In ancient times, the forests of Europe were said to be so vast that (reputedly) a squirrel could travel from one end of a country to another without having to come down from the tops of the trees. Europe was once covered in trees from the Arctic Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea.
The ancient ancestors took nature at heart, and they were in frequent contact with one another. Olden travellers claimed to see (supernatural) forest civilisations, magical fauna, and mythical plants.
To the ancient Greeks and Romans, trees were thought to be inhabited by female spirits called Dryad (in oak trees) or Meliae (in ash trees). In Greek drys signifies ‘Oak’ from an Indo-European root *derew(o)- 'tree’ or 'wood’. In Scottish folklore a friendly tree spirit, called the Ghillie Dhu, helps lost children find their way home. Japan is home to a rich tradition encompassing various tree spirits, generally called Kodama. Traditionally, foresters made offerings to the Kodama before cutting a tree down.
Trees are believed to possess mystical powers and spirits. The ancients had a deep respect for the spirits of the forest. The superstition “touch wood” to guard against bad luck reverts back to the Dark Ages, when trees were considered to be the link between the upper and lower worlds and were not just inert objects to be taken for granted. It is also believed that trees can carry messages to and from other spiritual worlds.
According to ancient myths, trees were mankind’s ancestors, providing man with a link to the spirits of ancestors as well as doorways into other realms. According to Norse mythology, the first man was made from an ash tree. The first woman was made from a rowan tree or elm, according to similar myths.
For the Celts, the oak tree was the most sacred one of all. They called this tree “daur” which is the origin of the word “door”, the oak providing a doorway to the world in which faeries dwelled. Many legends tell of how after falling asleep under an oak tree, people would wake up in the realm of the faeries.
Folkloric properties of trees:
Rowan - In many parts of Europe, the rowan tree was believed to protect against evil. Pieces of rowan were carried by people to ward of evil spirits and protect them against witchcraft. Crosses would be made from rowan twigs and sewn into the lining of coats, hung in houses or fastened to cattle as a way to protect themselves and animals from evil spells.
Birch - Long associated with fertility and healing magic, new beginnings, purification, protection, creativity, fertility & birth. It was known as ‘The Lady of the Woods’. Birch twigs were used to bestow fertility on cattle and newlyweds, and children’s cradles were made from its wood. Birch is one of the first trees to grow on bare soil and thus it births the entire forest.
Elder - The druids used it both bless and curse. Standing under an elder tree at Midsummer, like standing in a Fairy Ring of mushrooms, will help you see the “little people.” Elder wands can be used to drive out evil spirits or thought forms. Music on panpipes or flutes of elder have the same power as the wand.
Hazel - Hazel, The Tree of Immortal Wisdom has applications for manifestation, spirit contact, protection, prosperity, divination-dowsing, dreams, wisdom-knowledge, marriage, fertility, intelligence, inspiration. Hazel is a tree that is sacred to the fae folk and a wand of hazel can be used to call the fae. It is also used for poetic inspiration.
The Holly King & The Oak King
The Holly King represents one half of the year, while the other is personified by his counterpart and adversary the Oak King: the two battle endlessly as the seasons turn. These pairs are seen as the dual aspects of the male Earth deity, one ruling the waxing year, the other ruling the waning year.
In Celtic mythology the “Oak King” and the “Holly King” were twins, pitted against each other in a never-ending fight for supremacy. Oak Tress, sacred to the Celts, lose their leaves, while the English Christmas holly trees are evergreen. As cold weather approached, the Celts marveled at how the evergreen Christmas holly trees, hidden amongst the leafy oaks the rest of the year, now stood out prominently on an otherwise barren landscape. The Holly King had won out, as it were, as the incarnations of his twin brother had shed all their leaves and stood naked in defeat.
But by the time the winter solstice arrives, the tide has turned: the Oak King’s flow in power is the Holly King’s ebb. The deciduous twin takes his first steps towards re-establishing his supremacy. The Oak King’s supremacy won’t reach its zenith until midsummer, when the oaks will be in full leaf again. At which point, it is now the Holly King who will be riding the new wave. The evergreen twin lies the foundation in the summer heat for a reign that will culminate in the winter solstice. Thus ironically, whenever either king reaches the height of his dominance, at that very time he is doomed to be supplanted.
Originating in Greek and Roman lore, the faun is a half human-half goat, (from the head to the waist being human, but with the addition of goat horns) manifestation of forest and animal spirits that would help or hinder humans at whim. The ancient faun is a playful character associated with trickery. Traditional fauns love practical jokes. They are also associated with sensuality, and with the god of wine, Dionysus.
Romans believed fauns inspired fear in men traveling in lonely, remote or wild places; but they were also capable of guiding humans in need. The Romans also had a god named Faunus and goddess Bona Dea (female faun), who, like the fauns, were goat-people. The faun loves to dance and play the flute.
Fawns, in original texts, are said to have feet resembling human ones.
They have elegant horns, like that of a fawn.
Fawns are considered to be delicate and (mostly) innocent.
Their physical appearance is overall attractive.
They are also said to be knowledgable and talented.
The white stag has played a prominent role in many cultures’ mythology.
The white stag appears as its name would suggest, a deer with all-white fur and often a towering rack of horns. But legend assigns it intriguing characteristics beyond its white coat. In folklore, sometimes the white stag has red ears or bears the sun or another symbol (some say the cross) between its horns. Other tales suggest its horns flame with fire that never consumes them, while in Persian legend, a creature like the white stag, actually had blue fur, eyes like rubies, and hooves like gold.
The Celtic people considered them to be messengers from the otherworld.
Arthurian legends states the creature has a perennial ability to evade capture; and that the pursuit of the animal represents mankind’s spiritual quest. It also signalled that the time was nigh for the knights of the kingdom to pursue a quest.
In Scotland, the legend of the white stag is particularly strong on the island of Arran, where the sighting of the white stag is thought to signal the death of the Duke of Arran. The animal is said to appear in order to conduct the duke to the next world.
A legend says that the white stag lead to the discovery of Japan. Versions of the legend appear in many different parts of the globe including Mayan Indian and Japanese versions. In Japanese mythology a stag is hunted by twin brothers but the beast eludes them. The twins argue about which way to take and finally split up in different direction. One goes east and one goes west. The twin that takes to the east eventually discovers Japan.
for those curious, the wand Ollivander helped me to find was a long springy wand of birch with a unicorn hair core. he said it would do well to help me perform healing and transfiguration. the actor was great and for a brief moment he made me believe in magic ;;v;;