The Hawthorne tree, Crataegus spp., is one of the most ennobled trees in the Old Ways of Ireland and the Celtic nations and, when combined with Oak and Ash, forms the sacred tree triad. These three trees each indicate the presence of the Sidhe(Shee) or Faery race. The Hawthorne, specifically, demarcates a bridge or barrier into the faery world. It can be a bridge for those that are prepared for the journey or a barrier for those who have not yet developed the skills required for travel into other realms. It has been often warned that one should not unwittingly fall asleep beneath a Hawthorne for fear of the uninitiated crossing into the otherworld and not knowing how to get back. It is a small tree or large shrub although I've seen some enormous full tree sized Hawthornes. They seem to like to grow in groves and often there will be several in a cluster and, where I live, they shelter many white-tail deer families beneath their thorny branches.
Hawthorne's prominence was expressed by it's representation in the ancient Irish tree alphabet called Ogham (OH am) that attributed a different tree to each of its characters.
Hawthorne, or Úath/Huath(HOO-ah) corresponds to the letter H and is the sixth letter of the Ogham alphabet. It also represents the sixth lunar month of the year that we call May but, because the phases of the moon are dynamic and don't follow our numerical calendar precisely, is about mid-May to mid-June. May is the time of year that the Hawthornes are in bloom and, at this very moment in my gorgeous valley they are at their peak.
The pagan festival of Beltane happens in May and is celebrated by blessing the land and asking for fertility during the upcoming growing season as well as honoring the sexual and reproductive forces of the Earth and all life. Hawthorne has been called "The Queen of May", was used to decorate Maypoles, and it has been told in the old tales that fair maidens would bath in the dew from the Hawthorne on the first morning of May. It is also known as the May Tree, Whitethorn, Hedgethorn, Red Haw, and Maybush. The word "thorn" is often included in the name because of Hawthorne's signature very large extruding thorns that run up and down the length of it's branches and stems.
There are at least 100 different species of Hawthorne and they are native throughout the Northern hemisphere. Herbal medicine then and now has considered Hawthorne to be a primary remedy of the heart on all levels from emotional, psycho-spiritual, and the physical heart and cardiovascular system. It is indicated in any instance of heartbreak, grief or significant life transitions that may challenge or vital resistance and lower the strength of our heart field. Most traditional use focuses on only the berries but the leaves and flowers can be used as well. I generally mix half and half, one part leaf and flower to one part berry. Preparations include tincture, tea and, if you please, Hawthorne berry jelly or fresh berry juice. To combine a leaf and flower tincture with a berry tincture requires that two separate preparations are made. One in the Spring when the flower blossoms and one in the Fall when the berries ripen. I also absolutely love the deep, musky smell of Hawthorne flowers and couldn't believe it when I learned that some people absolutely hate it. I haven't explore what may be behind this but I do dry the flowers to put in my homemade incense.
Hawthorne is a member of the Rose family that loves to form alliances with our hearts. Hawthorne, perhaps, has the greatest physiological affinity of all the rose family species and is categorized as a cardio tonic, heart function restorative, nervine, relaxant, and nutrititive. It is high in antioxidants which reduces oxidative damage to capillary walls preventing the adherence of cholesterol to the vessels as the body does this in an effort to repair the damage ultimately leading to high cholesterol. Hawthorne can be a great accompaniment to a healthy lifestyle intended to prevent cardiovascular disease. It may be most widely known as a heart strengthener as it improves blood flow to the heart and opens coronary circulation while allowing blood to move more efficiently as well as reducing congestion and heat. It also reduces heat in the nervous system alleviating stress, anxiety, and irritability which are all contributing aspects to heart conditions.
Hawthorne medicine comes to us from the element of fire. Although it is in the rose family and of cooling nature, it relates to heat and fire by tempering over-excited tissue states while improving proactive function. Herbal doctor, Nicholas Culepeper placed it under the rule of Mars, a planet of heat and action, that when in balance guides us in making conscious choices. The element of fire also inspires us and, when we use Hawthorne to lift and open our hearts, we can feel safe and trusting enough to release our grief that may be an obstacle to living a full life.
The flower essence of Hawthorne strengthens the heart chakra to help us to address any uncomfortable situation or circumstance. The Úath Ogham inscription symbolizes it's capacity to aid us when dealing with duality and the opposing forces of polarity. The singular perpendicular line reveals the third way or the middle road that can be actualized when we can hold the tension of opposites long enough and steady enough for a new and creative path to emerge. The thorns of Hawthorne call us to attention and act to warn us not to take the path of incarnation lightly as the work of the embodied spirit is profound and deeply challenging. The sharp, pointed presence of these thorns also reminds us to hone our ability for restraint and patience along the journey along with enabling our capacity for objectivity and detachment where we may otherwise be captured by the spell of overwhelming and inappropriate emotions. I also love Hawthorne for supporting us when we need to connect with the heart of who we are and our personal medicine. Hawthorne brings us to our heart center and brings the center to the heart!