: eclectic content


[Celtic dictionary : tree]

The Willow, or Osier, is dedicated to the Goddess in Her death aspect, as represented by Hecate, Circe, Persephone, and others in Greece, and by Ceridwen, Morgana/Morgan/Morrigan and others in British mythology.

Corresponds to the letter S or "Saille" (sal-yeh) in Ogham.

The willow is traditionally associated with witchcraft -- so strongly, in fact, that the words wicker (meaning willow reed or osier), wicked, and witch are all etymologically related.

Called helice in Greek, it gave its name to Helicon, the abode of the Muses. Helygenn is Cornish for willow, and the Goidelic [Irish/Scots/Manx languages] saille is related to the Latin name Salix.

The alleged Druidic sacrifices, as described by Strabo and Caesar, were supposed to have imprisoned their victims in a huge figure made of wickerwork ("the wicker man").

Traditional British folklore, as in the well-known song "All around my hat, I will wear the green willow," commemorates the Willow's ancient significance as a symbol of the rejected or disappointed lover-- it was originally intended as a charm and invocation to the Goddess. Willow leaves and bark yield salicin, a principal component of aspirin --infusions of willow leaves or willow bark were reportedly used to relieve cramps (esp. menstrual cramps).


The bark of the willow tree has been mentioned in ancient texts from Assyria, Sumeria and Egypt as a remedy for aches and fever, and the Greek physician Hippocrates wrote about its medicinal properties in the 5th century BC. Native Americans across the American continent relied on it as a staple of their medical treatments.

The active extract of the bark, called salicin, was isolated to its crystalline form in 1828 by Henri Leroux, a French pharmacist, and Raffaele Piria, an Italian chemist, who then succeeded in separating out the acid in its pure state. Salicin is acidic when in a saturated solution in water (pH = 2.4), and is called salicylic acid for that reason.

In 1897 Felix Hoffmann created a synthetically altered version of salicin (in his case derived from the Spiraea plant), which caused less digestive upset than pure salicylic acid. The new drug, formally Acetylsalicylic acid, was named aspirin by Hoffmann's employer Bayer AG. This gave rise to the hugely important class of drugs known as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).


see also: