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Ash – one Ireland’s sacred trees

The Ash is part of the olive family and is prized for its strength as well as its healing qualities. In Ireland the ash was considered one of the trilogy of sacred trees along with the oak and hawthorn.

Ash Tree. Image copyright Ireland Calling
In Ireland the ash was considered one of the trilogy of sacred trees along with the oak and hawthorn. Three of the five magic trees of Ireland were ash along with one oak and one yew.

Sadly, these trees were cut down in 665 by the Christians to symbolise their victory over paganism, although some of the pagan traditions were adopted by the Christians and some trees were linked to the stories of the saints.

Nion, Nuin, N
The ash is the fifth letter in the Ogham alphabet, ‘Nion’ or ‘Nuin’, and the third month in the Celtic Tree Calendar.

St Patrick supposedly banished the snakes from Ireland with an ash stick, which, in Irish mythology, was the preferred wood for a magic wand.

Irish emigrants took  Ash to America

According to the writer Robert Graves who created the modern Celtic tree calendar, a tree descended from the sacred tree of Creevna, another sacred ash was still standing in the 19th century.

Irish emigrants to America took pieces of the ash with them as a charm against drowning. Ash was thought to have power over water and was often planted near sacred springs known as ‘cloothe wells’. It was also used to build boats. In Ancient Greek mythology ash was associated with Poseidon the god of the sea.

Possibly due to its strength and ability to grow to great heights (over 130ft), Celtic mythology refers to the ash tree as The World Tree, a tree that spans between worlds, the backbone of the universe. It is the tree that represents The Tree of Life, with its tall branches reaching up into the heavens and its vast root system spread deep below the Earth. Norse mythology had similar beliefs that the ash was the tree said to span the universe, linking worlds.

Medicinal uses of ash

The bark, seeds and leaves of the ash are all believed to have medicinal qualities. They have been used throughout time to strengthen the liver and spleen, cleanse the system and detoxify the body. In Ancient Greece Hippocrates was known to have used ash to concoct remedies for gout and rheumatism. The inside of ash bark is a disinfectant and was used for cleansing wounds before the use of modern antiseptics.

The leaves of the ash are said to refresh tired feet when put inside boots.

More on Celtic trees folklore

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Apple – healing, youthfulness and rebirth




Ash – one Ireland’s sacred trees





Aspen – sacred Celtic whispering tree




Birch – the tree of birth





Blackthorn – sinister tree of the dark side




Elder – a tree sacred to the Celts




Gorse – symbol of love and fertility




Hawthorn – the fairy tree




Hazel – the tree at the world's end





Heather – building block for Celts





Holly – guards against spirits and witchcraft





Ivy – symbol of strength and determination




Mistletoe – sacred plant of the sun god





Oak – king of the forest





Reed – introduction to Ogham





Rowan – the 'lady of the mountains'





Scots Pine – the 'pioneer' plant'





Vine – the tree of joy



Willow – beauty and spiritual presence





Yew – longevity and resurrection




The Celtic Tree Calendar – following the lunar cycle

Ancient Irish language of ogham

Ogham – ancient Irish written language





New age beliefs about Ogham





Ogham alphabet named after Irish words for trees




Origins of Ogham – modern theories





Poems written in Ogham





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