Our Material - Willow
Willow , with hazel was one of the earliest colonisers of Britain after the last Ice age. It was traditionally sacred to Hecate, Circe, Hera and Persephone, all dark aspects of the triple Moon Goddess, to all deities of the underworld and in particular, the Triple Goddess in her Crone aspect; the Cailleach or Old veiled one. Druidic sacrifices were made at the full moon in willow baskets and funerary flints were made in a willow shape.
The ancient Egyptions also prized willow and used its leaves in garlands and funerary wreaths. Ancient burial mounds situated near to water were often lined with willow, perhaps to keep them being damaged by water and also because of the association with Underworld deities. Now it is no wonder that willow is so effective perhaps as a spiling material to shore up river banks as it grows and takes root so well by water.
Willow wood has long been used to ward off evil, for protection and to overcome the fear of death. For safe life in another life, it was customary to plant a willow during ones lifetime so that its life would continue after ones death.
Willow is harvested each year when the sap falls right down into the ground, usually the last week in November.
Willow stems or withies are woven into hurdles in bands or bunches which are hammered down to give each hurdle great strength and longevity.
Willow grows and roots quickly. Living willow is cut in the winter months when the sap has died down, before new life and buds form in the spring. Rods can be used for weaving after one year’s growth, but we use older rods with at least three years growth for larger, and stronger living structures.
After cutting the roots are stored in water where root nodules form. The roots then grow when they are planted in the ground. Rods can be planted from Autumn to Spring. They need to be watered well in their first year. Willow is not only fast growing and robust but adaptable to most soil types as long as the earth is not too dry. We dig our rods into the ground at least two feet down, to ensure they have the best chance of remaining moist. Rods can be either pruned the autumn after planting or left wild to bush out and thicken.
Living willow is woven into intricate, dramatic shapes which fill out with profuse growth of willow leaves surprisingly quickly. Sometimes the design calls for an interesting contrast of living willow uprights and non-living rods for the weave.