14 Straif – Blackthorn
Straif (pronounced ‘STRAHF’)
Represents letter(s): Z
Divinatory meaning: Control, authority, manipulation
Associated Tree/Plant: Blackthorn
Healing Properties: Sloe berries of the blackthorn are used to make sloe gin. The berries stimulate metabolism, and are therefore useful in weight loss. They may also be used as a laxative and as a diuretic. Juice from sloe berries has astringent properties and may be used to tighten the skin or reduce swelling. An infusion or decoction of sloe berries may be used to treat indigestion, allergies, kidney stones and colds. The chemical properties of this juice allows it to disperse toxins in the blood. Applying the juice of sloe berries to the skin or as a poultice can reduce symptoms of eczema, herpes and dandruff and aids in eliminating some types of rash. Tea from blackthorn leaves is useful for a sore throat, tonsillitis and laryngitis. It may be taken to improve the circulation as well. A tea made from powdered blackthorn bark has a calming effect that helps to settle the nerves.
Magical Uses: The blackthorn is known as the Dark Mother of the Forest. This is because this tree is associated with the darker side of magic and the Otherworld. It is th e most sinister of the trees of the Ogham. It is believed that we get our word “strife” from the Gaelic name of this tree, which is “straif.” Seeing a blackthorn tree in your path is considered an ill omen. It is used for working dark magic, spells of revenge and curses. In Scotland, the Cailleach is said to have a walking stick made of blackthorn. She summons winter every year by striking the ground with this staff, causing it to freeze.
This tree has long been linked with battle, murder, and mayhem and is used in magic involved with binding or cursing. Such curses of revenge are accomplished using a “black rod,” which is a staff or wand of blackthorn with thorns on one end. It is considered the tree of the witches; especially of those witches who use the dark arts to achieve their purposes. Such witches often crafted poppets of their enemies and pierced them with thorns from the blackthorn. Such thorns when used in this manner were called “pins of slumber.”
In Irish mythological cycles the blackthorn was often used in spells of protection. A fleeing army could toss a sprig of blackthorn on the ground and it would instantly rise up as a thick and dense blackthorn forest, blocking the enemy’s path.
Gods/Goddesses Associated with This Tree: The Cailleach, Bellenus