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In Worship of Trees
The Rowan Tree
Written and Compiled by George Knowles
The Rowan tree (Sorbus aucuparia) is one of the sacred trees of Wicca/Witchcraft and of old was a favoured tree of the ancient Druids. According to the Beth-Luis-Nion calendar, a reconstruction by Robert “von Ranke” Graves (author of The White Goddess), the Rowan tree is the second tree of the ancient Celtic Tree Calendar (21st January – 17th February). As such it is associated with Imbolc (2nd February) one of the four Greater Sabbats sacred to the Goddess Bridget.
Native to the cooler temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere, the greatest density of the species (over 100) can be found up in the mountainous areas of western China, the Himalayas, Russia and the Caucasus mountain ranges - for this reason the Rowan tree is more commonly known as the Mountain Ash. It is also known by many other names: Lady of the Mountains, Delight of the Eye, Ran Tree, Roynetree, Roden Quicken, Quickbane, Sorb Apple, Thor’s Helper, Whitty, Wicken-Tree, Wiky, Wiggin, Wiggy, Wild Ash, Witchwood, Witchbane and Witchen. Botanically the Rowan tree is of the rose family Rosaceae, and of the genus Sorbus.
Rowan trees are mostly small deciduous trees and while some of its species may be considered a shrub, as a tree it typically grows to between 4-12 m (13-39 ft) in height. In its common form the Rowan grows as a slim multi-stemmed tree with upwardly pointing branches, the bark of which is a shiny greyish-brown with raised dots or lenticels scattered across it.
The leaves of the Rowan arrange themselves alternately on either side of a central stem, and they are pinnate in form with a terminal leaflet at the end. Commonly the stem grows to about 20 cm (7 in) in length and comprises 9-15 leaflets that are serrated with small teeth. Being a deciduous tree, after shedding its leaves in the winter, new green leaves begin to appear in April, and by autumn turn to a bright orangey red colour, before again being shed for the winter.
The five-petalled creamy-white flowers of the Rowan tree appear and blossom after its leaves in April, usually in May or early June. Individually they grow in dense domed clusters of up to 250, which can measure up to 8-15 cm (3-6 in) across. Cross-pollination is effected by insects, such as flies, bees and beetles, after which by the end of June the flowers fade to be replaced by berry-like fruits measuring 6 to 9 mm (¼ to ½ in) in diameter. The seed bearing fruits ripen in August or early September, when their brilliant bright red colour lends a stark contrast to the surrounding green foliage. Birds primarily feed on the berries and disperse the seeds in their droppings aiding propagation.
The wood of the Rowan tree is dense and tough, and used in the past for making ship’s masts, poles and whips. Being dense, it is a useful wood for carving and turning, and of old, tool handles, spindles, spinning-wheels, barrel hoops and walking sticks were all commonly made from its wood. Magically, Rowan wood has traditionally been used for making Druid’s staffs, and its branches used for dowsing or divining. Magic wands made from Rowan are thought to be especially effective in ritual when psychic intuition is required. The bark was used for tanning and as a dye, usually black.
The berries of the Rowan are edible and are used to make a bitter tasting jelly, which in Britain was traditionally eaten as an accompaniment to game. They can also be used to make jams and other preserves, eaten on their own or combined with other fruits. At one time they were used as a substitute for coffee beans, but today are more commonly used in alcoholic beverages for added flavour or producing country wines.
Of old, during the month of May, farmers passed all their livestock through a large hoop made of Rowan to protect them and ensure fertility. Benevolent fairies are said to have inhabited the Rowan, which if grown near the home would protect its occupants from evil spirits. A piece of Rowan was often sown into the clothing of small children to protect them from capture by evil fairies. Often red berries, after being left to soak in water, were sprinkled around areas one wished to protect.
In Scandinavian myths, the first woman was formed from the Rowan tree and the first man from Alder tree. The red berries of the Rowan were considered sacred by most cultures and are symbolic of the forces of creation - blood, life, death and renewal. The old peoples of Ireland believed that the Rowan possessed the power to restore lost youth and was guarded by serpents and dragons. They also associated Rowan with Bridget and Brigantia whose arrows were made from Rowan wood.
In Aegean/Mediterranean myths, the Rowan is connected to a tale about the drinking cup of Zeus, which was stolen from Olympus. An eagle was sent to recover the cup and a battle raged with the creatures that stole it. The legend has it that wherever a drop of blood or feather fell during the battle, a Rowan tree subsequently sprouted. Similarly, the red berries of the Rowan are symbolically associated with droplets of blood and are used by many contemporary pagans and witches as such during ritual and magick. Gone are the days when real sacrificial blood was used.
Rowan wood can be carried and used to increase psychic powers, and its branches used for making dowsing rods or magical wands. The leaves and berries of the Rowan can be added to incense to aid divination and increase psychic powers. The bark and berries carried on the person will also aid in recuperation, and was added to health and healing sachets, as well as power, luck and success charms.
Tying two small twigs of Rowan together with red thread in the form of an equal-armed cross is an age-old protective amulet. Cornish peasants carried these in their pockets for protection; as did Scottish Highlanders sew them into the lining of their kilts before going into battle. Walking sticks and staffs made from Rowan are excellent tools for those who roam the fields or woods by night, as well as an aid to walking; they offer protection from lightning. Similarly, when traveling across water, carrying a piece of Rowan will protect the ship from storms at sea.
When a family member dies, planting a Rowan tree over their grave would prevent their souls from haunting the place. The red berries of the Rowan have a five-pointed star (pentagram) from were it was attached to the stalk. The pentagram is an ancient symbol of protection and so carrying the berries in a pocket would protect a person from harm. Highland women made necklaces of the berries threaded with red thread for protection. The Rowan was thought to help a person distinguish good from bad, help from harm, and friend from foe. Spiritually, it protected you from unwanted influences and symbolized beauty, privacy, peace and sanctuary.
The Rowan has deity associations with the gods: Dagda, Thor, Vulcan, Pan and Herne, and with the goddess: Bridget, Brigantia, Aphrodite, Cerridwen and Hecate. Its gender type is Masculine. Its planetary ruler is the Sun and its associated elements Earth and Fire. Rowan is used to attract the powers needed for: Protection, Healing, Success and Psychic Powers.
Astrologically, Rowan people (i.e. those people born during the period 21st Jan – 17th Feb) are protective and full of charm, cheerful, gifted and without egoism. They like to draw attention, love life, motion, unrest and even complications. They are both dependent and independent, have good taste and are artistic and passionate. While sociable and good company, they can also be emotional, and do not forgive or forget.
Rowan Craft Tools: Dragon Staff - Futhark Runes - Amulet – Phallic Pendant - Wand
Rowan woodcrafts by the Witch of Forest Grove - http://witchofforestgrove.com/
My grateful thanks to Sarah Lawless
Encyclopedia Of Magical Herbs
- By Scott Cunningham.
of Wicca & Witchcraft
- By Raven Grimassi.
definitive guidebook to the Myth, Folklore and Healing Power of Trees - By
Jacqueline Memory Paterson.
Book of Britain's Countryside.
Penguin Hutchinson Reference Library
Plus many websites too numerous to mention.
First published February 2002 - Updated December 2008 © George Knowles
Best Wishes and Blessed Be.
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The Wiccan Rede / Charge of the Goddess / Charge of the God / The Three-Fold Law (includes The Law of Power and The Four Powers of the Magus) / The Witches Chant / The Witches Creed / Descent of the Goddess / Drawing Down the Moon / The Great Rite Invocation / Invocation of the Horned God / The 13 Principles of Wiccan Belief / The Witches Rede of Chivalry / A Pledge to Pagan Spirituality
Traditions Part 1 - Alexandrian Wicca / Aquarian Tabernacle Church (ATC) / Ár Ndraíocht Féin (ADF) / Blue Star Wicca / British Traditional (Druidic Witchcraft) / Celtic Wicca / Ceremonial Magic / Chaos Magic / Church and School of Wicca / Circle Sanctuary / Covenant of the Goddess (COG) / Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans (CUUPS) / Cyber Wicca / Dianic Wicca / Eclectic Wicca / Feri Wicca /
Traditions Part 2 - Gardnerian Wicca / Georgian Tradition / Henge of Keltria / Hereditary Witchcraft / Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn (H.O.G.D.) / Kitchen Witch (Hedge Witch) / Minoan Brotherhood and Minoan Sisterhood Tradition / Nordic Paganism / Pagan Federation / Pectic-Wita / Seax-Wica / Shamanism / Solitary / Strega / Sylvan Tradition / Vodoun or Voodoo / Witches League of Public Awareness (WLPA) /
Other things of interest:
Gods and Goddesses (Greek Mythology) / Esbats & Full Moons / Links to Personal Friends & Resources / Wicca/Witchcraft Resources / What's a spell? / Circle Casting and Sacred Space / Pentagram - Pentacle / Marks of a Witch / The Witches Power / The Witches Hat / An esoteric guide to visiting London / Satanism / Pow-wow / The Unitarian Universalist Association / Numerology: Part 1 / Part 2 / Part 3 / A history of the Malleus Maleficarum: includes: Pope Innocent VIII / The papal Bull / The Malleus Maleficarum / An extract from the Malleus Maleficarum / The letter of approbation / Johann Nider’s Formicarius / Jacob Sprenger / Heinrich Kramer / Stefano Infessura / Montague Summers / The Waldenses / The Albigenses / The Hussites / The Native American Sun Dance / Shielding (Occult and Psychic Protection) /
Sabbats and Festivals:
The Sabbats in History and Mythology / Samhain (October 31st) / Yule (December 21st) / Imbolc (February 2nd) / Ostara (March 21st) / Beltane (April 30th) / Litha (June 21st) / Lammas/Lughnasadh (August 1st) / Mabon (September 21st)
Rituals contributed by Crone:
Animals in Witchcraft (The Witches Familiar and Totem Animals) / Antelope / Bats / Crow / Fox / Frog and Toads / Goat / Honeybee / Kangaroo / Lion / Owl / Phoenix / Rabbits and Hares / Raven / Robin Redbreast / Sheep / Spider / Squirrel / Swans / Unicorn / Wild Boar / Wolf / Serpent / Pig / Stag / Horse / Mouse / Cat / Rats / Unicorn
In Worship of Trees - Myths, Lore and the Celtic Tree Calendar. For descriptions and correspondences of the thirteen sacred trees of Wicca/Witchcraft see the following: Birch / Rowan / Ash / Alder / Willow / Hawthorn / Oak / Holly / Hazel / Vine / Ivy / Reed / Elder
Rocks and Stones:
Articles contributed by Patricia Jean Martin:
Apophyllite / Amber / Amethyst / Aquamarine / Aragonite / Aventurine / Black Tourmaline / Bloodstone / Calcite / Carnelian / Celestite / Citrine / Chrysanthemum Stone / Diamond / Emerald / Fluorite / Garnet / Hematite / Herkimer Diamond / Labradorite / Lapis Lazuli / Malachite / Moonstone / Obsidian / Opal / Pyrite / Quartz (Rock Crystal) / Rose Quartz / Ruby / Selenite / Seraphinite / Silver and Gold / Smoky Quartz / Sodalite / Sunstone / Thunderegg / Tree Agate / Zebra Marble
Wisdom and Inspiration:
Articles and Stories about Witchcraft:
Murdered by Witchcraft / The Fairy Witch of Clonmel / A Battleship, U-boat, and a Witch / The Troll-Tear (A story for Children) / Goody Hawkins - The Wise Goodwife / The Story of Jack-O-Lantern / The Murder of the Hammersmith Ghost / Josephine Gray (The Infamous Black Widow) / The Two Brothers - Light and Dark
Old Masters of Academia:
(Ancient, Past and Present)
(Departed Pagan Pioneers, Founders, Elders and Others)
Pioneers: Founders, Elders, Leaders and Others
Abramelin the Mage / Agrippa / Aidan A Kelly / Albertus Magnus - “Albert the Great” / Aleister Crowley - “The Great Beast” / Alex Sanders - “King of the Witches” / Alison Harlow / Allan Bennett - the Ven. Ananda Metteyya / Allan Kardec (Spiritism) / Alphonsus de Spina / Amber K / Ann Moura / Anna Franklin / Anodea Judith / Anton Szandor LaVey / Arnold Crowther / Arthur Edward Waite / Austin Osman Spare / Balthasar Bekker / Biddy Early / Barbara Vickers / Bridget Cleary - The Fairy Witch of Clonmel / Carl " Llewellyn" Weschcke / Cecil Hugh Williamson / Charles Godfrey Leland / Charles Walton / Christopher Penczak / Christina Oakley Harrington / Cornelius Loos / Damh the Bard - "Dave Smith" / Dion Fortune / Dolores Aschroft-Nowicki / Donald Michael Kraig / Doreen Valiente / Dorothy Morrison / Dr. John Dee & Edward Kelly / Dr. Leo Louis Martello / Edain McCoy / Edward Fitch / Eleanor Ray Bone - “Matriarch of British Witchcraft” / Eliphas Levi / Ernest Thompson Seton / Ernest Westlake / Fiona Horne / Frederick McLaren Adams - Feraferia / Friedrich von Spee / Francis Barrett / Gavin and Yvonne Frost and the School and Church of Wicca / Gerald B. Gardner - The father of contemporary Witchcraft / Gwydion Pendderwen / Hans Holzer / Helen Duncan / Herman Slater - Horrible Herman / Heinrich Kramer / Isaac Bonewits / Israel Regardie / Ivo Domínguez Jr. / Jack Whiteside Parsons - Rocket Science and Magick / James "Cunning" Murrell - The Master of Witches / Janet Farrar and Gavin Bone / Jean Bodin / Jessie Wicker Bell - “Lady Sheba” / Johann Weyer / Johannes Junius - "The Burgomaster of Bamberg" / Johann Georg Fuchs von Dornheim - the “Hexenbrenner” (witch burner) / John Belham-Payne / John George Hohman - "Pow-wow" / John Gerard / John Gordon Hargrave and the Kibbo Kith Kindred / John Michael Greer / John Score / Joseph “Bearwalker” Wilson / Joseph John Campbell / Karl von Eckartshausen / Lady Gwen Thompson - and "The Rede of the Wiccae" / Laurie Cabot - "the Official Witch of Salem" / Lewis Spence / Lodovico Maria Sinistrari / Ludwig Lavater / Madeline Montalban and the Order of the Morning Star / Margaret Alice Murray / Margot Adler / Michael Howard and the UK "Cauldron Magazine" / Margaret St. Clair - the “Sign of the Labrys” / Marie Laveau - " the Voodoo Queen of New Orleans" / Marion Weinstein / Martin Antoine Del Rio / Matthew Hopkins - “The Witch-Finder General” / Max Ehrmann and the "Desiderata" / Michael A. Aquino - and The Temple of Set / Monique Wilson / Montague Summers / Nicholas Culpeper / Nicholas Remy / M. R. Sellars / Mrs. Maud Grieve - "A Modern Herbal" / Oberon Zell-Ravenheart and Morning Glory / Old Dorothy Clutterbuck / Old George Pickingill / Olivia Durdin-Robertson - co-founder of the Fellowship of Isis / Paddy Slade / Pamela Colman-Smith / Paracelsus / Patricia Crowther / Patricia Monaghan / Patricia “Trish” Telesco / Paul Foster Case and the “Builders of the Adytum” mystery school / Peter Binsfeld / Philip Heselton / Raven Grimassi / Raymond Buckland / Reginald Scot / Richard Baxter / Robert Cochrane / Robert ‘von Ranke’ Graves and the "The White Goddess" / Rosaleen Norton - “The Witch of Kings Cross” / Rossell Hope Robbins / Ross Nichols and the " Order of Bards, Ovates & Druids" (OBOD) / Rudolf Steiner / Sabrina Underwood - "The Ink Witch" / Scott Cunningham / Selena Fox - founder of "Circle Sanctuary" / Silver Ravenwolf / Sir Francis Dashwood / Sir James George Frazer and the " The Golden Bough" / S.L. MacGregor Mathers and the “Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn” / Starhawk / Stewart Farrar / Sybil Leek / Ted Andrews / The Mather Family - (includes: Richard Mather, Increase Mather and Cotton Mather ) / Thomas Ady / T. Thorn Coyle / Vera Chapman / Victor & Cora Anderson and the " Feri Tradition" / Vivianne Crowley / Walter Brown Gibson / Walter Ernest Butler / William Butler Yeats / Zsuzsanna Budapest /
Many of the above biographies are briefs and far from complete. If you know about any of these individuals and can help with additional information, please contact me privately at my email address below. Many thanks for reading :-)
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