Information about the Sacred Trees in our Drums


Summary of the Trees integrated in the Wakan Drums and their Properties. - The information continues on Page 2, listed under the heading "MORE"

The following trees have had great meaning to mankind over the long river of time and the intent of bringing them together into a Sacred Drum Frame is to connect the Drum Keeper and those that hear and hold such a drum to the energies, life and medicines these trees represent. There are many trees that I cannot find or obtain, so in my belief, and in the ceremony held to assemble Wakan Drum Frames, the tree species used are asked to stand in and represent ALL TREES (the Tall People), Bushes, Grasses and their relations in these drums. 

Special Reference - The book “Sacred Trees, Spirituality, Wisdom & Well-Being, by Nathaniel Altman”, is an amazing book about Sacred Trees and was used extensively as part of me research. In the later sections, the web address of where the statements were found are included and you are encouraged to link over and enjoy these peoples work.


Alder - Called the Tree of Fairies 

Druids believed the alder tree symbolized a balance between male and female. It is also associated with courage and the evolving spirit. 

They also associated the tree with courage and the evolving spirit and linked it with death and resurrection. This belief was shared in Austria too, where the wood of the alder was thought to make the dead come back to life.

In Irish mythology the first human man was made from the alder tree which is considered a tree of the fairies, protected by the water fairy-folk but also representing fire and earth.

In parts of old Ireland, it was considered a crime to cut down an alder tree because the tree spirit would get angry and burn down houses in revenge. This possibly came about because when felled, the wood of the alder turns from white to an unnerving blood red due to its bright red-orange sap.


Aspen - Sacred Celtic whispering tree.

The aspen – also known as true poplar – was associated with language, communication, the wind, endurance and resurrection. The Celts chose the lightweight wood of the aspen tree to make their shields which were thought to protect them from spiritual more than physical harm. 

In Greek mythology, poplar leaves were worn by heroes venturing into the underworld. The leaves were thought to have the power to pass freely between the worlds.

The Greek name for aspen is ‘aspis’ which literally means shield. This association transferred over to Ireland where the aspen was known as the shield makers’ tree.

The Aspen tree, also known as the Goddess Tree, is aligned with the planet Mercury, and symbolizes protection and the process of overcoming our fears; which is a part of our ascension process.  This magical tree brings messages to the sage, making it a fabulous tool for transformation.  There is much wisdom within both the symbol of the tree and it’s leaves.


Ash and the Tree of Life and World Trees. 

What is the Tree of life?

When one reads the book mentioned above, one can read lessons from the Red Road, to be considered inspirations on how to conduct oneself or live one’s life in a respectful way. The concept of the Tree of Life is explained in this manner:

The Tree of Life represents all that is life, encompassing all that exists upon the planet. When we walk the Red Road, our journey ends under the protection of this tree. It causes the rhythm of the world to continue year after year, and with each cycle, fruit nourishes those who stand under her boughs. The roots dig deep into history. Those dedicated to this energy know the value of all beings, tend to Mother Earth and live an honorable life in honor of the spirit of the ancient Tree

The World Tree

In a fascinating account Edna Kenton compares the Norse tale of Yggdrasil to that of many other Native American cultures. Yggdrasil, the World Tree is ash.

The Osage Indians, who, in their drawings of the cosmology of the universe, include a world tree as a bridge. 

The Thompson River Indians (in British Colombia) who also have a world tree. 

The Sia Indians in New Mexico, have six world trees comprised of spruce, pine, aspen, cedar, and two kinds of oak.   

Likewise, the Mayan Cosmology also includes the Yax Che, the Green tree or the Tree of Life. Of course, we also see this same tree of life metaphor in the Hebrew Kabbala. 

Ash is the first tree in the traditional Celtic Tree Ogham.  It is known as “Nuinn”, “Nin”, or “Nion” and often represents strength, health, protection, courage, and connection to the sea.  Mastery is associated with the Ogham in the ash; it encourages us to gain power and strength associated with the mastery of ourselves, our knowledge, and our skills.  Ash, then, might best encourage one to “know thyself” and to encourage self-mastery. 

The Wabanaki Indian tribes, who craft their baskets from ash splints, have a tradition that humans were first created from black ash trees as well. 

The Chitimacha Indians believed ash was poisonous to rattlesnakes and would use ash canes to drive away snakes. 

Some Great Plains tribes, such as the Ponca, used green ash wood instead of cottonwood for their sacred Sun Dance poles. 


Birch - Native American Birch Tree Mythology 

The birch tree was of great importance to Native American peoples due to its tough, flexible, highly waterproof sheets of bark. Birchbark has been used by Native Americans for everything from papering the exteriors of canoes and houses to making baskets, artwork, and maps.


In some Ojibwe (Chippewa) communities, birchbark was said to be a sacred gift from the culture hero Wenabozho and was used to ceremonially wrap the bodies of the dead for burial. Ojibwe folklore has it that birch trees are immune to lightning strikes, and that therefore these are good trees to take shelter under during a thunderstorm.



Cedar - Native American Cedar Mythology 

Cedar is one of the most important Native American ceremonial plants, used by many tribes as an incense and purifying herb. Cedar is especially associated with prayer, healing, dreams, and protection against disease. 

The Coastal Salish tribes consider the cedar tree a symbol of generosity and providence and had special rituals regarding the felling of cedar trees. Cedar is commonly used as part of sweat lodge ceremonies and is also one of the herbs frequently included in medicine bundles and amulets. Cedar leaves and bark are used as medicine plants in many tribes as well. Tulalip teachings say that the male branches of the cedar tree are at the top, reaching toward the sky, while the female branches reach down to the ground like arms protecting their children. The female branches nestle into the earth and send out new roots to create saplings. Please see the following document from the Tulalip Tribe.

The cedar tree itself is also of great importance to many Native American tribes, particularly on the Northwest Coast. Northwestern tribes used hollowed-out logs of red cedar to make their imposing fishing and war canoes (which could be as long as 60 feet), built their homes from cedar planks, and carved their spectacular totem poles and other important cultural artwork like wooden masks and bentwood boxes from cedar wood. They also made clothing, textiles and fine-grained basketry from cedar root fiber and shredded cedar bark. Few Northwest Coast Native people today remember how to make dugout canoes, but cedar carving and cedar-root basketry are still vibrant art forms in the Pacific Northwest.  

The Sioux Indians have a special reverence for what they call the waka da cedar. Waka da, according to W. J. McGee, 1 who has made a special study of the word in his The Siouan Indians, is a very curious word indeed. It has, he says, as many connotations as the Sanscrit word Karma, and, like Karma, is not to be translated by any single English word. The Sun, for instance, is not "the" or "a" waka da, but simply waka da. So is thunder, so is lightning, the stars, the winds, and especially waka da cedar, by which they mean precisely the state of being which makes a cedar human and more than human. Even a man might be waka da. The term, he says, may be translated by "mystery" more satisfactorily than by any other single English word; nevertheless, with its vague implications of "power," "sacred," "ancient," "grandeur," "animate,"

The ancient Mississippian Mound Builders believed that the universe consisted of three parts with good and bad spiritual forces. These three worlds were linked together, and their connection was usually portrayed as a cedar tree.

Cedar trees are also used as a clan symbol in some Native American cultures. Tribes with Cedar Clans include the Hopi tribe.


Dogwood – 

Dogwoods are symbols of protection and safety in southeastern Native American tribes. In some Mohawk communities, the primeval Tree of Life in the Sky World was said to be a giant dogwood tree. 

In Northwestern tribes such as the Quileute and Makah, the dogwood symbolized good luck and dogwood berries were eaten during religious ceremonies. 

Dogwood fruit was a popular food item for many Native Americans, especially the Interior Salish tribes. To Blackfoot people, the dogwood tree was associated with masculinity and women used to refrain from eating its fruit. The bark and roots of dogwood trees were frequently used as medicine herbs and dyes, as well. Dogwood sap, however, is toxic and was used in some tribes as poison.

Dogwood trees are also used as a clan symbol in some Native American cultures. Tribes with Dogwood Clans include the Zuni tribe, whose Dogwood Clan is called Pikchikwe.


Ficus Religiosa (Bohdi) – 

The Bodhi Tree was a large and very old sacred fig tree (Ficus religiosa). ... Siddhartha Gautama, the spiritual teacher and founder of Buddhism, later known as Gautama Buddha, achieved Bodhi (spiritual enlightenment) while sitting under this tree. The Bodhi tree is easily recognized because of its heart-shaped leaves. Siddartha became the Buddha, the enlightened one, and the fig tree became the Bodhi tree, the tree of enlightenment. The Bodhi tree has come to represent a number of symbols in Buddhism. The tree is associated with the path to enlightenment. To me, it is a very wakan tree. I have felt the presence of Buddha twice. In our frames, I use the Red Narra to represent the Bohdi tree and form the link to Buddha. Burmese Red Narra Wood has been long revered in Burma among Buddhists for its spiritual healing properties and reminder to live to the principals of a high spiritual standard. It is said to aid in the maintainability of spiritual thinking in difficult times.


Fir – 

Like other evergreens, fir trees are associated with protection and spirituality in many Native American tribes. Fir branches are used for purifying and warding off ghosts in some Salish and other Northwest Indian rituals. 

Plains Indian tribes commonly burn fir needles as incense, and northern Algonquian tribes bundled spruce and fir needles into sachets or herbal pillows to protect against illness. 

Fir cones, like pine cones, were used for weather magic in some Northwestern tribes, particularly in Washington state. Fir bark and resin have also been used as medicine herbs by many Native Americans. It used to be customary in the Haisla tribe for mourners to blacken their faces with silver fir pitch.

Fir trees are also used as clan symbols in some Native American cultures. Tribes with Fir Clans include the Hopi tribe (whose Fir Clan was named Hekpa.)


Maple – 

The maple tree was of particular importance to the Algonquian tribes of the northwestern United States and western Canada, who developed the art of processing maple sap into maple sugar, maple syrup, and taffy candy. Maple sap was often considered a gift from the Creator and/or the culture hero, and many aspects of Algonquian culture and tradition came to revolve around maple sugaring. For these reasons, the maple leaf symbol was an important design motif in Algonquian beadwork.

Maple trees were important to Native peoples in other ways as well. Maple wood was used to make tools and furniture, and its bark was used as a medicine herb. The Rocky Mountain maple is considered one of the sacred Life Medicines of the Navajo tribe.


Holly –

The sacred spear of Odin was made of Holly and is also connected to Thor. The Roman god Mars rules over this mighty wood. 

The Holly tree is one of the most beloved, respected trees in Celtic mythology and is the evergreen twin of the Oak. Druids believed the Holly tree to possess protective qualities, such as guarding against evil spirits and bad luck.

Legend states that holly berries were originally white, but that the blood Christ shed for the sins of humankind stained the berries forever red. A holly's pointed leaves symbolize the crown of thorns placed on Jesus' head before he died on the cross. Holly is known as christdorn in German, meaning "Christ thorn."


Oak – 

Oak is considered a medicine tree by many eastern and midwestern tribes, associated with strength and protection. Individual oak trees of great size and longevity have often been considered sacred and used as spiritual and civic centers for important tribal gatherings (such as weddings, peace conferences, and naming ceremonies.)

Oak trees are also used as a clan symbol in some Native American cultures. Tribes with Oak Clans include the Pueblo tribes of New Mexico, whose Oak Clan is named Hapanyi.