The Elder-tree is one of the most common and most beloved plants of our countryside. Our Celtic ancestors knew it as 'scobiém'and revered it as Mother Elder, an earthly manifestation of the Great Goddess, who presided over both life and death. Her trees represented a gateway to the 'Otherworld' and on Midsummer nights, sensitive individuals could 'see' the little folk- if they sat under an Elder-tree.
Folklore and folk medicine is full of lore about this remarkable tree. It has been called 'the apothecary of the country people', for every part of the plant was used in various ways and in a multitude of remedies. However, the berries are slightly toxic and should not be consumed raw in large amounts. An oil pressed from the seeds is used in the cosmetic and pharmaceutical industry. The skin of the dark blackish-blue berries contains the pigment Sambicyanin, which has been shown to act as a free radical scavenger. In the old days the pigment was used as a colouring agent for dyeing hair, leather or wool. Today, the berries are widely used for making country wine and hedgerow jam. They have sometimes been used to adulterate port wine - with the unintended positive effect of fortifying the wine and giving it a tonic effect. Medicinal use While in the old days every part of the plant was valued for its respective healing properties, today only the flowers are used medicinally.
However, it would be a mistake to shun the berries, which are very rich in vitamins, minerals and radical scavenging pigments. They make an excellent immune system boosting elixir and can be used as syrup, soup, juice or alcoholic elixir. Regular doses help to fend of colds and flus and aid the recovery process. They also contain anti-inflammatory agents, which can reduce the painful swellings that characterise rheumatic and arthritic joints.
use Wine made of Elderberries is an appropriate ritual cup for ceremonies that honour those who have gone before us and to attune to the transformational powers of the Great Goddess, who presides over life and death. The berries can also be used for making magical ink, and as a dye for the altar cloth and rope.