Rrowan is also called mountain ash, or quicken tree (sorbus aucuparia) quickbeam. Its wood is used for tool handles, cart wheels, planks and beams, walking sticks, boats, while the bark is good for tanning and dyeing. Berries: flavours ales, liquers, cordials, jam and jelly and even a coffee substitute. Branches: (forked) used for metal divining.Powerful magic
Understood as a ‘magical’ tree, rowan has a tradition that ‘does not allow the use of the tree’s timber, bark, leaves or flowers, nor the cutting of these, except for sacred purposes under special conditions‘ (Fife 1994). As protection against spells or anything evil, rowan is legendary. It appears to be able to grow where no soil exists, such as in the forks of other trees or on bare rock. In fact, growing on another tree reinforced its qualities as belonging to both earth and heaven, like mistletoe. Used for divination and to invoke spiritual beings, rowan trees were commonly planted at sacred sites and stone circles. An inspirational tree, rowan has the old Icelandic name of runa (secret or whisper), in common with the runes, for which it was used. An old custom throughout Europe was the annual use of the Life Rod in the spring, in which every human, animal (and even orchard tree) were beaten with it. This ‘beating’ was a form of blessing or ‘flame’ to bring the gifts of life, health fertility and good luck. This fact indicated in its old Anglo-saxon name of cvicbeam (cvic, or quick, meaning life). Quicken-tree therefore means a sharing out the blessings of life.
Gateway between worlds
When Diarmid and Grainne were fleeing from the revenge of Fionn, leader of the Fianna, and came to the wood of Dubhros, they found a magic rowan. This tree was grown from a berry of the ‘Land of the Ever-Living Ones’ (elves), and guarded day and night by Searbhan Lochlannach, The Surly One of Lochlann, to prevent anyone eating its berries. A gigantic, ugly hulk, with one eye and a mighty iron club, Searbhan allowed Diarmid and Grainne to hide in the tree and eat its berries, which were very healing, while Fionn and four hundred warriors of the Fianna, waited at the foot of the tree to kill the lovers. Fortunately, Aonghas Og (‘young angus’, a powerful spirit and Diarmid’s tutor), helped Grainne to disappear immediately into the Otherworld.
Calendar: Jan 4 —Jan 31 (with Candlemas at centre)
Ogham values : tip of forefinger; second from base of left doorway, two leftward strokes; lachu (duck); liath (grey); chrysolite (pitdar, clear yellow); number, 1