Keys hang heavy from the green ash. Such beautiful bunches.


There’s a mountain ash — a rowan — down the street. The berries are molten scarlet. Once upon a time they were hung indoors for luck and to keep the house clear of witches. It was customary to tie red ribbons on the branches before the berries were ripe, though I wonder what self-respecting witch would fall for such a lame trick!

Bewitched horses can only be controlled with rowan rods, which also deter lightning and were once used for divining metal — as hazel branches are used for finding water.

rowan trees

My Aunt Ellie, one of my two godmothers, had a rowan. When I was little, she wrapped a locket around it that held a picture of me and across the years the locket disappeared into the bark. Maybe that’s why I’ve led a fortunate life.

rowan berries

I’ve never heard of a culinary use for rowans in North America, but I’m told they are edible and make tasty pies, jellies, jams, and wines. Like the apple, rowan berries are considered a food of the gods.

The Rowan is known as the “quickbeam,” an oracular Tree of Life, Candlemas Tree of Fire.

The green ash was the ancient Norse World Tree, Yggdrasil, at which the gods gathered daily in assemblies called things, and on which the god Odin sacrificed himself by hanging from its branches for nine nights. The exquisitely tangled stories of Odin and the ash are found in the marvelous Poetic Edda and Prose Edda.