On the Calendar
Common Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna)
*Also known as one-seeded hawthorn
English Hawthorn (C. laevigata syn. C. oxyacanthoides)
*Also known as Midland hawthorn
Both trees are also known as haw, May, and whitethorn
Both of these hawthorns are less than twenty feet tall and have grayish-colored bark. They have shiny, somewhat oval leaves with rounded lobes and thorns that grow along the branches. Five-petaled flowers grow in clusters. The flowers of the common hawthorn are white, often with a pinkish blush; the English hawthorn’s flowers have a slight purplish tint. The oval red fruit that ripens in the autumn are called haws.
Hawthorn was commonly called May for the month in which it blooms, and white-thorn, because of its grayish-colored bark. The name hawthorn was derived from the German hagedorn, which means “hedge thorn.” 42 The genus name Crataegus comes from the Greek kratos, meaning “strength,” which underlines its popularity for making broomsticks.43 The name one-seeded hawthorn comes from the fact that the fruit contains only one seed.
The ancient Romans considered this tree a symbol of marriage, and both Roman and Greek brides often wore crowns of hawthorn flowers. In addition to being highly praised by poets from Chaucer onwards, the hawthorn is regarded as an important fairy tree in the British Isles. Instead of removing a hawthorn from the middle of a field, farmers plow around the tree rather than disturb the wee folk.
Like many plants, there is differing folklore about taking the flowers indoors. However, blossoms were taken indoors in Ireland on May Day to protect a house from evil. Another belief was that a broomstick made of hawthorn should not be taken into the home because it would be an indication of death.
As we have seen, hawthorn is closely associated with Beltane, and it was believed to have a surge of power when in bloom. One power that this tree offers is protection. While a belief persisted that it protected against lightning and evil spirits, it is also effective to dispel any form of negativity. Use leaves or flowers for protection spells, or carry one of them in your pocket or purse. Sprinkle petals on the ground just before ritual to cleanse and sanctify the area. The flowers can be used in charms for attracting love, and they add strength to a relationship when included in a handfasting bouquet.
Because this is an important fairy tree, be sure to leave a gift when taking anything from it—even any parts that you find on the ground. Wear a sprig of hawthorn flowers and/or leaves to contact fairies and other nature spirits.
Hawthorn is associated with the elements air and fire. Its astrological influence comes from Mars. This tree is associated with fairies and the following deities: Belenus, Brigid, Danu, the Dagda, Frigg, Thor, and Zeus.
Figure 12. Hawthorn is associated with the ogham Huath (left) and the rune Othila (right).