Light & Shadows of Chalandor Book of Shadows
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Title: The Rowan
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From: USA
Registered: 11/21/2008

(Date Posted:02/19/2009 00:33 AM)
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The Rowan

What holly is to Christmas, the rowan is to Beltane. 

On Beltane Eve, cargoes of rowan were brought from the woods, and branches were hung up in the home.  A wand or sucker, or sometimes a cross-tied with red wool, was placed above the lintel of house, barn, byre, sheepfold, and stable, and special care was taken to insert one in the midden, which was a favourite rendezvous of the black sisterhood.  A sprig was coiled into a circlet and placed beneath the milk-boyne to prevent the milk from being spirited away.  Ivy and bramble were used for the same purpose, either separately or intertwined with rowan.  In the Highland especially, young girls washed their faces in may-dew and carried sprigs of rowan.

On both Beltane and Hallowe’en, the people of Strathspey made a hoop of rowan tree through which all the sheep and lambs were to pass in the morning and again in the evening; and in Breadalbane it was customary for the dairymaid to drive the cattle to the sheilings on Beltane morning with a wand of the tree cut on the day of their removal.  The wand was afterwards placed above the door, where it remained until the cattle returned to the winter-town at Hallowmas.  In some districts sprigs of rowan were tied with red thread to the cows’ tails before they were driven out to the pastures.  In the North of Scotland, the herds cut staves of rowan-wood on Maundy Thursday and put a cross-piece in a cleft at one end.  The crosses were laid by until the first of May, when they were taken out and adorned with wild herbs, and were then fixed above the door of the byres.

The cross of rowan is an instance of the blending of pagan and Christian symbols.  The rowan and the red thread are, of course, pagan charms, and their association with the Christian symbol of the Cross can be traced to the attempt made by the Church to merge the pagan festival in the ecclesiastical one, the Invention of the Holy Cross.

Roks (spinning-wheels) and spindles were commonly made of rowan wood, and it is recorded of an old woman who lived in Selkirk in the middle of the nineteenth century that regularly, every Beltane, she procured a new rowan-tree pin, which served her as a talisman for the twelvemonth.

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