The Yew (Taxus baccata) is a medium sized British evergreen with a very long lifespan (at least 2000 years) and it grows red flashy berries called arils. Many ancient Yews are found in churchyards. It is believed that some of the circle arrangements were planted to protect the power spots in the community.
Yew grows well in the shade of other trees, but little will grow under Yew shade.
Every part of the Yew is very poisonous except for the fleshy part of the berry (used as a diuretic or laxative.) Even the seed inside the berry is deadly. Historically the Yew poison was used in small amounts as cardiac stimulant. It was also known as the Forbidden Tree because it was used to stimulate abortion. The leaves and bark contain small amounts of an anti-cancer agent Taxol that inhibits cancer cell growth.
Yew wood is very strong, great for making wands, bows, spears, relic boxes, and dowsing rods.
The Yew tree is sacred to the Goddess Hecate as it is linked with death and is often found in ancient graveyards.
Originally she was Goddess of the wild places, childbirth and the crossroads. These are all in between spaces that are associated with the spirit world; for the wilderness is not yet tame, birth is the moment of life where death stands in waiting and the three ways cross roads intersect at a point that is between all the directions. She was called upon by the ancients to provide protection and wisdom at these critical points.
As the in between spaces are the places where the veils between the worlds traditionally believed to be at their thinnest they are also associated with witches, magic and ghosts. From these links she gained the titles of Queen of witches and Queen of Ghosts and became a crone Goddess.