Friday, October 21, 2016

May Totems: Hawthorn

In our tradition we divide the year not only by eight solar and agricultural holidays, but also by the Kalends. We celebrate twelve months of the year by the common calendar, plus a special thirteenth month for Samhain.  These month cycles are associated with different totemic spirits. Each month is assigned an animal, a bird (or other flying creature), and a tree. May's totems are Cow, Hawthorn, and Bee.

The totemic associations are as follows:

Cow (Tarbh/Bò) – fertility, prosperity, protection, nourishment
Hawthorn (Huathe) – fertility, cleansing, protection, joy
Bee (Beach) – fertility, community, sweetness, celebration, organization


Hawthorns are often used in hedges (some linguistic studies shows that its name may actually mean “hedge thorn”). It is ideal for such a use due to its twisted trunk and dense branches, which make it difficult to penetrate. It doesn’t generally grow very tall, and it is frequently a companion to blackthorn. When it is found naturally with Oak and Ash, fairies are likely to be nearby.
"Oh, do not tell the Priest of our Art,
Or he would call it sin;
But we shall be out in the woods all night,
A-conjuring summer in!
And we bring you news by word of mouth
For women, cattle and corn
Now is the sun come up from the South          
With Oak, and Ash and Thorn!"

-Rudyard Kipling's "Puck of Pook's Hill"
The Hawthorn has very sharp thorns that are sometimes used for ritual tattoos. Its white flowers are often woven into garlands for doors and Maypoles at Beltane. Indeed, long ago Beltane was reckoned by the first flowering of the Hawthorn tree. Its wood is the traditional material for the Maypole itself. The Hawthorn is so closely associated with Beltane that to gather its blossoming branches was said to be "going a-maying", and the tree itself is sometimes called simply "The May".  Due to these associations, Hawthorn has long been linked to weddings and fertility rites.

It is also associated with inward growth, cleansing and protection. It is said to be a “village tree” because it seems to prefer growing near people.
Fair Lady of the Bounds,
Raise high the Holy Hedge of Light
Bind fast the Dominion Within.
Pentanthus of the glory-hand,
Reach forth as a Guide amid thy branches,
Draw fast the bone-white thread
As a blessed Needle of Weaving.
~Viridarium Umbris: The Pleasure Garden of Shadow by Daniel A. Schulke

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