Today is the last day of the Birch tree month, and tomorrow, Saturday, 21 January 2017 is the first day of the Celtic month of the Rowan tree.
So, here’s some information about the tree, the month, folklore, and some encouragement to do something to celebrate the new month, the month of the Rowan tree.
Name: The name ‘Rowan’ tree is recorded from 1804, and before that it was known as the ‘rountree’, though going further back it is derived from the old Germanic verb ‘raud-inan’, meaning ‘to redden’, in reference to the trees wonderfully red berries.In Old English the tree was known as the cwic-beám, and some, maybe a very few, still refer to the tree as the quicken, or the quicken-tree.
Oh! Rowan Tree Oh! Rowan Tree!
Thou’lt aye be dear to me,
Entwined thou art wi mony ties,
O’ hame and infancy.
Thy leaves were aye the first o’ spring,
Thy flow’rs the simmer’s pride;
There was nae sic a bonny tree
In a’ the countryside.Oh! Rowan Tree.
Part of a traditional Scottish poem/song, by Carolina Oliphant. She was descended from Clan Oliphant, an old family which had settled in Perthshire in the 12th century.
About the tree: Rowan trees occur widely throughout Europe, in western Asia in Russia and the Caucasus region, in north Africa in the mountains of Morocco, and in north America (where they may be called the Mountain Ash).
They are fast-growing trees, a short-lived pioneer tree in the rose family, Rosaceae. They reach a maximum height of about 10-15 metres. The flowers blossom after the leaves have appeared, usually around May or early June. They’re creamy-white in colour. Individual flowers have a diameter of about 1 cm, and they grow in dense clusters or corymbs, each containing up to 250 flowers, and measuring 8-15 cm. across. The strong, sweet scent attracts pollinating insects, including many species of flies, bees and beetles.
The Rowan tree is a tough tree. It is a strong wood that has been used to make spinning wheels, spindles and walking sticks over the years.
Celts & Druid views: Held by many of the ancients, Celts and Druids to be sacred, the Rowan tree was often planted in or near places of worship, and so you may find them (still) growing close to stone circles, groves, or where ley lines cross, or near houses.
Imbolc, the festival associated with the Goddess Brigid and known by some as Candlemas falls within the Rowan Tree month (in about ten days time), and is another time for celebration.
Rowan was the prescribed wood on which runes were, and still are, inscribed to make rune staves.
Folklore: The Rowan tree is said to be one of the most protective of all trees, and is first and foremost a protection against negative influences. The Rowan has protected homes for centuries, and many today are delighted to see a Rowan tree (or several) growing nearby houses.
According to folklore, the dragon is the Rowan tree guardian. It appears frequently in Celtic myth often depicted as a snake-like creature or a worm. When the dragon swallows its own tale it symbolizes immortality, which is another attribute of the Rowan tree feature.
The Rowan is yet another tree sacred to Brigid of the Tuatha Dé Danann, patron of crafts and spinning.
Greek mythology tells us how Hebe, the goddess of youth, dispensed rejuvenating ambrosia to the gods from her magical chalice. When, through carelessness, she lost this cup, the gods sent an eagle to recover it. The feathers and drops of blood which the eagle shed in the fight with the demons, who had the cup, fell to earth, where each of them turned into a Rowan tree. Hence the Rowan trees leaves took on the shape from the eagle’s feathers, and the appearance of its berries from the droplets of blood.
In Norse mythology it is regarded as the tree from which the first woman was made, (the first man being made from the Ash tree). It was also said to have saved the life of Thor by bending over a fast-flowing river in the Underworld which was sweeping him away, and helped him back to the shore.
Celebration: The way in which some celebrate, in ritual, the beginning of each Celtic month is many and varied. Whichever way you celebrate, I would encourage you (particularly if you’ve never set out to celebrate the new months) to, at least:
- make yourself a drink to sip and enjoy (wine, coffee, hot chocolate, water etc) to get into the mood of peace and calm, and to make this a good, comfortable and blessed time, and
- with your eyes closed, let your thoughts quieten, and meditate deeply on giving thanks for the month that has ended (and maybe list, mentally, some of the good things), and to think ahead to the new month (and maybe, think (but, don’t worry) about some of the challenges ahead and where energy will be needed – it’s okay to ‘drift’ in and out of meditation, here, and
- because the Rowan tree is the tree for protection and positive energy, do something relevant, maybe lighting a candle, seeing its energy displayed as light, and imagine/prayer/send protective energy to where it is needed (in your life, in the life of your family or friends, or anywhere in the world or cosmos, and
- when you come to the end of this time, extinguish the candle, but take a few minutes to contemplate the new month in a positive way.
Happy Rowan tree month to you and yours, Tadhg.