When I started to think about what herbe I was going to be doing for Axis Mundi this month I kept hearing the name hawthorn. On checking the Beltane correspondences, I found that yes it is a suitable herbe, and a very powerful one at that.
Latin Name: Crataegus oxyacantha
Planet: Mars & Venus
Celtic Tree Astrology: May 13 to June 9 - The Illusionist
Zodiac: Taurus/Gemini (approx)
Deity: Bloddeuwedd, Cardea/Gardea, Flora, Hera, Hymen, Olwen, Virgin Mary
Stone: Lapis Lazuli, Blue Calcite
Birds: Blackbird, Owl, Purple Martin
Colour: Midnight Blue, Purple
Magickal: Fertility Herbe, Herbe of Love, Religious Herbe
Folk Names: May bush, May tree, quickset, thorn-apple tree, white thorn
LORE & USAGE
In the Celtic Tree Calendar, Hawthorn is the sixth month May 13th to June 9th. Hawthorn is also the sixth consonant of the Ogham alphabet.
This Ogham symbol is used in Celtic Reiki and its essence represents the energy of cleansing and preparation. It clears the mind of negative thoughts and mental confusion, offering clarity. It gives patience and offers stillness.
According to the Ogham calendar, May, the month of the female Hawthorn, leads up to the fertile Oak month following on from Mayday, or Beltane. The origin of her present name comes from the Anglo-Saxon 'haegthorn', meaning hedge-thorn. Other common names are whitethorn and may. Whitethorn originates from the contrast of her smooth grey bark with the powdery black bark of the Blackthorn; the name may from the time of her flowering.
The Hawthorn is a prickly sort of plant with beautiful blossoms. Called Huath by the ancient Celts, and pronounced Hoh-uh, the Hawthorn month is a time of fertility, masculine energy, and fire. Coming right on the heels of Beltane, this month is a time when male potency is high -- if you're hoping to conceive a child, get busy this month! The Hawthorn has a raw, phallic sort of energy about it -- use it for magic related to masculine power, business decisions, making professional connections. The Hawthorn is also associated with the realm of Faerie, and when the Hawthorn grows in tandem with an Ash and Oak, it is said to attract the Fae.
The original May Poles were reputedly made of Hawthorn, and hawthorn can be woven in to a growing fence called a Hedgerow. These thorny barriers are very effective and have saved many villages from thieves and highwaymen.
The hawthorn is imbued with male energy, yet it is historically a symbol of fertility and associated with the female goddess aspects (mother, maiden, crone). The hawthorn is to be respected in all its diversity and duality. It is a symbol of union of opposites, and serves as a message for us to be more accepting of the unconventional.
From the time it blooms in May (northern hemisphere) until the ripening of its small, red fruit, the hawthorn is a remarkable tree. It is considered sacred among many people in the British Isles and is frequently the herbe referred to when called "thorn" (some think that the reference might also apply to blackthorn). Hawthorn is believed to be protected by a goddess and that you should never harm the tree nor harvest it; the one exception, according to the Farrar's, being at May eve. Bloddeuwedd, the May Queen, is said to be a daughter of the hawthorn according to Robert Graves in The White Goddess.
Graves writes that the goddess Cardea, mistress of Janus, protected infants through the hawthorn which was sacred to her. Graves considers this tree unlucky, although many with more experience would think differently. The historical uses recorded by Graves are very interesting:
The ascetic use of the thorn, which corresponds with the cult of the goddess Cardea must, however, be distinguished
from its later orgiastic use which corresponds with the cult of the goddess Flora, and which accounts for the English mediaeval habit of riding out on May Morning to pluck flowering hawthorn boughs and dance around the maypole.
In England, the hawthorn is known as the mayflower tree in honour of the month during which it blooms. Symbolizing hope, it was the name the Pilgrims took for their famous ship, The Mayflower.
Under the Celtic Moon Sign of the Hawthorn Moon, the hawthorn is a small tree that was often used for hedging, and it has a mixed reputation. Known to be both a sign of fertility and death, it was said to contain the knowledge of both reproduction and transformation. Both of these processes take time - and if you were born under the sign of the hawthorn, you have an innate understanding of both the importance of process and the necessity for change. Your challenge is to use that understanding to guide you when undertaking new starts - don't rush. Wait, and prepare carefully. In magick for the Hawthorn Moon, focus on keeping a barrier between yourself and things that you don't want. Aim to push away old problems or lingering irritations.
The Hawthorn has a strong magick but should only be used wisely in a ritual context, in a way that works with the traditions of time, giving honour to the turning of the seasons and giving honour to Mother Earth and Her customs.
At Beltaine, young women wash their faces with the dew of the hawthorn blossoms while petitioning the God or Goddess to give them beauty. The blossoms were also used to decorate the May pole if the tree itself was not used. At one time it was believed that the trees were actually witches. Beltaine was once reckoned as the day the hawthorn first bloomed. It was once used to enforce chastity, by being placed under the mattress or around the bedroom. When carried it promotes happiness in those who are depressed or sad. It will protect the home from lightning, storms and evil ghosts.
The tree essence cleanses the heart of negativity and stimulates love and forgiveness. The Hawthorn is the tree most representative of the struggles the Christian Church had in suppressing pagan beliefs and celebrations. It is respected as a tree of enchantment under the protection of the faery realms, and it guards wells and springs. It's beautiful flowers are said to help prayers reach heaven, and if you sit under a Hawthorn on May 1st (Northern Hemisphere) you are liable to be whisked away for good to the faery underworld. The blooms of the hawthorn are used in spells for fertility, happiness, and good luck in fishing.
The flowers, leaves and fruits of the Hawthorn have properties that reduce blood pressure and stimulate the heart, as well as act as a mild sedative. In herbal medicine they treat heart and circulatory disorders, migraine, menopausal conditions, angina, and insomnia. The flowers are strongest as sedatives, and used externally can treat acne and skin blemishes. The berries (also known as "Pixie Pears") contain Vitamin B complex and Vitamin C. They can be crushed and used to ease diarrhoea, dysentery, and kidney disorders. It is strongly advised against self medication because of the effects on the heart.
Myth & Legend
Merlin and the Hawthorn Tree
from various sources, as told in Myths of the Sacred Tree by Moyra Caldecott
When Merlin was an old, old man (and none could give a count of all his years) a young girl came to King Arthur's court. Some said she was the handmaiden of the goddess who had emerged from the lake to give the sword Excalibur to Arthur. To look upon she was beautiful beyond belief, but none could see into her heart.
Her name was Vivien, and she watched the wonders of the court closely, soon becoming envious of Merlin's great powers. She determined to learn all she could from him and so beguiled him with her flattery and her beauty that he, sighing, followed her wherever she went and easily gave her secrets that were best kept hidden.
But Vivien was not satisfied with what she learned. She claimed that Merlin was teaching her no more than a child could learn. She wanted more and deeper mysteries to be revealed to her. He demurred, saying that she was not ready. Then, afraid he would not be able to withstand her pleas and knowing that some mysteries were too dangerous and powerful to be entrusted to someone so young and unwise, he left the court and went across the sea to the forest of Broceliande in Brittany.
She followed him, weeping and telling him her heart was broken because he did not trust her. At last, with a cunning alternation of the granting and the withholding of sexual favours, she wheedled out of him his last and most closely kept secret: how it was possible to imprison a man within a tree. Within seconds of obtaining knowledge of this spell she implemented it. The mighty Merlin, the wisest of all men, was confined forever within a cage of bark - a hawthorn tree.
Another version from Arthurian sources is that Nimue trapped the besotted Merlin in a Hawthorn tree.
The Hawthorn tree is mentioned in many tarot & oracle decks. The following are but just a few:
- Tree Magick by Gillian Kemp (card 47)
- The Faces of Womanspirit, A Celtic Oracle of Avalon by Katherine Torres, Ph.D.
- The Celtic Tree Oracle by Liz and Colin Murray
- OGHAM The Celtic Oracle by Peter Pracownik and Andy Baggott
- The Green Man Tree Oracle by John Matthews and Will Worthington
Llewellyn's Witches Datebook 2000, written by Kim Rogers-Gallagher
a compendium of Herbal Magick by Paul Beyerl