The Rowan Tree and the Cross of Christ

Look around a churchyard and along with the ubiquitous Yew tree, you will often see a Rowan or two.  With its bright red berries increasingly visible in late summer, it’s inevitable that common garden (or churchyard) birds such as blackbirds and thrushes, will enjoy a veritable feast as they strip the trees of these delicious fruits (they have many culinary uses too!)

Naturally, as the birds drop the seeds, Rowans can be found sprouting in the most unlikely of places, such as undisturbed ground in churchyards and crags on mountain sides.  Upright, narrow, and with sparse, feather-like foliage, they are a favourite in confined spaces as light can reach through and grass flourish beneath them (it is said that they can live for up to two hundred years).

Tradition tells that early man treasured the Rowan because it perceived it as possessing the qualities of wisdom, courage and protection.  By the time the Celtic tradition had taken hold, these perceived qualities, led to it being known as the Tree of Life

It was the early Christians who regarded the beautiful bright red berries as symbolizing tiny drops of blood, the very essence of life and inevitably, creation; before long, they were being planted in churchyards to ward off evil spirits.  

Welsh tradition, however, tells that the Cross of Christ was carved from Rowan wood, the blood-red berries representing the blood of Christ.

“The cross shows us the seriousness of our sin, but it also shows us the immeasurable love of God.”

Billy Graham


Feature Image copyright Meres and Meadows.

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