Rowan Trees in Celtic Mythology

Rowan trees are a sacred tree in Celtic culture, and are still worshipped and revered in Celtic countries around the world today. The tree symbolises the fragility of life, motherhood, birth, blood, protection, and survival.

Femininity, Fertility and Life:

Rowan trees are deciduous, meaning they lose their leaves and their berries every year and have to start fresh every spring. Rowan trees are often associated with humanity, perseverance, and life.

This is further backed by the story of creation, Celtic druids believed that Men were forged from the Ash tree, and Women from the Rowan.

The slender, fragile branches of the leaves, the distinctive red berries and the fleeting appearance of the white blossom symbolise femininity, birth, and life.

The fleeting white blossom of the Rowan appears only for a few weeks each year

The Sacred Rowan:

Rowan trees can grow in the most unlikely of places, often seen in the barren highlands of Scotland, at altitudes where no other tree can survive. In spite of this, Rowan trees are fragile, their white blossom does not last long and their leaves are thin and slender.

The ancient Celts believed the veil between heaven and the mortal world was thinnest on mountain summits, where the land was closest to heaven. This gave the Rowan a special spiritual significance, moreso than any other tree in Celtic Mythology.

Rowans are often found on mountaintops, which were sacred to the Celts

Rowan leaves are similar to Ash leaves in appearance. The Rowan is often referred to as the Mountain Ash, although the trees are not related at all. Rowan trees are closely related with Apple and Hawthorn trees, both of which are also sacred in Celtic Mythology.


The berries of the Rowan tree have a five pointed star on the bottom, a symbol widely used as a symbol of protection. It is believed the Rowan protects the living from the dead, Rowan trees are strongly associated with protection.

The underside of the Rowan Berry has a five-pointed star, a symbol the pre-christian Celts associated with protection

Rowan Tree superstition:

It is considered extremely bad luck to cut down a Rowan tree, although the berries were widely consumed, and used in the creation of various alcoholic drinks across each of the Celtic nations.

Even in modern times, Rowan trees are revered in Celtic countries and there is a lot of superstition surrounding them. Rowan trees are often planted at the entrance to a property, to prevent evil from entering. Rowan trees were thought to ward off changelings, one of the creatures most feared by Mothers in Celtic mythology.

Rowan Tree Folk Tune:

The Rowan Tree is immortalised in the famous Scottish folk song ‘Oh Rowan Tree’ which is often played on bagpipes or on the fiddle.

The lyrics tell the story of a man remembering his childhood and of loved ones now lost, whose names were engraved in the bark of the Rowan (a common practice in Scotland and Ireland)

Oh Rowan Tree – Traditional Scottish folk Song

How fair was thou in summer time
Wi’ a’thy clusters white
How rich and gay thy autumn dress,
Wi’ berries red and bright!
On thy fair stem were mony names
Which now nae mair I see
But they’re engraven on my heart,
Forget they ne’er can be
Oh rowan tree

The Rowan Tree (verse 2) – Traditional Scottish Folk Song
Rowan Tree – Played on Bagpipes by the King’s own Scottish Borderers Pipe Band

Rowan as a Celtic Girls’ name:

There are actually quite a few Celtic Girls Names based on Trees and other plants, and Rowan is one of the more popular ones.

The associations with protection, femininity and life mean Rowan is a very popular Celtic name for girls, especially in Scotland and Ireland.