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Rowan Tree Day (Beltane Eve)

"Rowan tree, red thread,
Holds the witches all in dread."

~ Traditional Scottish

On the eve of Beltane, as the fires of ancient tradition are kindled, the Rowan tree—known as the Mountain Ash in the United States and the Dogberry Tree in parts of Canada—stands as a sentinel in the lore of the British Isles and beyond. Esteemed as one of the nine sacred woods used in the Druids' Beltane fires, the Rowan is enveloped in a veil of reverence and mystique. It was considered taboo to harm or use the tree for any purpose outside of sacred rites. Revered for its potent and protective qualities, Rowan wood, when bound with red thread, was believed to forge powerful talismans capable of warding off witches and malevolent spirits. Artisans also crafted the wood into milk-stirring sticks to prevent spoilage, pocket charms to shield against rheumatism and dark forces, and divining rods to seek out hidden treasures. The smoke rising from Rowan wood fires was thought to shield cattle from the spiteful tricks of fairies. Moreover, aligned with Saint Brìghde—Celtic goddess of the arts, healing, and crafts—spindles and spinning wheels were traditionally made from Rowan, weaving a thread of sacred continuity through the fabric of Celtic life. Happy Beltane! ❤️ 💜 💛 🌳

The ancient festival of Beltane held most often between April 30th and May 1st is about halfway between the spring equinox and the summer solstice. Historically, it was widely observed throughout IrelandScotland and the Isle of Man

Beltane marked the beginning of summer when cattle were driven out to the summer pastures.  


Spirits or fairies were thought to be especially active at Beltane, similarly at Samhain, and the goal of many Beltane rituals was to appease them.

One of the main protective devices used were sprigs from the Rowan tree.  So powerful were the branches of this tree thought to be, that the collection of them, on the eve before Beltane festivities, came to be known as Rowan Tree Day.

Sprigs of Rowan were often tied with string dyed red from the Rowan berries to cows' tails and horses' halters as protection, and sheep were made to jump through Rowan hoops. Crossed branches of Rowan were often placed in cowsheds and stables for the same purpose, and milking stools and pails were sometimes made of Rowan wood. 

Witches (often in disguise as hares) were reported to steal milk from cows (and butter) during Beltane.


Necklaces of Rowan berries with red thread, or sprigs of rowan worn in the hair or on clothing, were often worn for protection by Highland women.  

A rowan tree which took root in the fork of an existing tree where old leaves had accumulated, such as another rowan, oak or a maple, was called a "flying rowan" and thought of as especially potent against witches and their magic, and as a counter-charm against sorcery.

For more on the Rowan tree and its uses in Scottish folk traditions, click the bird eating rowan berries!

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