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The Folklore of the Rowan Tree

Rowan Tree July 2003The Rowan Tree
The rowan tree is also called the Mountain Ash even though it is not a member of the ash family and is a favourite tree of the Scottish highlands. The rowan has clusters of fragrant creamy-white blossom in spring and lovely red berries in the autumn, though they never last long as they are a huge attraction for the birds. The berries are edible but taste rather bitter and are more often used in jams. The rowan is one of autumn’s most colourful trees with pink, gold and scarlet leaves. As it is a strong wood, over the centuries, rowan has been used to make spinning wheels, spindles and walking sticks.

Although many trees have protective qualities, the rowan tree is perhaps the most protective of all and is foremost in protection against negative influences. At the stalk end of the berries you will see a tiny five pointed star or pentagram, a magical and ancient symbol of protection. The rowan has protected homes for centuries.

The dragon is the rowan tree guardian. It appears frequently in Celtic myth often depicted as a serpent type creature or worm. When the dragon or worm swallows its own tale it symbolizes immortality, which is a rowan tree feature. Dragons or worms can be guardians, particularly of the Otherworld.

The rowan is yet another tree sacred to Brigid of the Tuatha Dé Danann patron of crafts and spinning, as spinning wheels were once made from rowan wood. Her fiery arrows are also said to have been made from rowan wood.

In the following tale as with all mythology there are various spellings of the names of the characters involved. Deep in the Forest of Dooras there was a Fomorian one-eyed giant, protector of the rowan or quicken tree of immortality, called Searbhan the Surly One. He guarded the tree for the faery tribe of Tuatha Dé Danann. The tree had grown from a berry which came from faeryland having been accidentally dropped by the faery folk. It was indeed a magical tree. A runaway couple Diarmuid and Grainne came upon the tree while being pursued by Fionn who was Grainne’s spurned husband to be. Grainne requested berries from the tree which were said to taste as sweet as honey. After a battle, Searbhan was slain by Diarmuid with three strikes of his own iron club. Diarmuid was then able to obtain the berries for his love, Grainne.

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