The Tree of Sea-Power
FEBRUARY 19 – MARCH 17
Sun in Aquarius the Water-bearer, to Feb 19;
Sun in Pisces the Fish, Feb 20 – Mar 20
Letter: N for Ash-tree in Irish Nion
Bird: Snipe (Naescu)
Color: Clear (Necht)
Jewel: Sea-green Beryl
Numbers: (Greek) 4 / (Irish) 13
Ash, a fast-growing forest tree in the Olive Family, and indigenous to America, Europe, Western Asia and North Africa, has silver-grey bark, graceful foliage and has been, as the Oxford English Dictionary points out, “noted in Teutonic literature from the earliest times.” Ash-trees in the desert indicate a permanent underground water supply. Its close-grained wood has long been held as a charm against drowning, which is why the traditional witch’s broom has an Ash-stake. In ancient Wales and Ireland, all oars and oracle-slats were made of Ash, a tough, elastic wood, valued by cart- and wheel-makers, and still used today for paddles, tennis rackets, hoe- and rake-handles. The best spears are made of Ash-wood, as were the shafts of most weapons, and the rods for urging on horses. Its timber was used for making royal thrones.
During the Ash-month, the nights continue to be longer than the days and the Sun therefore was thought to be still under the tutelage of Mother Night. Ash is known to be “harmful to grass or corn grown in its shade” and, as Graves goes on, “Ash-roots strangle those of other forest trees.” It is also a “month of floods,” and the Ash-tree was sacred to Poseidon, an Achaean Sea-god, and to the Greek Meliai, or “Ash Spirits.” The great Ash Ygdrassill was also sacred to the Norse and Belgic God Odin or Woden, after whom our Wednesday is named (see Foreword). He used the tree as his steed (“the horse of Ygdrasill”), having taken it over from Scandinavia’s Three Norns (or Fates), who dispensed justice from under an Ash-tree–its root and branches believed to extend throughout the universe. Blackwell wrote in Malet’s Northern Antiquities (1847): “The Ash Ygdrasill is the greatest and best of all trees. Its branches spread over the whole world and even reach above heaven.” In The Battle of the Trees, it was the Ash-god’s representative who won the day against the Alder-god and supplanted him.
In British folklore, Ash is the tree of rebirth, and a recently discovered Druidical wand dating from the early 1st century A.D. is made of Ash, a wood also often used for divination. The Ash produces trees of separate sexes, though only the female trees bear seeds–oddly winged seeds called “ash-key.” Of the Five Magic Trees of Ireland, three–the Branching Tree of Dathi, and the Trees of Tortu and Usnech–were Ash; the fall of this sacred grove in A.D. 665 symbolized the triumph of Christianity over paganism.
From The Song of Amergin: “I am a wind: on a deep lake,” is a reference to the winds of early March, known to “come in like a lion” and dry the Winter floods. Both the bird and the color of this Tree-month also refer to the wind; a Snipe (Naescu) is known to whirl in the sky like the mad winds of March and the color of the wind is Clear (Necht). The four main winds are referred to in Latin as cardinalis (“of cardinal importance”) and until the Classical Greek period (circa 500 B.C.), these winds were believed to be under “the sole direction of the Great Goddess,” known as Cardea. She was thought to rule over the Celestial Hinge that moves the millstone of the Universe from behind the North Wind. There were numerous North Wind cults–the four cardinal winds being thought of as Sacred Kings controlled by the Triple Moon-goddess. Winds also are traditionally connected with Fate; and poetic “inspiration” (literally “the inhaling of wind”) originally came from listening to the wind, Cardea’s messenger, blowing through a sacred grove of Ash, Oak and others.
The biblical jewel corresponding to this month of Hercules’ sea-voyage is the Sea-green Beryl–in Greek Beryl means “the sea-jewel”–and represents the tribe of Zebulon, referred to in the Old Testament as “among the ships.” Sea-voyages then, of course, were almost entirely dependent on the winds, and Ash is the Tree of Sea-Power, or the power resident in water.