I'd been eagerly awaiting the arrival of Crataegus oxacantha, hawthorn flowers. It's an indispensable favorite amongst herbalists I think. I had been eyeballing the few trees on my early morning walks to the train for weeks. Watching the small green buds form and then whiten... and then bloom! And bloom they did. There's a few straggler trees still blooming out there, depending on where you live they may have yet to bloom.
Hawthorn is one of those fae trees, associated with faeries (not your winged cherub type) and the fire festival of Beltane (aka May Day). And it is said that if you come upon a stand of oak, ash and thorn growing together you may see faeries, or find a gateway to the otherworld. I personally find hawthorn both fierce and comforting, warm in its personality. With its thorns and bright red berries it is associated with the element of fire and the planet Mars. Being ruled by both fire and Mars myself, might explain my unspeakable attraction to this tree. With the Mars connection, hawthorn is also protective and was once used to protect farm animals from malefica.
Medicinally hawthorn is heart tonic, lowering blood pressure without any negative side effects. It is a true tonic of the heart in every sense, opening the heart, calming and soothing. It can take a fluttering, frantic heart and state of mind to a place of calm and collection. I've noticed this with plants in the rose family, as rose herself has this similar effect on me.
Before harvesting any plant for medicine or magical use, I touch it and speak to it of my intention. I wait for a moment to feel any interaction from the plant and if I have been given permission to collect from it. Usually, when a plant is approached respectfully you will get a positive response. To get an extra gold star, considering offing up honey, a peice of bread or red woolen yarn.
I harvested the flowering tips, twig, leaf and all very carefully with a pair of sharp scissors. I wanted to do a flower only tincture and I dried the rest for tea. My teacher at herbalism school suggested collecting the flowers just before they open. And it makes sense, because they kind of contain themselves once dried out for tea.
The tincture is stinky! If you've ever smelled flowering hawthorn, you'll notice a slight top note of foulness. It's a pleasant foulness to my nose though, some may not appreciate it. To be perfectly honest, it smells like sex and what some perfume enthusiasts refer to as, "skank." Which is not at all surprising as this tree is associated with fertility and that randy of all witch holidays, Beltane. It dissipates in its dried form, but is is preserved in the tincture. I have admittedly dabbed a bit of the floral menstruum on my wrist to revel in its scent. Should I ever acquire a still, I would definitely bottle this. Macerating these blossoms in a perfume grade alcohol solvent may need to happen next year.
How's your gathering going? Are the hawthorn blossoms done in your neck of the woods, or have they just begun?