This section is from the book "British Wild Flowers - In Their Natural Haunts Vol2-4", by A. R. Horwood. Also available from Amazon: A British Wild Flowers In Their Natural Haunts.
1. Mountain Ash (Pyrus Aucuparia, Ehrh.). 2. Rosebay (Epilobium angustifolium, L.). 3. Enchanter's Nightshade (Ciraea Lutetiana, L. ). 4. Sanicle (Sanicula europcea, L.). 5. Angelica (Angelica sylvestris, L.). 6. Ivy (Hedera Helix, L.).
The Rowan was called Witchwood from a virtue it was supposed to possess against witchcraft. It is named Mountain Ash from a resemblance between its leaves and those of the Ash. It was called Cock-drunks because it was supposed to intoxicate fowls. The name Fowler's Service was given because the berries were used to bait blackbirds.
This tree is said in Iceland to spring up when the innocent are put to death. It was thought to be a powerful check on the works of darkness.
" The spells were vain, the hag returned To the green in sorrowful mood, Crying that witches have no power Where there is a rown tree wood."
People even carry a twig of Rowan in the pocket in Yorkshire as a sort of talisman. A tale runs as follows: "A woman was lately in my shop, and pulling out her purse brought out also a piece of stick a few inches long. I asked her why she carried that in her pocket. ' Oh!' she replied, ' I must not lose that or I shall be done for.' 'Why so?' I enquired. 'Well,' she answered, ' I carry that to keep off the witches; while I have that about me they cannot hurt me.' On my adding that there were no witches nowadays, she instantly replied: 'Oh, yes, there are thirteen at this very time in the town, but so long as I have my rowan tree safe in my pocket they cannot hurt me.' "
If a dairymaid could not quickly make butter she stirred the churn with a rowan twig, and beat the cow with another to break the witch's spell. Herd boys also drive cattle with a mountain ash twig.
Rowans often grow near houses. In Norway and Sweden branches were put over the stable to drive away witches.
"Many rains, many rowans; Many rowans, many yawns."
An ash leaf was invoked for good luck in Cornwall. The Iceland people think it the enemy of the juniper.
This plant was held to be the embodiment of lightning, from which it was supposed to have sprung. The scarlet berries have added to its mystic charm, red being sacred to Thor.
Essential Specific Characters: 106. Pyrus Aucuparia, Ehrh. - Tree, leaflets pinnate, serrate, hairy below, green, 6-8 pairs, flowers white, in corymb, berries red, sub-globose.