Thursday 11 May 2023

Protective Magic: Rowan Trees and Rowan Crosses

This is a rowan tree in blossom a couple of minutes' walk from my home. It's a London street tree, and I think it is great that you can easily find magical nature in the urban landscape as easily as you can in the wilds of the countryside. 

Rowan has oodles of folklore, particularly about protection. It grows commonly in Scotland and the north of England, but is often planted in gardens and parks down south because it looks attractive with white blossom in spring and bright red berries in autumn. Just having one near your house was supposed to keep out witches – malefic magic users rather than, say, wise women or nice modern pagan witches. 

One protective object commonly made is the rowan cross. These can just be two rowan twigs bound in the middle in a cross shape with red thread. They can be sewn or pinned onto clothing for protection, or hung in houses. The traditional time to make them in Scotland is St Helen’s Feast Day. She actually has 2 feast days – one on May 21st, and one in August, so I guess you could take your pick. 

The berries are also considered magical and protective. They can be strung on red thread when they’re fresh in the autumn, then left to dry, or the dry berries strung later, then worn or hung in the home. Some rowan crosses have a loop of berries, but that's completely optional. 

The rowan cross in the photo is one I made. I didn't go cutting any live branches off a tree - there are usually small twigs lying on the ground. I'd suggest washing any twigs you've picked from the ground in case some dog has used the tree as a marking post. The only other thing I needed was some red twine or wool because that's traditionally used in protective charms. 

To make it, all I did was cut the twig in two, lash the pieces together in the middle, then tie a loop at the top. I could have stopped there, but I have dried rowan berries I collected last autumn so I strung them on red cotton, tied them in a loop and attached them to the twig by pressing my sewing needle through the wood. It was small and soft enough to do that.

If you live in London ane want to locate specific types of trees close to you, there's a wonderful website called Tree Talk with a map:

There's more about seasonal folklore in my book Pagan Portals - Rounding the Wheel of the Year, published by Moon Books. It can be viewed on Amazon. (Please note I earn commission from some links, this helps subsidise my blog at no extra cost to readers)

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