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  • Emma Farrell

Mother Elder


Every time I diet with a plant or tree I am in awe at the depths of healing that can be experienced when working with their spirits. I spent 2 months this last year only working with Elder and in that time my life turned upside down and inside out. This is not a tree to be taken lightly and I now understand why so many folktales about her speak of both fear and reverence.


Carrying strong elements of both air and earth, these energies can be seen in the physical structure of the tree, it’s beautiful sweet smelling flowers spread facing the sky while the deep redness of the berries demonstrate the earthy qualities of her medicine. It is traditionally the flowers and the berries associated with the medicine of the Elder and her vast treasure chest of healing gifts is well documented in herbal books. We all know what an amazing healer of the common cold she is but this fame is so belittling to the truly magical powers that Elder possesses. It is the affinity to the blood which gives the first clue to the direction of her metaphysical healing, which is where my interest lies. We are the blood of our ancestors, their blood runs through our veins and our hearts beat thanks to the life they have given us. So when Elder is purifying the blood she is healing ancestral wounds, traumas and imbalances, which can be difficult to understand if you are not aware of how Elder heals.

Often when people spend time working with Elder deep rooted emotional issues can also be activated, they are being flushed out during a process of rebalancing, the origin of which could be several generations back and can therefore be obscured. A healing crisis (where old issues are activated and come to the surface for clearing) can be concerning for people wanting the quick allopathic ‘fix’, so if an issue suddenly gets worse when working with a plant misunderstanding about the process can also arise. If we stop taking the medicine the issue will still be there, it has not had time to be worked through so it is best to allow the plant to finish what it started. This method is highly enlightening if you are on a spiritual path as we become more conscious through embodiment.


Known as Mother Elder the spirit of this tree is the crone and allows us to see situations in our life from a more wise perspective, releasing us from seemingly immovable situations. She holds us as we transition through the stages of healing and offers insights and wisdom to the imbalances in our life.


When we work shamanically with plants we are engaging with their spirits and therefore with the spirit world. The combination of Elder’s air and earth elements means she is a direct conduit to the spirit realm. She is the tree of death, she is our Ayahuasca. Doing a plant diet with Elder is very similar to working with an entheogen and at times you do ask yourself why you started the process in the first place as you are taken well out of your comfort zone! Elder is concerned with death, hence the fearful folktales, however her concern is for the safe passage of the spirit over to the land of their ancestors. So whatever Elder is taking us through during a protocol or dieta with her is preparing us for death, she is showing us that we would not transition whole or in full consciousness if we died still carrying these ancestral wounds and traumas.

Image: Green Man Tree Oracle

We have forgotten how to die in the West, how to treat our dead and how to ensure all soul fragments are collected before the deceased crosses the veil. Death rituals were once adhered to in these lands and having been trained in Celtic Funeral Rites I can understand why Elder is such a blessed ally for both the preparation for our own death and our assisting with the death of others. Elder not only prepares us but actually escorts us through to the Otherworld when we die. She is a powerful psychopomp who can release traumas from the wombs of women before carrying them over and shapeshift into motherly aspects to reassure the spirit that they are safe.


Elder is the tree of initiation and for the trainee healer or shamanic practitioner she can give us a taste of death and take us very close to it in order to awaken inner strength and other qualities that we are lacking for our work and life. We need to know death in order to fully live. During my initiation with Elder for two months she took away most of my Earth energy, it was hardly registering in my pulse and I spent weeks in bed with no motivation to do anything. As a plant healer dedicated to the nature path and with 5 planets in Virgo my earth energy defines me, or so I thought. Elder took away all of my power, everything that I thought I was and made me look at myself to see who I was underneath this identity. What was I at a soul level if I didn’t have any of my spirit team, have any of my magic or if I didn’t have any connection to the Earth? In a defining moment after weeks of languishing in the darkness I remembered my inner light, I stepped into the light of my soul and remembered that we are all beings of pure light simply trying to find our way back home, out of the maze and back to our Light Body, back to the expanded awareness of love that we are. This sounds very simple when I write it here but it was a profound moment as love is the most powerful force that we know and with the Elder Mothers ruling planet being Venus we can be shown the depths to which our unconditional love can go.


- Emma Farrell

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