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The Magic of Autumn Leaves

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

Just when the vibrant colors of spring and summer seem like a distant memory, the trees put on their autumn display. On cloudy and dull afternoons, bright leaves capture the light making trees seem to glow from within. This last hurrah before winter provides a special time for magic.

Common throughout most of the United States, red maples (A. rubrum spp.) are distinctive with their rich-colored leaves, but come autumn, other maples get into the act and put on some of the most dazzling displays. Depending on the variety, red maple leaves turn from deep muted colors to a range of brilliant reds and yellows. Throughout the year, leaves from the red maple can be used in love spells, but in autumn they really help fire-up relationships. Press four bright red leaves in a heavy book. When they are dry, place them under the corners of your mattress to add spark your sex life. For something a little subtler, attach a pressed leaf behind a picture of your beloved.

The most spectacular of the maples is the sugar maple (Acer saccharum). It grows throughout the United States except in the warmest of areas. The species name saccharum, means “sugary,” referring to its famously sweet sap. During the growing season, the leaves evolve through shades of green. As cooler weather approaches, the leaves turn yellow and then finally brilliant oranges and reds. Popular for furniture and carvings, maples provide comfort and abundance. Use leaves from this tree in spells to draw prosperity and money into your life. Press a few leaves to place on your Samhain altar to symbolically send sweet wishes to your departed loved ones.

Although they have a more limited growing range, the shrubby Japanese maples (Acer palmatum spp.) are favored for gardens because of their reddish-purple color throughout the year. As autumn sets in, their leaves turn dramatic oranges and reds. For a boost to creativity, place a few Japanese maple leaves in your work area. Keep one with you during divination sessions to aid in opening the channels of communication.

Maple seeds come to maturity in September and October. Also called keys, pairs of winged seeds circle to the ground like little helicopters. Place a couple of them in a sachet and hang it on a bedpost to foster prophetic dreams. To boost the energy of an esbat ritual, separate the seed pairs and make a circle on your altar with the seed heads touching and the wings pointing outward.

Just as many people in the eastern U.S. head to New England, throughout the Rocky Mountain states people head for the hills for autumn leaf peeping. The golden colors of aspen (Populus tremuloides) punctuate the green of surrounding pines. Associated with the moon, aspen leaves help draw down the power of Luna for autumn esbats. Place a few on your altar and use one for casting a circle. Because the aspen tree is linked with the dark goddesses Hecate and the Morrigan, its leaves are instrumental for moving into the dark of the year. Keep a few dried leaves to burn at Samhain as you acknowledge the power of the Crone. Burning aspen leaves also aids in breaking hexes.

Although it is a conifer, the bald cypress (Taxodium distichum) is not an evergreen; it goes “bald” in the winter. Before its needles fall, they blaze into an orange-red color making the tree’s conical shape look like a candle flame. Hold a bright sprig during meditation or ritual to spark inspiration or initiate transformation. Remove a handful of needles from a branch, and then burn them in your cauldron to aid in releasing past-life memories. The needles can also be used for defensive magic or to banish anything unwanted in your life.

The medium- to bright-green leaves of sassafras (Sassafras albidum) turn deep orange, yellow, purple, and scarlet in the autumn. Because of its three-lobed leaves, this tree is associated with triple-goddesses. To call on their power, lay out three leaves in a fan shape on your altar. Because it is a tree of protection, sassafras leaves can be used in banishing spells. As a gift for fairies, press a couple of bright leaves, and then place them outside where you suspect wee-folk activity. Press a small leaf to carry in your wallet to attract prosperity. Crumble and burn dried leaves to send healing energy.

Known more commonly as sweetgum, the fragrant resin of the American storax (Liquidambar styraciflua) has been popular for incense. Its star-shaped leaves (usually with five but sometimes seven points) are known for their fragrance when crushed. In autumn they turn yellow, orange, red, and purple. Burn a few dried leaves to boost the energy of spells. Include two leaves in a hand-fasting ritual to sweetly bind you with your beloved. Another feature of this tree is its spiny round seedpods, which remain on the tree through the winter. The pods are known as gum balls, sticker-balls, and witches’ burrs and useful in protection spells.

No matter what type of trees you have locally, press a few colorful leaves and save them for New Year’s Eve. Burn them just before midnight or crumble and toss them away outside to symbolically let go of the old year.


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The author of over a dozen books, Sandra is an explorer of history, myth, and magic. Her writing has been featured in SageWoman, The Magical Times, The Portal, and Circle magazines, Utne Reader and Magical Buffet websites, and various Llewellyn almanacs. Although she is a member of the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids, she travels a solitary Goddess-centered path through the Druidic woods. She has lived in New York City, Europe, England, and now Maine where she lives in an 1850s farmhouse surrounded by meadows and woods.  


  • Tasha Halpert
    Tasha Halpert Saturday, 30 September 2017

    Lovely information, and so timely, I love the fall colors. I will post a poem about this for you on my site, along with a picture. Check it out? Thanks again, Tasha

  • Sandra Kynes
    Sandra Kynes Sunday, 01 October 2017

    Thank you, Tasha. It's a lovely poem.

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