The Rowan Tree (Rognebær) Medical uses, folklore and food.

By Eirin T. Shira, Founder of Hvergelmir International.

The European rowan (S. aucuparia) has a long tradition in European mythology and folklore. It was thought to be a magical tree and protection against malevolent beings. In Celtic mythology the rowan is called the Traveller’s Tree because it prevents those on a journey from getting lost.It was said in England that this was the tree on which the Devil hanged his mother, while in Scotland a rowan tree is commonly found growing by a gate or a front door to ward off witches. Crosses made of rowan tied with red twine were also used as a witch deterrent. In Norse Mythologi the rowan was associated with the goddess Sif and, particularly, the god Thor as it was deemed his salvation as the giantess, Gjalp, tried to drown him in the rising flow of the Vimur River.

The density of the rowan wood makes it very usable for walking sticks and Volvestaffs. This is why druid staffs, for example, have traditionally been made out of rowan wood, and its branches were often used in dowsin rods and Wands. Rowan was carried on vessels to avoid storms, kept in houses to guard against lightning, and even planted on graves to keep the deceased from haunting. It was also used to protect one from witches. Often birds’ droppings contain rowan seeds, and if such droppings land in a fork or hole where old leaves have accumulated on a larger tree, such as an oak or a maple, they may result in a rowan growing as an epiphyte on the larger tree. Such a rowan is called a “flying rowan” and was thought of as especially potent against witches and their magic, and as a counter-charm against sorcery. Rowan’s alleged protection against enchantment made it perfect to be used in making rune staves (Murray, p. 26), for metal divining, and to protect cattle from harm by attaching sprigs to their sheds. Leaves and fruit were added to divination insence for better scrying.

In Newfoundland, popular folklore maintains that a heavy crop of fruit means a hard or difficult winter. Similarly, in Finland and Sweden, the number of fruit on the trees was used as a predictor of the snow cover during winter. This is now considered mere superstition (however one can hear old men talk of it), as fruit production for a given summer is related to weather conditions the previous summer, with warm, dry summers increasing the amount of stored sugars available for subsequent flower and fruit production; it has no predictive relationship to the weather of the next winter. Contrary to the above, in Maalhiti, Finland the opposite was thought. If the rowan flowers were plentiful then the rye harvest would also be plentiful. Similarly, if the rowan flowered twice in a year there would be many potatoes and many weddings that autumn. And in Sipoo people are noted as having said that winter had begun when the waxwings had eaten the last of the rowan fruit.

In Sweden, it was also thought that if the rowan trees grew pale and lost color, the fall and winter would bring much illness.

The traditional Scottish folk song “Oh Rowan Tree” uses the tree as a symbol of home and comfort.

Rowan trees also supply foods, In form of jam cooked form the berrys. This Is very good to use for sauses(specially wild meat sauses), desserts and meat. They should not be eaten raw as they contain cyangene glycosids that can transform to blue acids. This can be avoided by removing the seeds. It can also be used In bread as a flavour addition.

Contains: Bitter essence, Prussic Acid, Carotene, Tannic Essence, Mineral, Organic Acid, Parasorbic Acid, Pectin, Provitamin A, Sorbic Acid, Sorbitol, Sugar, Vitamin C.

Properties : Diuretic, Astringent, Haemostatic, Vulnerary, Febrifuge, Digestive, Expectorant, Demulcent, Anti-Scorbutic, Vaso-Dilator

The hard pale brown wood of the rowan was used to make bows in the middle ages, also used for tool handles, bowls and plates and for general woodcraft.

Medical uses of the Rowan tree has included:


Liver problems

Liver cirrhosis

Gall problems

Gall stowage

Gall cystitis

Gall inflammation

Gall stones

Digestive complaints

Digestive complaints



Immune system strengthening






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