Celtic Tree Calendar – Inspiration for a memorial tree
If you are thinking about planting a memorial tree, you may be looking for some inspiration and the Celtic Tree Calendar is a good place to start. These were special to the Celts for many reasons, a few of which we have included below. They also relate to specific dates, if your tree planting focuses on a special day it could be a nice way to mark this.
Birch Tree – ‘Lady of the Woods’
Celtic Tree Calendar dates: December 24th – January 20th
It’s known as the ‘Pioneer Tree’ and ‘the bringer of promise, light and new beginnings for a very good reason. It can restart new woodland even after long-term natural disasters. This may be the reason it symbolises adaptability, new beginnings and growth.
Some call it ‘Lady of the Woods’ due to the deep feminine connections it had for the Celts. In early Celtic mythology, the birch tree also came to symbolise purification.
This beautiful tree has links to those that are creative. It’s thought the month it falls on is a good time for creativity and starting new projects too. The birch tree is a beautiful tree with silvery-white bark. Wonderful yellow-green catkins form in the autumn months, while slighter female catkins appear in the spring.
Rowan Tree – ‘Lady of the Mountain’
Celtic Tree Calendar dates: January 21st- February 17th
The rowan tree is a beautiful tree with long green leaves and beautiful red berries. It is also loved for the little cream flower clusters that appear in May. It can take root almost anywhere but it prefers to grow in higher places which is why it’s known as ‘Lady of the Mountain’.
The Rowan tree symbolises protection due to its bright red berries. They are found in many cemeteries as it was believed they warded off bad spirits and protected against witchcraft. It was also believed chopping down a Rowan would bring bad luck.
While we have planted Rowan Trees to help restore and conserve woodland and as memorial trees, many of the Rowan trees at our natural burial grounds are simply a part of our native habitats. They grow naturally and bring beautiful colours to the countryside. They help to feed birds over the winter, so this makes them a wonderful tree for bird and wildlife lovers when planning a memorial tree planting.
Ash Tree – ‘The World Tree’
Celtic Tree Calendar dates: February 18th – March 17th
The Ash Tree has strong associations with other realms or worlds in Celtic culture. This includes the underworld, middle earth and spiritual world, and is why it may have the name ‘World Tree’. It was strongly associated with children and given the name ‘cradle of life’. In the past, people would use the ash to create remedies that helped to cure childhood illnesses. It symbolises protection and this may be because of its healing properties. It also has its uses in protective rituals.
The ash tree has beautiful bright green leaves which splay out from the branches. While it may look quite delicate it supports many unusual mosses and lichens and it’s great for insects including the Alder Kitten Moth. It’s well known that ash trees have suffered from Ash dieback in recent years, which may be something to consider. However, choosing to plant this tree may give the Ash a chance to thrive again and adapt to a new world.
Celtic Tree Calendar dates: March 18th – April 14th
The Alder Tree is part of the birch family. It has several symbolic meanings including release, determination, and inner confidence. Others considered it to have magical influences including healing, shielding, protecting, and peaceful properties. It was also believed that alder could take you to the fairy realm.
The alder tree loves to keep its feet wet and is often found near wet areas such as streams, wetlands and rivers. This could be the reason why it’s linked to fairy lore. Whistles were also once made out of alder shoots sometimes used called air spirits. This gives it a strong connection with music lovers.
The Alder Tree produces beautiful catkins which turn from a bright green to a deep shade of brown. The alder roots can improve the pH of the surrounding soil. This allows life to return in areas of poor soil conditions and it’s often used in restoration projects for this very reason.
Willow Tree – ‘The Tree of Enchantment’
Celtic Tree Calendar dates: April 15th – May 12th
The Willow tree is a symbol of fertility and new life. This may be due to the amazing property where you can plant a cut branch in the ground from which a new tree will grow. It also has many healing properties. The beautiful hanging branches that drape around the tree could be the reason why it became known as ‘the tree of enchantment’.
Willow trees thrive in wet boggy areas but they also have deep, strong roots. For some the willow represents flexibility. You can see why with whips weaved into wonderful creations including eco-friendly coffins. Some of our families have chosen to weave their own willow coffin on a willow coffin-making course. This adds a very personal touch to a funeral.
Hawthorn Tree – ‘The Marriage Tree’
Celtic Tree Calendar dates: May 13th – June 9th
The Hawthorn Tree has many different symbolic meanings and nicknames. Regarded as a sacred, wild and enchanted tree that the fairies live under, it gained the name the ‘The Faery Tree’. It also has a strong connection to unity and marriage. This was due to the dual energies the people perceived it as having. It gained the image of a tree of contradictions, a tree with beautiful flowers and harsh thorns. Representing opposites and the balance that duality and opposition can bring. Hence the name the ‘Marriage Tree’.
While the hawthorn tree may have a few thorns it also has delicate little flowers, and beautiful red berries called haws. It is a very important tree within nature because these berries support a huge variety of birds. This makes it a great memorial tree for bird lovers. It provides a home to many insects too including May Bugs and many animals use the tree for nesting. Animals like toads, wood mice and slow worms can find a home among the roots so it’s a great tree for wildlife lovers.
The Oak Tree – ‘Father of the Woods’
Celtic Tree Calendar dates: June 10th – July 7th
The Oak Tree is also called the ‘Father of the Woods’. This may be due to the size and great power it is perceived as having. This was also due to its ability to attract lightning which gave it its strong links to both Celtic and Pagan gods. The Oak symbolises strength, intuition, and a caring attitude. While its ability to live for hundreds of years could be the reason it became a symbol of nobility and wisdom.
Oak trees support more life than any other UK native tree species and offer homes to hundreds of other species. It supports birds, bryophytes, fungi, invertebrates, lichens and mammals. The acorns provide an invaluable food source and are a resource that even humans can take advantage of (you just have to remove the tannins first). It can be a very large and imposing tree, but when it is in the right spot it’s an invaluable addition to our natural world.
Celtic Tree Calendar dates: July 8th – August 4th
Surprisingly, the Holly tree doesn’t fall around Christmas in the Celtic calendar. The UK summers are more prone to lightning, and while the Oaktree can attract lightning, it was believed Holly could repel it. What is amazing is that there is some truth in this. Many would plant it around their homes as a protective measure. The red berries symbolised protection and it was also known for strength and optimism.
When thinking about memorial trees it would be a great memorial tree or bush for a wildlife lover. It may also be a good tree for someone who loves to watch storms with thunder and lightning. While the tree month may be July and August, it still has a special place in the winter months so is a great memorial tree for those that love winter or Christmas.
Hazel Tree – ‘Tree of Knowledge’
Celtic Tree Calendar dates: August 5th – September 1st
The Hazel Tree is also known as ‘the tree of knowledge’. It symbolises wisdom while it has special links to divination. This may be due to the belief it stood between the boundary of heaven and earth.
It has important links to the idea of the life force while the tree also represents uniqueness and intuition. The fruit of the Hazel tree, the hazelnut, was also seen as a sign of wisdom and protection. They are an important food source for wildlife and humans. Hazelnuts are a beautiful green when ripening amongst the bright green leaves. But they are also a favourite food for many species so those who wish to enjoy them have to be quick when they ripen.
Blackberry Vine – ‘Tree of Joy’
Celtic Tree Calendar dates: September 2nd – September 29th
We may not consider a Blackberry Vine to be a tree, but to the Celts, it was a large plant with a woody stalk. The ‘vine’ symbolises reward, growth, and opportunity as well as transformation and endurance. Many of these qualities we see in the plant itself including the reward you get when persevering with their spiky thorns.
The Vine in the Celtic tree calendar symbolises the time of the harvest and picking of blackberries. They offer a wonderful food source for animals and received the name the ‘Tree of Joy’. This is very appropriate when you think about how much joy picking and eating blackberries can bring. Blackberries may not grow into a large tree but you could still plant one in memory of someone special. Especially if they loved foraging.
Celtic Tree Calendar dates: September 30th – October 27th
The Celts considered Ivy to be a tree due to its woody stem. We may consider Ivy to be a parasite or nuisance but when grown in a natural and balanced habitat, English Ivy works in tandem with a tree, using the tree as a support. In its native habitat, it can be a peaceful and useful addition to its environment, but it must be planted in the right place.
Ivy has beautiful green leaves which spread out across tree trunks. These symbolise growth, regeneration and opportunity. This is probably because it makes the most of what is around it. In the past, it had connections to love and brides used to carry it for good luck. People also saw it as a guard against negativity and disaster. Ivy has a special symbolism focused on connecting and binding together which is reflected in the way climbs and binds. Ivy has a very useful quality that many still are not aware of, it makes a fantastic natural detergent.
Celtic Tree Calendar dates: October 28th – November 23rd
The reed may not be a tree in our terms, but for the Celts, it was part of the tree calendar due to its woody stalk. The reed is an important plant and one of many meanings including security and clarity. As reeds made good candles and a source of light in the dark you can see why it obtained this meaning. Reeds were useful day-to-day plants and gained the status of being meaningful plants. They had strong connections to music as they were often used for musical instruments.
Reeds are often used for water purification to naturally filter and drain boggy areas. They provide essential habitats for birds including rare species and support lots of other wildlife. There is no reason you can’t plant reeds in memory of someone special especially when restoring a wetland. However, you must plant them in suitable habitats.
Celtic Tree Calendar dates: November 24th – December 23rd
With its pinnate leaves, small cream flowers and dark purple elderberries many considered it a magical tree. It has symbolism of rebirth, regeneration and death. This may have been due to its ability for broken branches to take form new life elsewhere. It was also seen as a reminder of the need for honour and dignity in life and death.
You may find the elder tree in cemeteries as there was the belief that it warded off evil spirits. Some also believed it had protective qualities and protected you from misfortune and harm. Elderflowers and elderberries provide a valuable food source and make a delicious cordial. They contain a toxic substance so need to be prepared properly before being eaten. The native wildlife also loves them. The elder tree is often visited by insects like caterpillars, birds and many mammals. Often you will find it near rabbit warrens.
We know how personal and special memorial tree planting can be. We offer families the opportunity to plant a tree at our Aylesbury, Pembrokeshire, Cothiemuir Hill and Dorset Downs burial grounds. If you are interested in finding out more information, got to the relevant location page and explore each site.