The magical Rowan tree

Rowan - Sorbus aucuparia

In the British Isles the rowan (Sorbus aucuparia) has a long and still popular history in folklore as a tree which protects against witchcraft and evil spirits.

The physical characteristics of the tree may have contributed to its protective reputation, including the tiny five pointed star or pentagram on each berry opposite its stalk – the pentagram being an ancient protective symbol.

Rowan - Sorbus aucuparia

The colour red was deemed to be the best protection against enchantment, and so the rowan’s vibrant display of berries in autumn may have further contributed to its protective abilities, as suggested in the old rhyme:

“Rowan tree and red thread
make the witches tine their speed”.

(tine meaning ‘to lose’)

The rowan was also denoted as a tree of the Goddess or a Faerie tree by virtue (like the hawthorn and elder) of its white flowers.

Rowan is said to offer protection in several ways. In the Highlands rowans were often planted beside a house as the tree was supposed to stop evil spirits entering the house. Even now it is considered foolish to remove the a rowan tree growing in your garden. Pieces of the tree were carried by people for personal protection from witchcraft, and sprigs or pieces of rowan were used to protect especially cows and their dairy produce from enchantment.

The berries can be made into or added to a variety of alcoholic drinks, and different Celtic peoples each seem to have had their favourites. In the Highlands, they are made into wine. As well as the popular wine still made in the Highlands, the Scots made a strong spirit from the berries, the Welsh brewed an ale, the Irish used them to flavour Mead, and even a cider can be made from them. Today rowan berry jelly is still made in Scotland and is traditionally eaten with game.

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One comment on “The magical Rowan tree

  1. What stunning pictures ! And an absolutely fascinating read. Just makes me want to get my boots on and get going. Such a beautiful world we live in. Thanks. Found you on Outdoorbloggers.com, by the way.

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