The Rowan Tree


The Rowan Tree. Artwork by Dana Marie.

As I was walking home in the sunlight of today, pushing my bike lightly next to me, a hedge with spots of light green leaves revealed themselves to me.

Leaves are the  manifestation of the new – a new “version” of the world coming to life. And so it is with us human beings as we too are part of this cycle. At this time of the year is when what we have inwardly sowed, will outwardly blossom. Below I’ve tried to illustrate my point.

Some weeks ago, I went to a storytelling session on the upper floor of  a Scottish pub in the middle of Edinburgh. There, a small collection of storytellers gather every Friday night to either practice, amongst each other, the art of storytelling or to tell stories to a wider audience. And so on that night, which was one of their practice nights, there was one of the Beltane storytellers. (Beltane is the celebration of the arrival of summer, celebrated each year in Edinburgh among other places on the 30th of April.) He told the story of the Rowan tree.

Once there was a house. It was the house of the cycle of the year, and it had stood since the earliest day. In the grounds of the house, there was a garden. It was in the garden that man worked, that plants grew and that a harvest was made.

In the centre of the garden there stood a tree. It was a great Rowan. It was in the branches of the tree that the months and the seasons played out their unending cycle.

In the house there lived a young man.  Each day the young man would look out of his window at the tree, noticing its progress and the passing of the seasons written in its branches. And each day the tree would look through the window at the young man, noticing his progress and the passage of the seasons of his life.

Each summer that passed, the roots of the tree would drink deep of the rain and the Rowan would spread its branches and its leaves would feast upon the rays of sunshine, helping it grow and making it strong so that at the end of summer it pushed forth berries, to the point of weighing down its branches.

As autumn approaches and the days shorten the leaves of the tree turn flaming red and the berries ripen. Ravens arrive, alight in the branches, stating their claim to nature’s bounty. Allowing none else close. You might think it cruel, that they chase off all the others – the other birds who’s saught shelter in the tree all summer long, yet this is why the tree lives. For the ravens indulge in a fortnight orgie of  feasting, stripping the tree of its sacred fruit and spreading the seed far and wide. And then they are gone.

With the first chill winds, the leaves fall to the ground, a burnished ocre. And then, as its final act of the season , the Rowan puts the last of its eneries into producing tiny buds so that in the darkest of months ahead, there may be hope. Then, the tree bows its head and drifts into its long, long winter sleep. Many months it sleeps, whilst cold nights and bitter winds strip away all of the small trigs and everything that was unnecessary from the summer’s growth. Eventually paring it back to bare branches , as winter purifies the garden for the coming season. And still it sleeps. Until the returning sun warms the branches. Many times the sap circulates without outward sign of change, yet deep within the magic of nature is at work. Warm sun alternates with frosty nights , as a new season struggles to be born, and we all wait for spring.

Each day the young man looks out of his window at the tree, waiting for it to overcome its fears  and push forth the fresh leaves of spring growth. Each day the tree looks through the window at the young man, waiting for him to overcome his fears and step forward into the new season of his life.

( For a video of the Beltane storyteller from this years Beltane festival: )


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