Hawthorn – Elder’s less revered unidentical twin

When I was young I was always told that Hawthorn berries were poisonous. It was in a hedgerow herbalism course that I was told the instructor frequently used it – both for colouring and for curing.

Herbal medicine

All these herbal uses are new to me! I’ve never used it and still have a bit of a fear of picking them.

It’s used in tinctures and tablets made from the flowers and berries for the heart and to strengthen the blood vessels. It has been thoroughly researched and has been found effective for these uses; studies on people showed that it improved heart rate, lowered high blood pressure and helped in general with heart disease patients. Bioflavanoids found to be present, help strengthen the blood vessels. It is also used, along with other herbs, to improve memory by increasing the circulation to the brain.

Remember, before using a herb for your health, remember that you should do plenty of your own research and always consult a doctor who knows about your condition and the side effects of the drug (because herbs are drugs too).

A Touch of Witchcraft

The flowers, in folk lore, were said to be the flowers of death and would bring fatally bad luck if brought into the house. It might be due to the fact that the flowers have within them a chemical that’s one of the first produced as dead animals start to decay. It is also strongly associated with faeries, so if you have one planted in or near your garden you might be looking out to The Otherworld. It grows abundantly in my area and I’ve always feared the guardians that protect the Hawthorn tree more than those who guard the Elder.

Hawthorn was strongly associated with Beltane, just as you might put Elder flowers above your door to usher in luck and fertility at the time you would also wear hawthorn flower crowns. In some Christian superstition, the thorny crown is often thought of quite sacred, as the crown Jesus wore as he was put on the cross. It was said that Hawthorn is only safe to pick and have in the house if you say this while picking it:

“Under the Thorn

The Saviour was born”

We ourselves, at that time of year celebrating the rebirth and life of our god, can say something like

“Under the Thorn

Lugh is reborn”


Of course, though the Beltane folklore is interesting it is Samhain that we are drawing nearer to right now. Samhain, I like to think of as Beltane’s big brother (also probably the favourite brother as far as we pagans like to go!). I thought it fitting to suggest that while we place the flowers around the place at Beltane we should now be placing the berries on our altar on Samhain, or if you’re absolutely certain you’ve got the right berries (don’t go ahead if you’re not sure!) you could include some hawthorn berry recipes in your Samhain feast. Making a wine from the berries as offering on the the altar sounds perfect.

I’ve not seen any folklore or pagan references guiding you to do so but something, while I was walking out and about looking at the lovely berries out there, clicked in my mind; It just makes sense, doesn’t it?

Too much of the time am I trying to find things to put on the altar that just don’t grow abundantly around my area (up in the windy coastal hills with wet clay soil) and sometimes it should just boil down to celebrating the harvests that surround you, not the ones in the supermarket.