Monday, August 10, 2015


“Wisdom of Raven and Wolf 
hangs within my reach. 
You have only to patiently listen, 
and I will teach. 

Witches bane, Fairy cross, 
Star-clad and Quick with Life, 
I will protect you from all harm, 
Evil intent or Heavenly strife. 

Bride’s Crown, Quickbeam
Lady of the May. 
First womanly flame of Creation, 
I remind you that Life is a journey… 
not a destination."

 For those new to the game, each poem is inspired by a Teacher found in Nature; a star, stone, animal, plant etc that holds lessons of Wisdom for us. Can you guess who is singing today? 

“Charm is a glow within a woman that casts a most becoming light on others.” John Mason Brown

The Rowan refers to both the European and the American Mountain Ash, both of which belong to the Family Rosaceae (which includes Roses and Apples), Genus Sorbus. This tree can be found throughout the Northern Hemisphere from the Himalayas to the Appalachians. There are numerous legends, superstitions, and names for this Teacher across Europe; Quickbeam, Rune tree, Thor’s helper, Witchbane, Dogberry, Druid’s Tree, Dragon tree, and Witchwood being just a few. To quicken means to awaken, to stir with the first movements of Life, to make alive, vitalize or excite, which is exactly what this leafy Teacher can help us do. Rowans love to spark our imagination, revitalize our creativity, and encourage us to passionately embrace the new beginnings offered to us.

The distinctive red or orange berries of most varieties are an important winter food source for most birds, and Rowans are known for generously keeping fruit to feed others throughout the year. Feathered Teachers from Raven to the gentle Waxwing make excellent balancing energy for the Rowan. Blackbirds and thrushes are especially fond of their fruit.
When properly prepared the berries of the European Rowan can be made into a tart jelly said to taste much like cranberry sauce. They have also been used to make cordials and liqueurs. It is a popular choice to serve with wild game. I am not certain all varieties of Rowan can be similarly prepared, but I do know that the seeds within the Rowan’s fruit are high in Prussic Acid, so should not be eaten in quantity. Rowan berries are high in vitamin C, and have been use to treat scurvy as well as sore throats, inflamed tonsils and hemorrhoids.

There are some 50- 100 different species of Rowan/Mountain Ash recognizable in gardens and woodlands across the Northern Hemisphere. Some have golden, white or pink fruits, while others have subtle in-between shades. These trees prefer to grow along the edges of forests, providing shade and shelter for trees much smaller than themselves. Ironically, those same trees often push the Rowan out by overshadowing it in later years. People who feel called by this Teacher should choose with care those to whom they give time, energy or resources.

This Teacher has a long association with the Good Folk who live Under the Hill, commonly known as Faeries. This “lady of the mountains” represents protection (especially against enchantment and the Fae), wisdom and knowledge, luck, tenacity, vitality, divination (especially of metal), communication with spirits, and location. Rowan, Oak, Ash and Thorn are the quartet of leafy Teachers most often linked with the Fae.

Yggdrasil the “World Tree” is an Ash tree (Family: Oleaceae, Genus: Fraxinus) where Odin hung for days and nights to gain wisdom over all things. The Mountain Ashes (Sorbus Americana)  were given their name due to their superficial resemblance to this true Ash. Whether Old World or New though, the red-berried Rowan, or Mountain Ash, is still considered to be sacred to Thor, and is sometimes called Thor’s Helper. Likely this is due to the Scandinavian tale in which Thor is fording a river on his journey to the land of the Frost Giants, and an evil magician causes the river to flood. The little Rowan bent down and provided Thor with a handhold to climb out and escape. 

Of course, Thor’s Finnish counterpart, Ukko, is married to Rauni, the goddess of the Rowan. It is said that the earth was barren until Rauni came down and took the form of a Rowan. Ukko struck the Rowan with his magical lightning and thus all the plants and trees of the world were brought to life. In fact, Rowan was once commonly planted in coppices as a nurse-maid to shield new saplings, furthering it’s reputation as a motherly and nurturing tree.

It was thought by the Celts that the Rowan was brought by the Tuatha De Danann from the Land of Promise. In some Celtic tales the Rowan is described as the Tree of Life and it was the Rowans red berries which fed the Salmon of Wisdom rather than the Hazel nut. Dragons sometimes appear in tales to guard this magical fruit. In the tale of Diarmaid Ua Duibhne and Gainne, the Rowan’s red berries appear again as food of the gods.

Red foods, like the Rowan’s berries, were often considered taboo for anything other than ritual or magical endeavors, and often appear in tales as food of the gods or the Good Folk (fairies). The Scottish word for Rowan is “caorunn” and this tree can still be found in clan badges around Scottland. The clan names Mac Cairthin and MacCarthy also hold the Gaelic root word for this Teacher; MacCarthy literally being translated as “Son of the Rowan”.

Some tales say that the first woman was a Rowan tree and the first man an Alder, other tales say the first man was born from Ash and the woman from Elm. A sprig of Rowan was once worn to ward off evil, enchantments of all sorts (especially Faerie), and lightning. The Norse included a plank of Rowan in the hull of their boats to protect the ship from storms, lightning, and the wrath of Ran (the Sea). Likewise throughout Ireland and the British Isle, a cross tied with red thread or sprig of Rowan was placed over the doors of a home to protect against evil magic, black spirits, misfortune and illness.

The Rowan’s motherly protection and ability to nurture new life gives it close ties to livestock animals, particularly the cow. An old protection against evil magic was to hang a Rowan branch in the barn stall or tie it with red string to the horns of the cow. Rowan wood was also a popular choice for cradles as it protected the infant from all ill intent. The Rowan, also known as the Sorb Apple, with her star-like white flowers and red fruits marked with a pentacle is also associated with Goddess energy in general. 

Brighid or Bride, the triple goddess of Ireland, claims this little Teacher as her own by fashioning her arrow shafts from it’s wood. The Rowan is still considered to be an Imbolc tree, one of the four great yearly Sabbats involving Brighid and a time of livestock protection, birth and fertility. It’s believed to be at it’s strongest on May Day, the traditional time to gather Rowan wood. “Quickbeam” is another name for these trees, as these Teachers are believed to be “quick with life”. 
This is probably why traditionally, stakes used against vampires were made of Ash or Rowan. Rowan has also been planted in countless graveyards to both protect the dead, and to prevent ghosts arising from those violently killed or engaging in other haunting activities. Often used in basket and textile weaving, or as spear and axe handles for it’s springiness. Rowan wood is also highly prized for barrel making. Forked branches of Rowan or Ash were once used as water divining rods.

Being a favored food of so many birds, the Rowan can often end up as an epiphyte in the forks of other trees, like Oak or Maple. These are still referred to as “flying rowans” and were once thought to be especially potent in protecting against evil influences, astral travel, the making of visionary brews, and flying as no evil upon earth touched it.

The name for this Teacher, “Luis”, in Ogham, could be derived either from “luise” meaning “flame”, or from “lus” meaning “herb”. Its Proto-Indo-European root was either “leuk”- ‘to shine’, or “leudh”- ‘to grow’. Rowan reminds us to hold tight to our beliefs, nurture the creative force whenever possible, and savor the good things in life. Even in the midst of the coldest winter, sustenance can be found. Well balanced Rowan people tend to be charming, communicative, cheerful, confident without ego, artistic, passionate, and life loving. Emotional instability, consistently choosing “harm” over "help (either through our own choices/actions, or by simply seeing that which is truly harmful to us as helpful) and stubbornly hanging on when we should forgive or forget are potential signs of unbalanced Rowan energy.

An excellent friend for those seeking better communication, strengthening of self, protection, awareness of enchantments, stronger spiritual purpose, or “quickening” of energy, visions, or abilities. The Rowan will help us to correctly determine friend from foe, good from bad, and help from harm. This Teacher has been known as the Whispering Tree that will impart all the Knowledge of the World to those that take the time to listen.

“All it has experienced, tasted, suffered:
The course of years, generations of animals,
Oppression, recovery, friendship of sun and – Wind
Will pour forth each day in the song
Of its rustling foliage, in the friendly
Gesture of its gently swaying crown,
In the delicate sweet scent of resinous
Sap moistening the sleep-glued buds,
And the eternal game of lights and
Shadows it plays with itself, content.” Herman Hesse

Potential Balancing Energies: Moose, wolf, bear, morel mushroom, fox, raven/crow, thrushes, waxwings, cow, pig, goat, dog, snake, horse, or dragon, water, rose, apple, snail, ant, bee, wasp, badger, rabbit/hare, deer/stag, various butterflies and moths

Key Concepts: Quickening, Knowledge, Maic, Hex-breaking, Fae energy, Protection especially against hostile magic, Communication, Creation, Inspiration,

Associated Gods/Goddesses or Mythic figures: Brigid, Aphrodite, Oengus Mac Og, Hebe, Grainne, Halys, Finn Machumail, Orpheus, Pan, Dagda, Herne, Venus, and Thor. White Ladies ~the ghostly or fae creatures

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