Wishing Thorn – What’s in a Name?
The woods are brown and bare;
Yet this is March, soon April
will be making
All things most sweet and fair.
and thicket tangled,
One brave and cheering sight,
The leafless branches of the Blackthorn,
With starry blossoms white!
Blackthorn Fairy by Cicely Mary Barker
Her response to my questioning was that I should research the ancient mythos our Celtic & Welsh ancestors had built around the Blackthorn & Hawthorn tree. On one hand, I was intrigued! I am an educator and have always loved learning, especially when it comes to ancient lore. On the other hand, having only one X chromosome, I don’t like being told what I should do. Weighing my options, I decided to go ahead and delve into the research, but in secret!
Of all the trees that grow so fair,
Old England to adorn,
Greater are none beneath the Sun
Thank Oak, and Ash, and Thorn
Rudyard Kipling, Puck of Pook's Hill 1906
Young girls rose at dawn to bathe in dew gathered from hawthorn flowers to ensure their beauty in the coming year, as the old rhyme goes:
The fair maid who, the first of May,
Goes to the fields at break of day
And washes in dew from the hawthorn tree,
Will ever after handsome be.
Christianity played a part in preserving the reverence of the hawthorn tree. As Christ was given a crown of thorns at his crucifixion, the tradition of the tree’s magical associations has continued in Christian legend. Sir John Mandeville wrote:
Then was our Lord ylad into a Gardyn…and there the Jews scorned him, and maden him a Crowne of the Braunches of Albespyne, that is White Thorn, that grew in the same Gardyn, and setten yt on hys Heved…..And therefore hathe the White Thorn many Vertues. For he that berethe a Braunche on him thereoffe, no Thondre ne no maner of Tempest may dere (hurt)him; ne in the Hows that it is inne may no evylle Gost entre.
Deeper down the rabbit hole I tumbled…
Blackthorns are intertwined with the ancient lore of Ireland, Scotland, Wales and pre-Roman Britain. In fact, in the ancient Ogham script of Ireland, the tree was known as Straif, from which our modern word Strife originates. They were known to be medicinal, a tree of ill omen, associated with witchcraft and curses. Conversely these trees were the friends of heroes, used in spells of protections, the briar that protected Sleeping Beauty, woven into wreaths for luck, gives warriors the strength to persevere in the face of adversity, and so on.
What on earth is a wishing thorn anyway?
Finally reaching the bottom of the rabbit hole slide I discovered that Blackthorns were often planted near sacred sites, wells and waterways. They were to guard the entrances to the faerie world and as guardians, held magical properties of their own. The ribbon was fastened to a thorn on the tree in the hopes that the wish would come true. Red for love, blue for peace, green for money and wealth, because of course, faeries really don’t like the color yellow! Of course! Blackthorn thorns were used to hang one’s wishes from, so they were called wishing thorns.
Below an old BBC news report: A major controversy has shaken the rural tranquility of Annacloy in County Down. A Fairy Tree was cut down!