Rowan Tree Symbolism and Meanings

 8 min read

The rowan, also known as the mountain ash or dogwood, is a powerful and radiant tree.

Her brightness shines through like full moon in the clear sky or a resonant chime and her energy is so strong that she was considered in Norse tradition the rescuer of Thor. The Scots even believed that the first woman was made from the material of the Rowan tree!

Rowan tree symbolism has a lot of meanings like protection, power, exorcisms, discovering secret knowledge, psychic ability, healing, divination, and success.

Rowan trees were often planted near houses as they were said to be protective against lightning and storms. The wood of a rowan tree was also used to make walking sticks, which were said to have the power to ward off evil spirits.

Symbolism:Protection, inspiration, power, knowledge, healing, divination and success
Divine Associations:Brigid (Irish), Thor (Norse and Germanic)
Astrological Associations:Sun, Mercury

About Rowan Trees

Rowan tree
Rowan tree

The Sorbus genus consists of approximately 85 deciduous species of trees and shrubs that are widely distributed throughout the northern hemisphere. As members of the rose family (Rosaceae), they produce flowers with five petals.

The rowan tree, also known as the European mountain ash or quickbeam, is native to Europe and Asia Minor. It can grow up to 50ft (15m) in height and has grey-brown twigs that are downy when young but turn hairless with age. The pinnate leaves are up to 10in (25cm) long and have 11 to 19 (but usually 13 to 15) sharply-toothed oblong leaflets. In May, the tree produces flattened heads of small white flowers, followed by dense bunches of bright scarlet fruits during Autumn – a feast for the many birds which disperse the seeds through ingestion and excretion.

The rowan is an adaptable tree that can prosper in a wide variety of soils and climates, up to 3,200 feet (975 meters) above sea level. Among larger trees, only junipers, yews, and some willows can survive at higher altitudes.

The service tree is most commonly found in southern and eastern Europe. It has rough bark with sticky winter buds. The leaves are alternate and pinnate, composed of 13-21 leaflets that turn yellow to orange-red in autumn. The fruits are about 1in long, pear or apple-shaped, and green with a red tint on the side that faces the sun.

The American mountain ash is a smaller tree than its European counterpart, native to eastern North America. It has 11 to 17 narrow-lanceolate leaflets which are sharply serrated, grey-green beneath, and hairy when young.

Practical Uses

Throughout history, hardwood has been used for a wide variety of purposes, from spinning wheels and tool handles to stakes and pegs, and even dowsing and divining rods.

Natural Healing

Rowan’s astringent properties have, historically, been utilized in a variety of ways by Europeans. For example, a decoction made of the bark was used to treat digestive tract mucous membranes that were inflamed or irritated, while cuts, sores, ulcers and skin problems were treated externally with the decoction. In addition, rowan decoctions have been gargled to help treat bleeding gums or sore throats.

Although popular belief might tell you otherwise, rowan berries are not poisonous. More than 8 or 10 eaten raw can cause stomach problems because of the parasorbic acid they contain, but boiling destroys this acid. This makes rowan jam and jellies delicious ways to consume nutritious berries. They are blood-cleansing and strengthen the immune system.

Rowan flowers have been used in herbal remedies for centuries to help create a protective and nourishing aura of energy around the patient. The tree essence helps us connect with nature’s calming energies.

Folklore, Myth and Symbol of the Rowan Tree

Clusters of orange berry-like fruits
Clusters of orange berry-like fruits

Rowan was once a very popular tree in many cultures and it played an important role in magical ceremonies and rituals.

Even after Christianity became the dominant religion, rowan still retained its place in magic as a protector against evil. People would often plant rowan trees near their homes or use small branches to create charms that they would fix over doors, gates or fireplaces. Sometimes people would carve talismans from dead wood but usually just used a piece of bark instead.

In the past, people in the British Isles used to hang small crosses made from rowan twigs above their doors, tying each one with a red ribbon. This was typically done during Eastertide or on May Day. In Bohemia, meanwhile, locals would hang small bundles of rowan twigs outside windows and on roofs to protect against lightning strikes. And in northern Germany, some folks even went so far as to make butter paddles out of rowan wood – all to counteract spells that would otherwise spoil the butter!

Similarly, Irish traditions dictated that placing a sprig of rowan inside the house would offer protection from fire spells and keep undesired spirits like ghosts and zombies out.

Rowan trees were traditionally seen as the protectors of milk and cows, so they were often planted close to cow sheds.

The Scots believed that the rowan, or caorann tree, should only be cut down for specific reasons like providing wood to bury someone or create a threshing tool. Germanic and Norse cultures thought of the rowan as sacred because it once saved Thor, the god of thunder from being pulled away by an underworld river. Not only that, but their mythology says that the first woman was made out of wood from this very tree. Because of these stories, people during this period saw the Rowan as an effective protector against lightning

The English name rowan for this tree is derived from the Norse term runa. This translates to mean “a secret” or “to whisper”. Therefore, it is only fitting that this Whispering Tree also is known as the muse of poets and bards. In fact, in the bardic tradition specifically, the rowan is referred to as the “Tree of Inspiration”. The rowan tree has a strong connection with druids, which is reflected in its alternative Irish name, fid na ndruad, or the “wizard’s tree”.

In Wales, it is believed that the rowan tree guards the soul’s passage through the gate of death. For this reason, it is traditionally planted in graveyards alongside yew trees (which perform a similar role).

The name “rowan” comes from the Anglo-Saxon word “cvicbeam,” which translates to “life tree”. This was a tradition in Europe where farmers would beat their livestock with a soft rod of rowan (or sometimes hazel or willow) every spring. The purpose of this act was twofold: to stimulate the animal’s life force and bless them. But there is more to the story of the rowan than just its usage in this springtime ritual.

The quicken tree was an important part of the Irish legend of Diarmuid and Grainne, providing shelter for the lovers as they fled. This tree was also known as the Druid tree and was said to have grown from a berry that came from the Land of the Ever-Living Ones (the elves).

The rowan tree’s legendary ability to restore youth to old people makes it yet another example of the Tree of Life.

Rowan Tree Meanings

Clusters of red berry-like fruits
Clusters of red berry-like fruits


According to tradition, rowan trees can prevent travellers from becoming lost. Her wood has been used for walking sticks and charms on boats for protection against storms and getting lost at sea.

In general, her protective qualities make travel more harmonious.


The rowan tree is traditionally associated with warding off evil witchcraft in England and Scotland. Planting a rowan tree by a gate or doorway is allegedly an effective charm against sorcery and evil intentions. Rowan flowers, berries, or wood can be brought inside to protect against lightning.

Similarly, flower essence has been employed to support immunity and general positivity. Indeed, a traditional protection charm can simply be created by tying two rowan sticks together with red yarn to make an equal-armed cross.


Divining rods are traditionally made from Y-shaped rowan branches. It is said that an abundantly flowering rowan or a rowan that flowers twice in one year indicates that a prosperous time is about to ensue.

Hearth Goddess Energy

The rowan is a sacred tree to the great Irish goddess Brighid. It shares her bright and fiery spirit, as well as her alignment with inspiration, warmth, and a happy home. When it’s heavy with an abundance of its bright red “berries” (they’re pomes), it’s radiant, highly auspicious energy is readily apparent.

Bring a rowan branch with berries into the home to bless, protect, and summon the many blessings of Brighid.

Love Goddess Energy

Love goddesses have different names in various cultures, but they always exude sexuality, beauty, a love for luxury, and an awareness of natural cycles. By spending time with a rowan tree – also known as the mountain ash or European oak – we open ourselves up to these positive qualities.

The flowers and fruits of this member of the rose family are white and red respectively; both reflecting the magic associated with divine feminine energy.


Rowan trees have a long and varied history of symbolism associated with them. From protection to inspiration, these trees have been linked with a wide range of meanings.

Considering the many positive connotations associated with rowans, it’s no surprise that they remain popular today.