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Hawthorne, A Symbol of Courage

Legend has it that those who gather near the lone Hawthorne in the Spring may be whisked away by the fairies. Sometimes I wonder if it isn't the fairies who left me under the Hawthorne instead...

The Hawthorne is a small tree in the rose family that is known historically to have formed hedgerows of protection around a home site, keeping out what is not wanted by its thorns. Its flowers bloom white near the beginning of May and are a symbol of the return of Spring which is symbolized by the young maiden. May Day celebrations at one time used to be quite prominent in our area here in Virginia, but like many other traditions has quietly slipped away. A May Pole was erected and people would dance and weave ribbons around the pole, as a symbol of fertility and life again springing forth- birth and renewal after winters slumber. My mom was even crowned May Queen! When practicing herbalism, I always try understand everything that I can about a plant. The berries of the Hawthorne are widely known as medicine for the heart. It is also very nourishing to wildlife, both as a food source and a shelter. Folklore suggests that the tree holds the young fairy queen within, she has been away during the death of winter and now brings forth her vibrant life into springtime blossoms.

We have several Hawthorne trees at Trossachs Woodland Farm. Some we have planted, and others have waited quietly within the woods for me to find them. This past weekend I found one such tree. Waiting for me, she stood as a perfect picture of death and life. Seasoned by many years, a section had died while yet another part of her lived on putting forth buds of new life. I know the folk lore well, but I reached out to touch her anyway. As I said, I am not so sure if the fairies aren't the ones that left me behind! Immediately I felt our connection. This tree speaks directly to my heart, we share the same language without fear. While she knows of love, of loss, betrayal and truth she has no need to tell of it. Hawthorne tells us of the true nature of courage. The word courage originates from the meaning of truth of heart. Courage isn't the absence of fear. Courage is virtue and bravery. The Hawthorne isn't just the young goddess. She is also the wise Crone, housing the wisdom of both the harshest and most peaceful of winters. She is understands bitter and she understands the silent sweetness brought by peace. She is the ripened matron who is neither young nor old, and she is also innocence. The blushing bride waiting in the form of a green bud, waiting to burst forth and show her beauty. She is death and life. She is courageous enough to tell the truth of her story in its complete form, just as it is. She is not the victim or the villain or even the hero...maybe that's why we don't tell of her truth, we only want to make up a story. ... I for one am grateful to have known her for who she is,and in that understanding she allowed me to prune off her dead branches to allow more life to go to the new. She allowed me to take her dead branches, with the understanding that though the wood was dead on the outside her spirit remained very much alive within. That is the beauty of death....

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