Hello, my beautiful souls!
This week we’re on to the next letter - Luis (Rowan).
The particular Rowan trees that the Irish people would have encountered when the Ogham were created were the Sorbus aucuparia. This tree has a slender trunk with smooth bark and a loose, roundish crown. It is undemanding and frost hardy, often colonizing disrupted and inaccessible places as a short-lived pioneer species. The Rowan tree has traditionally been used for cooking, as medicine, and as food for livestock. It is tough and flexible, making it an ideal candidate for woodworking. It is also planted to fortify the soil in mountain regions, but it is also planted as an ornamental tree because…well… it’s pretty to look at!
The Rowan tree even shows up in folklore and mythology from several areas!
In the Prose Edda, Thor saves himself from a river by grabbing hold of a Rowan which became known as “Thor’s protection”.
When Thor came to mid-current, the river waxed so greatly that it broke high upon his shoulders. Then Thor sang this:
Wax thou not now, Vimur,
For I fain would wade thee
Into the Giants’ garth:
Know thou, if thou waxest,
Then waxeth God-strength in me
As high up as the heaven.
Then Thor saw Gjálp, daughter of Geirrödr, standing in certain ravines, one leg in each, spanning the river, and she was causing the spate. Then Thor snatched up a great stone out of the river and cast it at her, saying these words: ‘At its source should a river be stemmed.’ Nor did he miss that at which he threw. In that moment he came to the shore and took hold of a rowan-clump, and so climbed out of the river; whence comes the saying that rowan is Thor’s deliverance. "
In Irish folklore, it is said that the Rowan is sacred and used in many places around the home.
The rowan was sacred, and used in many forms about the homestead. ‘Failean caorruinn,’ a rowan sucker, or ‘fleasg caorruinn,’ a rowan wand, was placed over the lintels of the barn, byre, stable, sheep-fold, and lamb-cot, as a safeguard against witchcraft and malicious spirits. A twig of rowan was coiled into a circlet and placed beneath the milk boynes to keep the milk from being spirited away. A fire of rowan was sacred, and therefore the festival cakes were cooked with rowan faggots or other sacred wood.
A coffin, or a bier, or the spokes on which it was carried, was treated with especial reverence if made of the mountain ash.
‘A chraobh chaorrainn sin ’s an dorus,
Theid thu fotham-sa dh’an chill,
Cuirear m’ aghaidh ri Dundealgan,
’S deantar dhomh-sa carbad grinn.’
Thou rowan tree before the door,
Thou shalt go under me to the burial place,
My face shall be put toward Dundealgan,
And a beautiful bier shall be made for me.
There are some other sources on Wikipedia that say Rowan was believed to ward off evil spirits and witches, used as dowsing rods in England, and even used to drive cattle to pasture for the first time in spring to ensure their health and fertility. I don’t have access to their sources, though, so I can’t verify the accuracy of that information.
Again, let’s look at how Rowan behaves and what it is traditionally used for. It is flexible yet sturdy. It is used in cooking but also in the wheels that carry caskets to the grave. It has traditionally been used as a protective amulet or wood, keeping livestock and people safe from malicious spirits or other harm.
As an ogham, rowan may warn you of danger but also tells you that you are also protected as long as you keep your senses together and you do not act foolishly. It gives you courage, greater vision, and imagination to overcome difficulties. (source)
If you are reading Ogham staves and Luis comes up, know that you are protected as long as you keep your wit about you. Do your best to stay grounded in the things you know - and stay on path with where you’re headed. It may be a tough road, but Rowan is there to remind you and protect you from those things that might cause you harm.
I hope you’re enjoying learning about Ogham! Next up on our list to learn about is Fearn - Fern!