May Day is traditionally celebrated when the May blossom appears on the Hawthorn trees.
Hawthorn is an important tree spiritually – surrounded by myth and legend. Oak, Ash and Hawthorn are the three sacred celtic trees. The most famous Hawthorn in Britain is the Glastonbury Thorn. Legend has it that Joseph of Arimathea arrived in Glastonbury bearing vessels containing the blood and sweat of Christ. He thrust his hawthorn staff into the ground where it took root and flowered. It flowers in May and on Christmas Day.
Stories abound of fairies and spirits dwelling in Hawthorn trees. To damage a Hawthorn could well bring retribution from them. In pagan times, priestesses planted sacred groves of Hawthorn. The great Witch / Goddess Nimue vanquished Merlin by capturing him in a Hawthorn bush. Many churches in Britain were built in existing ancient sacred enclosures. Even Westminster Abbey is built on a site that was once called Thorny Island.
As children we used to eat the new leaves and call them bread and cheese. We also gathered the oddly scented blossom but we were not allowed to take it into our homes – being told that to do so would herald sickness and death.
It has been said that at Beltane, Witches are able to turn themselves into Hawthorn trees. A hawthorn tree will protect the home from lightning strikes. It is a fertility symbol and is dedicated to Brigid. The leaves in a bed can also promote chastity.
I choose to focus my Beltane celebrations on the large Hawthorn tree in my garden. If she is not flowering on the first of May (she rarely is!) then I wait until she is ready. I tie ribbons in her branches and light candles and sweet incense beneath her. She guides my meditation and brings me joy.