Known for its incredible longevity (estimated to be well over 1,000 years), the yew can be commonly found growing on ancient sacred sites, that often predate the construction of its neighbouring church. The yew is meant to protect the living from evil spirits and protect the dead on their journey to the other world, it also represents eternal life, death and rebirth.

Yew in Penrice churchyard

Most evergreen trees are said to symbolise the burial of the dead and the branches are traditionally laid upon graves to remind us that death is just a door to the other world.  

The yew is believed to be the ultimate unlucky tree and the whole of the tree is highly poisonous.

Pliny wrote:

"It is unpleasant and fearful to look upon, as a cursed tree, without any liquid substance at all."

Dream books suggest that dreaming of the yew indicates the death of an elderly person, who will leave a large inheritance.  Stealing a spring of yew from a churchyard was considered to be an excellent ingredient for spellwork. 

Simply being in the presence of an old yew can fill a person with a sense of timeless awe and it is easy to see why pre-Christian Pagans worshipped these magnificent trees.

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