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It’s berry time, and some of the loveliest berries to be seen at this time of year are those of the enigmatic Rowan tree (Sorbus aucuparia) or Mountain Ash, as it’s also commonly known.

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Why enigmatic? Well, the Rowan is surrounded by millenia of myths and legends. In Ancient Greek myth, Hebe, the beautiful young goddess who served ambrosia to the gods, lost her cup to demons and, when the gods sent an eagle to recover the cup, each one of the eagle’s feathers and drops of blood that fell to earth during the ensuing battle produced a Rowan tree. This also explains the Rowan’s red berries and its feather-shaped leaves.

The ancient Norse people believed the first woman was created from a Rowan tree, and a Rowan rescued the god Thor from drowning in a river in the Underworld. The Rowan also features in the ancient wisdom of the Celtic people. Fid na ndruad, its ancient Celtic name, means wizard’s tree; the Irish planted the Rowan near houses for protection against evil; the Scots believed that felling a Rowan would bring bad luck; and the Welsh planted Rowans in their graveyards to keep evil spirits at bay.

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