Where does the word wicken come from in Wicken Workshop?
The name Wicken Workshop was ultimately chosen because of its ambiguous associations with a tree commonly found in this country, with the woods, life, magic, mysticism and folklore, and simply because it sounded okay!
The 'wicken-tree' is a local dialect name for the Mountain Ash or Rowan tree (Sorbus aucuparia), a species well known in the British Isles. In Old English the name for it was cwic-beám (living-tree), which survives to this day as quickbeam. Other names include quicken-tree. By the nineteenth century the name had become reinterpreted as being directly drawn from the word witch due to the exchangeability of the word quick and dialect word wick with the same meaning. This gave rise to names such as wich-tree, wich-wiggin-tree and wicken-tree amongst others. The tree's red berries had already long associated it with witches and magic. Red was believed to be the best colour to ward off evil. In Ireland the trees were often planted outside the home to protect against malignant spirits. The branches of the tree were revered as having mystical powers and twigs were used as pocket charms and divining rods. Consequently the similarity of the words and the ancient associations of the tree saw the cwic-beám, quicken-tree, wicken-tree's connotations shift from living-tree to witch-tree. In Anglo Saxon the words relating to magic, wizards, witches and sorcerery included wicca (masculine), wicce (feminine), wiccedôm & wiccecræft (witchcraft, magic). The modern name of Rowan derives from Germanic languages' words meaning 'to redden' as do the berries on the tree and it dates to the early nineteenth century.