On the shelf above his bed, my 8 year old nephew stores his collection of adventure books. Amongst Harry Potter and Dark Lord are the Toby and Sox Adventures by Paula Broderick. The second story in the series is entitled The Rowan Tree and tells the story of what happens when Toby and his dragon Sox visit Stonehenge. My nephew of course loves the adventure and the dragon. But if you know anything about the Celtic Tree Alphabet, you will instantly be aware that the story is full of symbolism, myths and stories about the Rowan tree.
In the Celtic Tree Alphabet the Rowan, Luis in Celtic, represents the second lunar month (January 21-17 February). The Rowan tree is said to offer protection, and traditionally is known as the ‘the witch tree’. It is sacred to the fairies and has links with dragons. The Rowan is a very magical tree making an ideal focus for Forest School activities.
Our Top Tree Facts
1. The Rowan tree is often known as the Mountain Ash as it flourishes higher than any other tree. Other popular names for the tree are The Whispering Tree, Witch Wood and Quickbeam.
2. A fast growing deciduous tree with smooth grey bark, small creamy white flowers in Spring and red berries in the Autumn. The leaves are arranged alternately and look abit like dragon’s teeth. The Woodland Trust produce an excellent fact sheet about the Rowan on their website Nature’s Calendar .
3. Rowan wood is very strong and often used to make walking sticks. It is perfect for a carving project. The red berries are an excellent source of food for many birds in the Autumn and early Winter, including blackbirds and fieldfares. The berries, an excellent source of vitamin C, are also used to make Rowan jelly and Rowan vodka.4. The red berries have a small pentagram on the bottom making them very important and magical to the ancient people. A pentagram is a five pointed star made from five straight lines and is traditionally a symbol of protection.
Our Top Rowan Tree Activities
1. Dragons and Forest Schools seem to go hand in hand. The Rowan Story introduces the idea of a sleeping dragon, curled around the roots of the Rowan tree. After sharing the story around the fire circle, the children could make dragons using sticks and clay. You could go dragon tracking or build a large lair for the dragon. Work collaboratively on a large land dragon, using the Autumn leaves. The Rowan tree itself produces wonderful bright orange red leaves in the Autumn, ideal for dragon scales and fire.
2. Rowan is a prized wand wood because of its links with protection. Make wands used Rowan twigs and natural materials. Invent magical spells to protect the woodland creatures from the evil goblins. You could make spell scrolls and hang them from the trees.3. A perfect Forest School activity that combines lashings, knots and tool work is to make pentagrams using sticks. This activity is a great way to introduce the children to shear lashings and clove hitches. Loppers and secateurs can be used to cut the sticks. Once you have made your pentagrams, they can be decorated with natural materials.