There are many old superstitions of the wonderful influence of the ash tree. The old Christmas log was of ash wood, and its use was helpful to the future prosperity of the family. Venomous animals, it was said, would not take shelter under its branches. A carriage with its axles made of ash wood was believed to go faster than a carriage with its axles made of any other wood, and tools with handles made of this wood were supposed to enable a man to do more work than he could do with tools whose handles were not of ash. Hence the reason that ash wood is generally used for tool handles. It was upon ash branches that witches were enabled to ride through the air, and those who ate the red buds of the tree on St. John's Eve were rendered invulnerable to witches' influence.
In speaking of the ash, reference was often to the mountain ash or rowan tree.
Porteous, Alexander. Forest Folklore, Mythology, and Romance. London: George Allen & Unwin, 1928.