By Isabella @TheWandCarver
Yew is a tree that commands much respect. If you don’t, it can kill you. Harsh? Not at all. Yew is a very poisonous tree, every part of it from bark to berry seeds, however, the fleshy fruit of its berries is not poisonous but the seed within is. This is because of Taxine, a toxic alkaloid component in the leaves, bark, wood, and seed of the Yew. Even when the Yew tree has died, its toxicity is still there. Handle with care.
So, how is it that you see so many lovely objects made from Yew? Everything from boxes to wands! As a matter of fact, my personal wand is Yew and I’m still here. The people who make objects from Yew wood know chapter and verse on how to protect themselves during construction of their beautiful items. It is essential to wear a good respirator mask, especially whilst sanding Yew wood, and gloves. It is also best to wear long sleeves and trousers and shoes…. this is not a job for wearing your shorts and vest top on a hot day. You don’t want the dust from sanding settling on your skin. Of course, most people would bath or shower after working in this way, however, it is very likely if you have a pet that the pet could lick your hand before you had a good clean up. This would end in tears, I’m afraid. Yew is as toxic to pets as it is to humans so please don’t give Yew to your dog as a chew stick. If you have a Yew wand, keep it in a place where pets can’t get at it.
Hoping I have made my point about the dangers, let’s talk about the magick! The Yew is one of the most magickal trees for protection, reincarnation/rebirth, necromancy, and longevity spells. It is the 5th vowel of the Ogham alphabet, Ioho. It is called “Tree of Resurrection” or “The Tree of Eternity”. It is the Ogham of Winter Solstice and the Dark Half of the year. Yew is a wood of great strength.
Yew is wonderful for connecting with your ancestors. As it is the only biological creature capable of living indefinitely, possibly forever, it is much sought-after for longevity spell work. It is also exalted as a tree of rebirth which gives way to a Breton legend that the tree is said to grow a root into the open mouth of each corpse buried in the graveyard. This root is a symbol of rebirth with the spirit reborn in much the same way as the tree itself is reborn. And, so it may be as so many graveyards have Yew trees growing in them.
“Just as the Yew tree possesses an immortal ability to renew itself, so too do you. Living for centuries, it is a silent witness to the passing of time. Evergreen, its red, waxy cup-shaped berries, enclosing a small poisonous seed, predict protection. A good thing in your life will continue, just as a branch grows down inside the hollow trunk, embedding itself in the soil to sprout a new tree. If you remain working quietly at what you want, like the inconspicuous small green female flowers, you will attract your aim. Communication will surprise you in the same way that the large bright yellow flowers on male trees throw out clouds of yellow pollen when ready to mate.” ~ Tree Magick by Gillian Kemp
Because of the possibility of poisoning, some witches or practitioners of delving into the past and connecting with their ancestors or other forms of necromancy, are not comfortable with using Yew outside of some form of containment. One of the things I have fashioned for myself as a hedge witch, travelling the hedge between Worlds to connect with my ancestors, is my Necromancer’s Witch Bottle Necklace. It is a simple glass bottle, filled with enchanted herbs and Yew, then sealed, not to be opened. I won’t divulge every item that goes inside this witch bottle but it has herbs which summons Spirit, help Spirit to manifest, eases the souls of the dead, appeases and relaxes any traumatised Spirits, to make the Spirit manifested tell the truth, and tobacco to show hospitality to the Spirit(s). The small stick of Yew is included to banish malevolent Spirits. We do offer these in our Etsy shop. This witch bottle is also effectively worn when doing any spell work which may concern longevity or for doing any kind of past-life regression work. It is very protective and helpful in the case of the latter. It is also said to be a bringer of dreams and helpful in overcoming fear of our own death. Yew teaches death as transformation, not an end. The witch bottle also can facilitate connection with your Spirit Guardian.
Planet: Saturn and Pluto
Element: Earth and Water
Symbolism: The Tree of Life, Immortality, Rebirth, Protection, Longevity, Change, Divinity, Strength
Birds: Eagle, Hummingbird
Colours: Black, Dark Green
Deity: Banbha, Dione, Artemis, Persephone, Hecate, Astarte, Odin. Yew embodies the crone aspect of the triple Goddess. Yew is one of the Guardians of the Underworld that assist in guiding souls from one world to the next.
Old Yew, which graspest at the stones
That name the under-lying dead,
Thy fibres net the dreamless head,
Thy roots are wrapt about the bones.
Many thanks for reading, be safe when handling Yew, and warmest blessings.