Symbolising the wonderful return of summer, which is why the tree was often chosen for Maypoles and used to hang outside milking sheds to ensure a plentiful supply. Often laid on the rafters of a house to ward of witches and spirits, and storms. Should be laid by someone outside the immediate family. Linked to the Green Man who represented the spirit of the woods. His summer wreath was made from hawthorn.
Generally seen as a tree which brings good luck to the owner and prosperity to the land where it stands.
The ‘Glastonbury Thorn’ is a type of Hawthorn found in England (UK) and in some parts of Palestine. The tree is said to have been brought by Joseph Arimathea on a visit to England. Wherever Joseph travelled spreading the word of God, he carried a staff which he had acquired in Palestine. Legend tells that he visited the Isle of Avalon, Somerset (UK), which at one time was surrounded by water. Tired from travelling he sought rest and sat down upon ‘Weary-all Hill’ now called ‘Worral Hill’. Joseph stuck the staff into the ground, and legend says that it took root and a tree grew. A church was erected on the spot, now the site of ‘Glastonbury Abbey’. The tree was seen as sacred and was reputed to only blossom on Christmas Day. The flowers were highly prized and at one time exported around the world. It is believed that the Hawthorn had two trunks, but one was cut down. The perpetrator was revenged according to legend having one of his eyes taken out by the thorns in the process.
‘He was well serv’d for his blind Zeale, who going to cut doune an ancient white Hauthorne-tree, which, because she budded before others, might be an occasion of Superstition, had some of the prickles flew into his eye, and made him Monocular.’
James Howell, ‘Dodona’s Grove’ 1644
A stone marked the spot amongst the ruins of the Abbey in 1750 with an inscription reading ‘I.A.A.D. XXXI’, the translation of which is ‘Joseph of Arimathea, A.D. 31’.
Cuttings are said to have been taken around Britain which still flower at Christmas. Although Hawthorn Trees can still be found in the abbey these are said to be cuttings of the tree as it believed to have been cut down during the English Civil War (the reign of King Charles II).
Yet the Hawthorn is also considered to be a tree destined to bring bad fortune to the owner, as this is the thorny tree that some believe was made into the crown of thorns used at Christ’s Crucifixion. It naturally follows that to bring any part of the tree into a house but most importantly the flowers, will result in someone in the house dieing. Attacking or cutting down a Hawthorn tree should not be attempted for the same reason. One contradiction to this belief is that to place a Hawthorn branch above the door will warn negative forces not to enter. Some believe that the Hawthorn is a holy plant which is why no negative energies will find peace by it.
The flowering of the Hawthorn tree is a sure sign that winter is over and spring is underway, hence the tree has been viewed as an indicator of changes in the seasons or a weather omen.
The Hawthorn in ancient mythology is said to have been created from lightning and it is known that Germans traditionally used wood of the Hawthorn in funeral pyres as it was thought to assist the souls of the dead in ascension.
‘It is thought that by virtue of the sacred fire which flows from the thorns the souls of the dead are received into the sky, and it is clear that this sacred fire is the image of the celestial fire, and the burning of the corpse a symbol of the storm, since the funeral pyre and the hammer were both consecrated to the god Thor.’
Dr. Grill : ‘Die Erzvater der Menscheit’
A Scottish legend tells of how the Hawthorn was believed to be a place where Fairies met at a special trysting-place. A circle was drawn around an ancient tree by young boys that were about to plough a field. The circle denoted that the plough was not to enter therefore preserving the tree. Suddenly a table appeared which was covered set with bread, cheese and wine within the circle. One of the boys sat and ate telling the others ‘Fair fa’ the hands whilk gie’, whilst the others thought it better to avoid the offer. It is reputed that ever after the boy was extremely wise and ploughed hard, ‘thrave like a breckan’.
Charlemagne is said to have knelt before the Crown Of Thorns which blossomed in his presence. The Roman Catholic Church tells that the flowers had a strong aroma, that of the Hawthorn.