We thought it would be fun to explore the Ogham (oh-am) Tree Calendar in our newsletters. The tree calendar has thirteen months. Each month offers its own unique wisdom to us as we make our way through this life trying to live lightly, kindly and communally.
In February, we celebrate the Rowan tree as we enter the second moon of the Ogham calendar, ruled by Luis. Colloquially, Rowan is known by many names; nowadays many call it the Mountain Ash, yet, fascinatingly, in folk tales of old it was often referred to as the ‘Quickening’ tree.
It was dubbed Quickbeam, the ‘Tree of Life’, due to its strong lifeforce which imbues us with productivity. Its energy gives life to projects and spurs them on to success. Thanks to the rich energy that rowan permeates, creativity flourishes and innovative ideas can manifest in the physical world, ensuring that plans do not get stuck in the project wheel and instead turn freely into action. If the folktales are to be believed, without rowan spurring us on, we may achieve less than we desire as we enter the new spring season…thankfully this magical tree is plentiful in the Irish landscape!
With its faery like white blossoms and radiant red berries, it’s no surprise that Rowan was scared to the Druids who called it ‘Li sula’, delight of the eyes. This colourful small tree is ideal in urban settings, often lining roadsides and dispersed through parks. Preferring the peaty and acidic soil of high moors and rocky mountains, in the wild, the rowan tree opts for bright and airy spaces rather than dark woodlands where they’d be overshadowed by tall pines and oaks.
Its beautiful creamy-white clusters of flowers bloom in May and is a favourite of bees and other pollinating insects. Its deciduous leaves resemble that of the Ash, giving it its Mountain Ash title, despite not formally being a member of the family. In late August, bunches of bright red berries (an excellent source of Vitamin C) nourish the native birds and can be harvested to make a delightful base for a jelly mixed with apple to accompany game birds at a feast.
In Celtic mythology, its scarlet berries, resembling drops of blood, were proof to the druids of its brilliant life-force, and thus famed for its mighty powers of protection. The rowan was used to ward of witches and evil spirits and widely venerated as the tree of strongest possible protection against malign forces. Many tales tell of rowan branches being used as crosses bound with red thread and its berries turned into necklaces as a charm to ward off wickedness. Remarkably, these charms could keep milk from curdling, prevent harm to cattle and safeguard a baby’s cradle. Walking aided by a rowan stick would keep you safe on night travels and fastening a twig into a horse’s bridle would calm the restless being.
The rowan takes a special place in Irish culture. It presides over Imbolc on February 1st, also called St Brigid’s Day ( Lá Fhéile Bríde) the Gaelic traditional festival marking the beginning of spring. Fittingly, the Goddess Brigid, the young and blooming aspect of the Triple Goddess, was said to have made her bows and arrows from rowan wood.
So, what does Luis, our radiant Rowan, offer us as learning in our own journey as OFN Ireland?
Beginning spring, it is apt that we should look to the Rowan, the Tree of Life as our guide. Its properties of productivity, power and success aid us as we embark into this busy season, fuelling our projects with a rejuvenated energy. At OFN, we recognise that during this prolonged lockdown it can be hard to find the motivation to keep the ball rolling so it’s great to look to nature to find this inspiration. Like Rowan, we aim to offer protection to our community by providing a platform for producers to unite together and profit from the cooperative nature of our network as we continue on our journey of building a better food system and more resilient local food economy.
Rowan Magic, Charms and Beliefs
* Make a tiny ‘touch-charm’ for protection by cutting a round from across a rowan twig, cleaning off its bark and oiling, then addling the Ogham Luis sign (see first image).
* After thatching the crown of your haystack, tuck small pices of rowan twig into the bindings to guard against fire.
* Wear a garter of young rowan bark, the smooth green inside against the skin, as a safe-guard against dark-witches and counter-spells.
* Cure an illness by making a small slit in the bark of the rowan trunk, taking a hair from the sick person and pushing it into the cut. The illness will heal with the bark.
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[Text adapted from Eco Enchantments ‘The Thirteen Trees of the Ogham Moon Calendar ‘]