Ruis         Symbol: Ruis

Sound value: R

Literal meaning: Reddening

Pronounced as “RUE-sh”

Northwest Europe


(Sambucus nigra)

Features: Deciduous bushy shrub with many stems, can become small tree (Adoxaceae Family)

Uses: Fresh leaves uses as insecticide. Fruits and flowers make wines, jam & tea. Dyes from bark, leaves, and flowers. Medicinal uses.

North Central Florida


(Sambucus nigra Canadensis)

Features: Deciduous bushy shrub with many stems, can become small tree (Adoxaceae Family)

Uses: Cooked berries edible & made into pies, jellies, & elderberry wine. Flowers are edible, and used in jams, in a wine, jellies and elderflower fritters. Medicinal uses.^

^ Floridata


Elderberry (Sambucus nigra Canadensis), Gainesville, Florida

Elderberry leaves & flowers

Elderberry (Sambucus nigra Canadensis), Gainesville, Florida

Elderberry bark

Elderberry (Sambucus nigra Canadensis), Gainesville, Florida

Modern divinatory meaning: Regeneration, cycle of rebirth, change and transformation.

Animal symbolism (based on traditional lore): seal

Bird symbolism (based on traditional lore): rook

Color: dark red

Element: Earth

Calendar: Ruis is associated with the thirteenth lunar month of the Celtic year, the last 3 days in October. (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.)


  • In Norse mythology, the elder was said to be the home of the Goddess Freya. By medieval times this was changed to elder being the abode of witches, and it was considered dangerous to sleep under its branches or to cut it down.
  • The Elder Mother is an elder-guarding being in English and Scandinavian folklore known by a variety of names, such as the Danish Hyldemoer (“Elder-Mother”) and the Lincolnshire, UK names Old Lady and Old Girl. It was said until recent times in various parts of England and Scandinavia that to take wood from the elder tree one would have to ask the Elder Mother first, or else ill luck would befall the woodsman. Hans Christian Andersen has a wonderful story about the Elder Tree Mother, a version of which you can read here.
  • In Ireland, it was one of the magical trees carried in procession at Beltane. In the Isle of Man, elders are the main dwelling-place for elves.
  • The Elder– along with the Hawthorn and the Rowan– has strong associations with the Fairy folk (as they all have white flowers) and is a tree of protection. It is considered very lucky if you have one growing near your house. Traditionally a Rowan would be grown at the front of the house but the Elder’s place would be at the back door and it was said that it kept evil influences from entering your home. It is sometimes called the ‘hollow tree’ because the spongy tissue within its smaller branches can be easily removed, thus providing hollow tubes, and many felt that this hollow offered a door into the fairy kingdom.
  • In Denmark, if you were to stand under an elder on Midsummer’s Eve you could see the Elf-king and his host. A similar tradition existed in Scotland where it was said to happen on All Hallows or Samhain.

To learn more:

Tree Lore: Elder, OBOD

Mythology and Folklore of the Elder, Trees For Life