Folklore of the Rowan Tree

The Rowan Tree (known as the Mountain Ash in America although not actually a member of the Ash family) has a long and popular history of being both a tree of the visionary and of protection.

The leaves can be used, and the berries can also be gathered, dried and when ground used as Incense. The Herbalist Paul Beyerl suggests that Rowan can be used ritually to invoke the Goddess for help. It can also be used to call up magical spirits, familiars and spirit guides but has the ability to banish energy undesired by the practitioner. It can also be used to enhance creativity and set the creative process flowing, as well as divining future loves.

A wonderful piece of folklore I have found for the Rowan (is again from Paul Beyerl) and he says that it was once said that no homes existed in Scotland without a Rowan growing nearby as it was so sought after for protection against evil energies and bad times. He suggests a wonderful ritual of taking two small Rowan twigs, bound into a cross with red twine (like it’s berries) as a sure way to keep negative energies away from your life.

Rowan has a long and still popular history in folklore as a tree which protects against witchcraft and enchantment. The physical characteristics of the tree may have contributed to its protective reputation, including the tiny five pointed star or pentagram on each berry opposite its stalk (the pentagram being an ancient protective symbol). The colour red was deemed to be the best protection against enchantment, 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”. The Rowan was also denoted as a tree of the Goddess or a Faerie tree by virtue (like the hawthorn and elder) of its white star flowers.

The Rowan’s wood is strong and resilient, making excellent walking sticks, and is suitable for carving. It was often used for tool handles, and spindles and spinning wheels were traditionally made of Rowan wood. Druids used the bark and berries to dye the garments worn during lunar ceremonies black, and the bark was also used in the tanning process. Rowan twigs were used for divining, particularly for metals.

The berries can be made into or added to a variety of alcoholic drinks, and different Celtic peoples each seem to have had their favourites. As well as the popular wine still made in the Highlands, the Scots made a strong spirit from the berries, the Welsh brewed an ale, the Irish used them to flavour Mead, and even a cider can be made from them. Today Rowan berry jelly is still made in Scotland and is traditionally eaten with game.

My favorite piece of folklore – the Rowan is the wood of choice for staking Vampires!



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