Druid Tree Lore and
Celtic Lunar Zodiac Signs
People have been marking the passage of time by the phases of the moon for millennia. Although it is impossible to say for certain because the lore and traditions were not written, many historians believe that both the Celts and Druids used a 13 month lunar calendar. The months and symbols differ from the solar calendar with which most of us are familiar. Druidic horoscopes are often mentioned in legends. Trees have long been a source of sacred folklore with each chosen to represent the months and having its own magickal properties. The Ogham symbols may have been devised by ancient Druids. As several of the symbols refer to trees, the ogham alphabet is often called the Tree Alphabet. These symbols are included next to the tree names which are shown in both English and Old Irish. The animal symbols are my interpretation based on various sources. The ruling planets of each sign are also noted. I have added very general attributes for each sign. The information provided here is just an introduction to the wealth of knowledge concerning Druid teachings and Celtic lore.
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Birch-White Stag 24th December-20th January
The Birch is the first tree in the 13 month lunar cycle and the first to bear leaves after the Winter Solstice. The Birch signifies procreation and the potential of growth. In this month, the Sun returns bringing light and warmth after the dark of Winter. The White Stag is thought to be a creature of the Otherworld, representing change or a quest. Those born under this sign are said to have great personal potential and the ability to overcome obstacles if they persevere.
Rowan-Green Dragon 21st January-17th February
According to legend, the red berries of the Rowan have magickal healing properties and the trees are guarded by a Green Dragon. The Rowan is a tree of protection and wards off evil and negativity. The Rowan tree’s spirit is a guardian of secret truths. The first fire festival of the year, Imbolc, is celebrated during this month. Those born under this sign are idealistic, visionary and concerned with humanitarian goals.
Ash-SeaHorse 18th February-17th March
The Ash is a tree of enchantment, enlightenment and one of the three sacred trees. The SeaHorse, part fish and part horse, is associated with Celtic sea gods and represents shape-shifting. Those born under this sign have a dual nature. They are said to be spiritual, compassionate, artistic, gentle dreamers with one foot in the land of Faerie. But can they be rather adaptable and practical as well. (In Norse legend, the Ash is the World Tree or Yggdrasil, from which Odin hung upside down to gain the knowledge of the Runes.) The SeaHorse symbol is incorporated into the crest of Belfast.
Alder-Hawk 18th March-14th April
The Alder symbolizes the balance of male and female principles in each individual. The Hawk is a bird of omen and can signify victory (forces of light or day) or defeat (forces of darkness or night. The Vernal Equinox (Alban Eiler), the moment when day and night are of equal length, is celebrated during this month. Those born under this sign are said to be courageous, confident, sincere, successful, good in a crisis and inspire loyalty. I chose the sparrowhawk, a small bird of prey commonly found in Celtic lands. Choose the Male Hawk in flight or Female Hawk guarding her nest.
Willow-Sea Serpent 15th April-12th May
The Willow, another tree of enchantment, has often been associated with creation as well as death. According to Druid lore, the two sea serpent eggs which contained the sun and the earth were hidden in its branches. When the eggs hatched, the universe was born. The fire festival of Beltaine is celebrated during this month. Those born under this sign are said to be mysterious, tenacious, loyal and resourceful with excellent memories.
Hawthorn-Chalice 13th May- 9th June
The Hawthorn is one of the three sacred trees (Oak and Ash are the other two). It is said to bring good luck and protection and is the traditional Maypole of Beltaine. It is extremely unlucky to cut down a Hawthorn. The Chalice symbolizes the expert metal crafting of Govannon, the Celtic master smith-god who also brewed mead that bestowed eternal youth and freedom from illness and death. He is similar to the Greek god Vulcan. The mythological hidden planet of Vulcan corresponds to the smith-god. Those born under this sign are said to be creative, innovative, multi-talented, adaptable and good planners.
Oak-White Horse 10th June-7th July
The Oak is the most sacred tree of the Druids and rules the light part of the year (the Oak King). The Oak represents wisdom, strength, longevity and protection. The Summer Solstice (Alban Hefin) occurs in this month and as the longest day marks a turning point in the year, it is also a time for spiritual exploration. The “Duir” (door) opens to self-realization. The White Horse is a symbol of fertility and spiritual power. Those born under this sign are said to be optimistic, determined, truthful, creative, are natural leaders and have generous spirits. Choose the rearing White Horse or the White Horse of Uffington, a prehistoric carving on a hillside.
Holly-Unicorn 8th July-4th August
The Holly is a symbol of life as it remains evergreen and is also a plant of protection. It represents the dark part of the year (the Holly King). The Unicorn’s spiral horn is a symbol of the sun’s power or a flaming spear which corresponds to the hottest part of Summer. The Unicorn also represents purity and endurance. The fire festival of Lughnasadh is celebrated during this month. Those born under this sign are said to be practical with great integrity, responsible, logical and trustworthy.
Hazel-Salmon 5th August-1st September
The Hazel is the tree of wisdom. By eating hazel nuts it is said the one could gain all the world’s knowledge. As told in the legend of Fionn mac Cumhaill, a Salmon ate nine hazel nuts that had fallen into the Well of Wisdom from the surrounding trees. The Salmon gained all the knowledge of the world and in turn, whoever ate the Salmon would know all. Those born under this sign are said to be smart, perceptive, detail-oriented, honest, rational and good educators.
Vine-White Swan 2nd September-29th September
The Vine or Bramble grows in spirals and symbolizes the time of year when the light eventually disappears into the dark time of the year. The Autumnal Equinox (Alban Elfed or Mabon), in which day and night are again equal, is celebrated during this month. The White Swan represents the Tuatha De Dannan, the radiant faerie folk who disappear to their underground abodes at the Autumnal Equinox. Those born under this sign are perceptive, supportive, creative, sensitive and great organizers.
Ivy-Butterfly 30th September-27th October
Ivy is also evergreen and symbolizes mystery, immortality, the portal to the Otherworld and the dark time of year. The Butterfly represents the Sidhe or Faerie Folk, who rule the Otherworld, a land not marked by human time. The elusive Faerie hold hidden secrets and wisdom which have yet to be discovered by humans and are ruled by the mythical hidden planet of Persephone. Those born under this sign are said to be unique, intelligent, sociable, artistic and good friends. I chose the beautiful Irish Peacock butterfly to represent this sign.
Reed-White Hound 28th October-24th November
The Reed has thick roots like a tree though submerged in water and is associated with Pwyll, God of the Underworld. It is also a symbol of royalty. The fire festival of Samhain, which honours the dead, is celebrated during this month. The White Hound is a guardian of many mysteries. I chose the faithful Irish Wolfhound to represent this sign. Those born under this sign are said to be imaginative, fearless, good leaders, make powerful friends and possess strong will.
Elder-Black Horse 25th November-2nd December
The Elder symbolizes death, rebirth and transformation. The Winter Solstice (Alban Arthan), the time of transition which marks the shortest day and longest night, occurs during this month. The last month of the lunar calendar represents the journey of the soul as it follows the light during each phase of the moon, descends into the Underworld and is reborn after a series of trials. The ruling planet of Saturn is symbolized by a Black Horse. Those born under this sign are said to be curious, lively, self-sufficient, energetic and enjoy mental and physical challenge.
Celtic Zodiac Sign Prints make great birthday or new baby gifts. I would be happy to personalise the print with the recipient’s name.
Larger views of the Prints can be seen and ordered here.