Rowan for Imbolc

Rowan tree and red thread

Keep the witches from their speed.

– Irish saying

Rowan is a very magical tree that has been connected to Brighid and Imbolc.  The fiery red berries that ripen in the autumn remind one of her sacred flame.  Country folk would make crosses with the branches and red thread, then attach them to their cows’ tails as a protective charm (Freeman, p. 264), which further connects them to Brighid in her role as a patron of domestic animals, particularly livestock.

The Witch of Forest Grove recently posted an inspirational entry on her blog about rowan – “Rowan, Red Thread, and Feathers.”  She describes the Scottish tradition which is very similar to other Irish customs of using rowan as a protective charm in the house.  Alchemy Works has an equally interesting description of rowan – the magical, culinary, cultural, and medicinal applications.  Check out Edible Wild Plants A North American Field Guide by Thomas S. Elias & Peter A. Dykeman for some more recipes.

Inspired by The Witch of Forest Grove, the full moon, and my excitement over Imbolc’s approach, I decided to make my own protective rowan cross with strings of dried rowan berries attached.  I consecrated it in Brighid’s name during a ritual tonight and hung it in my bedroom.  The ogham I drew following the rite were very good.  I interpreted them to mean that Brighid had definitely joined me and that the charm was full of protective energy.

If you’re looking for something new to try to celebrate Imbolc, I definitely suggest making a rowan cross.

Freeman, Mara.  Kindling the Celtic Spirit.  Harper Collins, 2001.

Published by M. A. Phillips

An author and Druid living in Northern NY.

2 thoughts on “Rowan for Imbolc

  1. I would absolutely love to make this for Imbolc, but rowan, alas, grows nowhere around here natively. I have some berries from Sarah Lawless, but apparently they’re very difficult to grow (long period of cold to incubate — mimicking winter — then a high rate of seed failure to sprout). Plus special rooting materials needed.

    1. The only rowan trees near my home are on private property. If I actually knew the people, I would ask for some fallen berries or branches but I feel weird asking strangers. Thankfully, I remembered I had some collected rowan branches from my travels. Last summer, I scooped up some orange rowan berries that had fallen from some trees near the Sterling Renaissance Festival and dried those. I will definitely look for them again this summer.

      One day, when I have my own home, I plan to have some rowan trees. They are supposed to protect the home, not to mention all their other magical properties. Rather than start one from seed, I suggest buying two or three saplings from the Arbor Day Foundation.

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