The Ash tree has male and female flowers on separate plants but gender in ash is expressed as a continuum between male and female individuals, dominated by unisexual trees. With age, ash may change their sexual function from predominantly male and hermaphrodite towards femaleness; if grown as an ornamental and both sexes are present, ashes can cause a considerable litter problem with their seeds. Rowans or mountain ashes have leaves and buds superficially similar to those of true ashes, but belong to the unrelated to the rose family. Ash is a hardwood and is hard, dense but also quite flexible or elastic, which is great for making bows, handles,and other objects that requite flexibility in their practical use.
Ash Wood lights and burns easily, so is used for starting fires and barbecues, and is usable for maintaining a fire, though it produces only a moderate heat. Interestingly enough the inner bark of the blue ash has been used as a source for blue dye, used in dying wool and other garments.
Leaves: The leaves grow in a similar way to the Rowan, but in general are larger and less delicate then the rowan. Cattle, goats, and rabbits are all said to love to eat the leaves, and in times of shortage farmers would bring loads of them into the bard in the fall.
Seeds: popularly known as "keys" or "helicopter seeds", are a type of fruit known as a samara. Bark:The bark is "ash grey"
Magic and Folklore
The ash tree was a tree regarded with awe in Celtic countries, especially Ireland, where there are several recorded instances in Irish history in which people refused to cut an ash, even when wood was scarce, for fear of having their cabins consumed with flame, as the ash tree was often associated with fire because they believed that the wood attracted lightning.
There is an old saying that warns against being close to the ash tree during a lightning storm, as though the wild aspect of the fire element is attracted to it! The saying goes like this: “Avoid an Ash, for it courts a flash”.
The ash tree itself might be used in May Day (Beltane) rites. Under the Old Irish word nin, the ash also gives its name to the letter N in the ogham alphabet. Together with the oak and the thorn, the ash is part of a magical trilogy in fairy lore. Ash seedpods may be used in divination, and the wood has the power to ward off fairies, especially on the Isle of Man. In Gaelic Scotland, children were given the astringent sap of the tree as a medicine, and as a protection against witch-craft.
The ash tree has always been associated with a certain wildness, and the mystical aspects of the divine feminine, as the traditional witches brook, or besom, was made of ash branches mixed with birch and willow, to bring a trine of magic; this is a reference to the trinity of the mother, maiden and crone.
It is said that witches danced around the ash pole, moving it between their legs, as if riding a broomstick into the otherworld. We now know that the ash branches were smeared with a salve known to induce trance, and that the membranes of the yoni are a good place to put this salve for fast absorption!
Wands made from ash branches are also said to have been used for raising and directing healing energies, and to ward off enchantments. It has been said that ash leaves placed under the pillow before sleep would bring prophetic dreams, or ash leaves placed in containers of water would ward off illness.
In Celtic and Nordic mythology, the ash tree is referred to as the World Tree, or the Tree of Life, with a serpent at its roots that represents the divine feminine, spanning between worlds, the backbone of the universe; the Tree of Life, with its tall branches reaching up into the heavens and its vast root system spread deep below the Earth. The druids were said to make carvings out of the roots of the sacred ash tree, which were made to look like humans and used for healing. If we look closely at the sacred ash tree it is easy to see that the ash runs deep within the oldest of spiritualities on the earth, and that it touches us at deep primal levels of wildness. It's also a tree with ancient lunar associations, which eventually became symbolic of the might of the solar gods and goddesses as patriarchy took over. As a lunar tree, it also connects deeply with the element of water and healing. The most powerful associations with the ash that are still in use today are the maypole used during Beltane, and the World Tree. The Maypole is seen as phallic, a solar centre from which life is created, so using a lunar tree like the ash for the maypole balances the interplay and sexual dance that occurs at Beltane - “Hurray, Hurray, it is the first of May, outdoor screwing begins today!”
In early times in Britain, the ash tree was associated with rebirth and new life, and it was famous for its ability to heal children, who were passed through a split in the tree's trunk in order to be cured of ruptures, hernias, rickets and warts. It is said that passing through the sacred ash tree was to pass from one dimension into another. It also has been said that women associated with the ash tree are also associated with birth; the ash is associated with spring and new life. The ash is sometimes referred to in the feminine, as 'sister ash', 'mother ash' or 'granny ash', and in many folklore tales it is referred to as the lady of the woods.
Herbal Healing with Ash:
The bark of the ash was said to aid in curing fevers, and to be more potent at the time of year when the sap was flowing. The bark from the root was also said to be potent and used as a tonic for arthritic rheumatism and liver disorders, probably due to its bitter qualities.
Of course, I could not resist adding some information about bees and honey and the sacred ash tree, and so I quote the book The Sacred Bee, by Hilda Randsome:
“Loki took a cup of mead and drank the magic Mead (honey wine). The honey of which this divine drink was composed seems to have been regarded as dew from the heaven or from the world tree, Yggdrasil. The Eddas (Irish ancient poems) tell of this great ash tree, Yggdrasil (Yuh-griddia), a symbol of air, sky clouds, and perhaps of the growing power of nature; its branches cover the whole earth, and it had three roots spreading into the underworld. At one of the roots was the Urthar spring, whose water was so sacred that anything put into it became as white as the skin under an eggshell. The spring was guarded by the fates, the norns, and they sprinkled the sacred water daily over the tree in order to protect it from decay. This dew which fell from the tree onto the earth was called the “honey-fall”, and on it, as the old writer, Snorri, says, the bees fed."
Perhaps an offering of honey mead, honey or pollen can be made to the trees that give us life. All the better if you can find a sacred Ash tree, but if you cannot, honour the trees in your backyard, letting them know that this offering is also for all sacred ash trees wherever they may be…
Living and working on theunceded Indigenous land belonging to the Coast Salish peoples, including the territories of the xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), Stó:lō and Səl̓ílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations.