There is also much folklore and natural magic associated with powers of Ash. The traditional Witches broom or Besom was also traditionally made of an Ash staff, together with Birch twigs and Willow bindings. Interestingly, it is thought that the Besom represented the Hieros Gamos or sacred wedding of energies as in the Wiccan Great Rite and was used in the form of shamanic flight. Hallucinogenic mixtures may have been smeared upon the handle, to be absorbed through the skin of the hands/wrists, whilst the Shaman/Witch danced around with the pole between the legs, as if ‘Riding’ the broomstick into the otherworld, to gain perception of other realms and converse with spirits of the otherworld, this being a form of Astral Projection or Shamanic flight. Indeed the Ash staff used for the main handle may have been so employed because of its association with the World Tree or Yggdrasil, since travelling between the worlds in the shamanic flight could be seen as travelling via the Cosmic Axis into the upper and lower worlds. It is possible that some surviving traditions of Celtic Witchcraft may have been the remnants of the teachings of the Druid Ovates, as postulated by Philip Carr-Gomm in Druidcraft.
In some traditions, Witches were said to live inside Ash trees, in the Germanic traditions, there was the Askafroa or wife of the Ash who was an evil spirit said to do much damage. To appease her it was said to be necessary to make a donation to her on Ash Wednesday. In the Greek Hellenic traditions, the Melai Nymphs were said to dwell within Ash trees, and it is suggested there was associated sacred rites in these traditions.
In the essay ‘The Initiatory Ceremonies and Priesthood from the text Druidism: The Ancient Faith of Britain’, Dudley Wright (quoting Forling, in ‘Rivers of Life’) speaks of the Ash as being particularly holy in these isles and part of Pagan initiation. He states an ancient world wide belief in which to pass through clefts of rocks or trees had the symbolism of being born again. A folk practice was recorded in Suffolk, England in 1834 where an Ash tree is split longitudinally and a baby was passed through the hole three times. The tree was then bound up and if the tree successfully healed itself – all was to be well with the child in life. The practice was also recorded in several other counties for the purpose of healing Hernias in small children and was performed either at midnight or dawn.
In terms of the Sacred Druid alphabet the Ogam, Ash was included in the first Aicme or Series of Ogams as a Chieftan tree. There are several arrangements of Ogams – some attribute the Ash to the Five branched ogam (BLF arrangement) whilst others attribute it to the three branched ogam (BLN arrangement ). Typically, the Ash more frequently appears in the texts as the five branched Ogam, which may follow since appearance of clusters of Ash leaves would symbolically look more like the five branched Ogam.
Ancient Ireland was said to have five sacred trees in the Dindesenchas, the Lore of Places; three of these sacred trees were ashes: Daithi, Eo Munga and Tortie. Unfortunately, during Roman-Christian times these trees were felled and lost.