On the Calendar
*Also known as blackthorn plum and sloe
This shrubby tree’s dark-colored bark and dense, spiny branches are the source of its common name. Flowers with five, creamy-white petals bloom shortly before the leaves appear in early spring, standing in stark contrast to the bark. The leaves are broad and oval with serrated edges. Small, round, and blue-black fruit called sloes ripen in the autumn after the first frost.
Blackthorn and hawthorn were used together for hedges to keep animals out of orchards and gardens. They are still part of many hedgerows. During my pilgrimage in Ireland, I saw blackthorns growing at most of the sacred sites I visited.
In Ireland, blackthorn was used for protection against ghosts and evil spells. However, it was also believed that a tribe of fairies called the Lunantishee served as guardians of these trees. Although blackthorn was popular for walking sticks and other uses, the Lunantishee would inflict bad luck on anyone who cut anything from the tree on May 11 or November 11.
On the old Julian calendar, these would have been the days of Beltane and Samhain. A switch was made from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar to more accurately align the months with the seasons. This required ten days to be dropped during the year in which the switch was made.41
In keeping with Irish tradition and to appease any fairies or spirits attached to the blackthorn, avoid taking any cuttings on the current or previous dates for Beltane and Samhain. Instead, leave an offering for the Lunantishee at the base of the tree or in its branches. At other times, ask permission to collect leaves and small branches with thorns. Place the thorns on your altar during spells for protection. Alternatively, place three thorns at each corner of your house as you say:
With these thorns that I now place; negativity, be banned from this space.
Protected by the blackthorn tree; this spell be strong, so mote it be.
Dried leaves can be strewn around an outdoor ritual area for protection as well as to boost magical energy. Instead of using thorns, draw blackthorn’s associated ogham or rune on small stones to use in their place. Place one of these stones on your altar on May 4th to honor this legendary fairy tree. Crumble and burn a few leaves to give strength to any type of spell. If you do not have access to a blackthorn tree, carve its ogham or rune into the candles that you use for spells or rituals.
Blackthorn is associated with the elements earth and fire. Its astrological influence comes from Mars and Saturn. In addition to fairies, this tree is associated with the following deities: Banba, Belenus, Bertha, Brigid, the Dagda, Holle, Loki, and Macha.
Figure 11. Blackthorn is associated with the ogham
Straif (left) and the rune Thurisaz (right).
May 13: The Celtic Month of Hawthorn Begins
Hawthorne is associated with healing and balance, spiritual energies, protection, and most importantly, the fairies. It is the symbol of approaching summer, prosperity, and enchantment.