Tree Lore: Rowan II

by Winter Cymreus

Rowan - Luis
Sorbus

I am a Wide Flood across a Plain

Rowan is the second Moon of the Celtic Year of thirteen Moons and is associated with the colours of red and grey and the letter ‘L’. It is the Moon of astral travel and vision, healing and empowerment. Its importance is significant and the power of this Tree is indicated by the fact that the Silver Branch, carried in Druid rites and ceremonies to represent and honour the Goddess, is Rowan.

Its name is linked to the Norse and the Sanskrit word ‘runa’ which in Norse means 'a charm' and in Sanskrit, 'the magician'. Its Celtic name is ‘Luis’, (pronounced 'loosh') and it is the second letter in the Beith-Luis-Fearn alphabet of the Celts.

Rowan, commonly known as the European Mountain Ash and the American Mountain Ash, is not an Ash tree at all but derived its alternate name due to the similarity of the leaves of the two Trees. Rowan is actually more related to the Rose and is cousin to the Hawthorn, the Apple and the Pear. This Tree has many nicknames - the Quicken Tree, the Quickbeam (meaning 'living wood') the Witch Tree - and has a long and colourful history.

The American Mountain Ash is native to north-eastern North America, growing to thirty feet with a spreading crown. It is also found as a shrub with many stems, showy white flowers and bright red berries. (The berries of both the American and European varieties carry a pentagram at the base of the fruit, giving it its more 'recent' name of the witch Tree). Generally it has a trunk diameter of eight inches. The leaves grow on the stem pinnately and are compound (having leaflets along both sides of the stem) and are six to eight inches long. The leaves themselves are lanceolate, a botanical term meaning they are narrow, tapering towards each end. These leaves are generally four inches long, one inch wide and saw toothed. They are paIer underneath, turning yellow in the autumn. The bark is a pale grey, smooth with scaly patches and its twigs are a reddish brown. The flowers are numerous, a quarter of an inch wide  with five petals, growing in abundant clusters. The fruit is small, maturing in the autumn, and resembles clusters of bright red apples, although the fruit is much smaller in size, approximately one-half inch. The American Rowan favours moist valleys and is found in coniferous forests from Newfoundland to Western Ontario and from Illinois to Georgia, preferring altitudes of 6,000 feet in the South.

The European Mountain Ash (or European Rowan) was introduced to America in colonial times from Europe and Eurasia. Its leaves also grow in a pinnate and compound manner on stems four to eight inches long with nine to seventeen leaflets upon each stem. These leaves are also lanceolate and saw-toothed, two inches long and less than an inch wide. They are a dull green above with white hairs beneath, turning red in the autumn. The bark is a very dark grey and smooth with horizontal lines and is very aromatic. The flowers grow in three to six inch clusters of seventy five to one hundred flowers; they are small with five white petals. The fruit, again, resembles tiny apples, but is a bright orange-red and matures in the spring. The European Rowan favours roadsides and thickets from South-eastern Alaska to Southern Canada, Newfoundland to Maine and Minnesota to California.

That was your botany lesson - now some more interesting information!

The common saying about this Tree is ‘Woe to those with no Rowan Tree near’. This comes from the common acceptance of its protective powers in both magical and traditionally historic uses.

A Rowan Tree planted near your home will protect it from lightning. This Tree was said to bring luck to families and was, therefore, planted next to or near new dwellings or after a move to honour the new home and to aid in starting a family.

Sprays of branches were tacked over the door of cattle sheds to protect them from harm, a practice carried to the home for the same purpose. Sprigs were also worn to protect the wearer from enchantment. In the spring, goats were driven through hoops of Rowan, again, as a protective practice.

In Wales, the Rowan was planted in graveyards to watch over the dead and to prevent them from walking and was said to protect a cemetery from haunting.

Rowan was commonly used for waIking sticks so that the wanderer would be protected from harm, and was a prevention against getting lost, guiding the wayfarer home.
Boats made of this wood were said to be protected from storms and from going off course. It commonly represented 'one who steered', especially upon the waters but now, in contemporary times and in divination, can represent someone who is the head of a company or one in a management position.

The wattles of the Rowan Tree were said to hold hidden knowledge and were thus valued and the Tree considered oracular. Roman lictors and other officials carried rods made of Rowan as symbols of their authority.

Fairies were said to celebrate and dance around the Rowan and, in County Sligo, Ireland, it is believed the Sidhe brought the seeds to Eire from Fairyland itself.
In the legend of Fraoth, its berries were guarded by a dragon and these could give sustenance equal to nine meals.

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

The berries were commonly used to flavour ale in an old Welsh recipe and were used as a coffee substitute. This fruit can also be fed to wild birds, to flavour liqueurs and cordials and can be madeinto jam.

Its uses in healing are wide and varied. Fresh juice from the berries can be used as a laxative and is an excellent gargle for a sore throat, hoarseness or inflamed tonsils. An infusion of the berries can relieve haemorrhoids and stangury (stoppage of urine). A decoction of the bark can be used as a douche for vaginal irritations and also to soothe sore and tired eyes. Often the berries and the bark are added to healing mixtures to ensure their success and the ingestion of the berries is said to add a year to your life.
Its magical uses are many and are strongly associated with its historical and traditional uses. Worn as a protection against enchantment, especially where the Fairies or the Sidhe are concerned and carrying it in an amulet can ensure against the control of others. (This amulet is a combination of Rowan leaves with Rue and Basil, tied into a golden or a white cloth and carried). It is traditionally sewn into sachets, along with other powerful herbs, to bring health, power, luck and success, especially in any undertaking involving travel far from home.

Forked branches were used as metal-diviners, much the same way Willow is used for water divining. Its power can be used to invoke the Elementals and to banish bothersome entities, hence its use in conjunction with homes and barns. The berries and leaves are dried and burned as incense to invoke spirits, familiars, spirit guides, the Elements and the Great Goddess.

In the Amber Isles of the Baltic Seas, great stands of Rowan were used as places of oracle and divination. In modern times, its use in a money spell is suggested by Z. Budapest in her book, ‘The Grandmother of Time’. (p.26).

Lugh Lamfadha is the corresponding God. He is the tri-aspected God of the Celts who is a reflection of the Goddess Brigid. His triune aspects are that of skilled magician-king, chief warrior as the God of the Spear and His agricultural importance is significant in His responsibility for the success of the harvest among the Goddesses, Rowan is represented by the Leanan Sidhe, inspiring poets and musicians. The Rowan is also linked to Loegaire, the charioteer of CuChulainn.

In divination, Rowan is an indication to retain your senses and gather your wits about you to enable you to distinguish the bad from the good, harm from help and to use spiritual strength to avert that which would threaten your serenity and purpose. You are asked to use sense, coupled with intuition, to make correct judgements and thus be protected. Its keywords are insight and quickening and its uses foreknowledge as a protection against undesirable control by others and by other forces. You are to look within and seek the insight necessary to overcome problems. The appearance of Rowan in divination suggests that you garner inner vitality and use these resources to negate self-doubt and to prevent the over-extension of your power. Rowan is the power that guards, nourishes and strengthens, representing an inner and an outer cleansing to wash away the effects of the past in order to create positive results in the future. Rowan is the realization of greater potential which purifies and protects against the circumstances and conditions of life.

And thus, you can allow the thunder and Lightning to rage outside your doors, knowing Rowan stands, protecting all ventures, both within and without.