The Yew:  Sacred Tree of Transformation and Rebirth

by Glennie Kindred, 2019 Celestial Planting Calendar

The Yew, Taxus baccata, is an ancient tree species that has survived since before the Ice Age and as such as been revered and used by humankind throughout the ages. All races of the Northern Hemisphere, especially the Celts, the Greeks, the Romans and the North American Indians, have an understanding of this unusual and remarkable tree. Because of its longevity and its unique way of growing new trunks from within the original root bole, it has been estimated that some English Yews are as much as 4,000 years old. No wonder the Yew is associated with immortality, renewal, regeneration, everlasting life, rebirth, transformation and access to the Otherworld and our ancestors.

Because it is a slow-growing tree, it has a tight-grained wood, is tough and resilient, and was used in the past for spears, spikes, staves, small hunting bows and eventually the famous longbows of the Middle Ages. The arrows were tipped with poison made from the Yew. The entire tree is poisonous—wood, bark, needles and seed. The only part which isn’t is the fleshy part of the seed. Be aware of the dangerous aspects of the Yew if you handle the tree or work with the wood. It is one of the reasons why it is known as the death tree.

Magically the Yew is used for summoning spirits and any Otherworld communication. It is linked to Samhain (October 31), when entry to the Otherworld is easiest, dreams are most potent and access to the ancestors is most possible. The Yew is ruled by Jupiter and the positive benefits of transformation. According to a modern encyclopaedia of magical herbs, the Yew is feminine, its element is Water and its planet is Saturn. However it seems to me that Pluto is a more appropriate planet as it is the planet of death and change, transformation and rebirth. The Yew connects through the Water element to Scorpio, ruled by Pluto.

In recent years, there has been an upsurge of interest in the Yew. It is possible to make pilgrimages to visit these magnificent trees and touch their awesome connection to ages long ago.

Glennie Kindred is the author of eleven books on Earth wisdom, native plants and trees, and celebrating the Earth’s cycles. She is currently writing a book called Walking with Trees, which comes out in the spring of 2019.

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