The Nine Woods of Wiccan lore have a bit of variance to them, but if we go with the trees specifically mentioned in the long-form poem “The Wiccan Rede” we at least have somewhere to begin. Just know that this isn’t an absolute listing and depending on where you look, you will come across different lists.
The Nine Woods are special trees, sacred to the Celtic peoples of Europe for their magical and spiritual significance. While Wicca isn’t entirely Celtic, a great deal of Wiccan practice is cobbled together from Celtic lore and mythology. The Nine Woods are a part of this absorption process.
Here’s the poem:
Nine woods in the cauldron go,
Burn them fast and burn them slow.
Birch in the fire goes,
To represent what the Lady knows.
Oak in the forest towers with might,
In the fire it brings the God’s insight.
Rowan is a tree of power,
Causing life and magic to flower.
Willows at the waterside stand
Ready to help us to the Summerland.
Hawthorn is burned to purify
And to draw faerie to your eye.
Hazel – the tree of wisdom and learning
Adds its strength to the bright fire burning.
White are the flowers of Apple tree
That brings us fruits of fertility.
Grapes grow upon the vine
Giving us both joy and wine.
Fir does mark the evergreen
To represent immortality seen.
Elder is the Lady’s tree
Burn it not or cursed you’ll be.
If you go back to my “L” Is For Lunar post and follow the link I included to Lunar Names, on the far right of that document there is a list of the full moons in order from January onward that match trees in Celtic lore. Most of those trees are referenced in this poem, and using both the names and the mystery revealed in the poem is a good way to learn what each of these trees speciality is.
HOWEVER — the trees in the poem do NOT go in order for the lunar names. Please keep that in mind. I’m presenting the trees here in order of the poem, not the calendar.
In any case, let’s just go down the list.
The Gaelic name is bold and the pronunciation is in parentheses.
Birch Beth (beh)– is identified with the Goddess. Birch moon is in January and represents regrowth and regeneration, especially significant after the winter solstice. When a forest burns, this tree is the first to grow back.
Oak Duir (dewr) — is identified with the God.
Oak moon occurs in July. The Oak King, one of the aspects of the God, rules over the summer months, and this tree was sacred to the Druids. Some scholars believe duir to mean “door”, the root word of Druid.
Rowan Luis (loosh) — is identified with magic and power. The Rowan moon occurs in February, linking it also to the goddess Brighid. Rowan aligns with success, protection of the home, and personal power.
Willow Saille (sawl-yeh) — is identified with death and the Summerland (Land of the Dead).
For this reason, it was often planted near cemeteries.Willow moon occurs in May, it grows best near water and in areas with lots of rainfall; northern Europe was pretty much perfect for this.
Hawthorn Uath (ho-ah) — is linked to the Fae, as is the sabbat of Midsummer.
The Thorn moon also happens in June.
When the Thorn grows in tandem with
an Ash and Oak, it is said to attract the Fae.
Hazel Coll (cohl) — is linked to wisdom.
Celtic mythology uses hazel nuts as magical
givers of knowledge and insight. Hazel moon
is in September and hazel nuts are typically ripe by September 14th — known as “Nutting Day” in the British Isles.
Apple Quert (koo-ert) — is linked to fertility,
but in my practice and understanding,
this is actually more along the lines of rebirth.
In Celtic mythology, and into the Arthurian legends,
Apples are connected to the Otherworld.
Avalon means “apple isle” and is said to be where
King Arthur was taken after he fell in battle to be
healed by his half-sister, Morgan LeFay.
Apple doesn’t have its own moon.
Grape Muin (mew-in) — is linked to
joy and wine. Celebration, parties, and of
course intoxication. The Vine is a symbol of both
happiness and wrath — passionate emotions,
both of them. Vine moon is in late September or
Fir Gort [ivy] (gurt/gawrt) — is associated
with immortality and endurance. Ivy is technically something of a parasite, and it often succeeds at living on long after its host plant or tree has died. There is a bit of discrepancy as to the naming of this tree as it’s not native to Europe. Some use Robert Graves’ name of Alim for this tree in reference to the
Silver Fir. I’m of a different tradition that links it to the Ivy. Ivy moon is in November.
Elder Ruis (roosh) — is linked to endings. It has no month of its own, holding the place of the magical 13th month of the year. In this way, Elder moon could show up at any point. When it occurs, you may work on magic associated with endings, banishings, self-improvement, or hold it in honor of the Lady. Elderberries are used in making a drink as an offering to Her and to the Fae.