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Trees for Health: Winter Trees

by Róisín Caroll(more info)

listed in healing, originally published in issue 37 - February 1999

Celtic legends and myths permeate the very soil and the soul of their peoples. Throughout these tales, there are many references to trees and their healing powers.

The Celts lived close to the natural world. They found a balance in this harmony with their environment, respecting all creation. We need to rediscover the wealth of knowledge given to us by our ancestors, to find ways of bringing harmony back into our lives.

Oils and essences made from these trees carry a deep healing on subtle levels. The psychological, emotional, mental, physical and spiritual elements of our being may need support as we move through changes in our lives. For example, the keyword of Oak is Endurance and for Elm is Release. Hawthorn brings a Cleansing and Birch speaks of New Beginnings.

From ancient times, our ancestors followed a 13 month lunar calendar and identified certain trees with varying times and months of the year. We can benefit from familiarising ourselves with these trees and/or their derived oils and essences to bring us into a closer rapport with nature and the season as well as the specific attributes of each tree. The following trees represent the four lunar months of the Winter Season and are shown with their Celtic names.


Winter Solstice falls on December 22 this year at 1:56 AM (GMT). At this darkest time of the year (when the sun is lowest in the sky), we might feel the need for protection for our health (mental, emotional and physical) and our families. The Rowan (or Mountain Ash) is the tree that grows farthest up the mountain, the sentinel on the landscape. In the Celtic system of healing, the Rowan was known as the protector and was often planted at the front of the house. There was a tradition, also, that branches of Rowan were put over the door as safekeeping for people entering and leaving the house. Since Rowan is associated with discernment and good judgement as well, its energy can be especially helpful at this time of year. The Rowan oil and essence carry these energies and can be used for balancing the aura. Rowan can also be used to release negative energies from the land (for example, at disturbed ley lines and at places where disasters have occurred).



Case Study: The Rowan is associated with the etheric body. It seems to affect the psyche, the Thymus and the Immune System through its protective characteristic. At a recent Complementary Medicine exhibition in Scotland, a healer came to see us. He wanted to find out for himself which oil would be most beneficial. When he touched the Rowan oil, he experienced an instant burst of energy in his aura. While the oil was being rubbed into his hands, he revealed that he had been exposed to very negative energies recently doing his own healing work. He felt his Immune System had been weakened and was afraid he couldn't shake off these effects. The oil was able to release the negative energies and provide protection for him. He could tell the difference immediately and felt refreshed. We could see the visible change in him.

Affirmation for Rowan: I am protected and indestructible. Come what may, I am loved. I accept the sweetness and abundance of Life and acknowledge my gifts.


Alder month usually follows after St. Stephen's Day (Boxing Day) as the Sun begins to journey back to the light. It is the right time to find a way of expressing our hopes and dreams for the New Year, forgiving any leftover angers and coming to terms with what's written in our own Book of Destiny. The Alder grows quickly and its energy can help us move along our Path, forgiving and accepting others and ourselves. For example, if there is a dispute with neighbours, Alder could be planted to restore harmony and turn anger into beauty. In the body, Alder oil and essence resonate with the Muscular System and can relieve stiffness and damp diseases, enabling us to move forward with flexibility and comfort.



Case Study: Paul, age 36, had severe muscular problems. His muscles were very stiff in his legs, arms and shoulders. This condition was exacerbated by playing football, golf and other sports. He started using the oil on his hands, on the muscles affected and around the navel. At first, he noticed he was going to sleep much more quickly because he wasn't so sore. After a while, he noticed that his muscles didn't ache as much after his sports activities. Interestingly, he told us that over a few months time his standard of sports performance improved. The reason for this change was because he felt freer in himself. He also came to realise that with the use of the oil he had become more free flowing in his thoughts and attitudes to life.

Affirmation for Alder: I move forward with ease and grace.


Water in the Celtic system was one of the most important elements. The Holy Wells were significantly featured in their sacred rituals (which were generally held outdoors). Such places as Brigid's Well were sought out for celebrations of Imbolc (Candlemas). The Willow (one of the water loving trees) is associated with this time of year when the Sun has begun to warm the earth and the seeds stir and awaken. Water represents the emotions. If our emotions are disturbed, Willow offers us empathy and balance to help us resolve our blockages. Flexibility of mind and body promotes free flowing of fluids and energies throughout the system. The Lymphatic system of the body can be helped by the Willow oil and essence.



Case Study: In her mid-40s, Teresa had started to develop swollen ankles and generally to retain fluid all over her body. Having decided there was disturbance of energy in the Lymphatic System, we suggested this essence and oil might help her. After the first treatment, she discharged a lot of water. She continued taking the essence and rubbing the oil on the hands and navel. After three weeks, she noticed a considerable difference in herself. Her rings fit her much better, for example. Having made the connection between blocked lymphatics and the disuse of intuition, we suggested to Teresa that it might also help to relieve her condition if she developed and used her intuition more.

Affirmation for Willow: I release that which no longer serves me. I am at one with my environment.


Rounding out the Winter season and bringing us up to the Spring Equinox, the Ash (which is ruled by the Sun) takes its place as an important tree of Initiation. It holds keys to various doors of Cosmic Wisdom and Universal Truth. Through Ash, we may earn a rite of passage to the Other World and other dimensions. An old Irish tradition involved stopping a funeral cortege at a special Ash so that the Angel of the Ash might open the "door" to the Greater Whole for the departed soul. The Ash was also known as a magical healer. It is affiliated with the Respiratory System to take in Life rhythmically.



Case Study: One day, Mary (age 47) had laryngitis and could not speak. We applied the Respiratory combination (Ivy, Elder and Ash) on the relative points on the hands and asked her to rub it herself into her chest, around her throat and around the navel. As we were applying the oil, her voice came back. She told us that she had a problem that she should have been speaking up about and had not. She connected the condition of her throat with the issue she had avoided. Once the throat condition was released, she was able to acknowledge and face the other challenge. As she experienced the benefits of this oil, she was able to open the "door" of her throat and speak her own truth.

Affirmation for Ash: I breathe Life easily. I speak my truth. I am protected. I am at one with the Universe.


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About Róisín Caroll

Róisín Carroll, author of The Crane Bag: Ogham Oils and Essences, offers diploma courses which include her insights into the links between the sacred Ogham and the medicine of the trees. She can be contacted for seminars, books and products at: Celtic Tree Oils, Ltd., The Ogham Apothecary, Carlingford, Co. Louth, Ireland. Telephone: +353-42-73793. Fax +353-42-73839.


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