Submitted by Owen McCafferty on Thu, 2009-11-26

The tree of life.

The Rowan is also known as Witchwood, European Mountain Ash, and American Mountain Ash; it is not an Ash tree, however, but derived its name from the similarity of its leave to the ash’s; Rowan is actually more related to the Rose and is a cousin to the Hawthorn, Apple, and Pear.

The American Mountain Ash (Rowan) is native to northeastern America, growing to thirty feet tall and having a spreading crown; it is also found as a shrub with many stems, showy white flowers, and bright red berries; it is often called the Witchtree because its berries carry a pentagram at their base; these fruits mature in Autumn and resemble clusters of bright red apples (although they are only one-half inch in size; birds feed upon the berries; the European Mountain Ash is extremely fragrant and has bright orange-red berries which mature in the Spring.

The Rowan is associated with the colors red and grey; its name is linked to the Norse and Sanskrit words meaning “charm” and “magician;” it is a Moon tree, associated with astral travel and vision, healing and empowerment.

An old saying is: “Woe to those with no Rowan tree near”.

Planted by the garden gate, it will ward off bad luck and harmful spirits; branches are placed over the doors of the house and the barn; it is said to bring luck to families and was often planted to honor a new home or to aid in starting a family.

Sprigs are worn to protect the wearer from enchantment.

In the spring, goats were driven through a hoop of Rowan as a protective practice.

It was commonly used for walking sticks so the wanderer would be protected from harm and was considered a protection against getting lost, guiding the wayfarer home.

At Lughnasaad, a fire of rowan branches is built on which to toast bannock cakes made from the first grain.

In Wales, rowan was planted in graveyards to watch over the dead and prevent them from walking.

Boats made from the wood are said to be protected from storms and from going off course; it represents “one who steers” and in modern divination can represent a leader of some sort.

The tree has long been considered oracular.

Faeries are said to dance about the rowan, and in Ireland the seeds are thought to have been brought from the faery world itself.

The Druids burned rowan prior to a battle, using the smoke to invite the Sidhe to attend and lend their aid.

A protective charm can be made by tying the leaves of the rowan with rue and basil into a golden or white cloth and carried.

It is traditionally sewn into sachets with other herbs to bring health, power, luck, and success, especially if travel far from home is involved.

The forked branches are used as metal-diviners.

The berries and leaves are dried and burned as incense to invoke spirits, familiars, spirit guides, and the element.

In divination, the rowan is an indication to retain your senses, gather your wits about you, and avert anything that would threaten your serenity and purpose; it reminds us to use sense coupled with intuition.

Sticks of the rowan may be used to carve runes on.

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