Mother's Day: trees in folklore and tradition

Young Ash trees
The Druids considered ash to be the All-Mother tree (Photo: WTML)

Mother’s day is just around the corner in the UK. It’s a fantastic day where we can thank our mums for all the hard work they do. Interestingly, there is plenty of folklore around the idea of motherhood, nature and in particular trees!

Trees associated with motherhood

Ash (Fraxinus excelsior)

Large healthy Ash tree

The Druids considered oak to be the All-Father tree and ash to be the All-Mother tree.

The idea of the All-Mother tree came from the magical and medicinal properties that ash trees were said to have. Even now it is sometimes known as the 'Venus of the Woods' and Venus also has links to motherhood and femininity. 

Beech (Fagus sylvatica)

Beech tree

Beech trees are known as the Mother of the Woods or sometimes the Queen of the Woods.

In these legends oak, once again represents the male side but beech is recognised as the female side because of its protective properties. This comes from the idea of beech being able to give shelter thanks to its dense canopy cover and that beech nuts are edible. Going back far enough into these legends suggest that beech nuts were a valuable source of nutrition for travellers through the UK's extensive forests to fight off starvation.

Elder (Sambucus nigra)

Elder canopy and flowers

Stories from Eastern Europe and the east of England tell of elder trees being inhabited by the Elder Mother.

The story goes that if you wished to chop down the tree, or even part of the tree, you had to ask the Elder Mother's permission. The story then changes dependent on who you ask because if you did not ask permission you would end up with bad luck or could be visited by the Devil. The Elder Mother wasn’t all bad though. There are stories of people asking the Elder Mother for her healing powers and if you planted an elder tree in your garden the Elder Mother was supposed to protect the house.

Visit a wood on Mother's Day

Trees are often a sign of strength and protection and I can’t think of anyone more strong and protective than my mum! Happy Mother's Day to all the mums out there and make sure you spoil your mum on this fantastic day, perhaps with a walk in the woods with tales of the trees!

Visit a wood near you

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