The Rowan Cross: Crosh Cuirn

On May Eve the tradition is to gather two twigs from the Cuirn (Rowan) and make them into a cross which was said to be a powerful charm against all malevolent spirits.  To obtain a crosh cuirn the branches were respectfully requested from the tree by addressing her “Lady of the Mountain” which is another name for the Rowan Tree.  The wee branch was gently bent and if She gave way, then the tree gave her blessing and protection for the year.  The branches were never, ever to be cut as the Lady of the Mountain abhors steel.

Having received the blessings of land, the next step was to bind the twigs with the life of the beast.  This was accomplished by foraging along the fence-posts and hedges for the right sized amount of tangled wool which had been caught up and snagged over the winter or early spring.  Best of all if the wool found was from the Manx Loaghtan, the King of Sheep, who was said to be the herd of Faery.

With beast and branch, the crosh cuirn (rowan cross) was then crafted.  Farmers would place it in the barn or sometimes would bind many crosses and knot them in the tail hairs of their cattle and horses.  Manx fishermen would often travel into the hills, returning with the crosh cuirn and place it in a secret place of the boat.  Many folk scattered the first wild flowers on their doorsteps and would place it over their lintel until the following May.

I’ve seen many beautiful versions of the Rowan Cross made by talented artisans and some are for sale on the web or in crafty shops.  They make lovely decorations for the home and certainly there are many variations of the Rowan Cross from local traditions in the U.K.

But for myself, I feel that the real magic is in the making of the cross.

These things that can’t be bought are priceless.

3 Responses to “The Rowan Cross: Crosh Cuirn”

  1. I am soon to be heading off to Ellan Vannin and am interested in Manx tradition and ritual. This is a lovely snippet of information. Do you have much dealings with Themselves?

  2. The Manx ‘Crosh’ sounds the same as the Irish word ‘Crios’, meaning a ‘girdle’. In the west of Scotland and the Isle of Man and Ireland, a Rowan branch was sometimes once tied as a girdle to people or to the tales of cattle, or sometimes placed above a door lintel. The meaning of ‘Crosh Keirn’ doesn’t have to just be a ‘cross’ of Rowan…

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