Posts Tagged ‘Rowan’


The Quarrel of Oberon and Titania (1846) by Sir Joseph Noel Patton

The faeiries must have been quarreling last night.  Though it was Midsummer’s Eve, it was rainy and windy.  Inclement weather is a sign that arguments are taking place in the realm of faerie folk.  In ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ the king and queen of the faeries have an argument that affects the elements: 

Therefore the winds, piping to us in vain,
As in revenge, have suck’d up from the sea
Contagious fogs; which falling in the land
Have every pelting river made so proud
That they have overborne their continents

from ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ by William Shakespeare

path into the woodsI’d been tentatively planning to sit outside on this night, under an Elder tree in the hope of seeing the King of the Faeries.  Midsummer’s Eve is the only night of the year when this is supposedly possible. 

Yesterday afternoon I set up a solar generated light next to my chosen Elder tree so that I could easily spot it in the dark.  The tiny light , which is in the shape of a hummingbird, changes its color from blue to purple to red to green.  It looks enchanting in the night landscape throughout the seasons.

I set out into the woods at 10:30pm to get a sense of whether or not the faeries might be out.  By then, the trail was already soaked and every green thing was covered with water. 

It was the last night of the old moon, so it was very dark in the woods.  Even if it hadn’t been overcast and raining, it still would have been the darkest of nights. 

At least the mosquitoes weren’t bad.  They can’t fly around in heavy rain.  But neither can the faeries, I soon realized.  I’d have to wait until next year at least to catch a glimpse of the King of the Faeries.

Before heading back inside, I took a couple of photographs.  The flash from my camera lit up the surrounding trees.  There are many Mountain Ash trees in this area.  These are akin to Rowan, which are magical in their own right. 

elder at night

I’m sure many of you don’t believe in faeries anymore.  Perhaps it’s time to reconsider and ask ‘why not?’  A belief in faeries does put a sparkle on the day, and just as with the wild creatures in the woods, just because you haven’t seen them yet, doesn’t mean they aren’t there.

If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales.  If you want them to be geniuses, read them more fairy tales.

When I examine myself and my methods of thought, I come to the conclusion that the gift of fantasy has meant more to me than my talent for absorbing positive knowledge.

~ Albert Einstein

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rowan12“Some things you must guard with care:
There are Rowans in the dooryard;
Rowans in the yard are sacred,
Rowan branches too are holy
And the leaves upon the branches –
And the berries even holier.
By their means a girl may learn,
A young woman may be guided
To affect her sweetheart’s feelings,
Even to command his heart.”

~ from ‘The Teaching of the Bride’ in ‘The Kalevala,’ Finland’s great epic poem

 Late winter is a good time for dreaming up plans for springtime plantings.  I’ve been wondering what type of tree or bush to plant near my front door to replace the Cedar that gave up the ghost last year.  I’m leaning towards Mountain-ash, a tree very closely related to one known as Rowan in the Old World.  Rowans are supposed to bring good fortune and repel negative energies, qualities that make them ideal plantings near the entrance to one’s home. 

Referred to by the Celts as ‘Fid nan Druad’ or ‘wizard trees,’ Rowan Trees have been regarded by Northern Europeans as magical trees since ancient times.  They are often found growing near ancient settlements, churchyards and henges (stone circles).  A large number of Mountain-ash saplings, just the right size for transplanting, are presently growing towards the edge of my backyard. 

Rowan Leaves by Andy Goldsworthy

Rowan Leaves & Hole - by Andy Goldsworthy

A Scottish superstition warns that it’s bad luck to cut down a Rowan Tree.  Its wood was traditionally employed in the fabrication of walking sticks, coffins, crosses and wizards’ wands.  The trees are associated with prophecy and creativity.  Quickbeam, one of Tolkien’s Ents from the Lord of the Rings saga was a Rowan.

The name of Mountain-ash is misleading, since this tree is not a true Ash but rather a member of the Rose (Rosaceae)  family of plantsMountain-ash leaves are a favorite of White-tailed Deer, Moose, Fishers, Martens, Snowshoe Hares and Grouse.  Squirrels, mice, voles, grouse, jays, robins, thrushes and waxwings all enjoy the berries.  Fermented berries can be intoxicating to small animals.  Years ago, I stopped to pick up a robin that had flown into my windshield while I was driving.  Its mouth was full of Mountain-ash berries.

I’ve yet to figure out exactly why the above lines from the Kalevala say that a young woman can affect her sweetheart’s feelings through the use of Rowan berries.  Certainly any food or wine prepared with care and a loving heart will inspire good feelings, especially today, St. Valentine’s Day.

For anyone who has access to rowanberries and is curious about their possible ‘love-potion effect,’ here is a recipe for rowan jelly that I found in Pamela Michaels’ cookbook All Good Things Around Us. 

allgoodthingsaroundusRowanberries make a light red jelly with a sharp flavour that goes beautifully with venison or game, as well as with lamb and pork.  You can make the jelly with green cooking apples, but crab apples give the best flavour.

1-1/2 kilos / 4 lbs rowan berries  +  1 kilo / 3 lbs crab apples  +  water  +  sugar

Wash the berries and strip them from their stalks, wash the crab apples, cut them in half and nick out any bad bits.  Put both fruits in a large pan, add enough water to barely cover, bring to the boil and cook for about 20 minutes until the fruit is soft and pulpy.  Pour into a jelly bag or double thickness of muslin and drip overnight.  Measure the juice into a pan and add 400 g / 2 cups / 1 lb sugar for each 500 ml /2-1/2 cups / pint of juice, heat slowly, stirring until the sugar has dissolved, then boil rapidly for about 7-10 minutes until the liquid jells when dripped on to a cold saucer.  Skim and pour into warm dry jars, cover with waxed circles while hot, seal with cellophane covers when cold.

For more information about Rowan trees, see: 



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