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NAME: Willow



LATIN NAME: Salix alba sp.

COMMON / FOLK NAMES: Sally Withie Wicker White Willow Withe Withy Osier

MEDICINAL PART:  The bark, produces a compononent of the drug aspirin -
salicylic acid. On a herbal level, willow bark has been used for its pain-relieving qualities for at least 2,000 years. 

The Salix alba  contains salicin, which is converted to salicylic acid in the body. Salicylic acid is closely related to aspirin, the synthetic drug that has displaced willow bark from popular use. 

Willow bark reduces fever and relieves rheumatism, a common ailment in these damp isles. A decoction can be used for gum and tonsil inflammations and as a footbath for sweaty feet. 

The bark is collected in the spring time, being careful not to ring the tree or it will die. The decoction is made by soaking 3 teaspoons (15ml) of the bark in a cup of cold water for 2 - 5 hours. Then bring to the boil. Strain and take a wineglassful each day, a mouthful at a time. The bark can be dried, powdered and stored in an airtight container.  The bark contains up to 13 per cent of tannin as its chief constituent, also a small quantity of salicin.

RELATED SPECIES PROPERTIES: Goat willow or sallow willow (Salix caprea) is used in very much the same way as the white willow, but sallow bark tea is recommended for indigestion, whooping cough and catarrh. It can also be used as an antiseptic and disinfectant.

PLACE OF ORIGIN:  Europe - Asia, temperate zones.   Also grows across Canada and North America.

HABITAT:  Wet soils along the banks of rivers.  Open areas - does not like shade.

DESCRIPTION:  Can grow to a height of 50 to 70 feet in moist soils. Easily grows from off-cuttings, can be coppiced and will grow quickly again.  It has a rough greyish bark, the twigs being brittle at the base; the leaves are pubescent on both surfaces and finely serrulate; it hybridizes with other species of Salix.

FLOWERING PERIOD: Early Spring leaf buds appear.  Catkins appear in late spring to early summer.

POLLINATION:  Wind and insects


SEED DISPERSAL: Wind and Water


SENSITIVITIES: Air pollution - Willows are sensitive to sulphur dioxide and tolerant of hydrogen fluoride.


PROPERTIES:  Anodyne Anti-Spasmodic Febrifuge


USES:  The pliant stems are used to make baskets and 'wickerwork', in neolithic times they were used to make the walls of houses.  The bark could also be used for tanning animal hides to make leather, as it contains tannin.


TRADITIONAL LORE: Many Love songs include references to the willow, such as the famous 19th century song 'Down by the Sally Gardens' 

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Willow shoots behind yellow-flowered gorse bush

GENDER:  Feminine

ELEMENT: Water  
POWERS: Flexibility Wisdom  Intuition Dreams Emotions Rebirth

CELTIC DEITIES: Morrigan Brigit Macha Badb Cailleach Beara

Ogham Letter: S saille

Ogham Month: February / Feabhra


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Willow Catkins emerging


The willow is an excellent tree for moon rituals, use willow (or visualise willow) on a full moon night (the full moon of february being the strongest), used for gaining insight and inspiration.  If you are suffering from a great loss, the energies of willow can help you recover, sleep with willow leaves under your pillow.  The 'weeping willow' is particulary powerful for those suffering a loss.

Call on Brigit for inspiration in your life, Morrigan or Macha to gain Strength of purpose, The Cailleach for wisdom,  and Badb for strong motivation or to overcome adversity.


The willow tree is the tree of enchantment, sacred to the Moon and the Goddess in her aspect of death leading to spiritual rebirth. The words “willow (wicker)” and “Wicca” are thought to be derived from the same root meaning “to bend”, or “to be pliant.” 

The willow, as crone, is the third wood of the witch’s besom, being the flexible bark, which binds the maiden birch rods to the mother ash handle. (The flexibility of the willow means it can be either crone or maiden)

The Willow wand can be used to banish long-held grief,  It is also a favourite wand of poets and those seeking inspiration and vivid inspirational dreams.  Used in all moon or water magic.  It has a powerful feminine 'yin' energy.  Can help a person get in touch with their subconcious feelings and desires.

The Willow can be used to bind all spells for greater efficacy.

It also is very good to use as a divining rod for finding water.

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Stories, Myths and Legends associated with the Willow:

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© Shee-Eire: