A published folklorist, Pollyanna enjoys writing about hidden histories, folk customs, and things that go bump in the night.
Fall Is the Best Time to Make Your Necklace
When autumn comes to Britain and Ireland, the trees and hedgerows come to life with bright bunches of berries. Typically, September is the month to gather and use the fruits for jams, jellies, wines, and of course, magical purposes!
Most of the native plants have folklore associated with them that describes medicinal and magical uses, and the rowan or mountain ash has a great reputation for its protective properties. The wood and berries are used in a lot of folk-magic, and the living tree itself is believed to be a blessing. It is a plant of the fairy realm, and a protector of the dead. Like any magical tree, it is considered very bad luck to cut one down.
The name rowan is derived from the Old Norse name for this tree, reynir, which literally means "to redden."
Despite sometimes being called mountain ash, it is not ash at all, but a member of the rose family (Latin, Rosacae). The shape of its leaves, which are similar to the larger ash tree, have given cause to this name.
Another name for this wonderful tree is quickbeam, which is derived from Old English; cwic-beám.
The Magic of Rowan Berries
I've been told that rowan berries have magical properties.
Threaded on a red cord, they can be made into a garland to hang over a doorway to keep bad spirits out. The wood can be used to make charms and talismans, and an incense can be made from the leaves, crushed dried berries, and bark, which are reputed to give protection when working with spirits.
Made into a necklace, the berries are said to give the wearer protection from all sorts of negative influences. They counter any magic aimed at the wearer, protect the wearer from bad spirits when practicing shamanic-type work, and some believe that this charm enhances intuitive and psychic abilities. As a plant linked to the fairy realm and Alfheim, it also helps the wearer focus on the energies associated with the beings of these realms if choosing to work with them.
Of course, there are many more beliefs and variations from one tradition to the next. If you have no interest in magical uses, the necklace or garlands make beautiful decorations that will last for many years when stored in a dry place.
How to Make a Rowan Necklace
You Will Need:
- Red waxed string, no thicker than 1mm.
- A darning needle.
- Rowan berries.
- If adding a talisman, eye screws. Or you can add a pendant of your choosing.
Step One: Get Your Berries
The first step is to gather your berries. These will be ready in September, and you want to gather them before they get too mushy. Too firm, however, and they will split when you try to thread them.
Trial and error will teach you when you have found them at just the right time. You can use them straight away or leave them a day or two so that the skin goes a little leathery. This makes them slightly easier to thread.
Step Two: Prepare Your Cord
Measure and cut a length of red cord. Red is traditionally a colour associated with vitality and magic, which is why we will be using a cord of this colour. It is also the traditional colour used when making a rowan necklace.
This length needs to be three times the desired finished length of the necklace. This is because you will lose much of this in the knots, and you don't want it to be too short!
Thread the cord through the darning needle, tying a knot about two inches from the very end of the length.
Step Three: Start Threading
Thread your first berry.
Make sure the stalk has been removed, then carefully push the tip of the needle through the dent where the stalk was attached to the berry. This is a naturally weaker point in the berry's structure, and the berry will be less likely to split if you stick your needle through this point.
Very carefully push the needle through, giving it a slow twist as you do so. You want to try to aim the needle so that the tip emerges from the base of the berry.
Step Four: Secure Berries Along the Cord
Gently push the berry down onto the cord.
The fiddly bit is to get the berry past where the cord has doubled where it has been threaded through the needle. Go too quickly, and the berry will split for sure.
Take your time and gently twist the berry as you thread it through this thick point. If any pulp from the berry comes out, brush it away, then slide the berry to the knot at the end of your cord.
Tie another knot above your berry to secure it firmly in place. Then carry on threading berries and tying a knot after each individual one has been added to the necklace.
Optional Step: Add a Pendant
If you are going to add a pendant to your necklace, slide it onto the cord when your berries have made up half the desired length of the necklace. Tie a knot on either side to secure it in place.
I sometimes make my own talismans by using a short length of wood, carving or painting a symbol onto it. The eye screws are used to twist into the talisman, and then the whole thing is threaded onto the necklace when I have reached the halfway point.
Pendants are only optional, but make a nice addition to the necklace; especially if it is a gift.
Step Five: Continue Adding Berries
Continue threading your berries until the necklace is the desired length.
You will notice that the juice may stain the cord black. This is normal and to be expected.
Once the necklace is finished, remove the needle, tie the ends together, and trim the ends to make it look neat.
Step Six: Dry Your Necklace
When finished, be sure to wash your hands.
The final step is to dry the necklace.
Place the whole thing somewhere dry and warm (a greenhouse is ideal!) and leave until the berries shrivel and go hard. They will retain their colour, but will darken slightly over time.
Once it is dried out, your magical necklace will last for many years if kept away from moisture.
© 2015 Pollyanna Jones
Pollyanna Jones (author) from United Kingdom on October 09, 2015:
Thanks both! It is a fun project to make.
SpiritRune on September 30, 2015:
Neat project. I would love to make something like this, I am in a hot climate area though and I don't think Rowan grows anywhere near me. If I ever get a chance to though I will for certain.