The Alder month, called Fearn by the Celts, and pronounced fairin, is a time for making…
magic relating to prophecy and divination, and
getting in touch with our intuitive processes and abilities.
Druids believed the alder tree to be symbolic of a balance between female and male principles since it possesses both female and male catkins on the same branch.
In Irish mythology the first human man was made from the alder tree, a tree of the fairies, protected by the water fairy-folk but also representing fire and earth.
In old Ireland it was considered a crime to cut down an alder tree because it would anger the tree spirit.
If you're musically inclined, Alder is an ideal wood for making a pipe or flute.
Whistles were once made out of Alder shoots to call upon Air spirits.
Known as charms, the Alder flowers and twigs are also used in Faerie magic.
Common alder (Alnus glutinosa)
…is a deciduous, medium height tree sometimes growing up to as much as 90ft, growing quickly but only living to around one hundred and fifty years.
The Alder’s young bark, and fresh leaves are slightly sticky, hence the name ‘glutinosa’
Sometimes small groups of alder - ‘alder carrs’- form, but usually they grow in narrow bands, standing side-by-side, winding their way along the streams; providing many of nature’s highways.
The trees often have more than one rough, grey-barked trunk and when an original tree dies, new shoots often form at its base.
The Greek Gods Cronos and Phoroneus both held Alder to be sacred and in Greek mythology, Alder is a representative of fire.
The chief folklore tale is one from pre-christian Wales and concerns Bran, known as…
‘The Blessed’ who can be Bran, King of Britain – ‘The Mighty Kingdom’, or
Bran the God, or
Bran the Giant
…or all three.
The Alder is his sacred staff – his bird is the raven.
Alder rules the 4th Lunar month of the Ogham Tree Calendar, as does the Raven for the 4th Lunar month of the Ogham Bird Calendar.
Alders are pioneer trees…
…they are often the first to colonise wet, treeless ground.
Alder trees are welcomed as a great soil improver, their nodules of special bacterium take nitrogen from the air and enriching the soil through its deep roots.
Alder trees also bring stability to river and stream banks and greatly reduce erosion.
Important within Wetland ecology…
The Alder trees matted roots, growing out into the water, give shelter to innumerable fish and invertebrates and their quickly rotting leaves provide nutrients for the underwater colonies.
Above the damp ground, the grey, rather delicate looking branches and dark green, round, tooth-edged leaves play host to…
unusual mosses and lichens,
a special moth – the Alder Kitten Moth (Furcula bicuspis).
Alder trees flower in Spring, with both...
male flowers - long, purplish-golden catkin tassels and
female flowers- which develop as tiny cones of about 5 - 7mm. These are round and green at first, opening to shed their minute winged seeds, and turning woody and darkest brown.
They both grow on the same plant (known as monoecious).
The little seeds often fall into the water where they float, to be carried miles along the streams to germinate.
Alder is the only British native deciduous tree to have cones, and they stay on the tree through the winter and into next spring, so you see the long catkins plus the new green and the old brown cones on the branches at the same time, before the fresh leaves appear.
WARNING - heads-up...
The use of Alder wood indoors wasn't encouraged as the oil impregnated wood is a magnet for woodworm.
However the wood has a wonderful soft amber colour, with darker streaks and markings and when treated is much prized by cabinet makers and for decorative objects.
Because of its waterproof property it was (and is) used to make clogs.
The wood is also gives the finest charcoal, which can be used in gunpowder.
Different parts of the Alder tree were commonly used for dying textiles and leather.
The bark makes a special colour known as Almine Red and some trees seem to ‘bleed’ red-orange sap when cut.
the cones will give a black dye and
the inner green bark layer gives dull yellow.
Places with links…
Among the many British places carrying the Alder name from centuries past are...
Aldreth in Cambridgeshire and
Alderford in Norfolk.