Given my passion for all things weaving, cord magic and related things it’s maybe no surprise that we are exploring the magic and folklore of willow at the next meet up of our open ritual group in June.
I think the most common association is with good old aspirin. Willow bark (salix alba) has a high salicin content which - when digested - breaks down into salicylic acid and that's what aspirin was originally synthesized from. It's probably already a bit late in the year to collect bark for tinctures or tea but you still can give it a go. You usually aim for the bark of the younger shoots in early spring before the sap starts to rise because that's when it's easiest to separate the bark from the branches which you can then use for basketry. As per usual, if you want to try anything herbal medicine related, please do your own research and when in doubt consult a medical professional.
Talking about basketry, willow is famed for use in weaving, in building structures and sculptures, and basketry is a very ancient craft indeed, pre-dating pottery or stone carving. Few prehistoric examples survived because baskets are made of biodegradable materials. Some of the earliest evidence of basketry are therefore pottery shards, for example those found in Gambols Cave, Kenya, dated to before 8,000 BCE, which have impressions of basketwork on their surface. There is however one rather spectacular example which was found just 2 years ago in the Muraba’at Cave in the Judean Desert and is a whopping 10.500 years old!
Finally, regarding sculpture: a few years ago the figures shown in the photo, "Three Fairies Dancing", stood at the Rollrights. Nowadays they have nearly completely weathered away but the stones themselves are of course always worth a visit!
Enjoy the rest of May, I have a feeling this is going to be our summer this year…