More on witches…red thread and rowan trees

From Pitcairn’s ‘Criminal Trials in Scotland’. Remedies for injuries to animals – take some of the animal’s blood and mix with pins then boil; lock the doors and windows. The witch responsible will come to the house door.

Rowan Tree and red thread will put the witches to their speed

Cut the rowan tree between the two Beltan days – then no Devils or Fairy shall have power to meddle.

Rowan, ash and red thread
Keep the devils frae their spead

From the Oxford Dictionary of Plant-Lore :

They used…to make pinnes for the yoakes of their oxen of them [rowan wood], believing it had the vertue to preserve them from being forespoken…and they used to plant one by their dwelling house, believing it to preserve from witches and the evill eye”

[They] believe that any small part of this tree carried about with them will be a sovereign charm against all the dire effects of witchcraft. Their cattle also as well as themselves are supposed to be preserved by it from evil for the dairy maid will not forget to drive them to the shealings or summer pastures with a rod of the roan-tree, which she carefully lays up over the door of the sheal-bothy…and drives them home again with the same. In Strathpey, they make, for the same purpose, on the first day of May, a hoop of the wood of this tree and in the evening and morning cause all the sheep and lambs to pass through it.

In the Pitt Rivers museum in Oxford are three rowan twigs tied into a knot with the label :

Rowan tree loops, protective against witches. Two were placed on the railing of Dr. Alexander’s house, Castleton, Yorks, the third on a gateway before the church porch. They were placed by a horseman who turned his horse thrice before setting each loop”.

Grigson – The Englishman’s Flora : ‘On May eve the farmer cuts rowan berry in the shape of a ring and ties it to the cow’s tail with a red string. It is an old belief that butter would be taken off the milk if rowan berry was not tied to cow’s tails.  It is usually said the protective qualities of rowan are due to its red berries. There is no better colour against evil. If you couldn’t prick or bleed the witch, then tie red cotton or ribbon around the arm of whoever has been ‘overlooked’.