Tag Archives: rowan tree

Ward Off Witches, Vampires, and Werewolves–Herbal Lore


Some highly esteemed herbs used throughout history to foil black magic, deflect spells, and ward off forces of evil.

archangel-michael, old stained glass window

(A fiery angel with a sword is also a mighty boon)

First up, Angelica:  Said to have been revealed in a dream by an angel as a cure for the plague. So sacred it’s called ‘The Root of the Holy Ghost’ and was associated with the Archangel Michael. Angelica blooms near his feast day and is connected to the Christian observance of the Annunciation, the day the Angel Gabriel visited the Virgin Mary to tell her she would be the mother of Christ. All parts of the plant were believed effective against evil spirits and witchcraft.

The juice of the roots are used to make Carmelite water, considered a ‘sovereign remedy’ and drunk to ensure a long life and to protect against the poisons and spells of witches. Garlands of the leaves were also worn.

Angelica plan

(Angelica)

I’ve grown Angelia in the garden. It gets big, so allow plenty of space.

Winter beauty

The Rowan Tree has a wealth of ancient lore and many associations with magic and witches. The tree is thought to lend protection against evil and bad spells. Its old Celtic name, ‘fid na ndruad,’ means wizard tree. But it has many names. Ask an old Celt which they favor.

Rowan, known as the Mountain Ash in America, and Dogberry Tree in parts of Canada, is a familiar sight in the mountains surrounding the Shenandoah Valley. My dear grandmother who lived to be 99 and a half, and knew her trees, was fond of the beautiful mountain ash. She’d point it out to me in the Alleghenies. It’s gorgeous in autumn when covered with bright red berries, and particularly attractive to birds.

Red, the color of the berries, was thought to be the strongest color in battling the dark forces. In Ireland, rowan trees were planted near houses to protect them from the spirits of the dead; in Wales they favored graveyards for their tree plantings. In Scotland, the Rowan Tree is among the most sacred and cutting one down, or using any portion of the tree for any purpose other than spiritually approved rituals was taboo. The wood is seen as the most protective part. It’s fashioned into sticks to stir milk to keep it from curdling, pocket charms (or amulets) to ward off rheumatism and bad mojo, and made into divining rods (for finding precious metals). Because the tree is associated with Saint Bridhig, the Celtic patroness of the arts, healing, smithing, spinning and weaving, spindles and spinning wheels were made of rowan in Scotland and Ireland.

Walking sticks made of rowan were thought to lend protection to the traveler on their journey, and from evil spirits. Rowan trees planted near stone circles in Scotland were thought to be favored by fairies who held their celebrations within the protective tree enclosed circle. Fairies are extremely cautious. But the fae can also get up to mischief, so the rowan would protect you from that as well. One of those multi-use herbs/trees. 

Rowan Tree, Mountain, Black Mount, Scottish Highlands

(Rowan tree in Scotland)

To the 17th Century Scots, however, practicing folk medicine was associated with witchcraft, which could include carrying a Rowan charm, a twig tied with a red thread for protection. A cross made of Rowan wood and bound with red thread was placed over doorways.

It’s interesting to note that the rowan is also called the witch tree because they used it to increase their powers and spells and for fashioning magic wands, so there appears to be some disagreement here. Did it speed witches on their way, or empower them? These conflicting beliefs are often the way in herbal lore.

“Rowan tree, red thread, hold the witches all in dread.” ~ old herbal saying

Rowan was sacred to the Druids who believed in its protective powers and burnt it on funeral pyres, also in rites of divination and purification. The tree was associated with both death and rebirth. Because Rowan was thought to bring the gift of inspiration, ancient Bards called it the ‘tree of bards.’ I suppose all writers should have rowan.

Wood from the ash tree, in the form of ash outlining a building or circle, is showing up in paranormal TV shows with American settings, like Teen Wolf. Mountain Ash is used to ward off evil, so even if some of these characters are the nicest werewolves or witches you could ever want to meet, they cannot cross a barrier of ash.

Teen wolf

Agrimony:  Used from ancient times to treat many ailments and injuries, it’s also reputed to have magical properties.

The magic power of Agrimony is mentioned in an old English medical manuscript: ‘If it be leyd under mann’s heed, He shal sleepyn as he were deed; He shal never drede ne wakyn,Till fro under his heed it be takyn.’ (That’s darn useful to know.)

Agrimony

From The Scots Herbal by Tess Darwin: “The Gaelic name of this plant, mur-druidhean, may derive from the use of agrimony by healers to treat spiritual troubles. Ferquhar Ferguson, tried for witchcraft on Arran in 1716, admitted using agrimony to cure elf-shotten people.” (Apparently a common affliction). “Ferguson was guided in his treatment by a voice heard while sleeping, which instructed him to pull the plant in the name of the Holy Trinity.”

***Elf-shot are those persons or animals who have fallen ill after being shot by the arrows of malevolent elves. Hate it when that happens.

Agrimony is also recommended as the remedy for  ‘alle woundes’. One old writer recommends it to be taken with a mixture of pounded frogs and human blood, as a remedy for all internal hemorrhages. (Whose blood?)

Mistletoe: An herb steeped in lore from pre-Christian times.

Christmas Mistletoe Isolated

Because the plant prefers softer bark, it’s found more commonly on apple trees and is rarer on oaks which made mistletoe discovered on oaks greatly venerated by ancient Celts, Germans, and it was used in ceremonies by early Europeans. Greeks and other early people thought it had mystical powers and the plant gained a wealth of lore over the centuries. Sacred to the Druids, many wondrous attributes are accorded to mistletoe, including medicinal powers, properties to boost fertility, and ward off evil spells.

Mistletoe and werewolves: In some ancient lore, mistletoe is considered a repellent and protection from werewolves.

From http://davesgarden.com/guides/articles/view/302/

“Mistletoe was thought to be a remarkable and sacred shrub because it seemed to grow from the air and not from the earth. Mistletoe has been considered undesirable because it feeds off other trees; however it is also thought to have a symbiotic relationship because it provides nutrients when the host is in dormancy. It also provides food for a host of animals and birds who consume its leaves and shoots

Over time its folklore has grown to include the belief that the oak mistletoe could extinguish fire, that it held the soul of the host tree and placed in a baby’s cradle would protect the child from faeries.

Kissing under the mistletoe is also cited in an early work by Washington Irving, “Christmas Eve,” which tells of the festivities surrounding the Twelve Days of Christmas:

“Here were kept up the old games of hoodman blind, shoe the wild mare, hot cockles, steal the white loaf, bob apple, and snap dragon; the Yule-clog and Christmas candle were regularly burnt, and the mistletoe with its white berries hung up, to the imminent peril of all the pretty housemaids.”

Used as good luck charms to ward off evil, its sprigs were also put under the pillows of young girls who thought it would entice dreams of the husband to be.”

These are just a few herbal possibilities, but among the most esteemed.

Herbal Lore and Historical Romance The Bearwalker’s Daughter–Beth Trissel


The_Bearwalkers_Daughter_Cover3As many of my earlier posts feature herbs and the lore surrounding these age-old plants, I’m sharing several herbal related excerpts from my  historical fantasy romance novel The Bearwalker’s Daughter.

Set in 1784 among the clannish and superstitious Scots-Irish in the Allegheny Mountains, the story is similar to others of mine with a colonial frontier flavor and Native American characters, with the addition of an intriguing paranormal thread.

Remember, the herbs didn’t have to originate in America for the settlers to use them.  They brought seeds, cuttings, and rootstock with them from the Old World and learned about native plants from the Indians.

This first excerpt is from the old Scots-Irish woman, Neeley’s, point of view:

A brooding darkness hovered over the McNeal homestead. Of that, Neeley was certain. And she sensed from where it came. She needed all her wisdom now to prevail against it.

She’d limped stiffly through the home sprinkling a sweetly aromatic decoction of angelica root into every corner, the most powerful herb for warding off spells and enchantment. Then she’d hung a bough of rowan wood above the doorway to lend protection from evil. The leafless branch dripped with clusters of orange-red berries, pleasant to behold as she sat by the hearth.~

And later in the chapter: Her needle winking in the firelight, Neeley sewed the blue fringe on the cape collar and around the long hem. The fragrance of angelica, the most sacred of herbs, rose from the linen. She’d sprinkled a decoction of the holy root over the cloth to bring protection to the wearer. Jack would need all the defense he could get.

As for Karin, her innate goodness would aid her, but Neeley wasn’t taking any chances. An herbal bath of angelica mingled with the purifying power of agrimony, redolent of ripe apricots, awaited the girl. Jack too, if Neeley managed to coax him in.~

This excerpt is from the heroine, Karin’s, point of view:

Neeley rose stiffly from her chair and shuffled forward, her stooped figure a head shorter than Karin’s. “You’ll want my help, John McNeal. Fetch the woundwort, Karin. Sarah, steep some comfrey in hot water and bring fresh linens. Joseph, the poor fellow could do with a spot of brandy,” the tiny woman rapped out like a hammer driving nails. Old, she might be, and as wizened as a dried apple, but Neeley took charge in a medical emergency whether folks liked it or not.

Sarah dashed to the cupboard to take down the brown bowl. Karin flew beside her and grabbed the crock reeking of salve. Sarah snatched a towel and they spun toward the hearth as the men made their way past the gaping crowd. The stranger lifted his head and looked dazedly at both women. Karin met vivid green eyes in a sun-bronzed face stubbled with dark whiskers. A fiery sensation shot through her—and not just because he was devastatingly handsome.~

The two following excerpts are from the hero, Jack’s, point of view.

The matriarch called Neeley bustled into the room with a steaming basin of what Jack supposed, from the herbal scent wafting in the mist, was a medicinal wash.

“Thomas, see Sarah gets to bed and brew her a cup of betony. That’ll calm her,” Neeley directed.

“Come on, Sarah. You’ll do better with a rest and some tea.” Thomas helped his stepmother to her feet and guided the unsteady woman from the room and through the assembly clustered beyond the door.  Murmurs of sympathy accompanied her departure.

Then Neeley set the white porcelain bowl on the washstand and squinted down at Jack like a hen hunting for spilt grain. She gestured with bent fingers at the girl peering from behind John McNeal’s bulk. “Karin, come closer. You’re my hands, lass.”

Her eyes, too, Jack suspected.~

And later in that scene: Karin dabbed his shoulder dry, then dipped her small hand into the pungent crock. Pursing rose-tinged lips, she smeared the aromatic paste on his wound. “I’ll give the salve a while to work before I dig the ball out and stitch you up. Ever had woundwort, sir?”

“Dulls the pain right well,” Jack managed, hiding a grimace. Even her soft touch stung like the devil, but he wouldn’t push her away for anything.~

I interweave herbs and other plants through all of my stories, though some more than others.

***Striking cover by my daughter Elise~The Bearwalker’s Daughter is available for .99 in Amazon Kindle

Herbal Lore and The Bearwalker’s Daughter


The_Bearwalkers_Daughter_Cover3As my earlier posts feature herbs and the lore surrounding these age-old plants, I’m sharing several herbal related excerpts from my recent release, historical fantasy romance novel The Bearwalker’s Daughter.

Set among the clannish and superstitious Scots-Irish in the Allegheny Mountains, the story is similar to others of mine with a colonial frontier flavor and also features Native American characters, with the addition of an intriguing paranormal thread.

Remember, the herbs didn’t have to originate in America for the settlers to use them.  They brought seeds, cuttings, and rootstock with them from the Old World and learned about native plants from the Indians.

This first excerpt is from the old Scots-Irish woman, Neeley’s, point of view:

A brooding darkness hovered over the McNeal homestead. Of that, Neeley was certain. And she sensed from where it came. She needed all her wisdom now to prevail against it. She’d limped stiffly through the home sprinkling a sweetly aromatic decoction of angelica root into every corner, the most powerful herb for warding off spells and enchantment. Then she’d hung a bough of rowan wood above the doorway to lend protection from evil. The leafless branch dripped with clusters of orange-red berries, pleasant to behold as she sat by the hearth.~

And later in the chapter: Her needle winking in the firelight, Neeley sewed the blue fringe on the cape collar and around the long hem. The fragrance of angelica, the most sacred of herbs, rose from the linen. She’d sprinkled a decoction of the holy root over the cloth to bring protection to the wearer. Jack would need all the defense he could get.

As for Karin, her innate goodness would aid her, but Neeley wasn’t taking any chances. An herbal bath of angelica mingled with the purifying power of agrimony, redolent of ripe apricots, awaited the girl. Jack too, if Neeley managed to coax him in.~

This excerpt is from the heroine, Karin’s, point of view:

Neeley rose stiffly from her chair and shuffled forward, her stooped figure a head shorter than Karin’s. “You’ll want my help, John McNeal. Fetch the woundwort, Karin. Sarah, steep some comfrey in hot water and bring fresh linens. Joseph, the poor fellow could do with a spot of brandy,” the tiny woman rapped out like a hammer driving nails. Old, she might be, and as wizened as a dried apple, but Neeley took charge in a medical emergency whether folks liked it or not.

Sarah dashed to the cupboard to take down the brown bowl. Karin flew beside her and grabbed the crock reeking of salve. Sarah snatched a towel and they spun toward the hearth as the men made their way past the gaping crowd. The stranger lifted his head and looked dazedly at both women. Karin met vivid green eyes in a sun-bronzed face stubbled with dark whiskers. A fiery sensation shot through her—and not just because he was devastatingly handsome.~

The two following excerpts are from the hero, Jack’s, point of view.

The matriarch called Neeley bustled into the room with a steaming basin of what Jack supposed, from the herbal scent wafting in the mist, was a medicinal wash.

“Thomas, see Sarah gets to bed and brew her a cup of betony. That’ll calm her,” Neeley directed.

“Come on, Sarah. You’ll do better with a rest and some tea.” Thomas helped his stepmother to her feet and guided the unsteady woman from the room and through the assembly clustered beyond the door.  Murmurs of sympathy accompanied her departure.

Then Neeley set the white porcelain bowl on the washstand and squinted down at Jack like a hen hunting for spilt grain. She gestured with bent fingers at the girl peering from behind John McNeal’s bulk. “Karin, come closer. You’re my hands, lass.”

Her eyes, too, Jack suspected.~

And later in that scene: Karin dabbed his shoulder dry, then dipped her small hand into the pungent crock. Pursing rose-tinged lips, she smeared the aromatic paste on his wound. “I’ll give the salve a while to work before I dig the ball out and stitch you up. Ever had woundwort, sir?”

“Dulls the pain right well,” Jack managed, hiding a grimace. Even her soft touch stung like the devil, but he wouldn’t push her away for anything.~

I interweave herbs and other plants through all of my stories, though some more than others.

***Striking cover by my daughter Elise~