Sacred Tree Profile: White Pine’s Medicine, Magic, Mythology, and Meanings

A great example of a spot to meet the Genius Loci
White Pine Towering in a Conifer Forest at Parker Dam State Park, PA
White Pine Towering in a Conifer Forest at Parker Dam State Park, PA

In the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) legend, there was a terrible conflict between five different nations of people. This conflict was rooted in cycles of pain, revenge, and chaos. A messenger of peace sent from the Great Spirit, the “Peacemaker,” sought to unite the five warring tribes. After convincing them to unite, they came together to make peace, but they still carried their weapons. The Peacemaker uprooted a White Pine tree and had them throw all of their weapons into the hole. He then replanted the tree, and the underground waters carried away the weapons. On the tree, the needles grew in clusters of five, to represent the five nations who came to find peace. The roots of the tree spread out in four directions, to the north, south, east and west; the roots are called the roots of peace. An eagle perched on top of the tree to watch over the roots of peace. Under the tree, the branches spread wide for all to gather. It is from this Native American story that we can understand why the White Pine, Pinus Strobus, is called the “Tree of Peace” and why the White Pine carries such power here on our landscape. In today’s post, we explore the White Pine and his peaceful energy, examining the mythology, magic, medicine, and uses of this incredible tree.

This post is from a larger series on sacred trees that have included Sassafrass, Ash, Hickory, Eastern Hemlock, Eastern White Cedar, Maple, Hawthorn, Beech, and Walnut. I’m focusing my comments today on the White Ash, with whom I am most familiar, although these comments could apply to other ashes (blue, white, green).

Ecology and Growth of the White Pine

The White Pine is a magnificent tree reaching up to 100 feet in height.  With beautiful green needles that have a soft, feathery appearance, it is one of our most iconic forest trees on the Eastern Seaboard of the US. The further north you travel up the East Coast, the more dominant White Pine becomes in the ecosystem. Here in PA, we have White Pine planted primarily in urban and suburban areas with fewer of them found in forests. Because they like it cold, you can often find them up on the ridges. Another reason we have less here is that White Pine doesn’t tolerate logging well; hemlock and other shade-resistant hardwoods (maple, cherry, beech, birch) will take the place of White Pine if they are cut.  But if you head further north, into New Hampshire, Maine, Vermont and those areas, you will see that White Pine is an incredibly dominant tree.

White Pine grows tall and straight, with a massive canopy of feathered, soft needles stretching out from long and strong branches. You might find White Pines in clusters or planted in rows–she makes an incredible “cathedral” tree for sacred spaces and people to gather.  In fact, in New Hampshire, a place called the “Cathedral of the Pines” exists. For many years, White Pines stood in and around the gathering space. A tornado devastated many of the ancient pines in that place in the late 1980’s, but old photos show how incredible this sacred place was with the White Pines towering over all (and there are still some nice white pines there!) I have been to other places where White Pines were planted in a long line and have this cathedral appearance.

History and Early American Uses of White Pine

In New England, Eric Sloane writes that White Pine survived logging primarily because it made really poor charcoal; the “coaling” activities that were fueling industrialization at the turn of the 20th century decimated many other species and yet left intact patches of White Pine. This means that even where coaling and logging were dominant, we still have many old-growth forests with White Pines, a true beauty to behold. However, today, White Pine is now used extensively in construction, cabinet making, pattern making, and more; it is a soft, warp-resistant and light wood, meaning that these old trees are sought out for their economic value.

Needles of the white pine that drop in the fall
Needles of the white pine that drop in the fall

According to Using Wayside Plants, by Nelson Coon (1969), straight White Pine trees were known as “mast trees” in British Colonial days as they were used as masts for ships. The emissaries of the king would go through the woods a mark the White Pines with the King’s Broad Arrow indicated that tree would be used as a mast on one of the British Fleet. This symbol told anyone else that this tree was the king’s property and none other could cut it. Interestingly enough, the “broad arrow” mark in some, cases, looks a ton like the Druid’s Awen symbol /|\.

In Reverence of Wood, Eric Sloane writes about the White Pine as being one of the most important trees to early Americans, as from it, people could produce paint, tar, turpentine, firewood, building materials, lampblack, tanbark, resin, and pitch. White Pine was most frequently used for creating these products, followed by Pitch Pine. Sloane also notes that even though they are called “blackboards,” most early colonial blackboards were actually white pine boards that were sanded and painted black. Further, he writes that, in the 18th century, many houses in the Mid-Atlantic and New England were built from White Pine due to its soft, strong, and workable qualities. Early Americans also used the branches to make wreaths and to create ropes.

If you’ve ever read Thoreau’s Walden, you might recall that Thoreau built his house out of White Pine and interacts with white pine often.  He writes, at one point, about an old man who used to come fishing at the pond who used a White Pine canoe.  The White Pine canoe was fashioned from two logs, a dugout.  The old man hadn’t made the canoe, and as Thoreau puts it, “it belonged to the pond.”

According to Using Wayside Plants, the cambium (inner bark) of the White Pine was used as a food both by Native Americans and colonists. The cambium could be powdered and used as a flour (or added to flour in order to stretch it further). White Pine seeds are very spicy and were used by Native Americans to cook meat (I will add that they are generally not easy to get–the squirrels always have gotten to them before me!) The material suggests in this section that White Pine is an incredibly useful tree to humans and has been in relationship with humans for a very long time.

White Pine in the Esoteric Arts

Beautiful trunk of White Pine
Beautiful trunk of White Pine

White Pine, being an American tree, doesn’t get any considerable coverage in the Western esoteric literature (although more generally, pine of other species does get such coverage). For example, in the Ogham, Alim is either translated as pine or fir (or “conifer” more generally).  In the Ogham, this symbol is often associated with healing, wayfinding (that is, finding one’s life purpose, finding a home, setting one’s feet upon the path), protection, and purification.

Hoodoo, an African American Magical tradition, looks at pine in a very similar way. In Hoodoo Herb and Root Magic, Yronwode describes it as a spiritual cleanser. Pine needles (fresh) in a bath help offer clarity and remove mental negativity. Burning pine wood can be used to clear a new home of unwanted spirits. Unopened pine cones help bring in health and longevity. If you keep a pine cone near you, as long as it stays closed, it will bring this in. Yronwode writes that if the pine cone starts to open, plant it and get a new one. Pine of all kinds also are connected with abundance or finances. Its evergreen nature also means it draws in steady money.

In the “Book of Sacred Magic by Abramelin the Mage“, a 15th-century magic manuscript translated by S.L.M. Mathers, the Ambramelin describes the sacred place for which magic is to happen (what he calls the “operation”). In the many details he gives, he indicates that the floor should be made of white pine and swept clean.  Ambramelin does not specify why the floor should be of white pine, but given some of the other lore associated with it, one might infer it is for the purifying and protective nature of the tree.

Medicinal Uses of White Pine

White Pine, both physically and energetically, appears to be able to draw things out.  This is true not only of the pine pitch but also of the simple presence of pine.  Matthew Wood in The Earthwise Herbal, describes how, in the days of early America, people would simply walk through White Pine woods to help heal their consumption and tuberculosis. Even today, herbalists use White Pine for people who have problems with breathing due to smoking. Further, Wood describes how White Pine was widely used by Native Americans (primarily, the bark was used medicinally) and adapted for use by colonists and early doctors in North America. Chewing the inner bark was used for respiratory infections (especially with sticky green phlegm) or used when an infection started to keep it from getting worse. Native Americans also used a “patch” of pine pitch to seal up wounds and prevent infections (White Pine, like Blue Spruce, is antiseptic and will also draw debris out of a wound). White Pine pitch can also be used on wounds that are already infected to draw out the infection and heal the wound. Wood also notes that the Ojibwe use White Pine bark (along with wild cherry and wild plum) to treat gangrene.

Pine is used as one of Bach’s flower remedies.  The essence of Pine is said to help with nervousness, allow for deeper contemplation/introspection, and help release any guilt or self-blame. Pine more generally can be used as a “pick me up” by placing a few drops of pine oil or fresh pine needless in a bath for general tiredness, especially if one has been “burning the candle at both ends” so to speak.


Sacred Meaning of White Pine: The Work of Peace

In summarizing all of the above with regards to the white pine, we might see that this tree is a powerful symbol and broker for peace in a variety of different ways.

White Pine and Hawthorn: Allies for Healing and Peace
White Pine and Hawthorn: Allies for Healing and Peace

The Work of Peace. The work of the White Pine in the opening story, especially here in the region where the tribes of the Iroquois once lived, makes it clear that this tree is powerfully associated with peace of all forms. Perhaps when we think of peace, we think of human relationships (and certainly, the White Pine is needed here).  But Peace isn’t just about human-to-human relationships, but relationships with the past of all kinds.

Human-human relationships. White Pine, as the story suggests, offers much to promote peace between humans. Given the contentiousness, seething anger, and intensity we have in these days, we might all spend some time with the White Pine to help facilitate peace among our friends, family, neighbors, community, and the broader world.

Human-land relationships. I think its particularly interesting that while all of the other trees were cut down and coaled, the great White Pines largely remained intact. In my experience, these trees retain their roles as peacemakers for us today in order to rebuild human-land connections. Often on damaged lands, even if no other spirits or trees are open to communication, the White Pine will be the intermediary. When I first went to speak to the spirits of the land on my old homestead in Michigan, the spirits were angry at having the land so mistreated. The only tree that would speak to me was a towering White Pine in the middle of the land–this tree taught me much about how to build a relationship with the land, do repair work, and cultivate peace between us. This tree did this, all the while the stump of its partner white pine, oozed sap after being cut down next to it. Since that time, I have found the peacemaking qualities of the White Pine to be true–the peace-honoring nature of white pine makes it a good choice for a variety of land healing and repair work.

Peace within One’s Self.  Perhaps one of the hardest ways to broker peace is within one’s self. Healing and growth begin with making peace with the past and coming to a place of acceptance. Begin angry at yourself, not letting the past go, and continuing to hold onto old hurts is so common for us as humans.  It causes wars and tension between people, and certainly, it can cause pain and stagnation within our own hearts. The White Pine powerfully suggests to us that it is time to let it go. To heal, to renew, to simply stop beating ourselves up over what we’ve done, or to stop holding onto what was done to us.

The work of peace is difficult work, and to do this, we can look at three other messages that seem present in the White Pine based on my synthesis of the above material:

Drawing Out. I think it’s no coincidence that this tree’s sap has been used to draw out poisons, splinters, infections, and other kinds of things unwanted from the body. In order for the process of peace to happen, we must pull all of the old pain and festering wounds and allow peace to flow within us. The White Pine, in its work of peace, does this for us.  Drawing out past anger, sadness, and pain so that peace can take place. This can happen on every level: physical, emotional, relational, and spiritual.

Cleansing and Purification. Also associated with the power of peace is the work of cleansing and purification. Once the pain of old wounds is drawn out, the site must be cleansed and purified for the work of peace to continue so that nothing else can work its way back in. White Pine does this work, and does it well, both on the physical body as well as the mind and spirit.

Wayfinding. After peace has been brokered, the question of where to go next is an important one. What happens to the solider when there is no longer a war to fight? What happens to a person when he or she finally lets go what has been occupying his or her heart for years?  This period of time can be confusing, disorienting, and potentially very scary–but White Pine is here to help us find our way and to see a clear path forward.


White Pine is an incredible tree with much to teach us in an age with so much pain, suffering, bad blood, and relational difficulty. As an evergreen, Pine tells us the work of peace is never-ending–it is work we must continue in our own lives, in our own communities, in our own families, and in our hearts. When you see a White Pine, stop and enjoy his towering presence and his peaceful energy–and know that he is there to help broker peace in the many different ways we–as people, as a society, and as spiritual beings–need it.

Dana O'Driscoll

Dana O’Driscoll has been an animist druid for almost 20 years, and currently serves as Grand Archdruid in the Ancient Order of Druids in America. She is a druid-grade member of the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids and is the OBOD’s 2018 Mount Haemus Scholar. She is the author of Sacred Actions: Living the Wheel of the Year through Earth-Centered Spiritual Practice (RedFeather, 2021), the Sacred Actions Journal (RedFeather, 2022), and is the author/illustrator of the Tarot of Trees, Plant Spirit Oracle, and Treelore Oracle. Dana is a certified permaculture designer and permaculture teacher who teaches sustainable living courses and wild food foraging. Dana lives at a 5-acre homestead in rural western Pennsylvania with her partner and a host of feathered and furred friends. She writes at the Druids Garden blog and is on Instagram as @druidsgardenart.

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  1. Michigan has Hartwick Pines State Park with our last stand of old-growth White Pines.

  2. I so enjoyed this post, Dana. I have 2 huge white pine sitting on each side of my house they are on the front so I can touch one as I step off my
    porch. They are such amazing trees. Sharing this info on my blog.

  3. Wow wow wow. Thank you for this incredible heart-felt message. I feel it heavily.

  4. Me again. I have a book for you! Barkskins by Annie Proulx.

    1. I will check it out–thank you!

  5. […] searching the internet for the meaning of the white pine, I found that another blogger The Druid’s Garden posted […]

    1. Thanks for the link and mention! 🙂

  6. The first time I hugged a tree it was a white pine and wow! I felt tension that had been in my body for decades leaving.

  7. Thank you so much for doing this. Your blog was key to everything I’ve been seeking. Pine is an old friend of mine, so reading helps confirm what i feel when i think of him.

    1. I’m so glad to hear about your friend pine. Blessings and thanks for reading!

  8. […] be ground into a flour. This was used by both early settlers and Native American populations. Early blackboards were often made of white pine painted […]

  9. Wow…this White Pine teaching you have shared here spoke to me this morning. I live in Northern Ontario, on a homestead my husband and I built over many, many years. On a wild river flowing north out of Algonquin Park, at the top a waterfall, in a White Pine forest. This spring has brought flooding such as we have never before seen in our 42 years living here. The waters are powerful right now and yesterday a very large White Pine came crashing down the river, entire root still attached and branches flailing in the heavy current. She is lodged now at the top the falls, likely many of Her limbs are caught up in the rocky base of the falls. It may take many years before She no longer sits in the current, surrounded by waters, as her body breaks down. Your words of Wayfaring comforted be today, with this sadness of the water bound White Pine in view, I am seeking guidance as I recently retired from long time career. The medicine of this beautiful and powerful tree has brought some much appreciated insight…thank you so much for sharing.

    1. I’m sorry to hear about your white pine friend! We had months of terrible flooding and storms in the past year, and these have caused similar losses. I wish you blessings on your own transition and as you help this tree transition to her next life. Blessings!

  10. Thank you for your beautifully written information on the White Pine. In my spiritual journey, via meditation, I was greeted this morning by the White Pine in two modalities. I heard it’s name, and was given a subtle whiff of woodland pine. These elements, in my search to identify my spirit guides, helped me to cement the image, and it’s significance, as The Tree of Peace, into my journey. I was transported to a high forest ridge by a horseback Native American brave. He sat tall, yet relaxed upon his bareback mount; reverently, poised among the tall white pines, as if, he were at prayer. The White Pine, as a symbol of Peace, is many faceted in my personal quest in my roles as a peacekeeper and messenger of peace.

    1. Thank you for sharing your vision! It sounds like a very powerful experience and set of images. Thank you for reading, and blessings on your path of peace!

  11. I am just truly blown away by these teachings. I have been suffering with a headache the past two days. I’ve tried everything- essential oils- cold baths (in the lake) resting- breathing- even Tylenol and more- and nothing has worked to get this pesky pain built up in the back of head to calm down. Yesterday though, I decided two walk a little trail beside where I live …and came to a spot where white pines tower. There on the bed of fallen needles I just instinctively * laid down. I laid there for one hour and realized my head ache was gone…after being bathed in its beauty with the golden hour of the sun lighting its being and the wind blowing through its branches …reflecting and breathing I laid in the comforts of finally being pain free, first time in over two days. I was in disbelief as I laid there…I didn’t want to get up in case the head ache came back so I laid there another hour and found *peace*… after the two hours I got up and ……I was completely pain free. Magically experienced the power of the ancient ones medicine..I was in a new light- a new state a true gift was given to me yesterday. I have years of experience camping and living in the woodlands- and completely believe in the healing gifts of nature, however I have NEVER experienced such a DIRECT AND POWERFUL drawing of energy out of my system. I am literally in awe and at the mercy of this experience. After reading your research and stories above I just am completely convinced of the power of these ancient tree beings and ham ecstatic to learn from these powerful healers more throughout my life- also, I hope to learn of my healing capability as a healer from them…and am just beyond grateful to have experienced something so profound… literally changed my life. …I plan to bring a gift to the tree in the next coming days as a token of my appreciation. 🙂 thanks for allowing my to share this experience.

    1. Hi Natasha, thank you so much for your comments! The nature cure is often the best one we can have! Certainly, the trees are with you! Thank you so much for sharing your experience–I love hearing about such a powerful tree experience!

  12. I grew up in Weymouth Massachusetts in the 1960’s. We discovered Weymouth was the home of the Massachusetts tribe in the summer. In the winter they returned to the
    blue hills. In the woods of Weymouth we discovered there were spirits in the white pine trees. These trees could send messages to you if you bonded with them. That is you sit under them and look up at their branches.and behold their greatness and towering beauty. These trees watch over the forest and keep an eye on the other trees. The tallest white pine is the master pine and has great spiritual powers. These pines can come to you and ask you to help watch the forest. Anyone with bad intent could be cursed and have the spirit world haunt them. You will not be allowed into the woods again if you cross the white pine spirit.

    1. Thanks for sharing this–what great information.

  13. Really great article! It helped me understand how pine supported me through a very difficult conflict. Thanks for your research!

    1. Hi Laura,
      I’m so happy to hear this! Blessings of the White Pine to you on your path :).

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