Coll / Hazel


Coll is the tree of wisdom and understanding. The message of Coll is not a direct one, but rather a story message that we can use as a kind of parable. In Irish mythology, the archtypical Hazel tree that grows in the Summer Country, Tir-na-Og, drops nuts of wisdom into the river of life. For centuries the nuts were eaten by the Salmon of Wisdom, who by eating them had gained an understanding of all things. The salmon is caught by an old Druid Priest who is cooking it with the help of Fionn, his pupil. The Druid warns Fionn that eating the salmon is forbidden. But, while working the spit over the fire, Fionn burns his thumb on the hot fat of the roasting fish and puts his thumb in his mouth to soothe it, thus gaining the powers of divination and foretelling the future as well as understanding the speech of all birds and animals. He grew up to become the heroic chief and war leader Finn MacCool, the main figure in one of the great cycles of Irish mythology.

This story and the message of Coll tell of a kind of understanding. There is the directed understanding of long study and research that gradually brings us to a planned goal, and the moment of serendipity when something happens to what we are working on and a completely unexpected but beneficial ending or discovery occurs. Coll is a combination of the two. Fionn was studying with the druid in order to gain understanding, but his eating the Salmon of Wisdom came about by accident. When illumination occurs we must know what we are looking at to understand it. We must have the background knowledge to interpret and use the conclusion. We must use the understanding in an appropriate way to benefit from it and further it.

This makes Coll a very useful card in Magic Workings when we are looking for understanding on a subject we are studying. The Rune paired with Coll is Cen, the rune of illumination. The shape of Cen is the opening of a lantern. To benefit from using a lantern we must know where to point it, and so to benefit from Coll we must know where to look. The card reversed tells us that there is a creative blockage or a misplacement that is keeping us from a conclusion.The symbol of Coll is the egg, echoing the egg shape of the hazel nuts, and indicating the useful meat hidden inside. On the Eightfold Year the time of the Spring Equinox is represented by Coll and the Egg which stand for the illumination and growth to come as spring advances. The Equinoxes are the balance points of the year when the day and night are equal. They are stock-taking points when we should think about ourselves and what we are doing. The message of Coll is a quiet one: «Look around. Consider. Bring yourself into balance and understanding.»

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