Wildlife watch Look to the rowan tree to ward off spirits
Scottish Wildlife Trust’s Falls of Clyde Wildlife Reserve Ranger Laura Preston would like to tell readers some tales of how to ward off spirits at this time of year.
As Halloween approaches, I thought we might all need a little protection from all those ghosts, witches and evil spirits that lurk at this time of year, don’t you think!
In the more remote parts of Scotland in the early 20th century it was still a commonly held belief that the country was full of witches and fairies, eager to create misery and misfortune.
In the past, most of the plants that were seen as lucky were valued as much for their capacity to ward off evil as to attract good fortune.
The rowan tree was one of the most powerful weapons in the arsenal of the superstitious, and its protective powers were so highly regarded that it was planted outside most dwellings.
Incorporating rowan into the fabric of a house was thought to protect its inhabitants from harm.
Rowan wood was sometimes used for the crossbeam above the chimney. Women wore protective rowan-berry necklaces, which were believed to be particularly powerful when made with red string, and sprigs of rowan were also tied onto cows’ tails to prevent fairies from stealing the milk.
Just as planting a rowan tree was believed to ward off misfortune, cutting one down was (and still is) widely thought to invite it.
It may seem like harmless superstition now, but Scottish emigrants took this practice across the world to places such as New Zealand, where rowan is still commonly found growing outside suburban houses in the city of Dunedin (taken from the Scots Gaelic name for Edinburgh).
Next time you are out for a walk, have a look in the gardens of older houses – can you find a gnarled ancient rowan tree growing in the corner?
Good luck spirits Rowan trees have been said to be good for warding off evil