The Hazel Tree
The hazel's unusual branch formations make it a delight to ponder. Throughout history it has been used for inspiration in art and poetry. One look at the tree and it's easy to see why the Celtic meaning of “hazel” is creativity, and why the ancient druids held it in such high regard in their ranks.
The Bards, Ovates and Druids of the Celtic day would intently observe its crazy curly-Q branches. Doing this would lead them into other worlds of delightful fantasy. Much the same way our modern imaginations are captured by scenes in nature, the creative Celts were artistically motivated by the seemingly random and wild contortions of the hazel.
The Celts also equated hazelnuts with concentrated wisdom as well as poetic inspiration. There are several variations of an ancient tale that tells of nine hazel trees growing around a sacred pool. The trees would drop their fruit of knowledge into the water to be eaten by the salmon (a fish revered by Druids) which thereby absorbed the wisdom. It is said, that the number of bright spots on the salmon indicate how many nuts the fish had eaten.
In an Irish variation of this legend, one salmon was the recipient of all these magical nuts. A Druid Master, in his quest to become all-knowing, caught this fish that was the oldest and wisest salmon in the pool. Triumphantly, he instructed his pupil to cook the fish but to not eat any of it! However in the process, hot juice from the cooking fish spattered onto the apprentice's thumb. The young man instinctively thrust his thumb into his mouth to cool, and unwittingly imbibed the fish's wisdom and thereby all the wisdom of the universe.
This lad who became known as Fionn Mac Cumhaill went on to become one of the most heroic leaders in Irish mythology. This legendary warrior eventually had a shield made of Hazel to protect him in battle.
Pools and wells throughout Europe were often surrounded by the Hazel tree. Connla's Well was located at the foot of the 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.
It’s common in many parts of Europe for people to wear crowns weaved out of Hazel twigs because it is believed Hazel can make your wishes come true. Because of this, sailors wore these wishing crowns to protect them from storms at sea. The Druids believed that wearing these unique crowns could make you invisible.
Hazel trees were so abundant in Scotland that it was named Caledonia from Cal-Dun which means "Hill of Hazel".
In Norse mythology, the Hazel was known as the "Tree of Knowledge" and was sacred to the god Thor. Many other deities are associated with the Hazel such as Mercury, Hermes, Mac Coll, Aengus, Artemis and Diana.
Seen as a symbol of authority and wisdom, wands and staffs made of Hazel have traditionally been used by chiefs and rulers and Hazel wood was often used to make divining rods. According to some traditions, Hazel rods are protected by guardian pixies or the Kobolds (gnomes) of Germany.
Twigs of Hazel are believed to protect a home from lightening if you place them in your window sills. Three pins of Hazel hammered into the wall are believed to protect your home from fire. And surely no harm would or could penetrate a hurdle fence made from the Hazel.
Some people string the nuts together and hang them in their houses which are thought to bring good luck. Also, a string of nuts are often given at weddings to the new bride to wish her wisdom, wealth and good health. Eating the Hazel nut is said to increase fertility.
Remember to always pick your hazelnuts after they have fallen from the tree. It is considered bad form to pick them unripe off the beautiful branches :).
What an Enchanting tree and a Wonderful name for an Enchanting Preschool!
Mythology and Folklore of the Hazel Tree and why we named the school
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