It can’t have escaped your attention that its almost Halloween, when children have fun dressing up to go trick-or-treating. The roots of this ghoulish tradition stem back to times when witchcraft and evil spirits were considered a very serious threat.
“Witchbane” is one of many names for a tree most of us know as Rowan (Sorbus aucuparia). It was considered a sacred tree in many ancient traditions in Britain, but particularly in Yorkshire where the legacy of the Vikings includes aspects of Norse tradition, in which the Rowan was the tree from which the first woman was made. For a Rowan to grow near to a dwelling was seen as a gift from the Goddess and it afforded protection from witchcraft and evil spirits. Similarly, the felling of a Rowan could bring misfortune, and in Yorkshire it was the Rowan, not the Yew, that was also associated with graveyards where they were planted to keep the dead in their graves.
From a practical point of view, Rowans are excellent trees for a domestic garden as they are compact, will grow in most soil conditions except waterlogged, cast light shade, and there are varieties available in a range of different sizes and berry colours. So, if you want to protect and bring good fortune to your home, perhaps planting a Rowan might help, although we can’t guarantee that it will deter little witches seeking sweets!
Blog article supplied by Martin Howe of Wykeham Mature Plants.