Collecting the folklore and uses of plants


0661.  My grandmother grew up in rural Ireland and had a considerable knowledge of the properties of plants … either side of granny’s home stood two rowan trees, to protect the house from any malign influence [e-mail, March 2024].

2. When I was a child you’d see rowans on either side of a gate.  I was always told witches couldn’t pass through and that was why they were there [Edinburgh, July 2018].

3. In Scotland they say when a rowan tree is full of berries that a really cold winter is on its way [Streatham Cemetery, Tooting, London, September 2017].

4. Was told it was bad luck to remove a rowan tree, by my mother, Invergordon, Ross-shire, 1950s [e-mail, September 2013].

5. They won’t allow you to cut down rowan in Scotland, Argyllshire [Christ Church, Oxford, April 2005].

6. [Newcastle-on-Clun area, Shropshire] Rowan tree, known as witty tree (witches’ tree) was said to protect people from evil. Country people never burn it in their homes. As late as the 1950s one farmer was agitated when his neighbour put rowan branches on a bonfire and warned that terrible things would happen to them. Their relationship was never the same again! [Sandiway, Cheshire, October 2004].

7. Rowan trees well known for keeping witches at bay [Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire, August 2004].

8. Rowan – mountain ash – that’s another thing in Scotland. We had one near our house interferring with the cables. My mother wouldn’t let anyone on the family cut it; she got someone else to do it, not anyone in the family. I come from the Highlands (Argyll) [Tooting, London, November 1999].

9. I remember from my childhood in the twenties and thirties in Longbridge Deverill, Wilts … Mountain ash – with coal – picked and worn in cap to keep bad fairies away [Aldbury, Hertfordshire, February 1998].

10. A rowan berry tree is good to have growing in the garden, or near by, because it wards off the influence of witches [Ashreigney, Devon, July 1983].

Images: main, planted, Beverley, East Riding of Yorkshire, May 2017; upper inset, Calton Hill, Edinburgh, November 2015; middle insert, ‘Two rowan-tree crosses made by an old man as protection against witches, Corgarff, Strat[h]don, Aberdeen. dd. W. Gregor 1893’, in the Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford, March 2024; lower inset, berries used in well-dressing, Taddington, Derbyshire, August 2023.