Black elder

Black elder (Sambucus nigra) remains to this day one of the most valued plants in Slovene folk medicine. Every part of the plant can be used, especially the flowers and berries, which were used in tea to treat colds, fevers, and skin impurities. The leaves and bark were made into a tea to alleviate constipation, while freshly crushed leaves were used as a poultice to lessen pain.

Black elder was a particularly important midsummer plant because of the belief that ancestral spirits resided in its bushes. Branches of elder were beaten against midsummer bonfires to drive vermin away from the house, and in some areas they were also used in fortune-telling. Customs around courtship and weddings were particularly associated with black elder, which was believed to be home to good spirits and therefore possessed of magical power. In Carinthia, young unwed women searching for a groom believed that black elder would attract a husband. They would shake the elder bush and chant the following magical words: “Elder, elder, husband summon, always young and never old!”

More about healing and magical plants in Slovene tradition you can read in book SACRED PLANTS IN FOLK MEDICINE & RITUALS – ETHNOBOTANY OF SLOVENIA by Vlasta Mlakar

© Vlasta Mlakar