Euonymus (Spindle Tree)

I used to think euonymus was a rather boring plant. It’s one of the most commonly used foundation plantings in the northeastern US (so much so that it has now become invasive in some areas), and while there is a fair amount of variation in foliage and form, it never struck me as a particularly useful tree, unlike oak, pine or maple. Boy was I wrong.

One of the most fun aspects of studying the ogham in the Ovate grade has been learning about the traditional uses for various trees and shrubs. Spindle (in its Euonymus europaeus form) originally got its name from the fact that is was a very good wood for carving spindles, knitting needles (!), pegs, bobbins, and all sorts of other small, sturdy, cylindrical objects (Murray & Murray 1988, 66). Though a small bush, its wood is very hard and fine grained, which would make it ideal for avoiding snags with delicate fibers. However, on the more bellicose side, young spindle shoots were also a key ingredient in gunpowder charcoal (Spencer 2002, 444).

Being one of the Forfeda, not every book on ogham includes information on spindle, or

Oir (contra, see Blamires who designates both Oir and Gort as ivy [2005, 36]). In addition, it seems that it is mainly authors coming from the Murray tradition (including Matthews and Worthington 2008) who cite Spindle as being part of the ogham. It is also interesting to note that while the ogham and runes developed independently of each other, the shape of oir is reminiscent of that of jera, the rune of harvest.

Cunningham does not provide any magical associations for Spindle, and Matthews tends to associate it solely with goddesses of weaving and fate, like the Norns, Ariadne, Athena, and Arachne (2008, 97). To follow Cunningham’s model, I would say Spindle belongs to Fire and Jupiter, and thus identify it as being more masculine in nature. Murray makes the connection between spindle and sweetness and light (1988, 66), which doesn’t ring true to me, but he also connects it with lightning, which does make a large amount of sense, both in the sudden inspiration during the crafting process, and the aforementioned use of spindle as a charcoal base. There is also a sense from this plant that there is a joy in fulfilling obligations, and satisfaction in completing difficult tasks to the best of one’s abilities.

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