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Eagles blood

5 Apr

VLUU L200  / Samsung L200

This is the Traveller’s Tree. This one can be found at the top of the Limb Valley along the Sheffield Round Walk. In ancient Greek mythology the Rowan, or mountain ash, derived her red berries and feathery leaves from the eagle that fought a demon in the sky in order to retrieve Hebe’s cup. Hebe was the goddess of youth who kept the gods young by dispensing ambrosia in her chalice. She was a little forgetful, however, and was always losing it.

In Norse mythology this tree is the origin of woman (ash the origin of man) and many old cultures revere the wood as sacred.

Rowan berry

Each Rowan berry has a five pointed scar, where the calyx of petals falls away at the end of the spring to reveal the ripening fruit beneath. Pentagrams are ancient symbols of protection against malevolent forms of witchcraft, so it is perhaps not surprising that magic wands, divining rods and wizards staffs were often made of Rowan wood.

Figurative symbolism in plants carried great weight with our ancestors. I have tried a spot of water divination (Rowans often grow preferentially by springs and streams), but I cannot testify to the efficacy of the wood of this lovely tree in casting of spell. It is, however, a superb material for carving spoons and small items of useful woodwork. In older trees the creamy sap wood turns to a chocolate heart wood of close grained timber. It makes wonderful handles for tools, walking sticks and other treen. The berries can be used to make a bitter Vitamin C-rich jelly, excellent with game, and were used by the Celts to flavour mead and beer.

For me, though the Rowan tree’s intrinsic beauty speaks through the tenacious way she hangs on to her fruit long into the cold early winter, providing food for our birds and a radiant feast of colour for our greedy eyes.

Stand firm, repel evil, bear prodigious fruit. A modus vivendi.

a selection of treen made from Rowan Wood by Dave Jackson on a pole lathe

a selection of treen made from Rowan Wood by Dave Jackson on a pole lathe

3 Responses to “Eagles blood”

  1. Wanda Wildrick May 28, 2014 at 2:53 am #

    I love your items, and information. I am a carver of small 6″ dolls, and have been looking for Rowan, as have several of my carving friends. I also have some Celt friends looking for it for spoons and other things. We are on the east coast of the USA, and only have Ash, which is suffering from Insects and is hard to come by. Could you direct me to a small supplier or supply for a few of us? Thank you, W.W.

    • woodenhenk May 28, 2014 at 6:46 am #

      Hi Wanda
      There is indeed plenty of Rowan here in the UK, I could happily cut it for you and send it, but we might have a few problems with US Customs people sending living plant material or a parcel of small logs! – why don’t you ask them and find out what the rules/duty rates are? I have a feeling that it might be difficult, but not insurmountable. You would want fresh cut Rowan for working green I imagine. H

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