During my walk today, what should I come across but many flowering Hawthorns. Now, keep in mind that back in the South I only saw one Hawthorn ever.....and it was more like a barren shrub than a tree. Be that as it may, it's long been my favourite magical wood to work with and I have several wands and magical tools made from Hawthorn branches harvested in the UK. Imagine my joy, then, to come across easily 10-15 of them in a relatively small area.
The Hawthorn tends to be a smaller tree, sometimes more like a shrub, and has twisty branches that bear shortish, but sharp, thorns. In the springtime the tree firsts displays leaves (unlike the Blackthorn, which has flowers first) before blossoming with many small, white, fragrant flowers. Some say the scent of the flower is unpleasant, others say it acts as an aphrodisiac for men, and still others that it enforces chastity. To me, the flowers had a very pleasant, though quite sweet, odour that was almost intoxicating. Indeed, it's easy to picture the showy white flowers and strong smell putting one in the mood for love, which may very well be the source of the tree's association with springtime romance and naughty romps in the field. The Hawthorn has a strong association with Beltane or May Day, and with fertility and weddings. Traditionally, couples getting married would wear crowns of Hawthorn blossoms and leaves, and would sometimes decorate with boughs of the wood. Oddly enough, at other times of the year to bring Hawthorn into the house was considered to be detrimental in some way. In the autumn the Hawthorn yields many small, red, tart berries that can be eaten as jelly or made into wine.
Like most magical trees, the Hawthorn has a bit of a darker side as well. The thorns have been used in both love spells and curses, and when the tree has shed its leaves in the winter the twisted, thorny skeleton that remains can present an ominous sight. A Welsh Witch of my acquaintance speaks of the Thorn Lady, a kind of spirit of the Hawthorn tree that can act as the "wise grandmother" of the Craft, and not all of her lessons are love and light. It's considered very bad luck to damage or cut down a Hawthorn, as the Good Folk are very protective of it and will take revenge on any who dares to destroy the tree.
On a more mundane level the flowers, berries, and leaves all have medicinal use. The berry can be used (under medical supervision only) to strengthen a weak heartbeat, and the flowers and leaves have a tonic quality. As mentioned above, the berries can also be used to make many delicious jellies and jams. The wood of the Hawthorn is beautiful and VERY hard, and can be carved into small trinkets, handles, and similar objects.
If you come across a flowering Hawthorn this spring, consider yourself lucky because in my opinion there are few trees more magical. Stop for a while to set beneath the thorny branches and feel the powerful magic of the tree.