Experiences with Yew

Like many with an interest in druidry (and that is where I started in Paganism) I have a fondness for trees and am a self confessed tree hugger.  One type of tree which has continually fascinated me over the years is the Yew.  I first did a meditation to commune with the spirit of Yew in September 1999 after a Spirit of the North Gathering (SONG) at Ford castle in Northumbria and an experience there of singing under some yew trees.

On that first meditation with Yew I met two spirits one male and one female whose appearance kept changing from young to old and back again.  At that time this was very disorientating for me so I asked them to take on one form and they picked the appearance of an old woman and old man with twinkling young eyes.  They seemed somehow ageless and yet ancient at the same time.  Their message for me at that time was about the importance of living in the present moment.  The past and future were important yes, but if you dwell too much on either you forget to make the most of your present.  It’s a lesson that I continually try and keep in mind.

I will admit that I haven’t done much further meditation with Yew since that time but I have often spent a bit of time communing with yew trees I have come across.  I have also used parts of yew trees in healing spells for others from time to time.

Recently the yew tree has been making its presence felt in my life in a different way.

When I visited north Wales in early May our host, Stephen, took us on a walk along a river and past the ruins of a village (written about in Brython gathering May 2011 which was a visit at the end of May to the same place).  Near those ruins I was pulled towards a yew tree.  I stood beneath it’s branches and reached out to touch it.  I asked it for cleansing and healing of some of the negativity I was experiencing at that time. As I did so I began to feel a welling up of energy inside me, it grew within me centred around my heart and then erupted out of me as if I was being sick.  This happened three times with the physical effects of the third time in particular making me double over and practically retch it was so powerful.  After that I moved away from under the branches shaking like a leaf myself.  When I had recovered a bit I moved in again and offered some water near the roots of the tree.

I visited that tree again when I returned to the area for the Brython gathering but at that time the effects with the yew were not the same – probably because I had already undergone a powerful cleansing ritual not long before visiting the tree.

Last weekend I had the opportunity of visiting the Fortingall Yew.  It wasn’t a planned visit, I was actually up visiting the Scottish Crannog Centre and while there discovered that the Fortingall Yew was only 7 miles away so naturally made a detour to see it.  While this beautiful ancient tree is now protected by a wall and railings you can still get close enough to it to touch its outermost branches and it was a privilege to be in the presence of what is described as the oldest living thing in Europe.  I didn’t reach out to it with anything in particular in mind, I just wanted to say hello.  I didn’t expect what happened.  In a similar way to my experience in Wales energy started to gather within me centred around my heart.  I was able to use the wall and railings as support as this energy was pulled out of me again as if I was being sick.  Again I physically felt as if I was about to retch and was pulled over towards the wall.  This happened twice and it it was pretty powerful both times.

The Fortingall Yew


It seems that there is something within me that the yew tree is cleansing me of, probably emotional in nature I suspect.   I had to move further away from the tree for a bit but when I had recovered a little I moved closer and tied a small thread of wool I had handspun earlier that day to a branch as a gift in return for the cleansing.

I am grateful to the yew for these experiences and for what seems to be a purging or cleansing but I wish that the effects of it were a little less physical!  I intend to try and fit in a shamanic style journey in the near future to speak to a yew spirit about these experiences as I suspect there is more to be learned.

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