Wednesday, February 2, 2011
Rowan - The Thinker
January 21 – February 17
Rowan trees were planted near doors and gates to ward off evil influences and branches were attached to barns in order that the cattle housed inside would be protected from misfortune. This tree was also believed to guard the gateway to the spirit world and its boughs often used for dowsing and deflecting spells. The Rowan is sometimes called the "Whispering Tree" and ancient legend tells that it has secrets to reveal to those who would but listen.
Those born under the sign of the Rowan tree are said to have a keen mind which is creative and full of original thought. You may appear aloof or standoffish; some people often misunderstand you and think you are very cold. This could not be further from the truth for behind this cool exterior there burns the heat of passion. You have the ability to transform others by your shear presence alone and are able to influence people and situations while remaining quiet and thoughtful.
The Rowan, a tree of protection and insights, was known to be a tree belonging to the Faery. Its wood was frequently used for bows, favoured second only to Yew for this purpose. When sliced in two, the orange-red Rowan berry reveals a pentagram symbol of protection and according to many folk legends, an aid against magic. Thus, this tree was believed to possess the ability to protect from enchantment and trickery. The Tuatha De Danaan are said to have brought the Rowan to Ireland from Tir Tairnagire, the "Land of Promise." In Irish legend, the first human female was created from Rowan (the first male being created from Alder).
All parts of the tree are astringent and may be used in tanning and dyeing black. When cut, its wood yields poles and hoops for barrels. The ripe red berries are said to be beneficial in the treatment of sore throats and inflamed tonsils and were once used as a curative for scurvy. The fruit of the Rowan is a favourite among birds and a delicious jelly can be made from the berries. Walking sticks or magician staves were customarily made of this wood in order to ensure safe journeys at night and it was often carried on ships to prevent damage from storms. If planted upon a grave, the Rowan was thought to keep the deceased from haunting.
A Rowan which grows out of another Rowan is known as a "Flying Rowan" and was considered especially potent against witches and their magic...a counter-charm against sorcery. Rowan is considered an "ornamental wood" and is a wonderful lure for birds (which gives this tree yet another name, "Bird Catcher"). It is also useful in making fence posts and walking sticks.
Rowans are natural born leaders but, because they often adopt unpopular causes, sometimes have very few followers. They are kind and thoughtful people but have problems in following others, which can lead to serious authority issues. Rowan people make for excellent listeners and are very respectful of others' opinions. Their sense of humour can at times be a bit odd sometimes finding the funny side of quite serious issues.
The Crane -- One late Celtic tradition (apparently originated after the arrival of Christianity) stated that Cranes were people paying penance for wrong-doing. The Crane was associated with Lir, the Celtic Sea-God, who made his bag from the skin of this bird. The Crane was also sacred to the Triple Goddess and sometimes known as the "Moon Bird." It symbolised shamanic travel, the learning and keeping of secrets and the search for deeper mysteries and truth.
Imbolc. The Festival of Brigid.
In the ancient, agrarian society of the Celts, the heralding of spring was no small thing, having spent months in the frigid cold, often with little food stores left. Imbolc is a word believed to be derived from the Old Irish i mbolg which translates as 'In the belly', referring to the pregnancy of Ewes, an event which coincided with the onset of spring. Initially celebrated on February 1st, the festival of Brigid represented the point in the Celtic year that divided winter in half; where the crone aspect of the cold months recedes heralding the return of the young spring maiden. The festival of Imbolc celebrates the increasing strength of the new God, still within his child form, and a return of the maiden aspect of the Goddess in the form of Brigid.
Spring, the time of year that is full of energy. When the fertility of the land bursts forth. It is full of the promise of renewal and potential, an awakening of the earth and its life force. A return of the light and warmth of the sun and life’s insatiable appetite for rebirth. It is time to let go of the past and to look to the future, a clearing out of the old, making both outer and inner space for new beginnings. This can be done in numerous ways, from spring cleaning your home to clearing the mind and heart to allow inspiration to enter and a good time for making a dedication to the goddess Brigid. Imbolc is traditionally the great festival and honouring of Brigid (Brighid, Bride, Brigit). She is a Goddess of healing, poetry and smithcraft. She is a Goddess of Fire, of the Sun and of the Hearth and is associated with wells and water. She brings fertility to the land and its people and is closely connected to midwives and new-born babies. Fire and purification are an important aspect of this festival.
This is also the time to hang strips of cloth on the branches of a tree, Rowan or Willow if possible but if not then any tree near your house will serve the same purpose. The dew that settles on them overnight will be blessed by the goddess as she passes by and will be imbued with the powers of healing and protection and these powers will last throughout the year. Keep them in a special place in the house and bring them out when needed (when illness occurs). They could be wrapped around the site of pain or injury and in times gone by were used by midwifes to help women in childbirth as Brigid was especially known as being the patron of healers and midwifes. These healing cloths can also be used on sick animals, especially cows and sheep.
Brigid’s Cross is made annually from straw or rushes and hung above the door. In pre-Christian times, it was probably a sun symbol and celebrated the power of the goddess to bring back the light at the Celtic feast of Imbolc. It holds the promise of fertility and abundance.
Some of the symbols attributed to Brigid are:
The Snowdrop. The first gift of Spring in the bleakness of Winter.
The Swan. The swan mates for life and represents loyalty, fidelity and faithfulness. Swan feathers are a powerful amulet.
The Flame. Imbolc is a Fire Festival and fire of all kinds is associated with Brigid – the fire of creativity, the protective hearth fire, and her fire wheel – the Brigid Cross, which heralds her as a Sun Goddess.
Brigid’s Cross. This is a traditional fire wheel symbol – found at the hearths of homes throughout Ireland and beyond as a symbol of protection.
Brigid Doll. A very old tradition involved the making of a Brigid doll which can be included in ceremony and/or placed in ‘Bride’s Bed’ to bring fertility and good fortune to the home.
The Serpent. In Celtic mythology Brigid was associated with an awakening hibernating serpent which emerged from its lair at Imbolc. Traditionally serpents were associated with creativity and inspiration.
Sheep. Brigid’s festival is at the beginning of lambing – eat ewe’s milk cheese!
Herbs of Imbolc:
Blackberry: Sacred to Brigid, the leaves and berries are used to attract prosperity and healing.
Coltsfoot: Coltsfoot or ‘sponnc’ (Gaelic) is an herb associated with Brigid. An herb of Venus, moves emotional and physical stagnation and is used magically to engender love and to bring peace.
Ginger: revitalises and stimulates the ‘fire within’.
Trees of Imbolc:
Rowan: Luis, or the Rowan, is the tree usually assigned to this time of year in the Celtic (Ogham) Tree Alphabet. It has long associations with the Maiden aspect of the Triple Goddess. It is also known as the ‘Quickening Tree’ and is associated with serpents. Traditionally it protects and wards of evil. A sprig of Rowan can be put near the door of your home (we have a whole tree), or a sprig worn for protection. Rowan berries have a tiny five-pointed star on the bottom reminiscent of the pentagram.
Willow: The fourth tree in the Celtic Tree alphabet – S Saille, is also long associated with the Maiden aspect of the Triple Goddess. Willow is the great ‘shape shifter’ of consciousness and emotion and symbolises feminine energy and the lunar cycle. Its branches are flexible – expressing movement and change rather than resistance. It is a tree of enchantment and dreaming, enhancing the confidence to follow one’s intuition, and inspires leaps of imagination.