Auch2000 Logo


The Rowan Tree
Written and Researched by Margaret Odrowaz-Sypniewska, B.F.A.

The rowan was the plant badge of the Malcolms and the tree of life in Celtic legends. The rowan tree was said to have stood at Stonehenge before the Celts arrived in Britain. The rowan has fiery-red berries and feathery green foliage that paints a bright and pleasing picture.

The rowan or mountain ash is closely related to the rose, and is a cousin of the hawthrorn, apple, and pear tree. It is not a true ash, but it has similar leaves. It was named "the Whispering Tree" because the ancients thought the tree held secrets. The rowan grows best in north and western Scotland and is also named "Lady of the Mountains."

Sprigs of rowan were used by the Menzie, Malcolm, and Maclachlan clans. All tree clans have royal connections...the Mcclachlan's go all the way back to Robert the Bruce and they fought at Culloden.

A legend tells of their chief being killed at Culloden, and his horse coming back to their castle in Strathlaclan covered in his master's blood and having a sprig of the rowan tree in his bridle. They could not catch the chief's horse. He circled the castle and ran off into the mist and was never seen again. However, many clan members believe that he often appears to them, as a ghostly spectre, when their clan is in danger. He is said to give off a sad whinny. The rowan is associated with protection against witchcraft and bad luck.

A sprig of rowan placed over the door of one's main entrance kept evil out. Many planted this tree around their house for protection as well. Rowan is thought to protect one from lightning and was known as the wildwood or quickbeam because of this association. In Wales, the Rowan was placed in every churchyard to scare away demons that might disturb the sleep of the dead.

Bewitched horses and animals were protected by rowan wands. Rowan stakes were driven into corpses to stop their ghosts from visiting, especially when they died under unusual circumstances or in violence. The Druids used rowan fires with incantations to summon spirits that might help them in forthcoming battles.

The fruit and bark of the rowan are used as medicines. Rowan fruit was used for jellies to compliment game. Sweetened with sugar, the strained jelly is a good substitute for cranberry sauce. A tart jelly can be made with crab apples and rowan berries. The Welsh made an ale from rowan berries. A gargle was made from the rowan tree too, since it was said to have astringent properties. It was useful in tanning and making black dye. The rowan tree also is associated with Candlemas.

In the Celtic astrology, the Luis or Rowan sign falls on January 21-February 17th. People born under this sign are Charles Darwin, Charles Lindbergh, Charles Dickens, and Jules Verne. Many rowan people are considered ahead of their time. The Rowan Moon is masculine and is called the Moon of Vision and the Spirit Moon.

Rowans are native to northern Europe. They grew in deciduous forests, on moors, heaths, and rocky slopes. Rowans can grow in altitudes to 3,250 feet, and like high precipitation. The rowan can grow to 30 feet tall. They have a smooth, shiny grey to greyish-brown bark.

From spring to summer, small creamy white flowers appear in flat-topped embels and are followed by green pea-sized berries that quickly ripen into attractive, bright orange-red berries. In autumn, the leaves turn a bright scarlet.


The Triple Goddess Brid/St. Brigit


The Rowan is sacred to Brid, the Celtic goddess of the ancient triad of Anu, Danu, and Brigid. Brid's mother was Bóinn, goddess of the river Boyne. Her father was Daghda Mór, King of the Tuatha De Danann. Her consort was Aengus Óg, the god of love.

Brid's name is from the Sanskit Brizien meanng to enchant. Brid is a mother goddess and midwife, thus the protector of women, children, and the natural world. Brid is the patron of poetry, smithcraft, and healing, similar to Athena or Minerva in Greek and Roman mythology.

A rowan branch was hung over the tresholds of houses on St. Brigid's Day, which coincides with the festival of spring (Imbolic). Brid was worshipped in Europe, Ireland, and Scotland.

The worship of Brid also applies to St, Brigid (452-524), the wise abbess of the double monastery in Kildare, Ireland, who lived in the sixth century. Many of the legends of this St. Brigid are associated to the pagan goddess of the same name (Gowen, Molly and Lavinia Harner. Birthsigns: The Celtic Tree Year. Dublin: Town House and Country House, 1993.. The goddess and the saint are both celebrated on February 1st.

Brigit was called the "Mary of the Gael>" She was the patron saint of travelers and pilgrims. In Ireland, she was the guardian of farm animals, healers, and mid-wives. Little remains of the Kildare monastery today, only a round tower and a restore medieval cathedral.

The Brigit/Brigid of Legends:

Brigid was said to have the leadership traits of: patience, prayfulness, inclusivity, and compassion. Brigit was the daughter of Dubthach, who was the son of Demre, and the grandson of Bresal. Her mother was a slave girl, named Broiscech, that Dubthach sold to a poet because of his wife's jealousy. The poet in turn sold her to a Druid (but did not sell her offspring still in her womb). As the slave crossed over the treshold of the Druid's home (carrying a vessel full of milk), her daughter, Brigit, was born. While her mother went outside to milk her cattle, the house was seen on fire - a single flame reached from earth to heaven. When the neighbor came to rescue the girl, the fire disappeared. This they saw as a sign that the girl had a connection to the Holy Spirit.

As the girl grew into a woman, everything her hand touched increased. She was anointed by three angels as Sancta Brigida (Saint Brigit).

Brigit and her mother visited her father. Whatever wealth her father had she gave to the poor. She even gave a leper her father's sword. Her Father, Dubthach, was angry when he discovered that his possessions were given away. He asked why she would steal from him. Brigit replied that Jesus said that you should use your wealth to help the poor and give to God's church.

Brigit then took the veil from Bishop Mel. As she came to the altar, a fiery pillar rose from her head to the roof of the church. She was then made a Bishop.

Brigit was afflicted by a disease of the eyes that gave her great headaches. On the way to see a physician, she fell out of her chariot and hit her head on a rock. Her head bled profusely and two woman who were lying near that spot were healed, and slso her own wound.

On Easter Brigit healed a comsumptive man, a lunatic, a blind man, and a leper. She was called a Dove among birds, vine amongst trees, and Sun amongst Stars.

Another time a man killed a tame fox, an animal from the king's court. The king was outraged and was to take the man's life, unless he could produce his fox. Brigit enchanted another fox whom she brought to the king. The man was freed and later the fox fled to his cave unharmed.

Celtic legend asserts that the first woman was a rowan tree and the first man was an alder.

Legends of the Witches and the Rowan Tree

You are the visitor since February 17, 2005

Back to World Legends
Back to the Scottish Table of Contents

Webmaster: Margaret Sypniewska

This page was last updated on July 31, 2017

This page is hosted by