The Linden tree (genus Tilia, also called Lime), shares much of the common symbolism associated with any Sacred Tree in European lore: It’s presence protects against ill luck and against the strike of lightning, and it’s bright nature repels those spirits that would cause harm to the household.
In Slavic mythology the Linden (Lipa) is a Holy tree, and many towns and villages are named for it. It also lends its name to the months of June (Croatia) and July (Poland) respectively, and is apparently the root of the name for the city of Leipzig in Germany.
German towns often had (and have) Lindens growing in the town center, spreading shade beneath their graceful canopies. Some of the town-Lindens alive today are reputed to have been planted many hundreds of years ago. Perhaps the most well known town planting of Lindens is in the historic district of Berlin – the boulevard called Unter den Linten. Lindens were first planted along this way in the 16th century, though the Lindens currently growing there were planted in the 1950’s to replace the former trees, which had been cut down in the early 20th century, or destroyed during the 2nd World War.
It seems that the Linden tree has been used by poets through the ages as a metaphor for the beauties of Nature, as a tree of grace and peace. In my on-line research I often found repeated the claim that the Linden tree belongs to Freyja, and is the Tree of Lovers. This specific symbolism isn’t ancient, rather it sprung from the font of 19th Century Romanticism. Even so – the Linden has been for the Central Europeans a romantic image for centuries.
Linden wood is very smooth grained and fine, but quite soft for a hardwood. It was a favorite in Medieval Europe for carving statues of saints and of the Virgin, and for panels on which to paint icons. The wood is also sometimes used for wind instruments, electric guitar bodies, and drum shells, and is still in use as a carving wood.
The inner bark of the Linden tree, or bast, is fibrous, and can be processed into rope or woven fiber. The American Linden is known most commonly as Basswood because of this.
Both the European and American Lindens flower in early summer, and the flowers have a wonderful heady sweet scent. (Demeter Perfumes, known for their unconventional fragrances, has a Linden scent, which I have and quite like). The flowers of Tilia cordata (Little-leaf Linden) are used medicinally in tea which is taken for colds and coughs, to break fevers, or against anxiety. Linden flower honey is considered an especially fine variety. I’ve also used linden flowers as an offering to the Goddesses Freyja and Holda.
I regard the Linden as a bright tree of grace and protection; a tree of the powers of Summer and the Bright Half of the Year. My seidhr-staff is a linden branch, and serves well as a link to the World Tree, roots and branches both. Some of this tree’s familiar symbolism is that of the Romantic poet and the dreamer, rather than being attested by ancient myths. Still, the Linden is a tree of power, Holy among the Slavic peoples, a green arched temple of sweet blossoms aswarm with bees.