A magical tree that could cure diseases such as hernias or even rickets in children, or lame animals. To heal the child, passing the sick through a cleft in the tree before sunrise and then binding and sealing the tree with clay (the child also having to be naked). To heal the child a live shrew was sealed inside the tree within a specially made hole. When the shrew died, the tree is supposed to heal and health is then swiftly followed in the sick child.
Since ancient times some have believed that the first man was created from the branches and flesh of the Ash tree (and also of the oak). The Ancient Greeks thought that at the beginning of time cloud-ash was produced spawning small melia which came together and resulted in humanity being created. (The oak was thought to produce the first man and the trees themselves were called the first mothers). Perhaps if it can create man this is also why the ash tree was thought traditionally to hold many curative powers.
Stories and legends abound for this tree. Some connected with the supernatural and often with negative energies, whilst others have a root within specific belief systems such as Paganism or Christianity. One mythological belief focuses on when Christianity was brought to Northern Europe, the Scandinavian gods of the North were obviously affected by this new belief. They were transformed into witches and the ash became their favourite tree. In ‘Phantastes’ Dr. George MacDonald tells how the ‘Forest of Fairyland’ was a place visited by witches. There was an ash tree in the forest which was thought to be an ogre, or at least people thought that evil forces dwelled there, and on ‘Walpurgis Night’ it was said that the witches ate the tree buds so that there would not be any on ‘St. John’s Night’. To keep ‘Askafora’ (Eschenfrau) or wife of the ash content an offering had to be given on Ash Wednesday. She was seen as a particularly evil spirit who wrought havoc when not satisfied with events around her.
The seeds of the Ash have long been used in love divination. If the seeds did not appear on a tree the owner was thought to have been unlucky in love, or a future venture would not be successful. By repeating the following traditional English (UK) verse the inquirer would soon have the identity of their intended revealed:
Love Divination Verse
‘Even-ash, even-ash, I pluck thee,
This night my own true love to see,
Neither in his bed nor in the bare,
But in the clothes he does every day wear.’
In the North of England (UK) it was thought that by a woman placing an Ash leaf in the left shoe, she would be fortunate enough to meet her future spouse immediately.
Another traditional English (UK) verse was held to have the power to reveal weather information:
‘If the ash leaf appears before the oak,
Then there’ll be a very great soak.
But if the oak comes before the ash,
Then expect a very small splash.’
To ward off negative energies and personal misfortune the following English (UK) verse was thought to aid those who came upon an Ash tree and picked a leaf from a branch:
‘Even ash, I do thee pluck,
Hoping thus to meet good luck.
If no good luck I get from thee,
I shall wish thee on the tree.’
Having found a leaf by chance, success and happiness would be doubly assured if the Ash leaf was kept upon the person or worn openly.
A wonderful Norwegian love story tells of ‘Axel Thordsen and Fair Valdborg’. The two were never a couple in life but upon death they were buried close to each other. An Ash tree was planted on each grave. As the trees grew to the same height the branches inclined and became entwined.
In the story of ‘Lay le Fraine’, that translates as the ‘Adventures of the Ash’ or the ‘Lay of the Ash Tree’, a twin is deserted by the mother. It is left at the door of an abbey underneath an Ash tree. This French romantic tale says that the infant is found by as abbess. She called the child ‘Le Fraine’ because of it being found under the tree.
Another legend from Scandinavia tells of how a giant once gave an Ash tree to a community. He proceeded to instruct them to place the Ash tree on a church altar. The giant told them that he wanted to destroy the church. Rather than follow this perhaps sacrilegious instruction, the people deposited the Ash tree on top of a grave. It immediately burst into flames.
There is no Ash tree in the churchyard of ‘Nortorf, Holstein’. According to Saxon legend one may eventually grow into a tree, as each year an Ash shoot appears. On ‘New Year’s Night’ each year it is cut down by a white horseman riding a white horse, and every time a black horseman with a black steed tries to stop him. The white horseman thought fends off the black horseman’s challenge. It is said that the tree will grow when the black horseman succeeds in challenging his opposite. When this happens the tree will be tall enough for a horse to be tied underneath it, and so the king will be able to fight a mighty battle with his army. The horse under the tree will belong to the king and will stand there all the way through the battle. If this happens, the king will become more powerful than before.
Another English (UK) belief attached to the winged seeds is that is these do not appear then a reigning monarch will die. Druids wands were made of ash twigs. It also has healing properties. Weak-limbed children were passed through split ash trees which were then bound up. If the tree grew straight, the child would as well. Also may be used as a substitute for Rowan