The Fairy Tree ©Willow
In several traditions, today is a holiday called the Veneration of the Thorn. It honors the magical hawthorn tree, which is often the guardian of sacred wells and other holy places. The hawthorn (Crataegus mongyna, Crataegus oxyacantha or the botanical nightmare of nearly 300 other Crataegus species), is a member of the Rose family.
Also known as Whitethorn, Haegthorn, or Quickthorn, it is one of the most wild, enchanted and sacred of trees in the British Isles. This beautiful, often gnarled, thorny little tree can live to a great age, and can be found growing in the most remote, harshest locations. It grows all over Europe, Greece, North Africa, North America, and Western Asia and is rich in folklore and legend.
Because it flowers during this part of the year, hawthorn is strongly associated with Beltane and is sometimes called the May Tree. As such, it is also a symbol of sexual celebration and fertility. Even growing in a town, the Hawthorn retains the spirit of the wild, and some town hawthorn hedges have probably been there for hundreds of years – long before the town built up around them.
The energy for the hawthorn centers on the heart, and this is reflected in its herbal uses as well as its symbolism and place in folklore and legend. Hawthorn is used to treat heart disease and to treat and prevent cardiovascular disorders. Herbalists consider hawthorn to be the world’s best heart tonic.
On this day, people decorate the trees by tying scraps of cloth to them, which then flutter in the wind, very much like the Buddhist prayer flags. These decorated thorn trees are also honored as Faerie Trees.
Not surprisingly, then, today is also Faerie Day. According to Irish folklore, it is on this day that the faerie folk emerge from their winter retreats. Of course, not all of the Fair Folk are fond of humans (often with good reason), so a measure of caution is encouraged by those who live close to the land and who remember the lore about such matters.
By the way, if you are thinking that Faeries are tiny Tinkerbelle creatures who wear pretty pink taffeta and mince about on daisies, think again. All reports from those who have actually encountered the Fey agree that they are powerful beings, of all shapes, sizes, and temperments. They are never to be trifled with.
On this night, especially, to prevent human children from being stolen by the faeries and replaced by changelings, an offering of tea and bread should be left on the doorstep. Wise grandmothers also know that you should limit travel on this day, particularly this evening. But if you must be out, it is advised that you should wear your coat inside out to foil any possible mischief.