As we settle further into fall, my heart has been connecting to the flowers that continue to bloom here in central Florida. Although the roadsides are dotted with goldenrod, arrowhead, and all kinds of aster, there is one plant that feels all the more emblematic of this season: elder.
Elder (Sambucus nigra, S. canadensis) is a plant steeped in autumnal lore and traditions. It has umbels of tiny, white flowers that hover like clouds amidst its branches. These miniature blooms give rise to dark blue-black berries, which are beloved for their medicinal properties. This plant is said to be sacred to the Goddess, especially in her aspect as the Dark Goddess or the Crone, who presides over the darkest months of the year. Elder’s folklore is strongly polarized between light and dark, and I’ve always felt that as a flower essence, elder offers a unique gift of exploring the shadow self and integrating the shadow into the conscious and superconscious mind.
Traditional lore tells us that this plant is beloved by fairies and home to the spirits of witches. The hollow stems of this plant signal its propensity for emptying the mind of distracting thoughts to help us get in touch with our own spirits. For this reason, it has been used to enhance psychic ability and help commune with ancestors, guides, and other spirits.
As a flower essence, elder is usually associated with themes of self-worth and self-perception. Taking the essence can shift the way you see yourself and helps you feel more comfortable in your own skin. This plant spirit offers a sense of youthful vitality and helps recuperate from all kinds of setbacks. I’ve found the essence to catalyze forgiveness, cultivate modesty, and assuage feelings of aggression, anxiety, and intolerance.
Despite being shrouded in dark and mysterious folklore, it is a plant filled with light. This plant spirit ally helps whenever you feel isolated or misunderstood, by reminding you that your light is worth shining and the work you do matters. It also reminds us to slow down and rest, to keep us from burning out too quickly.
Elder has a large range–it might still be blooming if you live somewhere warm enough like I do. Even if it isn’t try connecting to the shrubs that dot the landscape, or enjoy some elderberry syrup or elderflower tea to celebrate the season. Better yet, try working with elder flower essence to bring forth your light and offer comfort and joy as the tides turn and the days grow shorter.
Read more about elder in Flower Essences from the Witch’s Garden: Plant Spirits in Magickal Herbalism or get a custom flower essence blend here.