“ Any of several shrubs or trees of the genus Sorbus, in the rose family (Rosaceae), native to the Northern Hemisphere. They are widely cultivated as ornamentals for their white flower clusters and brightly coloured fruits. Most noteworthy are the American mountain ash (S. americana; see photograph), also called dogberry, and the European mountain ash (S. aucuparia), also called rowan, or quickbeam. Both are handsome trees, the European growing to 18 m (60 feet), twice the height of the American species, and yielding several cultivated varieties popular in landscaping. The rowans are plants of the Family Rosaceae, in the Genus Sorbus, Subgenus Sorbus. They are native throughout the cool temperate regions of the northern hemisphere, with the highest species diversity in the mountains of western China and the Himalaya, where numerous apomictic microspecies occur. „
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"Wisdom of Raven and Wolf
hangs within my reach.
You have only to patiently listen,
and I will teach.
Witches bane, Fairy cross,
Star-clad and Quick with Life,
I will protect you from all harm,
Evil intent or Heavenly strife.
Lady of the May.
First womanly flame of Creation,
I remind you that Life is a journey...
not a destination."
"Charm is a glow within a woman that casts a most becoming light on others." ~John Mason Brown
The Rowan refers to both the European and the American Mountain Ash, both of which belong to the Family Rosaceae (which includes Roses and Apples), Genus Sorbus. This tree can be found throughout the Northern Hemisphere from the Himalayas to the Appalachians. There are numerous legends, superstitions, and names for this Teacher across Europe; Quickbeam, Rune tree, Thor's helper, Witchbane, Dogberry, Druid's Tree, Dragon tree, and Witchwood being just a few.
The distinctive red or orange berries of most varieties are an important winter food source for most birds, and Rowans are known for generously keeping fruit to feed others throughout the year. Feathered Teachers from Raven to the gentle Waxwing make excellent balancing energy for the Rowan. Blackbirds and thrushes are especially fond of their fruit.
There are some 50- 100 different species of Rowan/Mountain Ash recognizable in gardens and woodlands across the Northern Hemisphere. Some have golden, white or pink fruits, while others have subtle in-between shades. These trees prefer to grow along the edges of forests, providing shade and shelter for trees much smaller than themselves. Ironically, those same trees often push the Rowan out by overshadowing it in later years. People who feel called by this Teacher should choose with care those to whom they give time, energy or resources.
This Teacher has a long association with the Good Folk who live Under the Hill, commonly known as Faeries. This "lady of the mountains" represents protection (especially against enchantment and the Fae), wisdom and knowledge, luck, tenacity, vitality, divination (especially of metal), communication with spirits, and location.
Yggdrasil the "World Tree" is an Ash (Family: Oleaceae, Genus: Fraxinus) where Odin hung for days and nights to gain wisdom over all things. The Mountain Ashes were given their name due to their superficial resemblance to the true Ash. The red-berried Rowan or Mountain Ash is still considered to be sacred to Thor though, and is sometimes called Thor's Helper.
Likely this is due to the Scandinavian tale in which Thor is fording a river on his journey to the land of the Frost Giants, and an evil magician causes the river to flood. The little Rowan bent down and provided Thor with a handhold to climb out and escape. Of course, Thor's Finnish counterpart, Ukko, is married to Rauni, the goddess of the Rowan. It is said that the earth was barren until Rauni came down and took the form of a Rowan. Ukko struck the Rowan with his magical lightning and thus all the plants and trees of the world were brought to life. In fact, Rowan was once commonly planted in coppices as a nurse-maid to shield new saplings, furthering it's reputation as a motherly and nurturing tree.
It was thought by the Celts that the Rowan was brought by the Tuatha De Danann from the Land of Promise. In some Celtic tales the Rowan is described as the Tree of Life and it was the Rowans red berries which fed the Salmon of Wisdom rather than the Hazel nut. Dragons sometimes appear in tales to guard this magical fruit. In the tale of Diarmaid Ua Duibhne and Gainne, the Rowan's red berries appear again as food of the gods. Red foods, like the Rowan's berries, were often considered taboo for anything other than ritual or magical endeavors, and often appear in tales as food of the gods or the Good Folk (fairies). The Scottish word for Rowan is "caorunn" and this tree can still be found on the clan badge of the Malcolms and McLachlans. The clan names Mac Cairthin and MacCarthy also hold the Gaelic root word for this Teacher; MacCarthy literally being translated as "Son of the Rowan".
Some tales say that the first woman was a Rowan tree and the first man an Alder, other tales say the first man was born from Ash and the woman from Elm. A sprig of Rowan was once worn to ward off evil, enchantments of all sorts (especially Faerie), and lightning. The Norse included a plank of Rowan in the hull of their boats to protect the ship from storms, lightning, and the wrath of Ran (the Sea). Likewise throughout Ireland and the British Isle, a cross tied with red thread or sprig of Rowan was placed over the doors of a home to protect against evil magic, black spirits, misfortune and illness.
The Rowan's motherly protection and ability to nurture new life gives it close ties to livestock animals, particularly the cow. An old protection against evil magic was to hang a Rowan branch in the barn stall or tie it with red string to the horns of the cow. Rowan wood was also a popular choice for cradles as it protected the infant from all ill intent. The Rowan, also known as the Sorb Apple, with her star-like white flowers and red fruits marked with a pentacle is also associated with Goddess energy in general. Brighid or Bride, the triple goddess of Ireland, claims this little Teacher as her own by fashioning her arrow shafts from it's wood. The Rowan is still considered to be an Imbolc tree, one of the four great yearly Sabbats involving Brighid and a time of livestock protection, birth and fertility. "Quickbeam" is another name for these trees, as these Teachers are believed to be "quick with life".
This is probably why traditionally, stakes used against vampires were made of Ash or Rowan. Rowan has also been planted in countless graveyards to both protect the dead, and to prevent ghosts arising from those violently killed or engaging in other haunting activities. Often used in basket and textile weaving, or as spear and axe handles for it's springiness. Rowan wood is also highly prized for barrel making. Forked branches of Rowan or Ash were once used as water divining rods. Being a favored food of so many birds, the Rowan can often end up as an epiphyte in the forks of other trees, like Oak or Maple. These are still referred to as "flying rowans" and were once thought to be especially potent in protecting against evil influences, astral travel, the making of visionary brews, and flying as no evil upon earth touched it.
When properly prepared the berries of the European Rowan can be made into a tart jelly said to taste much like cranberry sauce. They have also been used to make cordials and liqueurs. It is a popular choice to serve with wild game. I am not certain all varieties of Rowan can be similarly prepared, but I do know that the seeds within the Rowan's fruit are high in Prussic Acid, so should not be eaten in quantity. Rowan berries are high in vitamin C, and have been use to treat scurvy as well as sore throats, inflamed tonsils and hemorrhoids.
The name for this Teacher, "Luis", in Ogham, could be derived either from "luise" meaning "flame", or from "lus" meaning "herb". Its Proto-Indo-European root was either "leuk"- 'to shine', or "leudh"- 'to grow'. Rowan reminds us to hold tight to our beliefs, nurture the creative force whenever possible, and savor the good things in life. Even in the midst of the coldest winter, sustenance can be found. Well balanced Rowan people tend to be charming, communicative, cheerful, confident without ego, artistic, passionate, and life loving. Emotional instability, consistently choosing "harm" over "help (either through our own choices/actions, or by simply seeing that which is truly harmful to us as helpful) and stubbornly hanging on when we should forgive or forget are potential signs of unbalanced Rowan energy.
An excellent friend for those seeking better communication, strengthening of self, protection, awareness of enchantments, stronger spiritual purpose, or "quickening" of energy, visions, or abilities. The Rowan will help us to correctly determine friend from foe, good from bad, and help from harm. This Teacher has been known as the Whispering Tree that will impart all the Knowledge of the World to those that take the time to listen.
"All it has experienced, tasted, suffered:
The course of years, generations of animals,
Oppression, recovery, friendship of sun and - Wind
Will pour forth each day in the song
Of its rustling foliage, in the friendly
Gesture of its gently swaying crown,
In the delicate sweet scent of resinous
Sap moistening the sleep-glued buds,
And the eternal game of lights and
Shadows it plays with itself, content."~ Herman Hesse
Potential Balancing Energies: Moose, wolf, bear, morel mushroom, fox, raven/crow, thrushes, waxwings, cow, pig, goat, dog, snake, horse, or dragon, water, rose, apple, snail, ant, bee, wasp, various butterflies and moths
Key Concepts: Knowledge, Magic, Hex-breaking, Fae energy, Protection especially against hostile magic, Communication, Creation, Inspiration,
Associated Gods/Goddesses or Mythic figures: Brigid, Aphrodite, Oengus Mac Og, Hebe, Grainne, Halys, Finn Machumail, Orpheus, Pan, Dagda, Herne, and Thor. White Ladies (the ghostly or fae creatures, not women of pale complexion)
Bury me where a lone tree will spread Its cooling branches o'er my head That its withering leaves each year may rest On the grassy mound above my breast. Let ivies twine and the mosses creep Where lies my dust in its dreamless sleep Sweet emblems all that the blest shall rise To fadeless glory beyond the skies.* Strange person that I am I have decided to have myself recycled. When I die I want to be buried in one of the new woodland cemeteries and for my tree I have chosen a Rowan. The Rowan, also known as the Mountain Ash, is a small graceful tree growing to about 25ft.and providing a wonderful display of colours throughout its growing season. Delicate fern like leaves provide the verdant backdrop for the splash of scented, creamy white blossom in May or June followed by a dazzling display of deep orange red berries in autumn. The leaves also take on rich autumnal shades before falling. The blossom attracts bees in the spring and the berries not only feed the birds but can also be used to make wine, rowan jelly, or combined with other seasonal fruits in hedgerow jelly. Because it is a relatively petite tree it is suitable to grow in small gardens and because it is a native tree it is easy to grow and lives for around 200 years. I decided on a Rowan tree for several reasons not least its attractiveness: Recently I went out to collect the ingredients for hedgerow jelly. I found plenty of hawthorn haws, wild rosehips, crab apples, blackberries and sloes but no rowanberries. Neither the two large woods nor the open land around had a Rowan tree. This is probably only to be expected in ancient woodland because although a Rowan is good at protecting the young saplings of other trees eventually the larger trees squeeze out the Rowan, which prefers plenty of light and air. For this reason Rowan has made its favourite haunt in the higher altitude areas of Britain such as Scotland and
Wales, hence its name Mountain Ash. But I think the Rowan is such a beautiful tree that it should have a special place in managed lowland woodland areas. Other reasons for choosing the Rowan are some of the rather interesting myths, legends and folklore about the tree and its powers. The most common piece of folklore about the Rowan is its power to protect against evil which was most frequently associated in older times with witches, hence many of its local names such as witchwood, wichen or wish ash. An old rhyme declares: Roan tree and red thread Haud the witches a? in dread. The common name, Rowan or roan may well be derived from raun, old Norse, for charm, from its powers to avert evil. Rowan wood was often built into or placed at vulnerable parts of the buildings, both of humans and animals, doors, windows and chimneys to protect the building and it was used to make cradle rockers to protect the baby. Protective necklaces were made from berries and red thread and sticks were carried for protection. It is possible that the protective powers attributed to Rowan are associated with the sacred symbol to be found on its berries. Look closely at a Rowan berry and you will discover a tiny pentagram. All in all the Rowan seems to me a good choice to plant upon a grave. The Rowan is a tree which aspires to great heights in spite of its small stature. With its aspirations to the heavens it also offers protection. Plus I rather like the idea of my decomposing body providing the compost which will feed the tree and I in turn will be part of the tree and birds feasting on the berries might carry me on further journeys. Well I said at the outset I was a bit strange didn?t I? Here is the recipe for Hedgerow Jelly (from Prue Leith?s Cookery Bible). Pick rosehips, haws, blackberries, crab apples, sloes, wild bullaces or plums, rowan berries and elderberries in any proportions you like, making s
ure, however, that there is a good proportion of high pectin frit among them. If the rosehips are very hard, simmer them in water until soft, then add everything else, roughly cut up if large but not peeled or pitted. Add enough water to cover three quarters of the fruit. Simmer slowly stirring occasionally, until mushy. Drip overnight through a jelly bag or several layers of cloth, without stirring. Measure the juice and return to a clean pan, with 450g of sugar for every 570ml/ 1 pint of juice. Boil for a set and put into jars (as in any jam recipe) If you are lucky enough to have a Rowan tree in your garden you might like to make Rowan jelly. Make in the same way as above but include some chopped crab apples to provide the pectin. Both jellies are rich and delicious served with lamb, game or cold meats or incorporated into sauces. Notes: *I found this poem on the internet and adopted it. Further information about local schemes for woodland burial services can be obtained from local county councils or you might like to look at greenburials,co.uk This opinion was donated to the FORCHARITY account by Zebra
Been bothered with witches lately? Had any problems with evil spirits nipping into house and home while your back was turned? Bet you don’t have a rowan in your garden, then. Rowan is the most immediately-recognised of the Sorbus family, and, in its many varieties, it remains one of the most popular garden trees. Yes, even in this day and age, when the myths and superstitions are long forgotten. Or are they? Could it be that, deep in the subconscious, the properties of the rowan so revered by our forebears, still linger? Could that be why so many of us instinctively select a member of the rowan family for our garden? I have read many reviews on this site, on travel destinations in Scotland. So I know that, as well as those who live here, many of you pass this way from time to time. Have you ever noticed, in the Highlands especially, all the derelict croft houses, abandoned now in these changing economic times? And have you noticed that nearly every one has at least one rowan tree in what would once have been the garden? Way back in both Celtic and Gaelic mythology, the rowan was regarded as the most powerful known defence against evil spirits. This derives, perhaps, from the association of the rowan with the Celtic Paradise beyond the setting sun, and with Avalach (or Avalon), the limbo world between here and Paradise. This close association with such “good”, meant the rowan gradually evolved as a defence against evil. The tradition has not died. In my “day job”, I am often asked by new house owners, particularly in rural areas, to plant a rowan somewhere near the door, to keep the witches away. Although in the interests of fairness, I feel bound to say my own rowan had only minimal effect where my ex mother-in-law was concerned. The rowan is often known as the Mountain Ash. This has come about simply because the leaves are similar. The two are not related, and this does
cause some confusion. I mention this as an endorsement of my campaign for more popular use of Latin plant names, which removes the ambiguity. Most of you, I’m sure, will have read my piece on this subject, which is by now deep in the bowels of my “back catalogue”. Taking a slightly more practical view, the Sorbus family is eminently suitable for garden cultivation They are generally quite small trees, and so will never become a threat to your drains or foundations, or disrupt your harmony with your neighbours. All cultivated varieties are bred from the native original, so are hardy, and tolerant of the most neglected and inhospitable conditions. Which means, they are no work. They are light-leaved. That is, they do not cast a dense shade in summer, so will not interfere with your tan if planted by the sunlounger on the patio. Nor will they inhibit the growth of other plants around them, as, for example, Acers do. Masses of creamy-white flowers in the spring, glorious autumn colours, and a crop of berries ranging from scarlet through orange and gold, to brilliant white. Forgive me for not listing individual varieties here, there are simply far too many. But check the labels in the Garden Centre. Because they all look pretty similar when not in fruit. But careful selection of varieties will give you a wonderful range of berry colour – always assuming you’ve room for more than one! And if you’re short of space, demolish a garage or something. You won’t regret it. Now a quick word about Whitebeam. Same family, Sorbus, and a close relative of the rowan. You would not think so to look at the leaves, being a totally different shape and texture. But when you see the flowers and the fruits, you will realise the connection. Whitebeam is a much underrated tree, and deserves a much higher garden profile. It is slightly smaller than rowan, and more compact, making it ideal for the smaller gar
den. But its greatest attribute is tolerance. Tolerance to pollution, tolerance to wind and exposure, and tolerance to salt. Salt? Exactly. As anyone with a coastal garden will know, salt-laden winds are one of the greatest threats to plant life. But whitebeam will put up with it all, and thrive to boot. Look for Sorbus aria Lutescens. Lutescens, as you all know by now, implies yellow foliage. Well, not quite, perhaps, but the leaves have a yellowish tinge on the underside, which gives a beautiful shimmering effect when blowing in the wind. And by the way, rowan berries make excellent wine. But I wasn’t going to mention that. In case you think it’s an obsession.