Amulet Trail: Rowan loop, England

1893.18.3PRM 1893.18.3

This object was collected by Reverend John Christopher Atkinson by 1893. He was a cleric and antiquary interested in Yorkshire folklore. Amulets made from twigs of the rowan tree were designed to protect against witches primarily, but also faeries and ghosts.

The rowan tree has been associated with magical powers since ancient times – a rowan tree was said to have bent to rescue the Norse god Thor when he fell into a river. Such magical associations may arise from the five-pointed star that that grows opposite the stalk of each berry, or the bright red of the berries which is said to be the best colour to protect against enchantment. Rowan wood is dense and good for making divining rods and druid's staffs. By placing branches on doors, cattle and graves it was said to ward off storms and bad spirits. The association with witches and its widespread use in the Scottish highlands is reflected in some of the rowan's alternative names which include Witch Wood, Whitten Tree and Mountain Ash.

Artisans of Memory

Behind the scenes of an amulets project

This series of short films follows the progress and practices of those connected with the Small Blessings project as they unravel the stories surrounding these curious objects.

The full series of films may be viewed here.


Amulets Competition

The competition is now closed and a winner has been announced. Find out more here.

Designated Outstanding Collection LogoArts Council England LogoprmvcEmail us: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Copyright 2012 The Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxford