The Sacred Tree Calendar of the Celtic People


The Celtic Tree Calendar (also known as the Beth-Luis-Nion Calendar) is a near-modern timeline based on interpretations of the Ogham alphabet.  It is divided into 13 sections; each bearing the name of a tree.  Some sources say it predates the Roman Julian calendar and the Gaulish Coligny calendar, while others say it has no historical value and was invented by British poet, Robert von Ranke Graves.  There is no actual physical evidence that any ancient Celtic tribe or the Druids used this calendar, yet it still holds a high position in certain sects of modern paganism.  One of the main criticisms by scholars is the fact that this calendar doesn’t coincide with any other Celtic calendar and even conflicts with known Celtic celebrations.  One example that many cite as too glaring to over look is that this rendition begins with the Winter Solstice, while traditionally Samhain was the date of the Celtic New Year.

The concept of a Celtic Tree calendar was first seen in the works of Edward Davies in the 19th Century.  Davies researched the Ogygia and the Book of Ballymote.  The research was further developed by Robert Graves in his book The White Goddess, and even further developed by Ross Nichols, the founder of the legendary Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids.  Though many disagree with the interpretations of these researchers, one cannot ignore the importance of trees in Celtic history.  Celtic mythology reveals many trees; even more than the ones included in the calendar, to have standing in ancient lore.  Some were known for their medicinal properties, others were considered sacred domiciles for spirits, while still others had symbolic meaning for specific tribes throughout the ancient world.

Regardless of whether the Tree Calendar can be traced back to our ancestors, we cannot discount what it has become.  Modern pagans who are of Celtic heritage or associate with Celtic beliefs have embraced the wisdom of the trees and use the calendar as a guide throughout the year to develop and enhance their connection with nature.  It’s grown to become a valuable spiritual tool and has become the basis for many ritual practices.

The following list gives a brief summary of each month, all equal to 28 days, plus 1 extra day.  Unlike many other lunar calendars, the Celtic Tree Calendar dates are fixed.

Birch (Beth) Moon (December 24th through January 20th)

Throughout history the birch tree was known for it’s adaptability, sustaining itself in even the harshest of conditions. It is the first tree to sprout leaves after the winter and the first to regrow after fire or other natural disaster.  Some liken it to the pioneer spirit, courageously taking root in harsh and unknown lands.  It is a symbol of renewal at the highest level and demonstrates a fierce and unfailing ability to not only survive, but also to prosper and multiply.

People born under this Druid zodiac sign may exhibit many of the characteristics of the tree such as strength, tenacity, resilience, stability and perseverance.

Rowan (Luis) Moon (January 21st through February 17th)

The rowan tree is known for balance, clarity, vision, protection, divination, and transformation.  For those who believe that the trees speak to us when we listen with complete silence, the rowan tree whispers encouragement to look deeper, look beyond the focus of your worldly eyesight to go beyond the physical world and engage with worlds beyond that which we are comfortable with.  Another amazing lesson to be found in the rowan tree comes from observing where they grow and how determined they are to survive, even at times sprouting up within other trees.  Some see this as an analogy for us to find connections in unexpected places.

The Druids believed the rowan tree contained a spirit that had secret knowledge of immortality and personal freedom.

Ash (Nion) Moon (February 18th through March 17th)

The ash trees were enormous in ancient Europe; towering high above the landscape with a thick trunk and deep roots.  The Celts interpreted three distinct things from this tree, expansion, growth, and higher perspective.  The incredibly complex root system also symbolized remaining grounded despite how much growth was taking place in one’s life.  The wood of the ash tree was used extensively in ritual practices as it burned with an intense heat, even when green.

This belief was perfectly aligned with the esoteric message of the ash. The Druids and the Norse peoples believed all the realms were connected via branches of a giant mystical ash tree known as Yggdrasil.

Alder (Fearn) Moon (March 18th through April 14th)

Alder trees are usually found in wetlands or swampy areas and the root system was submerged.  In autumn, the falling leaves would decompose in those same pools, adding organic nutrients, which would sustain the life of many small aquatic creatures.  Larger fish would gather around the intricate root system to feed on those creatures, creating a peaceful, tranquil ecosystem.  When immersed in water, the roots would harden to a stone-like consistency, which were decay resistant.  The alder offered protection for the vulnerable, sustenance for the needy, strength and an iron will.

Shields were made from alder wood and it was a symbol of strength in battle.  It was believed to be an access point to the faerie realms.

Willow (Saille) Moon (April 15th through May 12th)

The willow is also a water-loving tree, which is known by the ancients as the immortality tree because of it’s unique ability to regrow from a broken branch in moist soil.  The willow has many medicinal properties including the source for natural aspirin.  It’s also associated with fertility, inspiration, protection, binding, and creativity.  The willow tree was sacred to Crone aspect of the triple goddess in Celtic lore, and closely associated with the Cailleach (“old woman” in Gaelic).  

The words, “Witchcraft,” and “Wicca,” are derived from the word, “Willow” and are associated with an ancient cult which used the natural cycle of creation associated with the Goddess. 

Hawthorne (Huathe) Moon (May 13th through June 9th)

The symbol of Huathe is used in Celtic Reiki and it’s known to clear the mind of confusion and negativity; it’s essence represent the energy of cleansing and preparation.  Of all the trees in the Celtic Tree Calendar, no other better represents the struggle the Celtic people faced when forced to choose between Christianity and the practices of their people.  It was known for both healing and death – some Celts envisioned rebirth when embracing the new religion, while others foretold the death of their race.

Hawthorne is one of the “faerie triad” trees; along with ash and oak trees, the Hawthorne was especially inviting to the fae.

Oak (Duir) Moon (June 10th through July 7th)

The oak tree was of vital importance to the Druids; so important that they would not convene unless an oak was present.  Witches also were known to perform rituals under the oak. The oak symbolized balance, strength, and purpose.  Oak wood was used to construct front doors for houses (the name originates from the Gaelic word Duir).  The tree has a massive branch structure, but also a mirrored root structure underground, which is why it stands strong and tall in every season.

Each oak tree was believed to be the home to a multitude of faeries and each acorn was thought to be the home to a sprite.  Bringing an acorn into the house was one way to develop a stronger relationship to the faerie world.

Holly (Tinne) Moon (July 8th through August 4th)

The Holly tree is also known as the tree of sacrifice.  It’s symbolic of sacrifice, unconditional love, and reincarnation.  Holly serves to remind us to control our emotions and remain calm during periods of decision-making.  Likewise we must also remain calm and accept responsibility for our actions; even when such acceptance comes with consequences.   More importantly, the Holly encourages us to love ourselves, as well as others, in the light of compassion and unconditional love.

The wood of the Holly was used to make spears due to it’s firmness after being dried.  Holly berries were used in spellwork for female fertility and sexuality – they symbolize the blood of the life-giving Goddess.

Hazel (Coll) Moon (August 5th through September 1st)

The Hazel tree is also know as the Tree of Immortal Wisdom or the Tree of Wisdom and Learning.  Hazel branches have been used over history for divining due to their pliancy and affinity for water.  The Hazel tree encourages us to seek out wisdom, information, and inspiration in all things both living and inorganic.  The leaves of this tree were used often medicinally for treating problems of the circulatory system, varicose veins, staunching excessive menstrual flow, and loose bowel problems.

Dreaming about a Hazel tree indicates wealth and unexpected good fortune in the future.

Vine (Muin) Moon (September 2nd through September 29th)

Our Celtic ancestors valued the Vine tree as a symbol of spiritual wisdom, emotions, and initiation.  The Vine is fast-growing, prolific, and none like each other.  They are all unique and adapt with things growing around them.  The most valued vine was the grape vine, as it was the source for wine.  Many historians cite the fact that grape vines were introduced to the lands inhabited by the Celts and the muin could represent the native Bramble.

The vine is known as the tree of joy, exhilaration and wrath and is believed to be one of the sacred woods burned on the Beltane fires.

Ivy (Gort) Moon (September 30th through October 27th)

The Celts interpreted the ivy to symbolize friendship and connection to others.  Once those connections were established the lesson progressed to also demonstrate growth through the many twists and turns of regular life.  Ivy is very hearty also, which goes to further the message of growing even during challenging times in our lives.  Even after fire or severe weather, the ivy would return to growing, signifying the strength and will of the human spirit; surviving against all odds.

Most ivy plants have five-pointed leaves, making them a symbol of protection (signifies the harmony of the elements unified by common bonding energy).

Reed (Ngetal) Moon (October 28th through November 23rd)

The reed is flexible, versatile, and teaches us lessons of connectivity and working together.  Like a few others, the reed is not considered a tree by our modern definition.  The Druids considered anything with a thick or woody stalk to be part of the tree grouping and the reed was considered very important.  Reeds were used to weave baskets and make roofs for houses, demonstrating both flexibility and protective qualities.

As the night winds blew through the reeds, the Celts would listen and try to interpret the “otherworld” voice and it’s message.

Elder (Ruis) Moon (November 24th through December 22nd)

The Elder symbolizes judgement, transformation, death & regeneration, and fate.  It is known as the Queen of all Herbs and rightly so; all parts of the Elder can be used medicinally.  The lesson of the Elder is a difficult one but important and inevitable.  It presents us with a looking glass into our own lives where we are faced to answer difficult questions about how we lived our lives and how we will be remembered; this was especially important to Celtic warriors.

The bark, leaves, flowers, and berries have been used for centuries to treat a variety of ailments, with the berries being the most sought after for respiratory issues.

December 23rd is the extra day – signifying a year and a day – this day is not ruled by any tree

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