The Rowan tree belongs to the rose family. It is sometimes known as the mountain ash, though it is not related to the ash, and sometimes ‘The Lady of the Mountain’ due to its ability to thrive in inhospitable mountainous environments.
The Rowan was one of the most sacred trees to the Celtic Druids and to the Scots who regarded it as so sacred it was forbidden to use any part of it except in very special religious ceremonies.
When the Vikings invaded Scotland they used the wood from the Rowan trees to make Runes which were worn as amulets for protection from sorcery and the evil eye.
Symbol of death
The Druids used rowan branches on funeral pyres as a symbol of death and rebirth and rowan trees planted in cemeteries are said to protect the dead from evil spirits.
It was also one of the nine sacred trees to be burned in the Beltane fires to symbolise new beginnings.
Rowans were often planted near gates and doorways to protect against evil spirits and misfortune. The twigs of the Rowan were placed in barns and above doorways for this same purpose, similar to the Cross of St Brigid, who is associated with the Rowan according to Celtic folklore.
Rowan had many uses
Rowan wood was often used to build cart wheels, boats and walking sticks, perhaps as a form of protection on a journey, and the bark of the rowan can be used as a powerful dye.
The Rowan tree has many medicinal qualities.
Rowan berries are quite bitter but not poisonous. When mixed with sugar they make nice jellies, jams juices and wines.
Eaten raw the seeds of the rowan berry can cause stomach upsets but they can be turned into remedies for cleansing the kidneys and the blood, balancing the digestive system, strengthening the immune system and helping with a sore throat or bronchitis.
They contain a good deal of vitamins and minerals and more vitamin c than citrus fruits.
In Irish mythology the first human women was created from the rowan tree. It is a tree said to belong to the fairy folk who can be seen dancing in circles surrounded by rowan trees when the moon is full.
More on Celtic trees folklore
Ancient Irish language of ogham
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