i harvested Hawthorn a few weeks ago.
i waited just a day too long and had to get wet to gather May, as it is called in england,
but it was well worth the rainy adventure.
hawthorn is a favorite of mine.
jasper's middle name is hawthorn.
hawthorn is for the heart and happiness: literally, symbolically, physically, and metaphorically.
Rosemary Gladstar reminds us that, "though little is mentioned in literature, hawthorn is a wonderful remedy for 'broken hearts' and for depression and anxiety. it is a specific medicine for those who have a difficult time expressing their feelings or who suppress their emotions. hawthorn helps the heart flower, open, and be healed."
i love to harvest the flowers of crataegus , which bloom on this small deciduous tree or large shrub near mother's day in the pnw, to use in tea. the flowers are 1/4 inch across and form in terminate clusters, each blossom having five petals and many stamen. and in the fall i will collect the mildly sweet haws (berries/fruit) to use in tea too, or perhaps ferment into wine or mead. these are small, red to black in color, and have 2 to 5 seeds each.
hawthorn is part of the Rosaceae family and provides us with one of the best tonic remedies for the heart and circulatory system. as a tonic, hawthorn will move the heart to normal function in a gentle way. thus it can be argued that hawthorn is the premier heart tonic of herbal medicine.
hawthorn is said to have a "dead" odor but i don't agree. i love the smell and there is nothing else like it...
very distinctive scent and defines a short lived season.
too it is said that the ancient greeks and romans regarded the hawthorn as a symbol of hope and happiness so it was used in bouquets and corsages in wedding ceremonies. it has been believed to keep evil spirits away so it was used in babies' cradles. it is supposed to bring fairies into houses and is sacred to the fairies. hawthorn is part of the tree fairy triad of britain: "oak, ash, and thorn," and where all three trees grow it is said that one may see fairies.
it is unlucky if gathered before the first week of may.
hawthorn grows where people are and you will often find them on old abandoned homesteads. the thickets and hedgerows of hawthorn serve as important forage and nesting habitats for birds and other wildlife. also, as R. Gladstar has mentioned, "the hawthorn tree has been planted in or near most herb gardens and has been revered and surrounded by legend for centuries."
hawthorn flowers and berries have been used in chinese medicine for thousands of years. the berries are often turned into jam and have sufficient natural pectin in them to not require any extra be added. also, the berries tend to require very little artificial sweetening as these "thorn apples" tend to be mildly sugary raw.
the thorns characterize this member of the apple family even in winter. its curved thorns are 1 to 3 inches and are strategically spaced along the branches, often at eye level. when you get poked, it hurts. the wood of hawthorn is very hard and therefore a favored tool wood.
my favorite ritual and magical uses of hawthorn come in the ancient stories of times when hawthorns were believed to be witches who had transformed themselves into trees. it is known that witches have long danced and performed their rites beneath the thorn. in the past, all witch's gardens contained at least one hawthorn hedge.
my land contains three.
after i plucked all the flowers and leaves of my harvested branches, i layed the flowers and leaves out to dry for a few days. as it had been raining during collection, i needed to be sure they were very well dried before packaging them. i saved all the magical hawthorn wood, tied it in a bundle, and hung it in my wood shed to dry. i will use the wood for amulets and talismans at a later date. for now i am enjoying cupfuls of hawthorn flower tea that i sweeten just a tich with honey from my honey bees.
it is a fine life i live,
if i do say so myself.
sources: Cunningham's Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs by Scott Cunningham, Common Herbs For Natural Health by Juliette de Bairacli Levy, Family Herbal by Rosemary Gladstar, Edible and Medicinal Plants of the West by Gregory L. Tilford, The New Holistic Herbal by David Hoffman, Field Guide to Edible Wild Plants by Bradford Angier, The Years in My Herb Garden by Helen M Fox, and Rodales Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs.