20 Ioho – The Yew
Ioho (pronounced ‘EE-yoh’)
Represents letter(s): I, Y
Divinatory meaning: Deception, illusion, trickery
Associated Tree/Plant: Yew
Healing Properties: This plant is poisonous and should never be used in herbal medicine! The yew is so poisonous that even inhaling sawdust from a cut yew can cause sickness or even death. Since the yew is toxic, and since there are better herbal remedies in other parts of the ogham for the few things that yew can cure, it is better to focus on the magical uses of the yew and forego its use as an herbal medicine.
Magical Uses: The highly toxic nature of the yew earned it the nickname “Death Tree.”
The Yew is one of the Seven Noble Trees of Irish Brehon Law. These Noble Trees are Oak, Hazel, Holly, Yew, Ash, Fir, and Apple.
The yew is associated with death and dying. Its magic, like elder magic, is involved in reincarnation and contact with the spirit world. Yews are often planted in graveyards as silent guardians and protectors. Yew wood is sometimes used for wands; especially by those whose magical gifts involve reincarnation or the power of life and death. Incense made of yew wood is said to summon the dead when burned.
Yew is found planted in church yards all over the British Isles. The tree’s unusually long life, along with its highly poisonous nature, makes it a symbol of the transition between life and death.
Yew was a wood of choice for Celtic shields and longbows. Its unusually long life makes it a symbol of immortality, and as such Celtic soldiers believed that carrying weapons made of this wood transferred the properties of long life and immortality to the bearer.
In ancient times Celtic leaders were either buried beneath yew trees or had yew trees planted on their graves. At appointed times throughout the year members of their clans would gather around such yews and conduct rituals to ask for guidance from the departed leaders.
Yews represent connection with the ancestors for this reason.
Gods/Goddesses Associated with This Tree/Plant: The Mórrígan, Arawn