The Witch’s Staff: Rowan Trees

You’ll never know what you are going to find when you check the pages of the CLC Tree Services blog. Scratch that; it always relates to trees, but the connections back to them can be wide and varied.

Like today’s post.


birch (Photo credit: katdaned)

I recently stumbled across a site that listed the Celtic Tree months. While traditionally the Celtic tree calendar followed the thirteen lunar divisions, modern Pagans normally now fix the date for each month’s tree. Each calendar month is associated with a specific tree and the Celtic culture’s associations with it. For example, we are at the tail end of the Birch Moon (December 24-January 20) and are about to enter the Rowan Moon (January 21-February 17). Fascinating!

What does that mean though? Let’s look at what they say about the Rowan Moon, then I’ll tell you a little more about Sorbus Rosaceae, or the Mountain Ash, as it is more widely known as in Canada. 

“The Rowan Moon is associated with Brighid, the Celtic goddess of hearth and home. Honored on February 1, at Imbolc, Brighid is a fire goddess who offers protection to mothers and families, as well as watching over the hearthfires. This is a good time of year to perform initiations (or, if you’re not part of a group, do a self-dedication). Known by the Celts as Luis (pronounced loush), the Rowan is associated with astral travel, personal power, and success. A charm carved into a bit of a Rowan twig will protect the wearer from harm. The Norsemen were known to have used Rowan branches as rune staves of protection. In some countries, Rowan is planted in graveyards to prevent the dead from lingering around too long.” *

Hmm, perhaps we should get a rowan twig for all the CLC crew to make sure no harm befalls them? Maybe, but what else do I know about rowan trees (aside from their protective powers)?

Rowan tree, also known as Mountain Ash (Sorbus...

Rowan tree, also known as Mountain Ash (Sorbus aucuparia) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Well, mountain ash typically are small trees or shrubs found in the northern hemisphere. They generally grow from 10-20 metres and are found at elevations as high as 1,000 metres. Rowan trees are a popular choice for garden landscaping as well. They have alternating pinnate leaf patterns of 7-15 leaflets. Flowers appear in the spring in dense clusters of white corymbs. One of the most striking features of rowan trees though are their fruit, or pome, which are often bright red or orange, but can also be found in yellow, white and pink in other species. Well loved by birds, the pomes linger on trees well into the winter months.

While the smooth-barked rowan tree might be a favourite of gardeners today, it has a history that dates much further back into time.  It shows up in Greek mythology in the story of Hebe, and in ancient Norse tales about Thor. The British Isles also have many tales about the rowan tree in association with witchcraft (as illustrated in the excerpt above). In fact, the rowan tree was the source for rune staves (Norse), protective crosses (British Isles), divining rods, magician’s staves or druid staffs, as well as other more common items, like walking sticks, spinning wheels and spindles, tool handles and carvings. The berries and bark were used for dyeing garments and as a source for jellies, jams and alcoholic beverages, like ales, ciders or spirits.

Mountain Ash tree in the autumn

Mountain Ash tree in the autumn

So if you have ever considered planting a rowan tree in your yard, you can perhaps breathe a little easier, if you believe that it will keep evil from your door. I have to warn you that this short-lived tree does have a number of ailments that it is susceptible to though. Beware of mountain ash sawfly infestations, fire blight, bark cankers and moth infestations. If your tree can survive those, then you will have a beautiful deciduous tree to admire in any season, especially when covered with appreciative birds.

*Quoted from

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Published by
January 17, 2013 9:42 am