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Witchy Wednesday - Yew

Witchy Wednesdays - Yew Yew is an evergreen conifer native to the UK, Europe and North Africa. The bark is reddish-brown with purple tones, and peeling. The yew is probably the most long-lived tree in northern Europe. The leaves are straight, small needles with a pointed tip, and coloured dark green above and green-grey below. They grow in two rows on either side of each twig. Male flowers are insignificant white-yellow globe-like structures. Female flowers are bud-like and scaly, and green when young but becoming brown and acorn-like with age. Yew trees have long been associated with churchyards and there are at least 500 churchyards in England which contain yew trees older than the building itself. It is not clear why, but it has been suggested that yew trees were planted on the graves of plague victims to protect and purify the dead, but also that graveyards were inaccessible to cows, which would die if they ate the leaves. Yew is very strong and resilience was once considered the material for making longbows. Ideally, the wood for a yew bow was taken from the juncture of heartwood and sapwood, and the bow contained both. Fine bows were traded between the British Isles and the mainland during the Middle Ages. Yew is a faerie plant and one of those plants that has a long association with witches. Yew is associated with death and rebirth and is appropriate for funeral wreathes and memorial plantings. Likewise, it is appropriate for decorating for Yule, as the winter solstice represents the cusp between the season of life and the season of death.Yew is associated with divination and astral travel and anything that relates to communication or travel between realms. The wood is also very attractive in form and coloring. This makes it especially useful for making runes, Ogham sticks, frames for scrying mirrors, talking boards and other divination tools Finally Yew trees contain the highly poisonous taxane alkaloids that have been developed as anti-cancer drugs. Eating just a few leaves can make a small child severely ill and fatalities have occurred. All parts of the tree are poisonous, with the exception of the bright red arils. The black seeds inside them should not be eaten as they contain poisonous alkaloids.

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