If you take a look in the hedgerows you will find them covered in snowy blossom for the blackthorn is well and truely here and the hawthorn is not far behind. Both these shrubs are steeped in fairy lore and so are plants which shoudl be approached with respect and caution.
The moon fairies or Lunantisidhe inhabit the blackthorn bush and should not be disturbed. They are cruel and vengeful fairies so if you wish to pick sloes in autumn without fear of retribution, then do it by the light of a full moon when they are all out dancing.
If you are a creative sort then these vampire like other folk will provide you with inspiration and success in return for your life, which will be greatly shortened.
But the blackthorn, despite its resident faries, does have some great qualities. It has long and sharp thorns and early records show that these thorns may have been used as needles by leatherworkers.
Hawthorn is equally tricksy and also hides fae folk. These folk are not as malevolent and the Lunantisidhe but if you sleep beneath the hawthorn then they will happily whisk you away to their world where you may find you have past but a day yet one hundred years have passed in this world.
The Hawthorn is one of the first shrubs to flower in the spring and as such is a symbol of hope and haw, h a w, in the old English can be translated as hedge. From this word comes the Hayward. who was the person in the village responsible for the upkeep of the hedges and the village boundary, even repatriating stray animals and cattle.
It’s considered a charm of protection and is often hung above doorways to ward off unwanted visits from faeries and dark magic. The Romans used the hawthorn as a charm for protecting newborns, placing a sprig of hawthorn in the cradle with them and in Athens, women would wear a crown of hawthorn flowers on their wedding day and carry a torch made of hawthorn.
It is of course common in folklore that powerful plants can be used for both good and bad and so it is that the hawthorn also has a reputation for bringing bad luck should it be brought into the house whilst in flower. This may be because as it rots the flowers are said to smell akin to rotting corpses. This is thought to come from the plague years and was first recorded in 1627 by Francis Bacon. There is a chemical in the flowers which is identical to one found in rotting meat so it is possible but either way, probably best to leave it at the door.
Hawthorn leaves, flowers and fruit were commonly carved by the stonemasons of the late thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries. They appear in bosses, arches shrines and fonts found in churches of thus era and are indicative of enduring belief that hawthorn was powerful against evil.
The hawthorn is most prominently associated with May Day and in fact is often called May flower, indicating when it flowers. May Day or Beltane as it’s also known is a old Celtic fire festival associated with the pagan wheel of the year but hawthorn is used in rituals that involve fire at other times in the year too. In Herefordshire on New year’s day farmers burn a hawthorn into a globe, which has previously been hung in the kitchen to bring good luck throughout the year, in amongst their wheat fields in order to protect the crops for the coming year.
I will be sharing more stories, folklore and mythology of the hedgerow in my Rewilding Story Circle at The Wild Nest Yoga Studio in Petersfield on the 29th May. More information can be found here.
You can aslo listen to my podcast episode on the hedgerows here.
If you enjoyed this post, please share it with your friends. on social media or leave a comment below. I'll be back in May with the focus on the Green Man. For now, you can find me on Instagram via @dd_storyteller , on Facebook as DD Storyteller and on Twitter as @dd_stortyeller. I'll see you there!