Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Celtic Tree Month of Hawthorn

* 6th Moon
of the Celtic Year - (May 13 - June 9)

* Latin name: crataegus oxyacantha (from the Greek 'kratos' - hardenss, 'oxus' - sharp, and 'akantha' - thorn).

* Celtic name: Huath (pronounced: Hoh' uh)

* Folk or Common names: Bread and Cheese Tree, Gaxels, Hagthorn, Halves, Haw, Hazels, Huath, Ladies' Meat, May, Mayblossom, May Bush, Mayflower, May Tree, Midland Hawthorn Quick, Thorn, Tree of Chastity.

* Parts Used: Berries, wood, branches, seeds, flowers.

* Herbal usage: The berries are used as a cardiac tonic. Since this is a powerful herb it is best not to be used alone, so mix it with borage, motherwort, cayenne, garlic & dandelion flowers. Hawthorn leaves can be used as a substitute for oriental green tea, the seeds can be roasted and used like coffee. Hawthorn makes a light, hard, apple-like wood.

Hawthorn usually doesn't grow much bigger than a shrub, and is popular in England as a hedge plant. The wood from the Hawthorn provides the hottest fire known. Its leaves and blossoms are used to create a tea to aid with anxiety, appetite loss and poor circulation. The pink or white star-shaped blossom gives off a musky scent - for many men, a strong scent of female sexuality. They are edible, sprinkled on desserts. Young leaves (country name - pepper and salt) can be eaten in salads and sandwiches.

* Magical History & Associations: The bird associated with this month is the night crow, the color is deepest black, and the gemstone is Lapis Lazuli. The Greeks and Romans saw the Hawthorn as symbolic of hope and marriage, but in medieval Europe it was associated with witchcraft and considered to be unlucky. This seeming contradiction is to be expected from a tree with such beautiful blossoms and such deadly-looking thorns.

Hawthorne has a strong association with water. It is a Masculine herb, associated with the planet of Mars and the element of Fire. Hawthorn is so strongly associated with the Celtic May Eve festival of Bealtaine (Beltane) that "may" is a folk name for it. Whitethorn is another name popular in Brittany, where the tree marks Fairy trysting places. Sacred hawthorns guard wishing wells in Ireland, where shreds of clothing ("clouties") are hung on the thorns to symbolize a wish made.

The Roman goddess Cardea, mistress of Janus who was keeper of the doors, had as her principal protective emblem a bough of Hawthorn. "Her power is to open what is shut; to shut what is open." Hawthorn is also associated with the deities of Flora (orgiastic use), the White Goddess Maia, and Hymen. There is an old legend which says that the first Hawthorn bush grew from the staff of St Joseph. The Burning Bush of Moses is a variety of hawthorn, Crateagus pyracantha. Hawthorn is one of the nine woods that is traditionally placed on the Bale-fire: "Hawthorn is burned to purify And draw faerie to your eye..."

* Magickal usage: The month of Hawthorn is a good time to do magick designed to clear away old habits and spiritual cobwebs.

Hawthorn can be used for protection, love and marriage, health and prosperity, Fertility, Purification, Chastity, male potency, Fishing Magic, purity, inner journeys, intuition, female sexuality, cleansing, and Happiness. The fey are said to especially like Hawthorn groves, since the Hawthorn is sacred to them. Hawthorn is one of the tree fairy triad of Britain: 'Oak, Ash and Thorn', and where all three trees grow together it is said that one may see fairies. The flowers are supposed to "bring fairies into the house. Solitary Hawthorn trees growing on hills or near sacred wells act as 'markers' to the faery realm. It is said that a person should never cut a blooming Hawthorn, as the fey will become angry. It is also said that sitting under a Hawthorn tree in the month of May might mean being lost forever to the unknown, mystic faery world.

Even today, in parts of Ireland and Wales, it is a spring custom to braid crowns of Hawthorn blossoms and leave them for faeries, who come at night and dance around them. This custom brings blessings to whoever left the crown.

The Hawthorn blossom, for many men, has the strong scent of female sexuality and was used by the Turks as an erotic symbol. Uses of Hawthorn in fertility/sexual talismans include using the leaves under the bed to preserve virginity. Hawthorn has long been used to increase fertility, and because of this power it is incorporated into weddings, especially those performed in the spring.

In many parts of Europe it was customary in the spring or early summer to go out to the woods and cut down a Hawthorn and bring it in back to the town. There the Hawthorn was set up with much celebration. Branches of the Hawthorn were also fastened to all the houses. This custom was said to bring the blessing which the Hawthorn tree-spirit has in its power to bestow into the village. Hence the custom in some places of planting a May-tree before every house, or of carrying the village May-tree from door to door so that every household may receive its share of the blessing. May poles used to be decorated, and sometimes even made from Hawthorn.

Hawthorn has strong protective qualities. Hawthorn can be attached to a cow barn and the cows will stay healthy and produce an enormous milk supply. A globe made of Hawthorn can be placed in the kitchen for fire protection. Hawthorne in the rafters of a home is good for protection against spirits, and ghosts. In the past most witch's gardens contained at least one Hawthorn hedge for protection, as well as being one of the ingredients in the famous Flying Ointment. Leaves can also be used as a charm to protect a newborn child and a thorn carried in a pouch can bring good luck while fishing and can also ward off depression. A Hawthorn branch hung from the roof or chimney of a house will protect it from lightning.

Worn or carried, Hawthorn promotes happiness in the troubled, depressed or sad. It also can be used to promote beauty. At dawn on Beltane a young woman who wants to remain beautiful for the rest of the year, can go bathe in the dew of the Hawthorn tree while chanting this rhyme:

"The fair maid, who on the first of May,
Goes to the fields at the break of day,
And bathes in the dew from the hawthorn tree,
Will ever strong and handsome be."

Hawthorns are a favorite tree of Witches, and we are said to be able to transform ourselves into a Hawthorn tree at will. Hawthorn is also a good wood to make brooms and wands out of because of its strong bond with Witchcraft. Just make sure that if you are going to cut off a limb of a Hawthorn tree for this use, that you do it on Beltane, since to cut it at any other time is unlucky. It is also bad luck to pick Hawthorn flowers before the first week of May, and it also was considered "a sign that death is on its way if brought into the house, except for the first of May". In ancient Britain, destruction of a Hawthorn tree might bring on tragedies such as the death of one's cattle or children and a total loss of well-being.

(from Sarah Nunn, aka Sarah the Swamp Witch.)

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