It can withstand cold temperatures and rocky soil and can be found growing in the mountains in Wales and Scotland. It’s now a popular choice as an urban tree as it is quite small, and very pretty and colourful. In May, its clusters of sweet-smelling white flowers attract plenty of pollinating insects. Rowan is also known by the names Mountain Ash, Witchwood, Lady of the Mountain, and Sorb Apple, and has long been used as an aid and protection against enchantment. Runes were carved on Rowan wood.
Rowan crosses were hung over doorways and in cattle pens for protection. Rowan is believed to guard the gateway to the spirit world and ward off evil which is why the trees were often planted near houses. They are also often found near the ruins of ancient sacred sites, such as stone circles, where they were possibly planted deliberately as protection. In Scotland, it was believed that faeries held their celebrations within stone circles protected by Rowan trees.
In Autumn, Rowan is bright with red berries which the birds feast upon. Break a berry in two and look closely; you will see that the berries have a tiny pentagram inside them, a symbol of protection. By boiling and straining the berries, you can make jellies or syrups rich in vitamin C, but the leaves and seeds are said to be toxic, so be careful to strain them well. Rowan berries were traditionally used as a remedy for gout, and herbalists still use the dried and ground flowers for digestive and stomach disorders and the berries for sore throats and hoarseness.
The Rowan tree is linked to the Celtic Goddess Brigid, the young and blooming aspect of the Triple Goddess, who apparently made her bows and arrow shafts from rowan wood. Believed to have magical properties, Rowan wood was used for wands, amulets and divining rods. In fact, Rowan is particularly useful for finding water, and Brigid is the Goddess of wells and sacred water. The fine wood was also favoured for spindles and spinning wheels in Scotland and Ireland, perhaps imbuing the weaver with a certain kind of magic.
People born under Rowan’s influence are said to be sensitive and idealistic. Progressive thinkers, they thrive on change and love life. They are known for their good taste, spiritual beliefs, originality, passion, and impatience for convention. At times they can come across as aloof or indifferent and they find it hard to forgive. Inspiring to be around, these folks need to express their powerful imaginations or they can become restless.
To harness Rowan’s protective powers, cut a small branch of Rowan while giving thanks to the tree, and hang it in your home. State what you desire protection from. Rowan can also be used to enhance psychic powers and used as a wand.