“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.”
From "The Kalevala", a compilation of Finnish oral poems dating back to the first century A.D.
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.
"Laidley Wood" a traditional Celtic ballad
Luis, Witch Tree, Witchwood, European Mountain Ash, Delight of the Eye,
Ran Tree, Roden-Quicken, Mountain Ash, Thor's Helper, Whitty,
Roundwood, Wicken-tree, Witchbane, Wiggen, Witcher, Sorb Apple, Common
Whitebeam, Wild Service Tree, Royentree, Swedish Whitebeam, Caorunn
(Gaelic), Cerddin (Welsh), Caorthann (Irish).
common name for the tree, "Rowan" is derived from the old Norse word
"Røn" meaning "rune". Some say the name comes from the Sanskrit
"Runall" meaning "magician". Rowan's Celtic name is "Luis", and it is
the second letter in the Beith-Luis-Fearn alphabet of the Celts.
is a fast-growing tree in the Rosaceae. It is typically a small tree,
reaching a maximum height of 10-15m/ 32-50 ft.. The greyish-brown bark
is with dark raised dots/lenticels scattered across it. Rowan leaves
are compound and made up of matched pairs of leaflets on either side of
a stem/rachis, with a terminal leaflet at the end. Leaves are up to
20cm/8 inches. in length, and are comprised of 9-15 leaflets, which are
serrated with small teeth.
is a deciduous tree, with the new leaves appearing in Spring, and then
turning a bright orange-red colour in autumn before being shed. The
flowers appeared after the leaves, usually early-summer, and are
creamy-white in colour. They grow in dense clusters containing up to
250 flowers that are about 15cm/6inches across. The berries are bright
red and each have a small pentagram shape on them.
Rowan tree has been considered magical for thousands of years by many
different cultures. One of the earliest references to the Rowan is in
the ancient Finnish creation myth about the goddess "Rauni." According
to this myth, the earth was barren and devoid of all plants when she
came down from heaven and took the form of a Rowan tree. After Rauni
had intercourse with Ukko, the God of Thunder, the result of their
union was the creation of all the plants of the earth.
Rowan is also prominent in Norse mythology as the tree from which the
first woman was made, (the first man being made from the ash tree). It
was 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.
mythology tells of how Hebe the goddess of youth, dispensed
rejuvenating ambrosia to the gods from her magical chalice. When,
through carelessness, she lost this cup to demons, the gods sent an
eagle to recover the cup. The feathers and drops of blood which the
eagle shed in the ensuing fight with the demons fell to earth, where
each of them turned into a Rowan tree. Hence the Rowan derived the
shape of its leaves from the eagle's feathers and the appearance of its
berries from the droplets of blood.
colour red was deemed to be the best protection against enchantment and
witchcraft, and so the Rowan's vibrant display of berries in autumn may
have further contributed to its protective abilities, as suggested in
the old rhyme:
"Rowan tree and red thread
make the witches tine (meaning 'to lose') their speed".
are several recurring themes of protection offered by the Rowan. The
tree itself was said to afford protection to the dwelling by which it
grew, pieces of the tree were carried by people for personal protection
from witchcraft, and sprigs or pieces of Rowan were used to protect
especially cows and their dairy produce from enchantment.
the Isle of Man crosses made from Rowan twigs without the use of a
knife were worn by people and fastened to cattle, or hung inside over
the lintel on May Eve each year. From Scotland to Cornwall similar
equal-armed crosses made from Rowan twigs and bound with red thread
were sewn into the lining of coats or carried in pockets.
Scandinavia, Rowan trees found growing not in the ground but out of
some inaccessible cleft in a rock, or out of crevasses in other trees'
trunks or boughs, possessed an even more powerful magic, and such trees
were known as 'flying Rowan'.
Rowan's wood is strong and resilient, often used for tool handles, and
spindles and spinning wheels, walking sticks, and is suitable for
used the bark and berries to dye the garments worn during lunar
ceremonies black, and the bark was also used in the tanning process.
Norsemen carved their runic alphabet on tablets of Rowan as well as
stone and it was the prescribed wood on which runes were inscribed to
make rune staves.
Roman officials carried staffs made of Rowan as symbols of their authority.
the Rowan was considered by some as protection from faeries, others say
that faeries love the tree and will go out of their way to seek it out.
were said to celebrate and dance around the Rowan, and that anyone
harming a Rowan tree runs the risk of faeries seeking revenge by
Sligo, Ireland, a legend tells of the "Forest of Dooros" where the
faeries who dwelt there loved to eat Rowan berries brought over from
Fairyland. One of the berries fell to the ground, and out of this grew
a huge Rowan tree. It was said that eating one of this tree's berries,
which tasted of sweet honey, would make a person drunk. Eating two
berries would ensure that the person would live to be a hundred years
old. Eating three would make the person thirty years old again, to stay
that way for a hundred years. To protect their magic, the faeries asked
a giant named Sharvan who lived in the forest to guard the Rowan tree,
so those few who attempted to take advantage of the Rowan's magic were
usually never heard of again.
berries are a good source of Vitamin C. Rowan flowers give rise to
bitter scarlet berries in September which can be used to make jelly, or
a type of brandy or wine. The berries taste similar to cranberries. A
tea can be made from the berries to use as an astringent in treating
haemorrhoids and diarrhea.
one approach to astrology identifies 21 trees as being considered
sacred by ancient Celts, with each tree representing a 9-day period
during the cycle of the moon. The Rowan represents those born between
April 1st-10th and October 4th-13th.
to one source, "Rowan (the Sensitivity) Full of charm, cheerful,
gifted, without egoism, likes to draw attention,loves life, motion,
unrest and even complications,is both dependent and independent, good
taste, artistic, passionate, emotional,good company, does not forgive."
represents the Divine Mother manifest upon the Earth. Use Rowan to
invoke the Goddess when asking for Her help, direction, or bounty.
Sacred to: Mother Goddess, Thor, Brigid, and Rauni.
The Silver Branch carried in Druid rites to represent and honour the Goddess, is made of Rowan.
Rowan is used for healing, psychic power and for protection, especially against dark psychic forces and lightning.
A Rowan wand is most excellent to draw the Circle, and a wand of Rowan is a great source of wisdom and knowledge.
The berries or wood may be used to invite familiars, astral guides, and teachers from the world of spirit.
Gather Rowan at Beltane and tie with red string to hang above portals to protect your home.
Rowan twigs were used for divining, particularly for metals.
Health and Healing, Countermagick, Magical Power, Protection,
Psychic Ability, Success, Luck, Scrying
Planetary: Sun and Moon
How to grow Rowan trees from seed:
the seed for 24 hours in cold water in the fridge. Then rinse and fold
the seeds into a paper towel that has been wet and wrung out. Put in a
baggie and into the refrigerator for 30-60 days. (Instead of a paper
towel, some people like to mix the seeds with 3 times their volume of
sterile moist planting medium put into a little plastic margarine tub
or a baggie.) Then take out and sow in peat to germinate at room
temperature in 10-30 days. Or just plant outside in fall to germinate
in the spring.
This plant likes light, acidic soils (dig in some peat moss) that do not become water-logged.
Plant in full sun away from other trees--it does not compete well.
It will grow in the northern part of temperate and in cold areas (zones 2-6, or down to -20F/-28C) but cannot take any heat.
Once it is established, it is easy to propagate from twigs.
Large handful rowan berries stripped from stem
1 pint brandy
1 pint sugar syrup made from 1 part sugar to 1 part water
the berries on a plate in a warm place for several days until they
become shriveled. Put in a bottle with the brandy and leave for 2
weeks, turning the bottle frequently. Strain out the berries and mix
the brandy well with the syrup which has been slightly warmed. Bottle,
This is a sweet liqueur very pleasant with black coffee. It can be made
sweeter or less so by adjusting the sweetness of the syrup.
Rowan Berry Jelly
berries and remove stems. Put in a large pot and just cover with water.
Boil until soft. Mash and strain in a jelly bag or press through cheese
Put 6 - 1/2 pint (1 cup) empty canning jars into a canner
and cover with water. Boil them for at least 10 minutes to sterilize
Measure how many cups of juice you have as you transfer it
to a clean, large pot. Boil the juice for 25 minutes. Stir in 1 cup
sugar for each cup of juice you started with. Boil until the juice
reaches the jellying point--8 degrees F above the boiling point for
water at your altitude. This will take about 20 minutes.
Prepare lids. Check your package for directions.
the jelly into hot canning jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Wipe rims
clean, or the seal will not be good. Make sure there is no stickiness.
Put the lid and screw band on and put them in the canner.
all the jars with water and boil for 10 minutes (or 20 minutes over
1000 feet). Take the jars out and let them sit overnight. Don't touch
The next day, check to see that the sealed lids are
curved down. If a lid clicks when you press it in the middle, it is not
sealed. Use those ones soon. Store the rest in a cool dark place.
If this jelly is too runny for your taste, add crabapples for pectin.
Cunningham's Encyclopedia Of Magical Herbs - By Scott Cunningham.
“Rowan Tree” by Lawrence Carter.
Botanical.com “A Modern Herbal” by Mrs M. Greive.