Folk or Common names: Mountain Ash, Ran Tree, Witchwood Tree, Quickbeam, The Witch or Witch Wand Tree, Whispering Tree, Sorb-Apple, Service Tree
Parts Used: Wood, berries. Caution: do not eat the seeds
Herbal usage: Rowan bark has astringent qualities and can be used as a decoction for helping cure irritable bowels. Rowan berries can be made into a juice which can be used as a laxative. The berries are also an important food for grouse, cedar waxwings, grosbeaks and other hungry birds.
Magical History & Associations: The bird associated with the month of Rowan is the duck. The Druid Dhubh (Blackbird) also has an association with the Rowan tree since Blackbirds are fond of Rowan berries. Since each Rowan berry carries a minute pentagram, eating these berries is said to give the blackbird the ability to connect us with his healing song to the balancing and regenerative powers of the Otherworld and the Unconscious. The Celtic symbol of the month of Rowan is the Green Dragon. The color is red, and the gemstone is yellow chrysolite or the ruby. The Rowan is a Masculine herb that is associated with the element of fire, and is a tree of the sun and the planet Uranus. The tree is sacred to the deities of Rowan, Thor and Brighid (triple goddess of inspiration, healing and smithcraft). Rowan is also sacred to Oeagrus (father of Orpheus, who belonged to the sorb-apple cult) and to the White Goddess Aphrodite; Akka/Mader-Akka/Rauni (Finnish goddess of the harvest and of female sexuality); and the river goddess Halys/Alys/Elis (Queen of the Eleusine Islands). Irish Druids held Rowan trees sacred like Oaks and sometimes called it the ‘Tree of Life’. Rowan wood is one of the nine traditional firewoods to be added to the Belfire that is burned at Beltane. In folklore the Rowan is regarded as the godmother of milk cows. When a calf is due to be named, the farmer goes to the wood before daybreak to cut a Rowan branch with a piece of copper just as the sun rises. He smacks the calf on the back with it and calls it by its name. After that he tethers it to the cowshed door, decorated with white ribbons and eggshells, and the calf stays safe and well. The Rowan is a favorite tree of the Otherkin. A Slavic tree spirit known as Musail, the forest tsar, king of the forest spirits, is associated with the Rowan tree. Rowan also has a vampiric association since it is, along with Garlic and Hawthorn, one of the most popular herbal vampire repellents.
Magickal usage: The month of Rowan is a good time to do initiations, especially during Imbolc. The Rowan has applications in magick done for divination, astral work, strength, protection, initiation, healing, psychic energies, working with spirits of the dead, psychic powers, personal power, and success. Uses of Rowan in protective magick include carrying Rowan twigs on sea voyages to protect the ship from storms. A Rowan can be planted near a new house to protect it from lightning and evil influences. Walking sticks made of Rowan will protect there user from harm. A charm made of two small twigs of Rowan wood tied together to form a cross using red thread or yarn can be carried to protect against bad spirits. Its branches were used by Norsemen as rune-staves upon which to carve runes of protection. The Celts believed that no witches or evil spirits could cross a door over which a branch of Rowan had been nailed. In some legends, the Rowan has also been called the whispering tree because it has secrets to tell to those who will listen. Rowans also can be planted on graves to prevent the haunting of the place by the dead. In Ireland, a Rowan stake was sometimes hammered through a corpse to immobilize the spirit. In ancient Ireland, the Druids of opposing forces would kindle a fire of Rowan and say an incantation over it to summon spirits to take part in the battle. Should you happen upon a flourishing Rowan which is most bountifully hung with cluster upon cluster of delicate red berries, then you may be sure that some saintly soul lies buried close by. Rowan is often called The Wizard Tree or The Witch Tree, partly because Rowan berries have a small pentagram at the point where they are joined to the stalk. Indeed, Rowan berries were often regarded as magickal and were the food of the Tuatha De Danaan. As attractive as Rowan is to the Fey, Rowan wood is often used in butter churns so that the butter would not be overlooked by evil Faeries. In Scotland, fires made from rowan wood were used to protect the cattle against those same type of evil fairy spirits, and it is said that ‘Bewitched’ horses may be controlled by a Rowan whip. Witch-wands for divining metal are often made of Rowan wood, and Rowan branches may be used to dowse for water or can be made into wands. The best time to harvest a Rowan branch for a wand or staff is at Beltane. Remember to ask the tree if it will allow you to take a branch and be sure to leave the tree an offering of thanks when you are done.