This month we talk about the Hazel tree. It's a very popular tree in Celtic and Druid lore. The Celts believed hazelnuts gave one wisdom and inspiration. The Gaelic word for nuts are 'cno' pronounced 'knaw' and the word for wisdom, 'cnocach'. As with many sacred trees that were considered sacred to the Celtic people, if a Hazel tree was unjustly cut down then the punishment was death.
There is an ancient tale about nine hazel trees that grew around a sacred pool. The nuts from the tree would drop into the water and then they were eaten by the salmon, which they would absorb the wisdom from the Hazel tree. If you counted the number of spots on the salmon, you could tell how many hazel nuts that they ate.
A lot of pools or wells in Europe were mostly surround by the Hazel tree(s). Connla's well which was located at the foot of Cuileagh mountain in Ca van, Ireland. Ca van was thought to be the source of the river Shannon. The well is surrounded by nine Hazel trees, which produce both flowers and fruit which is said to represent beauty and wisdom.
Hazel trees were so abundant in Scotland that it was named Caledonia which was derived from Cal-Dun, meaning 'Hill of Hazel.
In Norse mythology, the Hazel was known as the Tree of Knowledge and was sacred to the god Thor.
In Northern England, the guardians of the Hazel tree were called, 'melsh dick' and in Yorkshire, 'Chum-milk Peg.'
There are 14 - 18 species of the Hazel and the nuts of all Hazels are edible. It's a member of the birch family and the 9th tree of the Celtic calendar. The deities that is associated with the Hazel are Mercury, Hermes, Thor, Mac Coll, Aengus, Artemis and Diana. The ruling planet is the Sun and Mercury. Elements are Air and Water and it's gender is considered to be masculine. In magic workings it is used as protection, fertility, luck, lightening and inspiration.
In Roman mythology, the Hazel was connected to the god Mercury. In Greek Mythology it was Hermes. They were the messengers of the gods and often seen with a staff or a wand made out of Hazel which was called Caduceus.
The story goes that Hermes gave a lyre which was made out of cords stretched across a tortoise shell, to Apollo. In return Apollo gave Hermes the magical Caduceus. It was said that it bestowed wisdom, wealth and prosperity to its owner by turning everything into gold.
The Caduceus had ribbons tied to it to show the speed of Hermes as he flew through the air. Thru time the ribbons were changed to serpents. The caduceus was adopted by the medical profession today.
The wood of the Hazel was used for funeral pyres.
Wands made out of Hazel has been found in many coffins of chiefs and rulers. It was a symbol of authority and wisdom. In Tara, the chief seat of kingship was built near a Hazel tree. Finn, a legendary warrior of Irish myth, had a shield made out of Hazel wood. It was said that the shield made him invincible in battle.
Hazel wood was used for divination. The divining rods or dowsing rods were made out of the Hazel. They were used to find water, treasure, thieves and murderers. According to some traditions the rod is guided by guardian pixies or the Kobolds (gnomes) of Germany. Hazel wands were popular in the practice of magic. Methods of cutting a wands was to find a tree that hasn't bore any fruit, then at sunrise on a Wednesday, cut a branch with a single stroke with a sickle. A good divining rod was said 'to sequel like a pig' when it was held under water.
An old custom in Europe was to use small flexible Hazel twigs to secure grape vines to stakes. If any goats were caught eating on the vines, then they were sacrificed to the God Bacchus on spits made out of Hazel.
Also in some parts of Europe, people wore 'wishing caps', which was caps made out of Hazel twigs weaved into a crown or cap. When worn, you could wish very hard and the crown would make all your wishes come true. Sailors also wore these wishing caps to protect them from storms at sea. The Druids also believed wearing this unique crowns could make you invisible.
Twigs of Hazel would protect a home from lightening if you placed them in the window sills of your home. Three pins of Hazel hammered into the wall would also protect your home from fire. No harm would or could penetrate a hurdle fence made from the Hazel. At Beltane and Mid-Summer, cattle were driven through bonfires and then had their backs singed with Hazel rods for protection against disease and the evil eye. The scorched rods were then used to drive the cattle the rest of the year.
The Hazel nut was just or more so Sacred than the wood itself. It was used for fortune telling. On Samhain night, two hazel nuts were given the names of lovers and then placed on burning embers. If they burn quietly and stayed side by side then they were faithful. If they cracked, spit or rolled apart then they were considered to be ill-matched and one of them was unfaithful.
Some people would string the nuts together which was thought to bring good luck and hang them in the house. Also a string of nuts were often given at weddings or handfastings to the new bridesmaid to wish her wisdom, wealth and good health. Eating the Hazel nut would also increase fertility. People who use divination would also eat the Hazel nut to increase inspiration. The nuts were wore as talismans for a healthy life gained through the wisdom that the nuts bestowed. People also carried a double Hazel nut in their pockets to use as a charm against toothaches.
An equal armed cross made from Hazel was placed upon a snake bite to draw out the poison. Kernels of the nut ground fine and mixed with mead or honeyed water was said to be good for coughs that wouldn't stop.