Rowan – the ‘lady of the mountains’

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.

Rowan tree

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.

Ogham, the mysterious language of the trees The Origins of the Ogham alphabet are still a mystery for many historians, but it is primarily thought to be an early form of the Irish written Language. Bealtaine Fire

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

Luis, L – The Rowan is the second letter, ‘Luis’, in the Ogham alphabet and the second month in the Celtic tree calendar. It symbolises protection in both Druid and Viking beliefs.

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.

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More on Celtic trees folklore

Trees in Celtic Mythology

Apple – healing, youthfulness and rebirth

Ash – one Ireland’s sacred trees

Aspen – sacred Celtic whispering tree

Birch – the tree of birth

Blackthorn – sinister tree of the dark side

Elder – a tree sacred to the Celts

Gorse – symbol of love and fertility

Hawthorn – the fairy tree

Hazel – the tree at the world’s end

Heather – building block for Celts

Holly – guards against spirits and witchcraft

Ivy – symbol of strength and determination

Mistletoe – sacred plant of the sun god

Oak – king of the forest

Reed – introduction to Ogham

Rowan – the ‘lady of the mountains’

Scots Pine – the 'pioneer' plant'

Vine – the tree of joy

Willow – beauty and spiritual presence

Yew – longevity and resurrection

The Celtic Tree Calendar – following the lunar cycle

Ancient Irish language of ogham

Ogham – ancient Irish written language

New age beliefs about Ogham

Ogham alphabet named after Irish words for trees

Origins of Ogham – modern theories

Poems written in Ogham

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