Tuesday, 29 September 2015
The Hawthorn is an iconic tree of the spring hedgerows, covered with a mass of white flowers. This gives its alternative name: May.
Its bright red berries in autumn are a valuable food source for wintering birds, and are also edible for humans. A syrup made from the berries was once used to treat heart complaints and improve circulation.
Its association with the month of May made it key to the May Day or Beltaine festival. This was the only day when it was considered acceptable to pick the blossoms: any other time it was considered very unlucky.
The white flowers are a symbol of purity and chastity, and the month of May is traditionally the time for cleaning temples and holy places. We still 'spring clean' today.
A sacred and ancient hawthorn at Glastonbury is said to have been planted by Joseph of Arimathea, the uncle of Jesus. This tree, which is actually of a genus originating from the Middle East, flowers at Christmas as well as in May, supposedly in honour of that fateful birth.
Next week, another sacred tree.