Sunday, November 12, 2006

Rowan: The Tree Of Life

Search for the Tree Of Life.

Legends tell of the first people coming to Ireland approaching from the west searching for the "Tree of Life" said to be west of the lands. In Tuatha De Dannan times the Rowan is said to have been sacred to the goddess Morrigan and then onto her daughter Brighid during Celtic times. The Tuatha De Dannan are said to have burned Rowan during any threat of conflict to call upon the protection of Morrigan.

There is an ancient story that was passed on from the Chaldeans that tells of the zodiac being of 10 signs. When the Tree of Life grew it split up the signs that are now Virgo and Scorpio and the Libra sign was the tree of life. In ancient times the tree of life was of the T shape cross with 5 apples, as shown on some of Ireland's high crosses and possibly on the many ancient tree cross gravestones in ancient Irish cemeteries. Not that there are 5 signs after Libra before the zodiac restarts at Aries.

Was the Tree of Life really a Rowan Tree, though apple trees, especially crabapple trees are also "trees of protection". When the Rowan blossoms have fallen in mid June the trees appear to be full of forming crab apples so its easy to understand people thinking these are apple trees. They are both in the same botanical family. The Rowan blossom also provides a scent of strong apple blossom.

The mystery of Ceis Corran mountain, Co. Sligo

If the gaelic Ceis Corran is pronounced Kesh Corran is has an odd meaning of of "willow road of Corran", Corran being a legendary Tuatha De Dannan harper, but there is no evidence of a willow road here.

I live below Ceis Corran and local people pronounce the mountain differently to sound like "kaysh koaran" which gives it an entirely different meaning. "Ceis" becomes a blending of two words meaning "a woman carrying life" and "Corran" appears to be the shortening of "Caorann", a spelling that fits more into how the locals pronounce this, and this means "of the Rowan".

Put together we could make a sentence saying "a woman of the rowan carrying life" or, more harshly, "a pregnant woman of the Rowan". On top of Ceis Corran mountain, or should we now say Ceis Caorann, is Morrigan's cairn and this mountain becomes symbolic of the goddess Morrigan about to give birth to Brighid. Her cairn is in alignment to the Samhain and Imbolc sunrises from Lambay volcanic island, Tara, and Ward's Hill (Tlachta). With its Keash Caves opening at one end and two small hills like breasts with additional cairns appearing like nipples on the other end folklore calls this mountain the "womb of Ireland". Was it also home of the "Tree of Life"

On a beautiful sunny Samhain day, just passed, Claire and I climbed Ceis Corran to remind ourselves of the view, peace and warmth of the site. It was as well we did because the standing stone, known as the Pinnacle, had fallen so with the help of the compass resurrected it. Morrigan's cairn is the highest cairn in Co. Sligo, even higher than Maeve's cairn on Knocknarea.

The spirit of the Rowan

Another point of interest I discovered was the changing name of "Caorann" that became "Caorthann", Caorthinn, Caorthy, Carthy and MacCarthy meanin "son of the Rowan".

In Scandinavia it seems the spirit of the Rowan was revered as more abundant at Yule time. At midwinter the Rowan bears no leaves and the hard frost twinkles on it like stars. The Scandinavians also linked the Rowan tree to the goddess and their goddess was of the moon. At Yule they dressed the top of the Rowan trees with full or crescent moons to honour her. This was the ancient origin of the Christmas trees today, a symbol of protection and bringing light and life back to earth.

Some folklore says that Morrigan gave birth to twins, Brighid and Brigantes, while other legends say the two names are of the same spirit. Brighid remained in Bréifne while Brigantes made her home in Yorkshire, England and her name evolved into Britannia, the goddess of Britain today. In both Bréifne and Yorkshire Brighid and Brigantes were both weavers as well as poets and healers. Bréifne and Yorkshire became important regions for weaving industries where Rowan wood was and still is used for the manufacture of spindles and spinning wheels.

It appears that Rowan twigs formed the first sign of the cross, not the vertical-horizontal crucifix cross but the "X marks the spot" cross. This was due to Rowan being the earliest known divining tools for underground water. When the Rowan twigs crossed it indicated the life of crossing waters were below and the marking of sacred places. Earliest below ground burials were of the passed person's skull and Rowan twigs forming an "X" below, these being the earliest origin of the "skull and crossbones" symbol. This seems to be a tradition that started where Jordan is today and arrived with the Tuatha De Dannan in Bréifne. It was believed that the presence of Rowan at death prevented the body's "ghost" from wandering off before passing to the "otherworld".

The healing from the Rowan

Due to the strong acids of the berries that are harmful to digest there's been little use of them for healing. Cooking does release the acid and Rowan jelly is prepared as a condiment for meat but any healing benefits of this are unknown. Tuatha De Dannan folklore tells of the "salmon of knowledge" being a red spotted salmon with red spots caused by eating Rowan berries so "wise men" are said to have become wise by eating these salmon but do salmon eat fallen Rowan berries?

The healing from Rowan comes from the scent of its blossoms. Sitting and meditating beside a Rowan tree flowering in late May and June truly opens the mind and allows wisdom and inspiration to flow like no other essence. This experience truly makes this the "Tree Of Life". Stress and tension melt away to be replaced by inspiration, purpose and a full energy of life. The book of Ballymote, written just a couple of miles away from Ceis Caorran, has references to the scent of rowan opening the "poetical delights of the eye". Is this the "third eye"

Folklore also speaks of meditating and praying at a Rowan tree by water calls on the spirit of Brighid to guide you. Similar is said of picking a few berries at the end of summer, throwing them into a well, pond, stream or river will call Brighid's hand to you for healing, guidance and new wisdom.

The song of the Rowan

From our land we will be making Rowan plants available as part of our series of "trees of protection" that we will encourage you to obtain and plant at sacred places that may be decaying away such as crumbling cairns and disappearing wells. The planting of Rowans at these enhances protection and enhances bird song. Folklore tells of planted Rowan trees taming the chaos creating fire of dragons who would coil up around the Rowan tree and their stillness restored the balance and flow of nature

Though we are unable to digest Rowan berries from the tree they are a valuable food for birds. It is said the food of Rowan berries enhances the song of songbirds like blackbirds, thrushes, robins and finches. Recent science has indicated that the sound vibrations of birdsong in spring enhances the growth of surrounding vegetation. The sweeter and more abundant the birdsong is in Spring the higher the yield of the surrounding flora.

From Samhain until Imbolc Brighid is said to be present as healer, protector and nursing mother of the infant new year. When she leaves at the time of the swans and new birth its as if her spirit of protection, nurturing and health continues through the rowan along with the rose, hawthorn and apple.feeding the birds who's song welcomes the maturing of new life.

I'll have some photos and books to add to this article shortly
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