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A Tad of Tree Lore

by Milissa on September 18, 2011

in Seasons,Trees

My husband, our terrier and I just got back from a long weekend on the North Shore of Lake Superior. It was a glorious weekend with crisp nights and sunny days. There wasn’t a lot to see fall foliage-wise though, just a slight wash of amber here and there.

The only thing that dazzled–at this point in the season–was the Mountain Ash. With toothy, emerald green leaves and clumps of crimson berries, the ash really stood out along Highway 61 as we drove up the shore to Lutsen. Especially with a backdrop of pines and a September blue sky.

Now, as you know, I am a tree lover, but I’ve never been all that smitten with ash. Until now. These small stunners really captured my attention this trip. My husband–who is into Celtic culture and mythology–mentioned as I oohed and ahhed over the Minnesota specimens, that the ash was of major importance to the Celts. I remembered from my own research on the Ogham–the rune-like alphabet that was carved into trees in the sacred groves in ancient times–that the ash, or rowan, was significant. It’s considered the tree of divination and protection.

I did a little more poking around tonight, and learned that rowan comes form the Old Norse word for the tree, raun. And this evolved from a proto-Germanic word raudnian meaning “getting red,” which is apt given the fall display. In Gaelic, it is caorann, or rudha-an (“red one”, pronounced similarly to English “rowan”). It may also be related to the Sanskrit word, runa, or magician.

Here are a few of the many European folk names for the rowan tree: Delight of the eye (Luisliu), Mountain ash, Quickbane, Quickbeam, Quicken (tree), Quickenbeam, Ran tree, Roan tree, Roden-quicken, Roden-quicken-royan, Round wood, Round tree, Royne tree, Rune tree, Sorb apple, Thor’s helper, Whispering tree, Whitty, Wicken-tree, Wiggin, Wiggy, Wiky, Witch wood, Witchbane, Witchen, Witchen Wittern tree.

Wiggy! That’s how I feel about this season.

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