While I am out and enjoying this amazing spring like weather, I am always on the look out for buds and new signs of growth from the trees and plants of the valley. Right now, pussy willows are making their appearance and poplar buds are golden and sticky with resin. Alder is starting to wake up as well, the catkins beginning to form.
Alder has an interesting magical history throughout time as it is believed to work with our spiritually to bring balance between the inner and outer words, joining our intuitive nature to our logical mind and helping us to face the things in our life we have been avoiding.
It is known for its many uses in dying fabrics, creating dyes ranging from warm reds and ambers to soft browns, The bark has been used for centuries to create a dark red dye, the flowers make a beautiful green dye and the twigs, most times of the year, create a brown dye and in late April to early March make a golden amber dye.
Alder plays an important role in nature with its ability to resist rotting in wet conditions, as a nitrogen fixer to the soil and controlling soil erosion and its catkins are an important source of food for migrating song birds.
Alder also has many healing uses that tend to go unknown. The leaves can be collected and mashed with warm water to create a poultice that eases inflammation or placed inside your boots to soothe hot, achy feet while hiking in the outdoors. The bark can also be boiled into a tea and used to bathe the skin and reduce itchy, burned or inflamed irritations. A gargle made from alder bark and leaves is said to ease sore tonsils and heal mouth ulcers.
Alder is a sacred tree to the druids and the Celts with its connection to both water and fire elements. The green pith from a freshly cut alder branch can be easily pushed out and was used to create whistles and flutes, try creating your own walking whistle the next time you are out exploring the woods!