The Fruit of the Divide: Elderberry Spiritual Meaning and Magic

Deep purple elderberries hanging from an elderberry tree.

Elderberries in a silver bowl, with a jar of elderberry juice in the background.

The Magic of Elderberry

Elderberry is a fruit of opposites. It has been used for protection from evil, as well as to summon evil in. An elderberry tree’s roots are shallow, yet the plant is strong and robust. Elderberry is a potently magical fruit that has been used for healing and blessings, but it also finds itself used for curses, summoning ghosts and evil spirits, and banishing as well.

Elderberry has the power to bridge the divide between the physical and the spiritual realm. It represents Holle, Goddess of Death and Regeneration, who protects the life cycle and who also protects those transitioning into death and the Underworld. 

Holle is a gatekeeper of Death and the Underworld. She resides in a cold, dark residence at the bottom of a well, but she is considered a kind, benevolent goddess who is generally not feared and even loved.

Holle is also a goddess of life and vegetation. Anyone who traverses into her realm will be rewarded justly, either good or bad, depending on the reward they deserve.

Elderberry and the elder tree are associated with death and the Underworld. Elder twigs were often placed in coffins or buried with loved ones to beseech the protection of the Goddess Holle and grant them safe passage into the Underworld.

Some cultures believe that the elder tree is inhabited by a tree dryad. This dryad is viewed as a kind and benevolent spirit when treated with honor and respect who protects those who care for the elder tree.

The dryad in the elder tree shows no mercy is shown to those who use the elder tree improperly. The dryad will hunt them down and curse them with bad luck. To please the dryad, the materials from the elder tree were only to be used for medicinal or protective magic and charms, and only after garnering the permission of the dryad.


Bright, red elderberries.

Magical Ways to Use Elderberry

Elderberry is known for its ability to stimulate vivid dreaming. It is said that falling asleep under an elder tree would inspire dreams of faerie lands.

Elderberries and the elder tree carry protective energies and do well to ward against evil energies.

Magical tools made with elder branches can ward off evil from magical practice.

Keeping elder leaves and branches hung over doorways and windows will also stave off negative energies and entities.

Bundles of elder twigs around the home can also protect the household, and it is believed that where an elder tree grows, lightning will not strike.

Elder branches have a soft, malleable core that is easily removed while remaining soft and sturdy on the outside. This makes them perfectly suited for woodwind instruments, the music of which is said to be loved by the spirit world.

Wands and flutes made from the elder tree can even be used to summon spirits.

Crowns also made of elder twigs can also help with seeing spirits and reverse evil magic as well, and a cradle made of elder wood was said to protect the baby that lay within.

The elder tree is considered a sacred symbol for marriage as well. In some cultures, it is believed that elder twigs can bring good luck to newlyweds, and in Britain, it is told that if a man and woman drink ale that has been infused with elderflowers, they would be married within a year.

Elderberry can be used in blessings. The oil can be used in blessing rituals, and scattering elderberry and elderberry leaves to the winds while naming the person or object you wish to bless, then scattering leaves on that object or person will grant a blessing.


See the Video: The Fruit of the Divide


The Amazing Health Benefits of Elderberry*

Please note that this information is not a substitute for medical advice. Consult a medical professional before using elderberries to treat an illness. Pregnant and breastfeeding women should also take special care not to consume unripe elderberries.

Take special caution when using the elder plant for any healing and remedies. Unripe or raw elderberries contain a cyanide-like poison that can cause vomiting, coma, and even death. Elder stems, leaves, and bark are also toxic and should not be consumed.

  • For centuries, elderberries have been used all over the world for medicinal purposes. Their storied health benefits include being an antiviral, anticancer, and anti-inflammatory fruit, and they have been shown to contain more vitamin C than any other plant aside from black currants and rosehips.
  • Most prominent among elderberry’s health benefits is its ability to fight cold and flu. Studies have shown that elderberry can basically neutralize the enzyme that the flu virus uses to enter a cell. It also attacks influenza’s mechanisms of entering the body, and this holds true for multiple strains of the virus.
  • Elderberries inhibit the production of the white blood cell that causes inflammation while promoting the production of another kind of white blood cell that doesn’t cause inflammation, hearkening back to its properties over opposites.
  • Elderberries have notable benefits against inflammation and were used in ancient times to treat joint pain.
  • Immersing elderflowers in oil can create a soothing massage oil that can relax sore muscles and relieve sunburns.
  • Distilling elderflowers is also said to create flower water that can soften and revitalize the skin.

Other Benefits of Elderberry*

Elderberry can be prepared in a number of ways, from teas to syrup and of course baked goods and desserts. Here are some of the amazing ways elderberry can be prepared, and the benefits that come alongside.

  • Benefits of Elderberry Syrup* – Elderberry syrup is relatively easy to make, and carries within it the awesome healing powers of elderberry. Studies have shown that it can cure 90% of flu infections within 72 hours, and it can shorten flu symptoms by four days. Elderberry syrup can also lessen fever symptoms.
  • Elderberry Tea Benefits* – Elderberry tea can relieve symptoms of hay fever and allergies. It also strengthens the respiratory tract and helps to loosen phlegm and mucous from the lungs. It also helps alleviate stuffiness and congestion and reduces inflammation.
  • Elderberry Antiviral* – Elderberry contains antiviral compounds that can reduce the severity and duration of flu and fever. It can also increase the level of antibodies in the body, and promote the production of white blood cells that don’t cause inflammation while suppressing the production of white blood cells that do cause inflammation.
  • Elderberry Wine Health Benefits* – Drink up! Elderberry wine can treat flu and help with flu symptoms. It can also help break down mucus and relieve congestion. A glass of elderberry wine can soothe inflammation in the respiratory passages as well.
  • Elderberry During Pregnancy* – While elderberry has incredible healing and restorative properties that can help immensely with health during pregnancy, it is important to practice caution when consuming elderberries while pregnant.
  • Ripe elderberries and juice are safe during pregnancy, but be sure to steer clear of unripe elderberries, elder tree stems, leaves and bark, and red elderberries, as all of these can be toxic and harmful to mother and unborn child and cause diarrhea, nausea and vomiting.
  • With that aside, elderberries when consumed correctly can protect mother and baby from infections and ailments. They are high in fiber which can help with weight management while pregnant.
  • Elderberry syrup is a good way to consume elderberry while pregnant, and it is a good flu remedy and cold fighter. Elderberry syrup can also boost the immune system tremendously, which is helpful to both mother and child.

Identifying Elderberry

You can identify the Elder tree by the white or yellow flowers it produces that bloom all year. The flowers eventually turn into the dark, blue elderberry. They usually grow to be about 25 feet high and 1 foot in diameter, and the tree has light gray or brown bark. The trunk is characteristically short and the branches form a rounded crown at the top of the tree.

Elder leaves are slightly thick with sawtoothed edges and have a leathery texture. Elder trees can usually be found in the woods along the path of streams, but can also be found in desert and desert grasslands. More locally, one can find elderberry at times growing along a roadside. Elderberry is a member of the honeysuckle family, and red elderberry is generally toxic.


Is Elderberry Edible?*

It is important to note what parts and what kinds of the elder tree and berries are edible. Black or deep purple elderberries when ripe and elderflowers are edible. If there are lingering concerns about the toxicity of elderberries, boiling and baking can take care of any toxic properties.

It is not safe to consume raw elderberries as they are poisonous. They contain a trace amount of cyanide that can cause diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting. Steer clear of consuming elder roots, leaves, bark and stems because they are also toxic. Do not make teas from the leaves and branches of the elder tree, and raw red elderberry can also cause nausea.


The Elder Tree’s Connection to History

The name “elder” is believed to come from the Old English word ailed which means “fire.” Its genus, Sambuca, is also the name of a musical instrument that was made from branches of the elder tree. The elder tree was seen as the tree of witches, and as Christianity began to rise, so did the persecution of tree worship.

Christians were fearful of the elder tree and viewed it as a symbol of sorrow and death. It was believed to be the tree that Judas Iscariot hung himself on, as well as the wood that was used for Jesus’ cross, a belief that has contributed to Christianity’s wariness of the elder tree.

Due to the prevalence of folklore and magic in Europe in the Middle Ages, Christian and pre-Christian beliefs soon merged to create new traditions and rituals, and the elder tree and elderberry magical rituals started to assimilate themselves into Christian practices. A Christmas Eve ritual involving the stems of the elder tree was as a result created to reveal witches.


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