ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

The Magical Hawthorn of May

Updated on February 16, 2015

The origins of the Hawthorn

"Across the shimmering meadows--
Ah, when he came to me!
In the spring-time,
In the night-time,
In the starlight,
Beneath the hawthorn tree..."
By Willa Cather

The Hawthorn tree is unique because it was regarded as holy to both Pagans and Christians alike. Since the flowers appear in May, they are often referred to as May Blossom or simply May.

In the past, the month of May was more than just an appreciation of spring. Celebrations, although robust and happy, were taken seriously. The first of May was the May Day Festival, often called going 'a-maying'. Some would start the festivities at midnight while others preferred to wait until the May Day dawn.

May Day origins can be found far in the past. It is closely associated with the Celtic festival of Beltane and the Germanic festival of Walpurgis Night. It was significant because it marked one half of the year passing since the last great celebration of Samhain (Halloween). May Day can be viewed in some ways as the opposite of Samhain - the festival of the dead/ancestors. Whereas May Day/Walpurgis or Beltane were basically celebrations of fertility, life and the waxing sun.

A modern day Beltane festival in Edinburgh, Scotland.
A modern day Beltane festival in Edinburgh, Scotland. | Source
Hawthorn blossoms
Hawthorn blossoms | Source
Maypole celebrations go back hundreds of years and are steeped in folklore.
Maypole celebrations go back hundreds of years and are steeped in folklore. | Source

The Hawthorn Traditions

The Hawthorn blossom was one of the most popular flowers for making the traditional May Day garlands. Both white and red Hawthorn would be used. Flowers were so important that the day was often called Garland Day. The flower garland shapes created were numerous - single sprays, crossed hoops and cushions.

In addition, the garlands had many purposes other than part of the celebrations. Many were hung outside the main door of the home to ward off evil spirits and demons. The flowers were most effective for this if they had been gathered while the dew was still visible on them. The dew was thought to have potent magical properties.

To protect their livestock, a sprig of flowering Hawthorn was placed on barn doors and was thought to ensure a larger milk produce from cows.

Hawthorn also figured heavily in relationships and marriage. Ancient traditions involved marriage attendants carrying boughs of Hawthorn. Torches made from the wood of the Hawthorn were lit and used to guide the newly married couple to their home.

In a more magical sense, tradition states that if a young girl places a branch of Hawthorn flowers at a cross-roads on May Eve, when she returns the next morning the direction in which the wind had blown the flowers indicated the direction from which her future husband would come. Unfortunately if the sprig had been blown away completely this was sure to indicate that you wouldn't get a husband at all.

Young ladies who wanted to catch a glimpse of an absent lover would pick the first flowering Hawthorn that she came across. After lightly breathing on it she would recite the following charm:

'Flower pink, flower white, I wish to see my love tonight'.

If her lover was in the area then he would be sure to visit that night. If he was further away then he would visit in a dream.

Glastonbury has many associations with the Hawthorn tree.
Glastonbury has many associations with the Hawthorn tree. | Source
Glastonbury, England. This place has many legends, superstitions and mysteries.
Glastonbury, England. This place has many legends, superstitions and mysteries. | Source

Glastonbury and the Hawthorn

There is a very old tradition relating to Hawthorn and Glastonbury. A Hawthorn that was growing on Glastonbury Tor, is alleged to have come into being by springing from the staff of St. Joseph of Arimathea. It blossomed as early as the old date for Christmas Day - January 6th - and flowers appear again in the spring. Botanists refer to this species as pracox but is more generally called 'Glastonbury Thorn' .

The Bible may also have associations with the Hawthorn tree. It is thought that the burning bush Moses encountered was a species of Hawthorn.

The Hawthorn and fairies have a very strong connection.
The Hawthorn and fairies have a very strong connection. | Source
Hawthorn was home to the fairies so great care was taken never to disturb this beautiful tree.
Hawthorn was home to the fairies so great care was taken never to disturb this beautiful tree. | Source
Fairies could be helpful but also malicious so great care was always taken not to offend them.
Fairies could be helpful but also malicious so great care was always taken not to offend them. | Source

Hawthorn magic and home for the fairies

In the past hedgerows had to be cut back by hand. Not only was this hard work, but the process could have it own dangers besides that of physical injury. Depending on the time of year certain plants and trees had to be left alone for fear of disturbing other worldly inhabitants such as the fairies.

This was true of the Hawthorn. Where one Hawthorn grew on its own within the hedgerow then it was left uncut. These trees were called 'lone thorns ' or 'fairy thorns ' and it was believed that they were home to fairy people. Since the fairy folk could be malicious when disturbed, great care was taken to avoid any damage to a fairy thorn.

Even to sleep under a Hawthorn was not recommended for fear that you would be spirited away by the fairies. This was thought to be a particular danger on May Day, Midsummer Eve and Samhain (Halloween) when the fairy power was strongest.

The only exception to this rule was during a thunderstorm. In this case you should seek a Hawthorn's shelter from lightening. The Hawthorn was also thought to safeguard any houses nearby from being struck as well.

Famous Scottish seer, mystic and poet Thomas the Rhymer or True Thomas - is closely associated with a Hawthorn tree. The legend claims that while walking he heard the call of a cuckoo from a nearby Hawthorn. When he went closer he met the 'Faery Queen'. She led him into the underworld to show him her kingdom of 'Faery' and he emerged again after a few minutes. But in fact when he came back into the human world, he had been gone not for several minutes but seven years.

In addition to fairy magic, the Hawthorn is also well know for is alleged psychic protection. People in the past favoured the Hawthorn as a hedging plant. This not produced an excellent physical shield for the home and grounds, but the Hawthorn defended against the unseen worlds as well. The Hawthorn was thought to be a powerful form of magic against any hazardous or evil psychic forces. It was particularly potent for protecting babies and children, as well as young people entering puberty.

The belief in fairies

Hawthorn berries
Hawthorn berries

The Healing Hawthorn

One of the main reasons that Hawthorn was so revered was not just because of its beauty and magic but due to its healing properties. The main therapeutic qualities are believed to be:

  • The berries can be used to improve the cardiovascular system and help to control high blood pressure. They also assist the heart to make the best use of essential minerals required to maintain health.
  • The berries also contain powerful antioxidants that are thought to be much stronger than those same qualities found in vitamins A, C and E.
  • The leaves can be eaten and they provide not only nourishment but energy. They also ward off hunger pangs.
  • The leaves and berries can also be used in cooking. For example the leaves were often used in soups or eaten raw. The berries were used to make jellie and jam.
  • The flowers are edible as well and were often used as a garnish.

Not only this but the wood of the Hawthorn was a favourite for creating wood carvings and the root wood was made into boxes. As a fire the wood gives off an extremely high temperature.

I hope you've enjoyed this article on the Hawthorn tree and the beliefs that still surround it as well as the health benefits. If you can add to the information in this hub then please do so using the comments section below.

© 2011 Helen Murphy Howell


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)