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The Medicine and Myth of the Rowan Tree

In Maine, the Rowan Tree (also known as Mountain Ash) are currently dripping with ripe red berries. It feels like the perfect time to talk about this magnificent tree.

The Rowan Tree belongs to the Sorbus genus, which includes around 85 deciduous trees and shrubs in the Northern Hemisphere. The Rowan tree is also a member of the rose family (Rosaceae).

The bark of the Rowan tree is astringent and has been used internally as a decoction for healing the digestive tract and externally for wounds of the skin. The berries of the Rowan tree are not poisonous, although there are many people who have been lead to believe that they are. In excess, they can irritate the stomach lining due to the parasobric acid that they contain. This acid is destroyed from boiling the berries and then turning them into jams or preserves. Rowan berries are said to cleanse the blood and to bring support to the immune system. A flower essence made from the flowers is said to protect and nourish the auric field and help us to better connect to nature.

I recently learned from Sean Donoghue that the berries can be made into preserves and are especially nice when combined with rose hips, to amplify their vitamin C content. The berries can also be turned into a tincture as well.

The Rowan tree has a long history of uses that fall outside the physical medicinal range (yet are connected as none of our aspects of self can truly be separated). Rowan is known as the Lightening Tree, and in Europe, small bows of twigs were tied together and placed over doors to protect homes from lightening. In Germany, butterpaddles made from Rowan wood were said to protect the butter from spoiling from spells. It was the protector of milk and trees would often grow next to cow sheds. In Scottish tradition, the Rowan tree was not allowed to be cut, except for wood for a funeral pyre or to make threshing tools. (that balance of life and death). In Norse lore, the Rowan was sacred because it was said to be the tree that protected Thor from being washed away into the underworld. It was also said that the first woman was made from it’s wood.

The Rowan tree stems from the Norse word runa, which is the origin of the word “rune”. It means “to whisper”. The Rowan tree was the sacred tree of Brigid and is still used to this day to make spinning wheels. In Whales the Rowan is said to guard the soul’s passage through the gate of death and it was frequently planted in graveyards.

The Rowan tree has a long history and solid energy of protection. Given that the berries emerge at Summer’s end as we are going into the season of Autumn, where the veil between our world and the otherworld is thin, I cant help but feel how perfect Rowan’s protective properties are.

*References: The Meaning of Trees by Fred Hageneder

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