January 17, 2013 in Everyday Magick
The holiday season is over and now the task of taking down all those holiday decorations is nearing completion. Away go the twinkle lights, the brilliant ornaments, the Santa and nutcracker collections, and, alas, the festive greenery that decked the halls for the past few weeks. As much as I can’t wait for my house to get back to normal, I am saddened to see them packed into boxes until next December. If you are like me, the thing that is missed most of all is the Yule/Christmas tree, standing tall in all its adorned brilliance and fresh pine scent. Yet, the Yule tree does not have to go far. It can be tucked away into parts of the home and yard for a little bit of Yule tree magick all through the coming year.
After the ornaments, tinsel and lights are removed, our tree is carefully removed from its stand and taken into the back yard. Using my best and sharpest garden shears and thanking the tree with each snip, I go through the tree, branch by branch, removing those that will be used to freshen the vases in the house and on the altar for the Winter. The old and drying evergreens are taken from the vases, put out over the garden beds to insulate them for the Winter, and replaced with the fragrant fresh branches. I will tuck flowers, like white roses or forced forsythia branches, in among the evergreens. This is especially beautiful at Imbolc, when we are looking forward to the coming Spring but still mindful of the cold barren Winter. Some of the smaller tree branches can be shaped into pentacles, using floral wire where each branch connects to the next. Fresh flowers or herbs can also be wired into these and make aromatic wards to be hung on doors and in windows.
There are always a few branches that are oddly shaped and cannot be used in floral arrangements or wards. I hang these as I would herbs to dry. When ready, I strip the pine needles from the branches and store them for use in incenses, oils and other brews throughout the year. An incense made of crushed pine needles and cedar is a fragrant purification in Winter for the home. The needles can also be used for a spiritual cleansing bath. A pine branch makes a wonderful substitution for a broom to “sweep” an area before spellwork or ritual outdoors. Another magickal property of pine is fertility. With this in mind, I use pine branches to insulate the garden through the Winter. As I place the branches over each garden bed, I envision the abundant flowers, herbs and vegetables that will grow in the coming Spring and Summer. Smaller branches are also set aside to dry out for kindling for our back yard firepit. We burn these branches to “clear the air” before family and friends gather for fun or celebration.
Once the Yule tree is stripped of the branches, it is time to put the trunk to good use. A piece is always cut from the bottom first for next year’s Yule log. In some years, the trunk has been cut into pieces and used as firewood (although it MUST be very dry to burn properly with the least amount of smoke). Another year my husband made Winter candleholders for the altar. Last year, we decided to create some very natural and practical magick for our backyard with the Yule tree trunk. We turned it into a feeding station for birds and small furry critters. We placed it into the wall of our rock garden and used it to hang suet feeders, seed balls, overly ripe fruit and even corn cobs. This attracted a variety of new birds to our yard and kept our usual feathered residents quite happy. Species of butterflies not seen before in my yard gathered around orange slices hung there. Bees also were attracted to this. After checking it out for a while, they would go to work in my vegetable and herb garden. It became part of the natural magick of the gardens and an attraction of sorts for the neighbors. This year, we are using the trunk for a more practical purpose: a coat rack. We are going to leave some of the thicker branches, stripped of needles and shortened, on the trunk and place a base on it. First we must research how to get the sap to dry out or to keep it from leaking out. Who wants to put on a jacket and have it stuck to your neck with pine sap!
There is one more way to create some magick with that Yule tree that may be late to mention but worthy to note. It may only apply to those on the East Coast right now. Many communities at the New Jersey, Delaware and New York shores that were damaged by Hurricane Sandy are using Yule/Christmas trees to rebuild sand dunes. The trees are placed on their sides, end to end, and catch sand as it is swept across the beach by the wind. This then forms sand dunes naturally. If you have not already repurposed your tree or had it removed to the local recycling center to be mulched, check with local officials to see if your tree can still be taken to a shore community to rebuild the coastline. What better magick is there than healing Earth’s wounds!
Above all, keep your Yule/Christmas tree from just ending up in a trash heap somewhere. Think of all the ways it can be used for other purposes, whether it’s gardening, magick, furniture-building, or even firewood. Ask your neighbors to do the same, even if they just end up giving you the tree to reuse, recycle or repurpose. Look into your local county’s policies about holiday tree removal and recycling. If they don’t recycle it for mulch, take it to a local garden or landscaping center that will do this. The Earth gave the tree to you and so it must be returned to Earth. This is the greatest magick you can perform.