Today’s card is the Hawthorn, also known as Crataegus oxyacantha in scientific terms. Hawthorns have been prominent in many global mythologies and are still honored to this day in parts of Britain as the bearers of good luck and ancestral wisdom. Frequently planted next to springs or wellheads in connection with this legend of ancestral wisdom, people to this day tie scraps of cloths, called clooties, to the branches of their local hawthorn representing their fondest wishes for consideration by this Green Man. One of the better known legends of the hawthorn is of Joseph of Arimathea, Jesus’ uncle, having been returned to England following the crucifixion bearing the sacred relic ‘The Holy Grail’, He planted his hawthorn staff at the spot atop a hill where he planned to form his new spiritual community in the name of Christ and blossoms immediately began to form on its surface. A thorn tree still stands in this spot on top of the hill known as Wearyall and every Christmas the Queen of England’s table is dressed with a scion from this tree as well as one from the tree at Glastonbury Abbey, which flowers in December.
One of the deities associated with the hawthorn is the Roman goddess Cardea, who presided over women in childbirth. Throughout Italy, torches made of hawthorn were carried at weddings to honor this goddess who was said to be reluctant to bless a marriage unless the groom had paid considerable sacrifice in order to gain his bride’s hand. Cardea was also said to be guardian of the threshold, looking both backward at the past and forward to the future. Also associated with marriage and love is the Goddess Olwen, daughter of the giant Yspaddadden Pencawr (translated Giant Hawthorn) who was the Celtic Goddess of spring. Where she tried, white blossoms were said to spring forth, thus earning her the name White Track. It is said that when Culhwck fell in love with this maiden, her father set increasingly harder tasks upon the young man in order to prove his worthiness to take her to wife. Only through the assistance of the Knights of the Round Table was he able to complete each task, and eventually, the giant had to be slain in order for them to wed. Thus the hawthorn is seen to represent Challenge in all its forms.
The hawthorn is also associated with May Day and a wreath of its blossoms was placed upon the head of the most beautiful maidens in the village, and they were transported by cart or on the backs of horses to the village square. At this time the rites of Beltane would be performed and these maidens would go from house to house blessing the crops and the marriage bed with fertility. A wild and passionate celebration would ensue and marriages were often conducted at this time with the newlywed couple celebrating their new wedded bliss under the branches of the blooming hawthorn, whose scent was said to lend an erotic charge to their bed.
The Ogam for this card is Huath and it is the base of the 2nd set of five Ogams in the same category. The five together are challenge, fate, energy, wisdom, and vision. Thus, the Green Man wisdom here, Challenge Opens the Way For Us, is appropriate for the others to grow from. Challenges do not always have to be bad and this card is telling us to embrace the changes that are occurring at this time and focus on the growth that these changes will bring about. Sometimes, fear of change causes us to ‘freeze’; however, wherever fear is present, there is also power. This card challenges us to make some small adjustments that will change inaction to action, inability to ability, and uncertainty to daring. Once you admit that your life is in a rut, however comfortable that rut may be, and accept that change is necessary for growth and wisdom, you will be well on your way to embracing these new aspects of your life with courage and passion.
Today, may your fear of uncertainty be just strong enough to push you into acting for the future.