The Elder Moon contains the darkest days of the year. Elder (also known as the “Tree of Faeries,” “Old Gal,” “Pipe Tree” and “Lady Ellhorn,” among others) is sacred to the Wiccans. Elder shows the path through the maze, the spiral path that leads within, and the meeting place where birth and death are one. Its twigs were said to enable the wearer to see spirits and experience visions. Justice was dispensed by the Druids beneath this tree. The Druids believed that it was during this period that their Sun or Solar Spirit was being held prisoner. It was also considered a time of trouble and indicative of the struggle for supremacy. By virtue of being considered sacred to the faeries, Elder branches were once hung above stables in order to protect horses from evil spirits
The day after the end of the Elder Moon month, before the start of the Birch Moon, is no month at all, but an “in between” day. Nameless Day: 23 December.
The Elder Moon’s qualities include death and regeneration, the Crone phase of the Goddess, wisdom, transformation, and the Underworld.
The Celts believed that the elder could never be cut unless permission was asked of the trees.
Wiccans believe Elder should never be burned in the cauldron. See the Wiccan Rede.
The Elder deity is Pryderi, son of Pwyll Penn Annwn and the Goddess Rhiannon.
Also associated with the Elder is The Cailleach, also known as Cailleach Beara and the Crone of Beare. In some parts of Ancient Britain, this deity was the Goddess of Winter, depicted as a blue-faced hag who was reborn every October 31 (Samhain). She brought the snow until the Goddess Brigit annually deposed her and she eventually turned to stone every April 30 (Beltaine). In later times, the mythical witch-like figure of “Black Annis” is believed to have derived from The Cailleach. An ancient Goddess of the pre-Celtic people, The Cailleach was thought to control the Seasons and the Weather, as well as being the Goddess of Earth, Sky, Moon and Sun. Animals connected to the Elder are the Black Horse, the Badger and the Raven.
The Black Horse – A popular Celtic totem animal, the Horse was sacred to the Goddesses Epona and Rhiannon. Thought to be a faithful guide to the Otherworlds, it symbolized stamina, endurance and faithfulness.
The Badger – An animal said to possess unyielding courage in the face of danger, the Badger was noted for its tenacity. In the Welsh tale of Pwyll’s courting of Rhiannon, a Badger was mentioned as a guide during dreaming. The Badger was symbolic of the fight for individual rights and the defense of personal spiritual ideas.
The Raven – A symbol of healing and protection, it was cautioned that great care should be taken when dealing with this important totem animal of the Celts. In Ireland, the Raven was associated with the battlefield and such Goddesses as the Morrigu or later Welsh Morrigan (as was the Crow). This bird was also connected to Bran the Blessed…in Welsh, “Bran” means “Raven.” Although its reputation was sometimes dubious, the Raven was considered an oracular Bird, often representing the upsets and crises of life which were deemed necessary for anything new to be created.