Notes from the Apothecary: Maple
How beautiful the maple tree is. Also known as acers (from the Latin for sharp, due to the points on the leaves), maples range from small shrubs to 45-metre-high trees, are spread all over the world and although can be evergreen, are normally renowned for their spectacular colour show in the fall. The picture to the left is a collection of autumn leaves my boy and I collected a couple of years ago. As you can see, the maple leaves (from Norway maples) are very prominent in the display.
Well known as the symbol of Canada, and also the state tree of Vermont and Wisconsin, the maple is surely familiar to all, if only for the archetypal ‘hand’ shape of the leaf.
In the restaurant of trees, maple is the dessert menu, for sure. The sap is used to make a wonderful, ridiculously sweet and tasty syrup, which graces pancakes the world over. It takes 40 litres of sap to make one litre of maple syrup! The syrup is also made into sugar and candy.
Native Americans produces maple syrup and maple sugar well before Europeans arrived on the scene. The process was quite ritualised, with the first full moon of spring being named the Sugar Mon, and being a time for dancing and celebration.
The Native Americans didn’t just use the maple for its sweet sap. They also used the bark to make a wash for sore eyes.
The maple leaf is also said to have a sedative effect, and to make a useful tonic for anxiety or depression. It is also used for treating ailments of the liver and spleen. There is no scientific evidence to back this up, unfortunately.
The inner bark can be boiled to produce dyes. The red maple produces a purple colour, which with sulphates added can be made into black ink.
The timber is widely used, but one of the most fascinating uses is for musical instrument. Maple is known as a tone wood, which means it carries soundwaves well; it has a useful harmonic resonance. Fender guitars have often been made with maple necks.
The Witch’s Kitchen
Maple syrup may be used as a substitute for honey in offerings and other magic.
The maple leaf is often used as an emblem in military regalia, and the wood has historically been used for rifle stocks. This gives the tree a militant aspect, useful in magic where you have to resolve a conflict, or brace yourself for a confrontation. The maple represents strength, especially in the face of adversity.
Think of the way the flowers and then the seeds get into everything! They represent tenacity and opportunity.
The wood is strong and useful for wands and staffs.
The leaves transform from verdant green to glowing gold and red throughout the year. They are perfectly symbolic of the wheel of the year and the transforming seasons, and make an awesome altar decoration.
The maple tree is seen as feminine, and associated with the moon. Therefore, any moon magic may be enhanced with the use of maple leaves, seed or wood; even a piece of bark. Leave a maple wand in the light of the full moon to ‘charge’ it with lunar energy, in the same way you would a crystal.
Home and Hearth
One of our favourite things to do is to make roses out of maple leaves. Find out how HERE.
When picking maple leaves, the leaf should be attached to a stem which should easily come away from the main branch. These stems make it easy to string the leaves up to make a late summer or autumn garland, or even a crown or wreath.
I Never Knew…
The first literary mention of the maple is in Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Knight’s Tale, where it is written as ‘mapul’.