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TREE LORE: May - Hawthorn


MAY:  Hawthorn


This is the month of flowers when the hedgerows resemble gigantic bouquets of creamy blossom of the May trees (or hawthorn) with their exquisite perfume. Hawthorn can be grown from a fruit very easily and planted within the boundary hedge where it can create an impenetrable barrier, or allowed to mature into an impressive tree that produces masses of white flowers. The old techniques of ‘hedge laying’ which involves almost cutting through the stem of a young hawthorn and weaving into others along the row, is one of the old country crafts vanishing from farm management skills. This is a shame because a hawthorn hedge is a wonderful place for wildlife.




Common hawthorn (as opposed to woodland hawthorn) is the variety that prefers open country and in a survey of 658 Anglo-Saxon charters and boundary descriptions, it cropped up far more often than any other tree, including oak. The average lifespan of common hawthorn is between 100 and 200 years, but some historic boundary markers are much older — like the Hethel Old Thorn (or Witch of Hethel) mentioned in a 13th century charter. The most famous, of course, is the Glastonbury Thorn that flowers at Midwinter, as well as blossoming at the normal time of the year.




Medicinally, the hawthorn can rival the elder. Culpeper recommends pounded or bruised and boiled seeds as cures for various internal pains, probably because they and the dried flowers can reduce blood pressure and circulatory problems. A compote of fresh fruits was given as a cure for diarrhoea. ‘The seeds in the berries beaten to powder being drunk in wine, are good against the stone and dropsy. The distilled water of the flowers stays the flux. The seeds cleared of the down and bruised, being boiled in wine, are good for inward pains.’



In modern herbalism the properties of some of the hawthorn’s active constituents are now better understood and present a remarkable picture of what is known as synergy — meaning ’working together’. Some constituents strengthen the heart’s action, others slow it slightly and improve the blood supply. The net effect is to make a weak heart work more effectively and to reduce blood pressure. An infusion of 5gm of dried flowers and leaves per cup must be taken three times a day, long-term, to have any significant effect.




Taken from Traditional Witchcraft for Fields and Hedgerows by Melusine Draco and published by Moon Books in paperback and e-book format.


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Mélusine Draco originally trained in the magical arts of traditional British Old Craft with Bob and Mériém Clay-Egerton. She has been a magical and spiritual instructor for over 20 years with Arcanum and the Temple of Khem, and writer of numerous popular books on magic and witchcraft. Her highly individualistic teaching methods and writing draws on ancient sources, supported by academic texts and current archaeological findings.


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