the pain of rheumatism and reduce bruising, as well as being applied to herpes sores and ulcers. The infusion can also be used for the same external purposes.

11 responses

  1. victoriaaphotography

    Very interesting to read about the trees.
    Your description of Herb Robert took me back to my formal studies in Herbal Medicine in the early 1990s – wish I could remember more, as I found using plants in healing much more natural than the synthetic drugs I have to take today for my heart & BP.

    April 10, 2013 at 12:01 pm

  2. 1annecasey


    April 10, 2013 at 1:02 pm

  3. This is wonderful…! I have a walking stick I made from an old apple tree, that had to be cut down, and now I am aware of the Druid reverence. I also knew a MicMac Elder, (a Canadian Native American tribe) who introduced me to Rowan’s protective properties. They cut small pieces of branch and hang them from doorways. It is said that the branch will turn North/south or East/west when a person stands under it. It was a long time ago and I don’t remember which directional is positive… it’s a fun thing to try though, since the stick does seem to have a mind of its own. You could pass a villain and a saint through to see…Ha!

    April 10, 2013 at 1:12 pm

    • Hi Jh..

      Thank you for your great comments!

      I bet you enjoy using your stick every time your with it, having know it all its life!

      Also thanks for your valued info on the Elder , that’s very interesting about it turning north.south, east or west. I wonder what they read in that about the person underneath?

      There is a complete story in that alone!


      April 10, 2013 at 1:23 pm

  4. Liana

    Nigel, I just love your blog and this post in particular…

    wow, the words and the pictures…did I mention that I love your blog and this post in particular?


    April 10, 2013 at 2:28 pm

    • HI Liana…

      Thank you so much for your great comments ! 🙂

      I just had a very quick look at you own blog, Great images and posts. 🙂 .. I will have a good time and read tonight 🙂

      Thank you again for your comments they are much valued and welcomed!


      April 10, 2013 at 2:33 pm

  5. umm, more? I’m taking this for my son, the Merlin fan. My son’s favorite character after Merlin was/is Guis because of his herb meds. & Druid stories…Henry will love this, almost as much as I did. Thank you, Nigel! -amy

    April 10, 2013 at 4:45 pm

    • Great!!! Hope he enjoys 🙂 and very please you did !! 🙂
      – Nigel

      April 10, 2013 at 4:48 pm

  6. Reblogged this on 2me4art and commented:
    For Henry- the Guis (spelling?) fan on the BBC series Merlin. Henry had never heard about Druids until his interest in the television show.

    April 10, 2013 at 4:47 pm

  7. A wonderful post! There is increased interest in Druidism because we remember it as a nature religion.

    April 11, 2013 at 1:54 am

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