According to the Celtic Tree Lore website, the ancient Celts relied on a lunar-based calendar comprised of 13 months with every month consisting of 28 days. There are two versions of the calendar, one being the Beth-Luis-Fearn, which begins on Samhain or Oct. 31, and the other being the Beth-Luis-Nion, which begins with the Winter Solstice. Every month is further associated with a tree and the species assigned to each month have names that correspond to the Celtic tree alphabet, also identified as the ogham.
According to the calendar, the month of the rowan begins on Jan. 21 and concludes on Feb. 17. Alternative sources suggest that the time associated with the rowan spans from Jan. 22 to Feb. 18. Since the month of the rowan spans from mid-January until late February, it is analogous with the sign of Aquarius in western astrology.
About the rowan tree
According to the Trees for Life website, the rowan tree grows throughout Europe, in North Africa, Russia, and Britain; The small tree is part of the Roasaceae or rose family and can grow from 10 to 20 meters tall. The rowan has a grayish-brown colored, smooth bark with raised, dark-colored lenticels across its trunk and branches. The flowers on the tree appear in April and will grow into brightly colored red berries by late summer or early fall.
In “Irish Druids and Old Irish Religions,” James Bonwick explains that the rowan is known by a variety of names including the mountain ash, Cairthaim, quick-beam, quicken tree and ancient Celts held that the tree had magickal qualities. Richard Folkard writes in “Plant Lore, Legends and Lyrics,” that alternative names for the tree include the Pyrus Aucupara, Witchen-tree and Rodden. Some people reference the rowan as “The Whispering Tree” as it is believed that the tree will tell secrets to those who listen to it.
EtymologyOnline.com is a site revealing that in the 1540s, an alternative name for the rowan was “rountree”; The word rowan is rooted in the Swedish word Ronn or the Old Norse word “reynir,” meaning “the rowan.” Other sources, like Oxford Dictionaries online, suggest the word originates from the Norwegian word “rogn,” meaning “eggs,” “roe deer” or an ancient reference to the color “red,” which seems the most likely connection between the words “rogn” and “rowan,” given the fact that the tree develops bright red berries in the late summer and early autumn months.
In “A Glossary of North Country Words, With Their Etymology, and Affinity to Other Languages,” the rowan is associated with yet another name: “Witch-wood.” It is also explained that the word “rowan,” may be derived from the Gothic word “Runa,” meaning “incantation,” and that still other sources suggest rowan is rooted in the word “rhinn,” meaning, “religion, sorcery or mystery.” In a write up about the Celtic zodiac, Celtic Radio suggests that the word “rowan,” is also connected to the Sanskit word “Runall,” meaning “magician.”
The rowan as sacred
The Celts considered the rowan as a sacred tree. In “The Ancient Church and Parish of Abertnethy,” Dugald Butler explains that the Tuetons and Celts considered the tree as “a preservative against evil spirits. The author also explains people have made an “intoxicating beverage” out of the berries: A drink believed to be “a blessing snatched from the powers of darkness” and given to man as a gift from the divine. The Norse considered the rowan a tree sacred to Thor, the god of Thunder, and the Celts attributed poetry and inspiration to this tree. Interestingly, Butler asserts people once held that the tree was allegedly able to “ward off witches.”
Folkard reveals that the tree is one of good omen and that rowan tree stumps have been identified nearby the circle of a Druid temple, giving clear indication that the Druids venerated the tree. Common beliefs pertaining to the rowan held that the tree protects one from sorceries and curses of all kinds. The stories involving the rowan are explored on the Trees for Life website, revealing that Norse stories linked the formation of the first woman with the rowan; Thus, such stories link the tree to women and the divine feminine. People have used rowan wood for making runes and rune staves. Further, stories also depicted the rowan as the tree that saved the life of Thor by bending down over a river in the Underworld where the river’s current threatened to take him away. Other powers attributed to the rowan include psychic intuition, protection, power and healing.
According to Celtic Radio, the Celts created astrological associations in 1000 B.C; People would place rowan tree branches over doorways to ensure protection and good fortune. People would plant the tree in churchyards so that the tree could serve as a guardian for the deceased. Like the apple, when cut in half reveals a pentacle, the berries of the rowan reveal a five-pointed star when sliced in half. People use rowan bows in protection spells and for dowsing. The rowan is the tree that guards the gateway to the realm of spirit.
The long version of the “Wiccan Rede” or the “Rede of Wiccae” has a rhyming couplet referencing nine sacred woods: “Nine woods in the cauldron go, burn them fast and burn them slow.” On Wicca Spirituality, the site supplies information about long version of the "Wiccan Rede" containing the magickal correspondences of the nine sacred woods, with the rowan being “the tree of power, causing life and magick to flower.” As mentioned earlier, the Quicken tree is an alternative reference for the rowan; Interestingly, the word “quickening” is in archaic reference meaning “to cause a fire to burn brighter.”
About the tree calendar
According to Linda Kerr, the Celtic tree calendar and alphabet consists of 13 months as well as five solar trees, which represent the winter solstice and the other four season of the year; Two or three months fall under the each of the five solar trees. Each of the solar trees has a Gaelic name beginning with a vowel. A tree assigned to each month begins with a consonant. The ogham (pronounced ah-gum) is the written script. Kerr explains that all of the trees, including the solar and monthly variants, are associated with a “glyph” and a passage derived from the poem “Song of Amergin” and the rowan is assigned the passage, “I am a wide flood on a plain.” The Order of Bards, Ovates & Druids website," reveals that people held rowan walking sticks protect the individual from woodland spirits.
The rowan is associated with the ogham consonant “L” and “Luis”: A glyph consisting of one horizontal, straight line and two vertical, parallel lines attached to and perpendicular to the horizontal straight line.
Scholars dispute the Celtic tree calendar and astrological system
It should be noted that some argue that the Celtic tree calendar does not have any relation to a historical calendar belonging to the Celts; According to Jone’s Celtic Encyclopedia online, the tree calendar is attributed to Robert Graves and appears in his book entitled, “The White Goddess: A Historical Grammar of Poetic Myth.” In 1997, Peter Berresford Ellis, a Celtic scholar, had an article entitled “The Fabrication of ‘Celtic’ Astrology,” published in the “The Astrological Journal” where he argued that Robert Graves invented the Celtic tree calendar and the tree zodiac and that the systems are fabricated in their entirety.
While asserting that Graves’ poetic works are admirable and that his writings on Greek myth are well regarded, Ellis calls the calendar and zodiac systems “artificial astrological ideas” based on the spurious argument set forth by Graves in his book, “The White Goddess.” In “Celtic Astrology: A Modern Hoax,” the iconographer, Michel-Gérald Boutet, also supports the notion that the system of Celtic astrology is fabricated and based on spurious information.
Celtic astrology and the rowan
On Metaphysicalzone.com, the rowan is associated with Brigid (also called Brighid or Brigit, a name meaning the “exalted one”), a fire goddess, as well as the dragon as a Druic or Druidic animal symbolizing imagination or inspiration; According to the same website, the rowan personality constellation includes those who are “spiritual, strongly humanitarian, progressive thinkers, and idealistic.” Those born during the month of the rowan are people who flourish during periods of change and are those who are intolerant of imposed limitations. Rowan people are unconventional, imaginative, creative, inventive, and artistic and can sometimes appear distant, cold, unfriendly, aloof or isolated and detached.
According to Celtic Radio’s write up about the Celtic zodiac, those who fall under the sign of the rowan consists of two categories defined by two week time periods: The first two weeks of the sign are associated with the new moon and the last two weeks are associated with the full moon. Those who fall under the new moon classification are people who can become edgy, anxious, annoyed or impatient, but who will still serve as people who initiate or break new ground concerning social or societal change. Those individuals who fall under the full moon classification are less reserved, but are also influential, inspirational and assertive, particularly when it comes to defending one's own rights or the rights of another.
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