“In the yard there grows a Rowan.
Thou with reverent care should'st tend it.
Holy is the tree there growing.
Holy likewise are it's branches.
On it's boughs the leaves are holy.
And it's berries yet more holy.”
Excerpt from The Kalevala
a compilation of Finnish folk lore
21st January marks the start of the celtic tree month of the Rowan and so I wanted to share a little information about this lovely tree with you.
Tree of Perseverance
Rowan (Sorbus aucuparia) is also known as Mountain ash, Caerthann (Old Irish), Caorthann (Irish), Quicken, Quickbeam, Wicken and Witchwood. They tend to thrive in poor soils and often inhabit disturbed areas. They are able to grow on higher ground that most other trees and can often be found on craggy mountains. The rowan's wood is tough and resilient, making superb walking sticks, and is suitable for carving. It was often used for tool handles, and spindles and spinning wheels were by tradition made of rowan wood. For this reason the tree can be associated with perseverance and tenacity.
Tree of Protection
Rowans flower in May and can grow as tall as 50 feet high. They are members of the Rose family (Rosaceae). They have red berries in the autumn and if you look closely you will see that each berry has a tiny five pointed pentagram opposite its stem. As you probably know the pentagram is a symbol of protection and so the tree, its wood and berries have been used in protection magic for centuries. In Scotland there was a strong taboo against cutting down a rowan. Sprigs or pieces of rowan were used to protect especially cows and their dairy produce from enchantment. The wood was used for stirring milk (to prevent it curdling). In Ireland it was planted near houses to protect them against spirits, especially of the dead. In Wales rowans were often planted in churchyards. It has been planted near houses for centuries to ward off evil - witches too, but we all know that this is a corruption of an earlier tradition.
The spells were vain
The hag returned
To the Queen in a sorrowful mood
Crying that witches have no power
Where there is Rowan tree wood.
Traditional Celtic ballad
Tree of inspiration
It is the Rowan's ability to open up communication with the spirit realms which is the key to the Rowan energy. Its name is linked with the Norse word "runa", meaning "a charm", and the Sanskrit "runa", meaning “a magician. The rowan is an important tree in Norse mythology not only was the first woman said to be made from it but is also said to have saved the life of the god Thor by bending over a fast flowing river in the Underworld in which Thor was being swept away, and helping him back to the shore. Rowan was furthermore the prescribed wood on which runes were inscribed to make rune staves. If you wanted to make a set of Ogham staves quickly without waiting to collect a stick from each tree or a tree isn’t available then Rowan wood would be an ideal substitute. The leaves and berries can be added to divination incenses. Rowan twigs are used for metal divining, just as hazel twigs are used for water divining. Speer posts, magically protective house timbers inscribed with runes and magically charged patterns, were traditionally made of Rowan wood.
Imbolc and Brigit
The month of the Rowan starts at 21st January and lasts until 18th February and encompasses the festival of Imbolc, the great fire festival of early February, held to mark the quickening of the year. Imbolc is a festival association with Brigit, the young maiden aspect of the Triple Goddess, she, like the Rowan, is associated with divine inspiration, illumination, intuition and the binding power of poetry and healing.
Medicinal Action and Uses
In herbal medicine, a decoction of the bark is given for diarrhoea and used as a vaginal injection in leucorrhoea, etc. The ripe berries furnish an acidulous and astringent gargle for sore throats and inflamed tonsils. For their anti-scorbutic properties, they have been used in scurvy. The astringent infusion is used as a remedy in haemorrhoids and strangury. The fruit is a favourite food of birds. A delicious jelly is made from the berries, which is excellent with cold game or wild fowl, and a wholesome kind of perry or cider can also be made from them. In Northern Europe they are dried for flour, and when fermented yield a strong spirit. The Welsh used to brew an ale from the berries, the secret of which is now lost.
Ogham name - Luis
Letter - L
Month – 21st January – 18th February
Color- Grey and Red
Animals- Unicorn, bear, duck
Diety: Brigitania (Britian)or Brighid (Ireland)
Stay tuned to our facebook page for ideas on how to use the magic of the Rowan over the coming weeks.
A Modern Herbal
Photos by Sunchylde Dryadmoon