When I began studying the hawthorn flower, I noticed consistant references to magic and pagan rituals. Also known as the thornapple, this small tree is a member of the rose family (Crataegus Monogyna). It has simple, toothed leaves and white or pink flowers. As the flower for May, it represents love and protection.  As I began looking into the history behind the hawthorn flower’s symbolism, I uncovered a wealth of interesting stories.

Some of the legends connect hawthorn with:

  • Beltane: The hawthorn is a tree of magical enchantment, associated with Beltane, the ancient spring festival. In Celtic mythology, it is sacred, symbolizing love and protection.
  • Maypoles and Hedges: People would use these trees to make maypoles. Also, it was woven into a growing fence called a hedgerow to grant protection
  • The Fairy Tree:  Throughout history, people have believed that fairies live under hawthorn trees as guardians. However, their blooms may be respectfully harvested by brides.
  • The Equalizer: The tree facilitates transformation because it equalizes fortunes. Extreme conditions are balanced by the opposite, like the thorns with flowers.

This small tree carries magical connotations and meaning. I wanted to learn more about the bloom’s rich history and symbolism.

I got in touch with Nikki Graves, owner of BeeWitched RI. Nikki describes herself a small business owner, mother of two, and a Solitary Witch “… from the little state of Rhode Island.” She studied visual arts in college, majoring in studio art (Painting and Printmaking). Her business, BeeWitched RI “…creates handmade candles and other various witchy items.” In her shop, all of the products are “…crafted in ritual and with intention”.

She also runs the BeeWitched RI social media accounts as, “… a place to learn about Witchcraft and to inspire and empower our community!”

“It’s also a mission of mine to educate others on how witchcraft is not in any way related to devil worship or in any means evil. Witchcraft is a nature-based belief system, honoring what the earth provides using those gifts in rituals and ART!” Nikki explained to me.

Nikki Graves, owner of BeeWitched RI, Photo Courtesy of https://www.instagram.com/beewitched_ri/

History and Symbolism of Hawthorn

Nikki and I discussed hawthorn and its mystical significance. I was fascinated to see parallels between the tree’s annual life cycle and pagan celebrations. You can see how magic rituals and the tree became both symbolically and literally connected.

Danielle: How did you become interested in candles, oils, crystals, etc.?

Nikki: A close friend of mine holds monthly New Moon Circles and craft nights (Witch-Crafts). One of the nights we made candles and I fell in love with the process and the vast possibility for creative expression!! Prior to that, I had studied Tarot cards. I bought my first deck at the age of 16 and still use the same deck to this day. I have always been a very curious person by nature, which I think follows in suit with my Aquarius tendencies! So naturally, my interest moved to oils and crystals and now I’m very interested in learning more about Herbalism.

D: How would you describe your spiritual beliefs and practices?

N: I grew up in a very Christian household. I was confirmed in the Episcopal Church and attended mass weekly until high school. I have been on a long journey of finding myself spiritually and have found myself most at peace with a Pagan/ Wiccan belief.  I am currently a solitary witch and am not affiliated with any coven.

D: What does the hawthorn tree represent for you?

N: The Hawthorn tree is a very magical and resilient plant. For me, it represents protection and fertility. It’s also home for the Fairies! The wood from the tree is also widely used for crafting tools used for witchcraft. Particularly, the handle for Athame’s (Pagan ritual dagger) uses hawthorn due to the wood’s durability and connection to magic.

D: What do you know about the history of the tree and its significance?

N: This tree has a very long history of being sacred and magical. It has been used to establish borders for land due to its sturdiness and the thorns are an added layer of protection. The tree also produces hawberries from the flower that ripen in the fall which feed the local wildlife! I love that this tree produces during two pivotal times of the year. In Spring, the tree blooms beautiful flowers in time for the Beltane Celebration (renewal of life). Then, in the fall for Samhain (around Halloween), the tree’s hawberries are ripened and offer a feast to the animals. During these two times, the veil between the worlds is at its thinnest which is why I think this tree is so deeply connected to witches and magic.

D: I see that hawthorn is part of the Beltane festival. Do you know much about how they are connected?

N: Beltane is an old Celtic celebration that celebrates love, sexuality, fertility, and life. It is also the celebration of Spring and the return of the light (longer days) and the welcoming of greenery back to the earth. The Hawthorn tree produces white flowers usually in time for May 1, which is Beltane or May Day. The flowers that the hawthorn produces are a symbol of fertility. Young girls would wear the flowers in their hair during the Beltane celebration and the flowers were used to decorate the Maypole. Even brides would carry these flowers at their wedding to show that she was hopeful for a fruitful marriage.

D: I’ve read that hawthorn can be used to make Maypoles and are often grown into hedgerows for protection. Could you give some insight into those practices?

N: From what I understand this tree is known for its strong wood with deep roots, which would be ideal for holding its ground. Under the leaves and flowers are a hidden defense mechanism — long and sharp thorns that add an extra layer of protection. It was also rumored to be bad luck if you were to remove or tamper with a Hawthorn tree. I have read stories that road work would be delayed because workers would refuse to cut the tree down in fear of the bad repercussions.

D: In my research, I saw that hawthorn is sometimes referred to as a fairy tree. Could you talk about that connection?

N: Folklore claims that this tree is home to the fairies.

D: Previously, you mentioned that you had a large-seeded hawthorn tree at your old home. Could you tell me a little about that experience?

N: My Hawthorn was right in front of my house, which was amazing for bird watching! It is said that fairies live in the trees and are VERY protective of their home. One time, I was trimming the tree and pricked myself from one of its thorns! Evidently, it is suggested you need to leave offerings to the fairies, and only then can you harvest from the tree. The thorn is not poisonous but it does carry a lot of bacteria and can cause your skin to become infected. My finger was swollen and in pain for days. This was a lesson learned to not disrupt the fairies and to always be respectful to the nature around me!

The Witchy Symbolism of the Hawthorn Flower

I’d like to offer special thanks to Nikki for telling me about the history of hawthorn and its role in magical rituals. You can read more by Nikki Graves Owner of BeeWitched RI on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/BeeWitchedRI) or Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/beewitched_ri/).

If you enjoyed this post, you should explore more of the birth month flowers. I spent a whole year studying them and creating sketches for each one. I post about them monthly on my Instagram account @verdera.me. Join me and other nature lovers there.

Additional Reading

This interview has been slightly edited for length and clarity.