FEARN           Symbol: Fearn

Sound value: F, V

Literal meaning: alder, shield

Pronounced as


Northwest Europe


(Alnus glutinosa)

FEATURES: Deciduous tree, resistant to fire, grows along waterways, has root nodules containing nitrogen-fixing bacteria and enriches poor soils (Birch Family)

USES: Wood stronger in water & used in pilings, etc; also used in making furniture, musical pipes, chairs, spinning wheels, and cart wheels. Parts used in making dyes. Leaves used to tan leather. A poorly burning wood, it makes charcoal once used in metal forging.

Northwest Europe


(Alnus serrulata)

FEATURES : Small deciduous tree growing along waterways (Birch Family)

USES: Medicinal uses. /

/ Univ Michigan, Deerborn Ethnobotany Database

Hazel Alder bark

Hazel alder, Alnus serrulata, Gainesville, FL

Hazel Alder leaves

Hazel alder, Alnus serrulata, Gainesville, FL

Modern divinatory meaning: Oracular guidance, protection of self & country

Animal symbolism (based on traditional lore): wolf

Bird symbolism (based on traditional lore): seagull

Associated deities: Bran, Cronos

Color: red

Element: Water

Calendar: Fearn is associated with the third lunar month of the Celtic year, January. (Using the Celtic tree calendar system that has 13 ‘months’ starting in November, as popularized by Liz and Colin Murray. Other calendars are also used, most notably the calendar devised by the poet Robert Graves in his 1948 book White Goddess.)


  • The water-loving alder was revered as it appeared to bleed when cut, it’s sap turning red when exposed to the air. It’s purple buds were considered a sign of royalty.
  • In ancient Greece the Titan Cronos (or his epithet Fearinus- ‘of the dawn of the year’) was represented by an alder tree.
  • When Odysseus was held by the nymph Calypso, the trees of resurrection at her cave were alder, aspen, and cypress. Odysseus also used alder (along with aspen, and silver fir) to build a raft to leave her island of Ogygia.
  • In the medieval Welsh poem the Cad Goddeu (English: The Battle of the Trees) the alder trees were the first to march into battle. [Note: alder is a pioneer species and is thought to have been one of the first species to recolonize large areas of Ireland after the last ice age.]
  • In Irish legend the first human male was created from an alder (and the first female from a rowan).
  • Alder was known as the best wood to use for whistles and pipes.


To learn more:

Tree Wisdom: The Definitive Guidebook to the Myth, Folklore, and Healing Power of Trees by Jacqueline Memory Paterson (1996)