The Rowan Tree

First Published - White Dragon Magazine. Imbolc 1998. Revised 2006.

By Glennie Kindred -

The Rowan (sorbus aucuparia), Mountain Ash or Quickbeam, has the ability, perhaps more than any other tree, to help us increase our psychic abilities and to receive visions and insights through communication with the Spirit Realms or the Otherworld. In the past it was valued as a protection against enchantment, unwanted influences and evil spirits. Sprigs of Rowan were placed over doorways and fixed to cattle sheds to protect the animals from harm. Similarly, farmers would drive their sheep though hoops of Rowan branches, and in Wales, Rowan trees were planted in churchyards to watch over and protect the spirits of the dead.

In the past Rowan was valued for its ability to provide us with forewarnings and foreknowledge. It brings an increased awareness of outside influences, which may be affecting us, which we may have been unaware of. This is why it is such an important tree to communicate with. It brings a quickening of awareness of all our senses and abilities, on many different levels of our existence. If you are working with the Rowan, the messages which are constantly passed to us from the Spirit Realms become more obvious, as we become more open to receiving and interpreting these signs in our everyday lives.

Meditation is greatly enhanced by holding a Rowan twig, wand or touchwood. Similarly, Rowan wood can be used to focus your intention to understand and receive messages from the Spirit Realms and your Spirit Guides. Wearing a Rowan talisman, or carrying a piece of Rowan touchwood, will also enhance these abilities.


Rowans ability to open up communication with the Spirit Realms is the key to Rowan energy. Its name is linked with the Norse word 'runa' meaning 'a charm', and the Sanskrit 'runa' meaning a magician. Rune staves are sticks on which the runes were inscribed and were often made of Rowan wood. In the Celtic Tree Ogham, Rowan is the second of the Ogham letters, and is named 'Luis'. It provides 'the quickening' of energy set in motion by the first tree, the Birch, and opens up communication with the Spirit Realms, which is so necessary for anyone wishing to work with trees, healing and energy pathways.

With clear intention and focus, use the Ogham symbol whenever the Rowan's qualities need to be invoked. It would also be an appropriate wood to choose for making a set of Ogham sticks if you wanted to make a set quickly without waiting to collect each stick from each of the relevant trees. Mark each stick with each of the 20 Ogham symbols and use for received messages or divination by interpreting each symbol in the light of the question asked. Rowan twigs are used for metal divining, just as Hazel twigs are used for Water divining. Rowan wood is also used for making magically charged staffs or spears, magically protective house timbers and posts, which are inscribed with runes or other symbols.

Rowan is the wood to use for making any magical tool that involves divining, invocation and communication with the Spirit Realms. It will help you to discriminate between what will do you harm or do you good, and help you deal with anything that threatens you. Rowan leaves and berries can be added to divination incenses.

If you feel you are in need of the protective qualities of the Rowan, perhaps because you have feelings of being oppressed by strong powerful forces or dark influences, or you feeling you are under psychic attack, then harness the power of the Rowan. Nail sprigs of Rowan across your doors and windows and wear a sprig of the leaves, flowers or berries in your hat. Carve yourself a brooch or a talisman to wear. Take a small piece of Rowan wood and sandpaper it smooth so that is it a constant pocket-companion for you to touch and gain strength from. Make a healing-pouch out of chamois leather by cutting out a circle the size of a teacup. Make holes all the way round the edge and thread a leather thong or plaited thread through the holes. In your pouch place a piece of bark or berries from the Rowan and wear it round your neck next to your skin if possible.


The Rowan berry has a tiny five-pointed star opposite its stalk. The pentagram, ancient symbol of protection, is an outward manifestation of the Rowans protective powers, but there is more to the picture than this. It is not just the Rowan that protects you, but you, yourself. An increase in psychic ability and life-force energy puts you in touch with your own power, thus breaking any victim consciousness, or malevolent influences, which may have entrapped and weakened you.

The Rowan grows higher up the sides of mountains than any other native tree, often sprouting and growing from the tiniest of crevices and growing in the most inaccessible of spots. Its life-force energy is strong and determined. It reflects a power, a vitality and tenacity, with a clear message that harnessing the power of the life-force will make any manifestation possible. Its message is not to give up, but to hold on strong to the highest good you believe in. What you believe will become manifest, as you have believed it to be. We need to keep aware of what thoughts and influences we ourselves set in motion for ourselves.

The Rowan strengthens your personal power. It is this aspect that makes the Rowan such a powerful ally. Strengthening your positive life-energy increases your personal power so that you can withstand any negative forces. This is how it acts as a protective influence.

The Rowan is associated with the planet Mercury, the principle of communication between the worlds of the seen and the unseen.


Rowan is associated with Imbolc, the Great Fire Festival of early February, which is held to mark the quickening of the year. Imbolc is connected to the powerful surge of new growth, which is stirring in the depths of the Earth. It also represents the rebirth of Spirit, the spiralling out of the light energy from within and the upsurge in personal energy with which this is linked. Imbolc is dedicated to the young maiden aspect of the Triple Goddess, she, like Rowan, is associated with divine inspiration, illumination, intuition and the binding power of poetry and healing. More then ever, we need to harness these qualities and to make them part of our everyday lives. Imbolc and the Rowan help us to tap into a true synthesis and integration of our physical and spiritual selves by helping us to receive and act upon our intuitive insights that rise from within us. Learning to trust these parts of ourselves brings us into balance.


Working with the Rowan tree at Imbolc facilitates a quickening of personal power and inner resources. Make time to link in with Rowan energy, to help transformation, inspiration and visions. Choose any method of divination, such as candle-gazing, scrying, meditation, inspired drawings or free-flowing poetry. Leave your conscious mind behind and allow the intuitive process to unfold. Stare into nothingness, stare into mandala patterns or Celtic knot work patterns, or simply sit and 'be' and daydream. These are all very good for you and help you receive understanding and insight on another level. Sitting with trees and receiving impressions from them, reading the patterns in their bark, in their branches or in the landscape, or seeing pictures in the fire - all can open the doorway to receiving messages from the Otherworld and our Spirit helpers and guides.


Plant a Rowan tree near your house, and build up a relationship with this very special tree as it grows. It has been planted near houses for centuries to ward off evil (and witches too it is said, but we all know that this is a corruption of the earlier tradition.) This small, beautiful tree is an ideal garden tree as it does not take up too much room and it's sparse foliage allows other plants to grow beneath it. In Spring it has clusters of white, starry flowers and in the Autumn the leaves turn red and orange and it is a mass of red berries, which attract the birds into your garden.


The berries can be made into a variety of drinks, jams and medicines. Cut the clusters of berries off the trees in October while they are still firm (leave some for the birds!) and dry them by hanging them upside down in brown paper bags. This is best done in a warm, airy place or airing cupboard. When they are completely dry, keep them in brown paper bags or dark jars. The juice from the berries is mildly laxative and makes a good gargle for sore throats and hoarseness. To extract the juice from the dried berries, soak one teaspoonful in one cup of cold water for 10 hours or overnight, strain and use as a gargle.

When made into jam, the fruit becomes astringent, which is good for mild diarrhoea. To make the jam, collect fresh berries in the Autumn, trim off the stalks and weigh the fruit. Boil the berries, strain off the seeds and skins and re-boil the liquid with 1 pound of sugar to each pint of juice until it sets. You may need to add some crab apples to the original boiling, to provide pectin to help it to set. It has a sharp flavour, which is good with cheese, salad or with meat.

The fruit can also be boiled, strained and made into wine, or gently boiled to make a vitamin C drink which was previously used for scurvy. The Welsh made a special ale using Rowan berries, but the secret of this is now lost. Perhaps with a creative, intuitive approach the ale-makers amongst us could create a new Rowan berry ale for feasts, rituals and ceremonies.

The Rowan yields a black dye used for tanning. The Druids used it for dying their ceremonial black robes, which they used for lunar ceremonies. The ancient Druids of Ireland also lit fires of Rowan wood before battles and incantations were spoken over the flames to summon spirits to take part in the fight and to combat evil forces. Bewitched horses and animals were controlled by Rowan whips.


It was noted by John Lightfoot in his Flora Scotica of 1777 that Rowans were planted in the neighbourhood of the ancient stone circles and great Rowan thickets were planted at oracular sites throughout Europe.

It was also known that the Druids built special platforms made from interwoven Rowan twigs known as 'The Wattles of Knowledge'. These were used as a kind of bed on which a Druid would lie as part of a ritual, which induced a trance to gain hidden knowledge.

The surnames MacCairthin and MacCarthy come from an old Gaelic word for Rowan and literally means 'Son of Rowan'.


Wands of all sizes may be made from Rowan wood, from a pencil thin wand for the pocket, to a large ceremonial wand, decorated with symbols and dedicated to the Rowan. Is also makes very good walking sticks if you can find a straight length. It is particularly good if you are intending to go night walking. The increase in psychic abilities is obviously enhanced by holding the wood for any long periods of time.

As always, only cut from a living tree only after you have asked the tree, told it of your wishes and waited to feel that the tree gives you it's consent. Making a deep connection of thanks to the tree is also very important and will ensure that your stick or wand does not carry any residue of unhappiness with it.

If you wish to take all or some of the bark off, it is best to do so soon after you have cut it, as it peels off easily at this stage. Rough carving is easiest then too and you can then leave the wood to dry out naturally before fine carving and sanding. It is an easy, softish wood to carve and can be used for small carved objects. Keep awareness of the sacred task you are undertaking while you work and feel your way into connection with the underlying energy of the Rowan, which you must honour. Be alert for an increase in your psychic powers, which your Rowan wand or stick will induce in you. Use your Rowan wand to help you find inspired solutions to your problems. Sleep with a piece of Rowan under you pillow to bring inner knowledge to the surface. Heed any portents or signs relating to future events.

Rowan energy should not be underestimated and its influence will bring about energy shifts on many subtle levels. For this reason, it has always been used by the wise, and respected and revered as a powerful energy tool, enhancing our ability to travel between the worlds.