[Old English hæsel; Old and Modern Irish Gaelic coll; Scottish Gaelic calltunn, calltuinn,
Manx coull; Welsh collen; Cornish collwedhen;
: Both the wood and the edible nuts of this bush or small tree (genus Corylus)
have played an important roles in Irish and Welsh traditions.
Hazel leaves and nuts are found in early British burial mounds and
shaft-wells, especially at Ashill, Norfolk.
The place-name story for Fordruim, an
early name for
, describes it as a pleasant hazel wood (forest).
In the ogham alphabet of
early Ireland, the letter C was represented by hazel [OIr. coll].
It also represented the ninth month on the Old
Irish calendar, 6 August to 2 September. Initiate
members of the Fianna had to defend themselves
armed only with a hazel stick and a shield; yet in the
Fenian legends the hazel without leaves was
thought evil, dripping poisonous milk, and the
home of vultures. Thought a fairy tree in both
Ireland and Wales, wood from the hazel was sacred
to poets and was thus a taboo fuel on any hearth.
Heralds carried hazel wands as badges of office.
Witches' wands are often made of hazel, as are divining rods,
used to find underground water. In
Cornwall the hazel was used in the millpreve, the
magical adder stones. In Wales a twig of hazel
would be given to a rejected lover.
Even more esteemed than the hazel's wood
were its nuts, often described as the 'nuts of wisdom', e.g. esoteric or occult
Hazels of wisdom grew at the heads of the seven chief rivers
of Ireland, and nine grew over both Connla's Well
and the Well of Segais, the legendary common
source of the
Boyne and the Shannon. The nuts
would fall into the water, causing bubbles of mystic
inspiration to form, or were eaten by
number of spots on a salmon's back were thought
to indicate the number of nuts it had consumed.
The salmon of wisdom caught by Fionn mac
Cumhaill had eaten hazel nuts.
The name of the Irish hero "Mac Cuill" means
'son of the hazel'. W. B. Yeats thought the hazel
was the common Irish form of the tree of life.
Dictionary of Celtic Mythology by James MacKillop