Guest Blog: Rowans, Solstice + The Great Conjunction
Anne W has gifted us this beautiful timely post, for the Winter Solstice which tells of her own personal Rowan tree and how she is dressing it for the festive season, an Icelandic Myth and another Yule legend. Who knew that the Rowan was a forerunner of our Christmas tree? During this year Anne has shared with us some beautiful posts of her experiences of nature and in particular trees - befriending a tree, the importance of the Rowan tree growing faithfully in her garden.
I love this blog because Anne is celebrating her Rowan and our connection to this land by drawing together the principle of light on this, the darkest day of the year. Today is both the Winter Solstice and also the Great Conjunction - an event where the passing of the planets Jupiter and Saturn come together to look like one bright star in the sky. I hope you enjoy this festive post.
My rowan tree has been looking a bit bare and dreary these last few weeks so I thought I’d brighten it up with some decorations. Seems to be one of the things we CAN do this Christmas. Waiting until May to see the clusters of creamy flowers appear seemed like a long time. So I found some silver glittery balls and little glass snowflakes and icicles and stars to hang on the branches. Some little fairy lights around the bottom just set it off! But today when the the sun caught those silvery decorations it was just a mass of sparkles and looked so lovely it lifted the entire garden. Then I got to wondering if it was usual or a tradition to decorate a rowan tree and I was delighted to find that yes - it was - and maybe still is today in other parts of the world. And I found out rather a lot more too!
In Icelandic myth, the rowan is important at the time of the Winter Solstice. The tree is bare of foliage and when the frost covers its branches it appears to be covered in stars which is believed to be the outpouring light of the spirit during the darkest time of the year. Just as my little hanging decorations caught the sun and sparkled today, during the Icelandic winters, the moon’s light is reflected on its frosty branches and the myth of the “star dressed” rowan evolved. This bares similarity with the ancient tradition of erecting “moon trees” which could be actual trees or plants or poles or carvings. These acted as a representation of the moon deity and were decorated with lights and fruits and crowned with a crescent moon and of course - dressed with glittering and shiny objects to catch and reflect the light of the moon.
Another Yule legend believes a special star glowed on the top of the mythical rowan which welcomed life returning to the world of darkness. The star is today still a central part of the Christian Nativity story and why was I not surprised to learn that the star clad rowan became a forerunner of our Christmas tree! Seems my instinct to decorate it was a good one. Maybe next year - or maybe even this one - I’ll get a ladder out and put a big shiny star on top of the rowan as well as the sparkly decorations lighting it up for Christmas.
All Photos by Anne W