Celtic Tree Signs: The Wise Hazel
Celtic folk tradition warns that cutting down a hazel tree results in extreme bad luck. In fact, for centuries, felling a hazel was illegal in both Scotland and Ireland. The punishment: death. Why? What is so special about the hazel? First, according to Celtic folklore, the hazel tree has a guardian. The Irish say he is a poetic faerie known as Bile Ratha. Just say his name aloud (bile wrath-a). Probably someone you don’t want to mess with! But there’s more to the hazel than just a scary faerie guardian. In many versions of Celtic mythology, the hazel stands at the center of the Otherworld. It is a source of knowledge and a symbol of wisdom.
Finn MacCumhail and the Hazel-Eating Salmon
The hazel is also at the center of the story of Irish mythology’s greatest hero, Finn MacCumhail (pronounced MacCool). Here is the story. After the Flood (yes, that one), a salmon swam from the sea up the Boyne River and rested in a quiet pool. Around the pool grew nine hazel trees. Nuts from the trees fell into the pool. Fintan, the salmon, ate nine of the nuts, gained all the knowledge in the world, and became immortal.
As centuries passed, Fintan’s knowledge grew legendary. Many people sought his counsel, and he gave it to some, but no one could ever capture him. Then came Finegas the Druid. After hearing about Fintan, he moved near the Boyne, hoping to capture the salmon, eat him, and gain all that knowledge for himself. Of course, as happens in myths, this was not to be Finegas’ destiny. Instead, a boy named Finn MacCumhail became his apprentice. Finegas taught the boy about the Druidic arts and about Fintan the Salmon. Every day, Finegas would fish in the Boyne, hoping to capture the fish. One day, he hooked a giant salmon. A great struggle ensued but the druid felt certain he had the Salmon of Wisdom on the line, so he worked with all his might to reel in the fish. Finegas succeeded but was exhausted. He needed to take a nap. The druid instructed his apprentice to cook the salmon but made the boy swear not to eat it. Finn promised he wouldn’t.
I know what you’re thinking and you’re right. Finn consumed the fish. But not intentionally. When the salmon was about ready, Finn called Finegas to come eat. Just then, some fat from the fish dripped into the fire. The fire spat it out and the hot fat burned Finn’s thumb. The boy sucked his thumb to soothe it. Thus Finn ate the fat from the salmon that had eaten the nuts that had fallen from the hazel tree. With that, all knowledge and wisdom became his and he became the greatest hero in Irish mythology.
In both Irish and Scottish folk traditions, the hazel is pretty special. It follows then that those who are born under the Celtic tree sign of the Hazel (August 5—September 1) are pretty special too!
The Tree Sign Personality
Considering the story of Finn MacCool and the Salmon of Wisdom, you won’t be surprised to learn that Hazels are intelligent, academically gifted, and fantastic at absorbing knowledge and retaining it. They are analytical and tend to have a knack for math and science. Regardless of whether they have college degrees or not, they are intellectually curious, life-long learners whose vast stores of knowledge are quite impressive. Hazels are so impressive, in fact, they may come across as know-it-alls. They don’t mean to, though. Hazels can be quite self-critical and don’t give themselves enough credit. So if you have Hazels in your life, let them know how great they are. If you are a Hazel, cut yourself some slack!
Hazels are excellent organizers and planners. They just have to be careful not to let their desire for order lead to compulsive behaviors and / or perfectionism. Order is good. Balance is better.
The Companion Animal: The Salmon
Each Celtic tree sign has a corresponding Celtic animal. The Hazel’s is the Salmon. The Salmon symbolizes wisdom, but wisdom isn’t about book learning. Wisdom is learning from experience then putting that knowledge to good use.
Like the salmon from nature, Celtic Salmons may struggle as they journey through life. They may have had difficult childhoods which have left them with a lack of self-worth or a sense of somehow not belonging. Salmons have an innate desire to travel and like to be constantly on the move. They also may be on a restless quest to find a place to settle, a place to call home. The main wisdom Salmons need to learn is that home is not a place; it’s a state of mind. Salmons will acquire self-worth when they learn self-acceptance. They will be able to settle once they become at home in their own skin.
Another struggle for Hazel-Salmons is that they are analytical, goal-oriented people as well as highly imaginative, creative artists. This can result in a tussle between the left and right sides of their brain. But it doesn’t have to. The key is balance. Dear Hazels, you can be practical idealists and realistic dreamers. When your analytical planning combines with your creative vision, you have the ability to accomplish whatever you put your minds to. In case you’re not convinced yet of how truly awesome you are, here are a final few words about the hazel in the Celtic tradition.
Celtic Folklore About the Hazel
1) A person who eats hazelnuts will gain the gift of prophecy.
2) Even though the Druids considered the oak a royal tree, some druids preferred their staffs and wands to be made from hazel wood.
3) In Old English, the word hasl meant “baton of authority.”
4) Because of the hazel tree’s strong association with wisdom, the Druids carried hazel wands when they acted as judges, administering the law and settling disputes.
5) According to Celtic folklore, a place where a hazel, apple, and hawthorn tree are found growing near one another marks an area where magical things happen, and, possibly hides a portal to the Otherworld.
So, considering all this, will you ever think of Nutella in the same way again?
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