Sunday, 5 May 2019

Bealtaine and a ‘Gentle’ Tree

Bealtaine and the Mountain Ash is blossoming in the ditches and on the mountains of Ireland. 

Associated with good luck, Caorthann, the Mountain Ash or Rowan was considered to be protection against malevolence and the unwanted attention of the Good People, particularly at Bealtaine.

With it’s white blossom and red berries, both colours associated with the Otherworld, 
the rowan is firmly rooted in Irish folklore & mythology.

Mountain ash boughs were scattered on the threshold of houses on May Eve to deprive the fairies of their power to harm the butter or the baby. 
In Co. Clare boughs were hung over doors and windows to protect the home and bring good luck for the ensuing year.

In many places on May Eve sticks of mountain ash were placed in the four corners of gardens and fields to protect the home and crops and a twig was dropped into the well as a precaution against skimming the luck from the household.

Sprigs of rowan were worked into a charm, best made after sunset on May eve, 
to safeguard the milk from witchcraft and the Good People.

Throughout the year the tree was said to be lucky. 

Red berries were scattered under the cows

And a branch put on the roof with a piece of timber to keep the home safe from storms 
for twelve months.

To ensure people’s health a sprig of mountain ash was placed in the thatch to ward off sickness for a year whilst the berries, boiled with new milk and strained, was drunk as a cure for stomach pain.

On the eves of Samhain and Bealtaine, when Otherworldly forces were abroad, a piece of rowan was carried in a pocket for protection. 
Horses were also vulnerable to the attentions of the Good People who were known to steal them, 
ride them through the night, then return them the next morning lathered and exhausted. 
To counteract this fate a slip of rowan would be tied to their manes.

The tree however also had links to Na Daoine Sidhe and was known as a ‘gentle’ tree.

Sprigs of the tree when twisted into a ring and held to the eye would enable the user to see
the fairies clearly and despite their apparent benevolence certain ‘gentle’ rowan trees were known to be gathering places for the Good People and cutting them had consequences - 

Recent years have seen a rise in the popularity of Ireland’s folk traditions with the making 
of BRIGID’S CROSSES at Imbolg and the decoration of MAY BUSHES at Bealtaine.

Perhaps the Mountain Ash will take it’s place besides the may bush once again.

Mountain Ash cross and spring flowers besides the front door at Bealtaine.

'A year in the life of a Rowan Tree'


  1. I always have heard that mountain ash, or rowan, is a protection against witches, here in England.

    1. Thanks Jenny - Think it's a similar belief - protection against what was seen as malevolent.

  2. What beauty you create and bring into being Jane. Your paintings and images are truely healing for the spirit and soul. Thank you for sharing with us x


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