In his book, Trees, A Woodland Notebook, the Right Hon. Sir Herbert Maxwell points out that many places in Great Britain are named after the elder. This suggests that elder was both common and noticed.
Elder has always been considered to be female and, like many other female spirits and deities, has been believed to have two sides to her personality.
In Pagan times, under the names of Hylde Moer (Danish) and Mother Holda (German) she was a kindly lady and protector of persons and property from evil spirits. The tree provided a connection to both the Underworld and the Fairy world.
As Christianity took over the elder tree was still seen as protective under some circumstances, but the Elder Mother became a witch.
Sambucus comes from ancient greek musical instrument. Flutes have been made from her through history. Here's a video. or if you prefer to read directions, look here.
With a nod to her less gentle side, Elderberry also makes a great popgun. The following directions are from Nuyaka Creek Winery, where you can also get elderberry wine if you'd prefer not to make your own. I've never tried them, so if you do, let me know how it is in the comments below.
How to make Elderberry Popguns
The Barrel: Select a long straight stalk at least one foot in length, and then work to pull and push out the spongy center. This is the barrel.
The Ramrod: Next make a ramrod out of a piece of hickory. On the one end, leave the bark on for a large handle of about three inches. Then cut (real kids whittle) the rest of the hickory into a long round stick-like section, slightly smaller in diameter than the barrel.
The Ammo: Take a piece of paper, soak it in water (real kids chaw their own paper, on the spot) and make a wad which you insert into the end of the barrel so that it's fairly tight. A second wad is then inserted into the opposite end.
Firing: With one swift shove of the Ramrod, the air between the wads is compressed to such a high degree that the first wad fires out with a satisfying bang!
The many associations of our Noble Interest make it difficult to cover completely here. When I started writing this piece, I knew of the connection to the Fairy world but I was unaware of all the connections Elderberry has to Goddesses. I'm pleased to have been able to learn this and will enjoy researching the tales of Mother Holly as Crone figure. Did I forget anything? Are you aware of a connection that I missed? Please share it in the comments below. Thanks for stopping by!
Tomorrow's tales may bring a bit of snow. Bundle up!