~ The Shade of the Rowan Tree ~
Under the shade of a Rowan tree
An old man sat very quietly
Flipping through the worn pages
Of his entire life's memory.
And often you could see him smile
If you watched him for a while
As he remembered his childhood
Living in the Emerald Isle.
Melancholy stole over him then
As the image of his wife appeared again
In her long gown of white she stood
And underneath the message she penned:
"Dearest Paddy the light of my life
I gladly accept for to be your wife
And until death comes to me then
Always with you I will spend my life."
The shadow grew long under the tree                                 
And the old man rose quietly                                       
He closed the book and said to the Rowan.............             ..
Thank you for the peace you've given me.".....            ........
Copyright 1997 by John C. Cyr All Rights Reserved..                        ..................
Reprinted by permission.........                        ............................
The Rowan is a graceful tree with grey brown bark which can be found growing in altitudes of nearly one thousand metres in Scotland. It grows higher up mountains than any other native tree, sometimes clinging to a rock face after sprouting in a crevice from a seed dropped by a bird. In the wild, the rowan grows on heaths, moors rocky uplands and ancient woodland. It is also an age-old roadside tree, especially in the foothills. In early Autumn The flowers develop into the familiar clusters of red berries which can be used to make an excellent red jelly for accompanying game. The bark has been used for dyeing and tanning. It is a strong flexible wood for making small carved objects and tool handles, and as an alternative to Yew for making bows.
The Gaelic word for the Rowan is the letter L-Luis, which also means flame, and in the Irish translation can also mean hand, branch, mantle or pure, perhaps explaining the Rowan's close association with the Goddess Brighid. The festival of Brighid or Bride falls on the eve of the first of February and is in the cycle of ancient festivals which the Celts celebrated, acknowledging the energies in the turning wheel of the year, working to harmonise with the inner fire of the earth which ebbs and flows like a tide through the seasons. The time of Brighid was a celebration of the fire of illumination, of inspiration, healing and creative energy experienced as the dark winter gives way to the coming of the forces of spring. The berries, which are sacred and used in many ways for protection and inspiration, are seen in reflection to Brighid who gives nourishment to the sparks of our inner fire in life.
The Rowan's value for protection is well known, and rowan wand was placed over the lintels of the barn, byre, stable and sheep fold as a safeguard against evil influences. Twigs of Rowan coiled into a circle and placed beneath the milk-boynes kept milk from being spirited away and churn staffs were made of the wood to secure the butter during churning. A Scottish garden (yard), even today, is not considered complete by some, without a Rowan tree growing as protection against evil influences and witchcraft. It was also believed that a Rowan tree growing in a field protected the cattle against being struck by lightning, and a pin of rowan wood is still built into the bow of a boat to ensure safe voyaging. The same used to be done to ploughs and watermills. Horsemasters could control horses with a Rowan whip as in fairytales when a maiden is carried off on horseback to a sidhe mound. She could only be rescued at the full moon if, when the fairy host ride out, her horse is tapped with a Rowan twig, breaking the enchantment.
The Rowan's association with inspiration is captured in the old Irish expression "to go to the wattles of knowledge". Poets, in ancient times, used mats of woven Rowan to sit on and often shut themselves away in the dark, in order to gain enlightenment and vision. The berries had similar uses, as shown in several of the old Celtic tales, where nine berries were used to obtain the answer to a question. Medicinally, the berries of the Rowan have been well used, as having mild purgative, diuretic and general tonic properties, they were useful in the treatment of constipation and kidney disorders. One of the sugars in the fruit can be given intravenously to reduce pressure in the eyeball in cases of glaucoma, and sorbose, a sweetening agent for diabetics, is manufactured from the berries.