Wildlife watch Look to the rowan tree to ward off spir­its

Hamilton Advertiser - - ALL ABOUT LANARKSHIRE -

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

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