Sunday, 14 December 2014

Smugglers along the south west coast of England

There are many notorious tales of the smugglers and wreckers  in this part 
of the country and which has inspired many novels such as the
 famous ‘Jamaica Inn ‘and ‘Moonfleet.’

One man who during the 18thc  acquired a lasting notoriety was that of ‘Cruel Coppinger,’
 the Dane, who plied his dreadful trade along the north coast of Cornwall.
Local tradition relates that it was during a terrible storm a foreign rigged vessel was 
seen drifting just off the coast. The ship soon sank in the pounding waves and driving 
rain; just one man made it to shore. Wrapped in a cloak that he is said to have torn 
from the shoulders of an old woman who was on the shore, the stranger leaped up 
behind a farmer’s daughter who had ridden down to see the wreck. She took him to
 her fathers house where he was fed, clothed and made welcome. He was fine looking
 man and soon won the young girl’s heart and at her father’s death which happened
 not long after, he married her. But the marriage was not a happy one and only one 
child was born to them, a deaf and dumb boy who inherited his fathers vicious streak. 
It was even rumoured that the child murdered one of his own playmates.
After the marriage Coppinger made himself Captain of an organized band of smugglers
 and by his black deeds soon earned the title by which he is remembered. His ship was 
called the Black Prince and had been specially built for him in Denmark and it was
 rumoured to be crewed by men who had offended him on land. They were dragged 
on board and threatened with violence  if they did not sign on .

After many years plying his wicked trade along the coast near St Just he fell ill. 
Several parsons and members of the local church were called to his bedside, they came
 readily enough as the wicked man was by then very rich. Although it was the middle
 of a bright sunny day his chamber became very dark, and one Parson claimed to see
 the Devil in the corner of the room. By their continuous readings throughout that day
 they drove it to take many forms but for all their efforts they could not make the Devil 
leave the chamber of the dying man. At last it took the form of a fly and buzzed around 
Coppinger, by then they saw that it was in vain for them to try any longer. All the time
 the bible readings were in progress, the men inside the room could quite clearly hear 
the sound of waves breaking against the side of the house even though it stood some
 distance from the shore. While this was going on two men who were on the cliff over 
looking the sea  heard a loud voice coming from the waves, it called out ‘The hour is 
come but the man is not come.’ Looking in the direction of the voice they saw far out
 to sea a black ship with a sail set coming in fast, against the wind and tide. No one 
was visible on deck. She came closer and closer to the cliffs until only her mast could 
be seen below them. Then as they watched in horrified amazement black clouds
 billowed up from around her and then headed for the dying man’s house. Terrified, the
 men ran back to the town square as they reached the house it shook and looked as if it 
was about to collapse, and it was at this moment that old Coppinger died.
The Parsons and all the watchers rushed from his chamber and watched the black
 clouds roll back towards the waiting black ship, which at once sailed away amidst
 a violent lightening storm and then disappeared.
The sky overhead immediately cleared  and nothing untoward happened until it was
 time to place the old wrecker’s remains into the coffin. Then as the coffin was carried 
towards the churchyard the sky again became overcast and a storm sprang up with
 such violence that the bearers could hardly keep their feet. They managed  to reach 
the church yard stile when such violent bolts of lightening flashed around them that 
they dropped the coffin and rushed into the church.
When the storm eventually abated they ventured out to retrieve the coffin but nothing
 was left of it; only the handles and a few nails remained. All else had been set on fire 
and consumed by the lightning.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Sheela Na Gig

The Sheela na Gig is another strange carving found in ecclesiastical buildings.

Sheela na Gig is probably a corrupt version of the Irish meaning 'old hag of the 
breasts' or 'of the hunkers', referring to the figure's typical pose with bent legs. 
Over one hundred carvings of these strange figures have been recorded in Ireland 
and over forty in Britain, many were lost here after zealous clergy removed or 
destroyed the statues.
It is unsure where and when these images originated, some believe that they were 
first carved in Spain and France in the 11th century and then appeared in Britain
 and Ireland in the 12th century.

This image is from Piacenza in Italy.

 The images of naked women displaying an exaggerated vulva is said to ward off 
death and evil and are usually placed over doors or windows to protect the openings. 
In Ireland the name of Sheela na Gig directly refers to the local wise women of the 
time, otherwise known as the Hag. She would have carried on with her spell weaving 
and cures despite the churches disapproval, and would have still been consulted by 
the locals if they wanted to avert ill luck. Her main method of averting the evil eye 
was to expose herself to the victim.
There is evidence in ancient folklore of anasyrma being used by women lifting up 
their dresses to curse evil spirits. Anasyrma is the gesture of lifting the skirt or kilt 
to expose the genitals. It has been used in connection with religious rituals, 
eroticism and rude jokes.

Like the images of mermaids that can be found in churches, it is also thought that 
Sheela na Gig images are a warning against female lust, while others believe that 
she is a remnant of pre Christian fertility or mother goddess. This would explain 
why there is evidence of the statues being rubbed by pilgrims, the power of the 
dust from the carving was believed to have special healing powers. 
The statue of the Sheela na Gig at Castlemagner in Ireland clearly shows this by 
the wear on the figure, especially around the sacred centre of feminine power, 
the vulva itself.

This example, one of the best preserved figures, is believed to have come from
the ruins of an 8th century church in Subulter which fell into disrepair in the 15th 
century. This figure and another of St Michael can be found on either side of the
 well which is dedicated to St Brigid.

Friday, 7 November 2014

The Green Man

The Green Man is believed to be a pagan, perhaps a fertility 
figure or a nature spirit, similar to the woodwose  and yet 
carvings of The Green Man can still be seen on many 
ecclesiastical and secular buildings, although the true meaning 
of these images have been lost. They are usually viewed as 
symbols of rebirth, representing the cycle of growth each spring. 
The face is surrounded by or made from leaves. 
Branches or vines may sprout from the nose, mouth or nostrils 
which may bear flowers or fruit.

The Woodwose  ‘wildman of the woods’ is a mythical figure 
that appears in the artwork and literature of medieval Europe 
and is comparable to the faun or satyr.
They are depicted as being covered in hair, images of these 
wild men appear in the carved and painted roof bosses of 
Canterbury Cathedral,

 Images of the Green Man are to be 
found here as well.

There are three main types of the Green Man carving.

The foliate head which is completely covered in green leaves.

The disgorging head which spews out vegetation from the mouth.

The bloodsucker head which sprouts vegetation from all its facial 

The image of the Green Man do not appear in England until the 
twelfth century but they have a long history elsewhere. In Rome 
during the first century AD foliate heads were produced as ornaments
on temple friezes and capitals, this spread throughout the Roman 
Empire. The foliate heads also appear in Indian art from the eighth 
century onwards. The first image of this kind appeared in Europe 
on the tomb of St Abre, near the city of Poitiers, France, 400 AD
This area saw the development of the carvings in the gothic style.
Of course the Celts already used curving twisting forms of vegetation 
in their art long before the Romans invaded, images that could be 
viewed as both animal or vegetation and human heads at the same time. 
There are many examples in illuminated manuscripts which may 
have been used as inspiration for carvings.

The Green Man image is usually found at boundaries or crossing 
places, beside a church door, the chancel arch or screens. They can 
also be found hiding under misericords in many churches, such as 
Exeter Cathedral, the abbey-church of Vendôme, France, Ludlow 
parish church and many more.

The Green Man enjoyed a revival in the 19th century, becoming 
popular with architects during the Gothic revival and the Arts and 
Crafts era, when it appeared as a decorative motif in and on many 
buildings, both religious and secular. American architects took up 
the motif around the same time. The Green Man went with the 
Europeans as they travelled around the world. Many variations 
can be found in Neo-gothic Victorian architecture. He was very 
popular amongst Australian stonemasons and can be found on 
many secular and sacred buildings.

The celebration of the Green Man is still going on today; in Clun in 
Shropshire over the three days of the first May bank holiday  the 
Green Man festival is held. On the bank holiday Monday the Green 
Man enters Clun to battle the spirit of winter at Clun Bridge and a 
May fair is held in the grounds of Clun Castle with a May Queen.

Monday, 27 October 2014

Witchcraft in Somerset

 Samhain, otherwise know as All Hallows Eve and most commonly Halloween, is
 one of the biggest festivals in the witches’ calendar, it marks the end of the 
Celtic old year and the start of the new. It is on this night that the veil between
 the world of the living and that of the dead is at it’s thinnest, allowing the souls
 of the departed to cross over. It is also the time that witches gather together 
 to celebrate one of their biggest sabbats. In medieval time on nights like this 
when witches were believed to be about, church bells would be rung to stop
 them flying over the villages and towns; all of the inhabitants would come out
 into the streets armed with hand bells, old pots and pans, anything that would
 add to the noise. It was believed that the noise of the bells ringing in the night
 would cause the witch to fall off her broomstick and fall to the ground.
 Belief in witchcraft was widespread throughout the county and according to an 
historical document written in 1681 Somerset was awash with witches; one
 could almost imagine the night skies filled with flying hags!
 Joseph Glanvil, a demonologist and clergyman living in Frome, gives a detailed 
account in his Sadducismus Triumphatus of the two great covens, one at Brewham 
and the other at Wincanton, situated just miles from Glastonbury, which was and 
still is the ancient seat of Pagan forces. 
 As well as the ringing and wearing of bells the people of Somerset took other steps 
to protect themselves against witchcraft as the many artifacts found will testify. 

A number of witch bottles have been discovered hidden in old buildings, these
 were a favourite tool to counter any evil spells. Anybody thinking they had
 been bewitched would fill the bottle with pins, their urine and nail clippings 
and then hide it somewhere, usually beneath the front doorstep or the fireplace. 
Bullocks hearts stuffed with pins were placed in chimneys to stop entry by a witch; 
horseshoes, often seen over doorways,were placed there to break the spell of an
 evil wisher and even animals, usually cats, were crucified in the roof space of
 houses. But the simplest witch deterrent was urine, it was sprinkled over the 
doorstep to prevent entry and in some cases sprinkled over people to prevent 

Less common was the finding of any witches belongings although an interesting
 discovery was made in Wellington in 1878 when workmen broke into a secret
 room in an old house  that was being demolished. Inside they found a Witch’s 
Ladder, an armchair and six well used brooms. The ladder, which is now in the 
Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford, is a long length of knotted cord with feathers 
woven into it and would have been used to cast spells, usually a death spell. 
Strangely enough the room situated in the roof space was inaccessible from 
the main house but according to many, witches were able to fly by anointing 
themselves with ointment made of the fat of young babies, hemlock, aconite, 
poplar leaves and soot. 

It was also a common belief that witches were able to transform themselves by using 
a magical spell into ‘familiars’, a toad or frog but most frequently a hare.  

“ I shall go into a hare
With sorrow and such and muckle care
And I shall go in the devil’s name
Ay ‘till I come home again”

   There is a story of a witch in Wambrook, who having caused much trouble and 
strife in the area, was shot by a resident of the village. He spotted a hare running
 through the village and believing it was the witch who in the form of her familiar
 had been suckling milk from his neighbour’s cow  ran to get his gun. His first shot
 had no effect so he loaded his gun with silver pennies. With his second shot he hit 
the hare. Chasing it back to the old woman’s cottage  he found her crouched in the 
corner of the room with blood pouring from her leg. There are many tales of old 
women transforming themselves to escape pursuit; Black Smock Inn at Stathe was 
named after a witch who flew up the chimney and ran off across the moors in the 
shape of a hare, although she avoided the flames her clothing got scorched in the 
hot chimney. Mother Weller from Milborne Port was another witch who could 
transform at will but her favourite form was a toad. Greatly feared in the area she 
was known to possess the evil eye. Whole litters of pigs would die, horses would go 
lame and cattle would sicken and die; any misfortune that occurred in 
the area would be laid at her  door. She met her end at the hands of a disgruntled 
local farmer, who finding a toad sat in the doorway of her cottage stabbed it with
 a fork. Mother Weller was found dead the next morning with stab wounds in her back.

The strong belief in the power of ‘overlooking ‘or the evil eye formed the basis
 of many of  the witch craft trials that swept the country in the 16th and 17th century.
Mathew Hopkins was the most notorious Witch Finder General in Britain but 
Somerset had it’s own witch finder; Richard Hunt JP. He personally led a zealous
 hunt for eight years, tracking down ‘a hellish knot of witches’ in Somerset and 
presided over the  many cases of suspected witchcraft  brought forward at the
 Assizes  held in Taunton Castle. 
 Elizabeth Stile, a member of the Wincanton witches, was accused in 1665 of 
bewitching Elizabeth Hall into having such severe fits that she was unable to speak.
 Stile wildly confessed to having made a pact with the Devil. She was examined in
 court by five  women, two of which historical records show were professional 
witch finders. Known as ‘prickers’ they searched the accused’s body for witches 
marks; which would signify that they had been touched by the Devil. Any blemish, 
birthmark or spot would be suspect. Once a mark was found it would be pricked
 with a bodkin or needle to see if the witch could feel any pain. These people 
would travel from town to town to uncover witches for a hefty fee; one ‘pricker’ 
was reputed to earn 20 shillings for each witch that was uncovered. However they  
were not averse to falsifying evidence, some of the bodkins, a sharp instrument
 made for punching holes through cloth, and needles they used had hollow 
wooden handles and a retractable needle so although it looked as though the 
needle had entered the body it had in fact disappeared up into the handle. 
On being found guilty Elizabeth Stile was condemned to be hanged but thwarted 
her gaolers by dying a day before her sentence was due to be carried out.

One of the most bizarre case was that of Mary Hill of Beckington, who in 1689 
accused Elizabeth Carrier, an elderly women of bewitching her after she began 
to have severe fits during which she vomited up a number of strange objects.
 Beginning with pins then nails then within a month it progressed to handles of 
spoons, lumps of lead, iron, more pins tied up with thread and large nails. 
The woman she accused  were searched and found to have several witches marks. 
After being ‘cross bound,’ her right thumb tied to her left big toe, she was thrown 
into the river near the town.

  Ducking or ‘swimming the witch’ was another popular method in determining 
the guilt of a suspected witch. If she floated after being thrown into deep water 
it was a sure sign that she was a witch.  Margery Coombes and Ann More, both
 elderly woman, were also accused by Mary as she continued to vomit up strange 
objects.  Elizabeth Carrier died as soon as she was in prison but the other two 
were tried at the Assizes and acquitted due to lack of evidence.
Authorities were becoming increasingly sceptical of so called evidence but many
 maintained that Mary was possessed of a diabolical presence.

But of course the most well known witch in Somerset is the Witch of Wookey. 
According to locals the witch had been spurned in love and had retreated to the
 cave where she spent her time casting evil spells on the young of the village. 
In desperation they appealed to the Abbot of Glastonbury to rid them of the witch
 so a monk was dispatched to confront her. On seeing him she tried to flee her 
cave but the monk managed to sprinkle her with Holy Water as she rushed past, 
as soon as the Holy Water touched her skin the witch turned to stone and there 
she remains to this day.

Many innocent women were also accused of being witches, the exact amount
 executed vary wildly according to different historians. Elderly, single, infirm 
or simple, anybody that was outside the mainstream of village life, or even
 owning a pet was suspect behaviour. 
The so called wise women who were proficient in the use of herbs and midwives 
also began to fall under suspicion as well but by the late 17th century thanks 
to a growing scepticism, the cases of witchcraft began to decrease with the 
 Witch craft Act being repealed in 1736. The last case in Somerset was that of 
Maria Stevens in 1707 who was accused of bewitching Dorothy Reeves, she 
was acquitted after the judge and jury failed to believe any of the evidence.

 Contrary to popular opinion witchcraft is still alive and well in Somerset, although 
changed somewhat from the image of old, gone are the pointed hats and broomsticks. 
The modern day witch is usually a devotee of Wicca;  whose practices involves working
 in harmony with nature, magic, folk medicine, spiritual healing and shamanism.
 The popular Wytches Market held twice yearly in Glastonbury is a  testament to 
the enduring draw of this ancient and sacred site for all types of pilgrims, pagans, 
witches, druids and Christians alike. 

Just adding this postscript Feb 2017 as I have been kindly contacted by email with regard to the Elizabeth Stiles mentioned in the above post.
When writing the article I drew on various old documents and 'eyewitness' accounts, however there is always the problem of verifying the facts ( usually impossible due to the length of time that has expired) so it is always interesting to receive another version of events. So Samantha has kindly given me permission to add her comments onto this blog. If, like myself, you are interested in the history of witchcraft I am sure you will find this addition interesting.

"You might like to know that the accused witch Elizabeth Stiles of Bayford was never formally indicted.She was therefore not sentenced and we do not know where she died.There are no records of the trial at the Quarter Sessions and in fact we only have magistrate Robert Hunts word that the preliminary hearing later reported by Joseph Glanville actually took place.The reason for the reports may have been a complex interaction between Hunt and Glanville who were likely to have planned to use them to present to the Royal Society in an effort to bolster failing belief in witchcraft.Both were advocates of Natural Philosophy- which sought to explain magical power in the approaching Age of Enlightenment and scientific rationale."

Always happy to receive any comments from interested readers

Friday, 24 October 2014

25th of October is St Crispins Day

St Crispin and Crispinian's Day, and of course it is the anniversary 
of the English victory at Agincourt in 1415.

'This day is called the Feast of Crispian...
And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by
From this day to the ending of the world
But we in it shall be remembered.
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers.'

Henry V IV iii written in 1599 by Shakespeare.

A commonly repeated legend claims that the two fingered salute or V sign
 derives from a gesture made by the Welsh longbowmen fighting in the English
 army at the Battle of Agincort.
According to the story, the French were in the habit of cutting off the arrow 
shooting fingers of the captured archers, and the gesture was a sign of defiance
 on the part of the bowmen showing the French that they still had their fingers.
The bowmen had a devastating effect on the ranks of the French.

According to a dubious legend Saints Crispin and Crispinian were
shoemakers from either Soissons in France or Faversham in Kent. 
They were both martyred by being pricked to death with cobblers awls,
and so of course became the patron saint of shoemakers. Their feast day is
 called the cobbler's feast or snobs holiday.

The twenty fifth of October
cursed  be the cobbler
that goes to bed sober.

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Faerie Trees

Almost all kinds of trees found in the Celtic countries have been thought to have 
special powers or to serve as the abode of the faeries.

According to the Celts the oak was the Father of the Trees and worshiped in
 vast groves which formed their holy shrines. These places gave protection and 
power to their magic and spells. They revered the oak 
above all other trees because of the powerful magic that the tree contained and it 
was used in many of their celebrations and rituals. The name Druid means
 ‘Knowing the Oak’.
The oak represented doorways to other realms, it was believed to provide 
protection and shelter when passing through to other realms.
On Angelsey in Wales stand the ancient sacred Holy Groves of the Druids, this 
grove of oaks was destroyed in AD 60 on the orders of the Roman General 
Gaius Suetonius Paulinus  who was determined to break the power of the Druids. 
The remnants of the sacred oaks can still be seen there.
The Romans vehemently opposed Celtic druids, whom they did not see pious priests, 
but as ferocious freedom fighters. The Druids continuously tried to rally the 
population of Britain to take up arms against the Romans and Anglesey became the 
centre of Celtic rebellion in the country.

Oak Apples: The galls on oak trees are caused by the larvae of a certain type 
of wasp and the galls were used to find out if a child had been bewitched.
Three of the galls would have been plucked from the oak and thrown into a
 bucket of water. The bucket would then have been placed underneath the child’s
 cradle. If the galls float then the child is safe but if they sink it means the child 
is bewitched. All of this must be done in silence otherwise it will not work.

The Well of Wisdom, otherwise known as Connla’s Well in Tipperary Ireland, 
stands at the centre of the Celtic Otherworld. From here flows the water which
 feeds all other sacred wells and springs throughout the rest of the world.
Overhanging this well grows a sacred hazel tree which produces the nine nuts
 of poetic art and wisdom, these nuts fall into the water and are eaten by
 Fintan the salmon of knowledge.
When the nuts fall into the water bubbles of inspiration rise to the surface 
which with the husks then float down the five streams that flow from this well
 spreading the wisdom to the rest of the world.
The hazel tree has been considered a magical tree for many hundreds of years 
and to the Celts it was known as the Sacred Tree of Knowledge and it’s nuts 
treasured, believing them to be the food of the Gods.
It was not just the nuts that they valued but also the wood itself from which they 
made wands, using them in magical ceremonies and for divination.
The power of the wand has been recognised by Pagans and Christians alike, for 
example it was with a hazel wand that St Patrick drove the snakes out of Ireland.
Along with the wands, which are still used by the modern day Druid, hazel
 dowsing rods are commonly used to find underground springs, 
although in Cornwall they are also used to locate mineral deposits.
Great care has to be taken to cut the wands or dowsing rods at the the correct time.
Midsummer’s Eve is the best time as the hazel tree is at its most powerful then.
The smaller more flexible branches of the tree are woven into hats, placed upon 
the head they can then be used to make wishes.
Sailors also wore these hats as protection against storms.
This belief in the power of the hazel was and is still wide spread throughout
 Britain; in the more remote parts of the country it is still a custom for brides to 
be presented with bags of nuts upon leaving the church to encourage 
fertility in their marriage.

This is an ancient sacred tree which can live for anything up to 3000 years,
 its evergreen leaves a symbol of mourning and resurrection. Many yew trees
 can be found  planted in graveyards, and small sprigs of yew were often placed 
in the grave to protect the spirit.
One old tale that is told about the yew is that the tree became dissatisfied with
 its dark green needles envying the other trees in the forest their beautiful 
coloured leaves. It grumbled to the faeries asking them to change its appearance, 
so to keep the yew happy they changed its leaves into gold. The golden leaves 
glittered in the sun but this attracted the thieves and they stripped the tree bare.
 The faeries then gave the tree delicate leaves of crystal but a storm came and 
the rain smashed the delicate leaves leaving the tree naked.
The tree was then clothed in bright green and gold leaves that fluttered in the wind 
but this attracted all the wild animals of the woods, and the tree was again stripped 
bare of its leaves. The yew tree stood there in the wood and moaned  for its own 
evergreen leaves to be returned  so the faeries once again did their magic and 
returned the yew tree to its original form,but because the tree still envied the 
other trees their colourful leaves the faeries gave it bright red berries to wear
 every year, and made the berries along with the leaves poisonous to discourage 
the beasts of the forest.

The elder, having clusters of white flowers and red or blackish berry like fruit, has
many associations with the faerie world. For instance on the Isle of Man it is
 commonly thought of as a faerie tree while in Ireland it is believed that the tree is 
haunted by faeries and demons.
If you stand beneath an Elder tree on Midsummer’s Eve you will see the King of the
 Faeries and his entourage but be careful you do not get swept away to Faerieland.
Elder wood is greatly prized by the faeries so do not use it for a cradle or the 
baby will be pinched black and blue.
The Elder Mother guards the tree and although she is usually kind she can
become dangerous if her trees are harmed so you must always ask 
permission before cutting an Elder tree.

”Ourd  gal, give me some of thy wood
An oi will give some of moine
When oi grows inter a tree”

The magical properties of the Apple tree were recognised by the Celts who 
used them in their Samhain festivals.
Great care was taken of the trees by the Celts, wassailing them at the turn of 
every season to ensure good crops, for they believed that the apple was the the fruit 
of the Gods. Blessings and prayers were said in the orchards and hot spiced cider 
drunk in toast to the trees.
Anything left over in the wassailing bowl would be poured over the roots of the 
trees as a tribute to the spirit of the trees.

“Old Apple Tree we wassail thee, and happily thou wilt bear,
 For the Lord knows where we shall be , 
Till apples another year....”

Two customs that are left over from the Samhain festival and are still in
 practice today are the dunking for apples in a barrel and peeling an apple in
 front of a mirror to see an image of your future partner.
May Eve is the traditional time to plant new trees, place a piece of coal beneath 
the roots, then water with cider.
The Apple Tree Man is the guardian of  orchards in Somerset, he is to be found in 
the oldest tree. Also keeping him company is the faerie horse, the Colt Pixy. 
The last apples of the harvest must be left for the pixies. The Somerset name for 
taking these are Pisking, Col-pixying, Griggling, Pixyhunting and Pixywarding.

The ash tree was regarded with awe in Celtic countries, especially Ireland; where 
at times in the past, even though wood was scarce, people refused to cut the ash for
 fear of having their own houses consumed with flames.
The ash is sometimes used in the Beltaine rites, together with the oak and thorn, 
the ash is part of a magical trilogy in faerie lore.
Ash seed pods can be used in divination and the wood has the power to ward of faeries.
 In Scotland children were given the astringent sap of the tree as both medicine and 
as protection against witch craft.

This wood can be used as a protection against faerie charms and dairy maids
 used it as a charm to stop butter from spoiling when being churned. 
Hang branches around the house and outbuildings to bring good luck.
Every croft in Scotland would have its own rowan tree planted outside the front 
door for protection. Red ribbons would be tied to the branches to keep witches from
 the door. It is one of the most sacred trees in Scottish folk traditions and does not 
allow the use of the timber, bark, leaves or flowers except for sacred purposes.