The Rowan Tree
The rowans or mountain-ashes are shrubs or trees in genus 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.
Formerly, when a wider variety of fruits were commonly eaten in the European and North American culture, Sorbus counted among the home fruits, though Sorbus domestica is all but extinct in Britain, where it was traditionally revered.
In the Canadian provinces of Newfoundland, Labrador and Nova Scotia, this species is commonly referred to as a "dogberry" tree.
Rowans are mostly small deciduous trees 10–20 m tall, though a few are shrubs.
The fruit has a 4 to 8 mm diameter and is bright orange or red in most species, but pink, yellow or white in some Asian species.
The fruit are soft and juicy, which makes them a very good food for birds, particularly waxwings and thrushes, which then distribute the rowan seeds in their droppings.
The fruit are eaten by about 60 bird species and several mammals.
The wood is dense and used for carving and turning and for tool handles and walking sticks.
Rowan fruit are a traditional source of tannins for vegetable dyes.
The fruit of European Rowan can be made into a slightly bitter jelly which in Britain is traditionally eaten as an accompaniment to game, and into jams and other preserves, on their own, or with other fruit.
The fruit can also be a substitute for coffee beans, and have many uses in alcoholic beverages.
It is used to flavour liqueurs and cordials and to produce country wine and to flavour ale.
The European rowan has a long tradition in European mythology and folklore.
It was thought to be a magical tree and give protection against malevolent beings.
The tree was also called "wayfarer's tree" or "traveller's tree" because it supposedly prevents those on a journey from getting lost.
Mythology and folklore
The European rowan (Sorbus aucuparia) has a long tradition in European mythology and folklore. It was thought to be a magical tree and give protection against malevolent beings. The tree was also called "wayfarer's tree" or "traveller's tree" because it supposedly prevents those on a journey from getting lost. It was said in England that this was the tree on which the Devil hanged his mother.
British folklorists of the Victorian era reported the folk belief in apotropaic powers of the rowan-tree, in particular in the warding off of witches. Such a report is given by Edwin Lees (1856) for the Wyre Forest in the English West Midlands. Sir James Frazer (1890) reported such a tradition in Scotland, where the tree was often planted near a gate or front door. According to Frazer, birds' droppings often contain rowan seeds, and if such droppings land in a fork or hole where old leaves have accumulated on a larger tree, such as an oak or a maple, they may result in a rowan growing as an epiphyte on the larger tree. Such a rowan is called a "flying rowan" and was thought of as especially potent against witches and their magic, and as a counter-charm against sorcery. In 1891, Charles Godfrey Leland also reported traditions of rowan's apotropaic powers against witches in English folklore, citing the Denham Tracts (collected between 1846 and 1859).
In Norse mythology, the goddess Sif is the wife of the thunder god Thor. Sif has been linked with Ravdna, the consort of the Sami thunder-god Horagalles. Red berries of rowan were holy to Ravdna, and the name Ravdna resembles North Germanic words for the tree (for example, Old Norse reynir). According to Skáldskaparmál the rowan is called "the salvation of Thor" because Thor once saved himself by clinging to it. It has been theorized that Sif was once conceived in the form of a rowan to which Thor clung.
In Neo-Druidry, the Rowan is known as the Portal Tree. It is considered the threshold, between this world and otherworld, or between here and where ever you may be going, for example, it was placed at the gate to a property, signifying the crossing of the threshold between the path or street and the property of someone. According to Elen Sentier, in her book, "Threshold is a place of both INGRESS (the way in) and EGRESS (the way out). Rowan is a portal, threshold tree offering you the chance of 'going somewherere ... and leaving somewhere."
In Newfoundland, popular folklore maintains that a heavy crop of fruit means a hard or difficult winter. Similarly, in Finland and Sweden, the number of fruit on the trees was used as a predictor of the snow cover during winter, but here the belief was that the rowan "will not bear a heavy load of fruit and a heavy load of snow in the same year", that is, a heavy fruit crop predicted a winter with little snow.
However, as fruit production for a given summer is related to weather conditions the previous summer, with warm, dry summers increasing the amount of stored sugars available for subsequent flower and fruit production, it has no predictive relationship to the weather of the next winter.
In Malax, Finland the reverse was thought. If the rowan flowers were plentiful then the rye harvest would also be plentiful. Similarly, if the rowan flowered twice in a year there would be many potatoes and many weddings that autumn. And in Sipoo people are noted as having said that winter had begun when the waxwings (Bombycilla garrulus) had eaten the last of the rowan fruit.
In Sweden, it was also thought that if the rowan trees grew pale and lost color, the fall and winter would bring much illness.
Protection against enchantment, psychic power, self-control
American Folkloric Witchcraft - November 1, 2011
The Rowan is sometimes referred to as the “Tree of Life” or the “Lady of the Mountain,” this tree is thought to protect against enchantment. The wood of this tree was often used for rune staves (sticks which are engraved with the Ogham or runs and used as a divinatory tool) and as a divining rod for metal.
Also used as a generally protective talisman, the branches of the Rowan Tree are hung over the doors of houses and barns to protect the inhabitants. It is planted in cemeteries in Wales to guard over the spirits of the dead. Babies’ cradles are often made of Rowan wood, as it is thought to keep death and harm away from the young. Some references claim that Rowan wood protects one from the Faery.
The Rowan berry has a pentagram in its center and is red in color. A necklace strung of the berries is said to protect the wearer from harm.
Rowan indicates an ability to contain control of your senses, provides protection from harm and a protection when engaged in battle. The element associated with the Rowan is Fire, and its gender association is male.