Willow – beauty and spiritual presence

The Willow was a sacred tree to the Celts both for the wide range of materials it provided and for its unique beauty and spiritual presence.

The Willow tree in Celtic culture

It appears throughout the mythology of many cultures. In the Druid stories, the universe and all mankind was hatched from two scarlet eggs hidden within the willow tree. One egg formed the sun and the other the Earth.

In the seasonal festival of Beltane this story was re-enacted using painted eggs, a practice later adopted by the Christians and named Easter.

Ogham, the mysterious language of the trees The Origins of the Ogham alphabet are still a mystery for many historians, but it is primarily thought to be an early form of the Irish written Language. Bealtaine Fire


In Hebrew culture the willow is associated with the Feast of the Tabernacles, where shelters were built using the branches of the willow, a tradition still followed in Jerusalem today.

In Greek mythology Willow was sacred to the Goddesses of the underworld, Persephone, Hecate, Circe and Hera. This was also the case in Celtic mythology where the willow was connected to the death goddesses representing dark, aspects of the psyche that require great understanding and challenge wisdom and strength.

In relation to these myths, the willow flower remedy is said to alleviate bitterness and resentment and benefit those who often blame others for their misfortunes. Willow leaves were often worn as charms to protect against jealousy and the wood of the willow inside and outside of a dwelling was said to protect against evil.

The Willow Craft

Willow had many practical uses in old Ireland, Britain and throughout the World, as well as spiritual ones.

It was used in the walls of houses as part of wattle and daub, made into fence posts and barrels and woven into wicker baskets, furniture, beehives, fencing and lobster pots to name just a few of its many uses.

The word ‘wic’ (from wicker) in Old English literally meant ‘to bend’.

When Christianity spread throughout Britain and Ireland the Christians formed large urban centres and took to referring to those in rural environments, who practiced the old country ways, as ‘wicca’ (pronounced wik-chah), for men, ‘wicce’ women, or ‘wiccan’ plural, literally those who bend and manipulate.

Perhaps because creating objects from willow branches(wicker) was such a common everyday job for the country folk, Wiccan came to be a derogatory term used to represent all those men and women who followed the old ways and crafts.

Wicker came to be associated with witchcraft

Saille, Seille, S – Willow is the fourth letter of the ogham alphabet ‘Saille’ and the fifth month of the Celtic tree calendar. A symbol That Spring has come, it is the first tree to flower in Spring, so loved by bees, and the last tree to lose its vibrant colour in Autumn.

Through the years, as cultures became more separated, this evolved into the idea of witchcraft. To bend and manipulate became related to magic and spells and the Christians didn’t much like the idea of the folk practicing these activities.

Medicinally, willow bark has been used as a remedy for soothing pain since Ancient Greece. The bark of the willow contains salicin which, when oxidised in the human body, becomes salicylic acid, later to be turned into what we know as aspirin.

Willow was also used to treat rashes, dandruff, bleeding gums and mouth inflammations. It was also used to prevent fever and dyspepsia.

More on Celtic trees folklore

Trees in Celtic Mythology


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

Ireland Calling Videos

Check out the Ireland Calling YouTube Channel for more great videos like these.