Hawthorn Tree Symbolism and Meanings

 8 min read

Hawthorn (Crataegus) is a small tree, but don’t let her size fool you–she’s one of the most magical trees in Western traditions. She has countless associations with love, fairies, the Great Goddess, and the divine marriage between the Goddess and the God in folklore and herbal healing wisdom from many cultures and continents.

The British royal family places a sprig of Glastonbury thorn on their Christmas table to this day. The hawthorn is related in myths to both Jesus and King Arthur. This biannually flowering tree was born from Joseph of Arimathea’s staff when legend says he placed it in the ground at Glastonbury.

The hawthorn tree symbolism has been interpreted in different ways throughout history and culture.

In Celtic folk stories, she is known as the May Tree or May Bush, a symbol of fertility and new beginnings. Her flowers bloom during the time of Beltane, an ancient pagan festival celebrating spring and renewal.

Symbolism:Purification, sacred marriage and male-female unity
Divine Associations:Olwen (Welsh), Cardea (Roman), Hera (Greek)
Astrological Associations:Mars and Venus
Superstition:People residing in Christian Wales and parts of southwest England believed that if they took a blooming hawthorn branch inside their house, their mother would die.
Historical Spotlight:The maythorn flowers around 1 May (the Celtic festival of Beltane) until the calendar revision in 1752, which moved the blossoming time to mid-May.

About Hawthorn Trees

Hawthorn Berries
Hawthorn Berries

There are over 1,000 species of Crataegus, though the great majority are hybrids. They’re among the hardiest trees that exist and can adapt to various conditions such as strong winds, dryness or excessive moisture.

Most species are thorny shrubs or small trees with white flowers that open in May/June, and red fruits.

The hawthorn is a deciduous shrub that’s native to northern temperate zones. The most commonly seen variety in Europe–the common hawthorn (C. monogyna) or maythorn–is often found along hedgerows. This species produces white, fragrant flowers.

Another subspecies, biflora, is referred to as the “Glastonbury thorn.” It gets its name from the small crop of winter flowers it sometimes produces–an occurrence which happens earlier than normal for this type of plant thanks to leaves that sprout early on.

Practical Uses

Hawthorn is a type of tree with a long history of use both for boundaries and hedges. In fact, in Anglo-Saxon charters, it’s named far more frequently than any other type of tree.

It’s estimated that during the Parliament Enclosures between 1750 and 1850, roughly 200,000 miles (320,000km) of hawthorn hedges were planted throughout Britain.

Additionally, the wood from hawthorns is fine-grained and perfect for delicate work like veneers or cabinet-making due to its hardness. Finally, people have used Hawthorn berries and flowers to make jellies, wines and liqueurs.

Natural Healing

The hawthorn plant is a common herbal remedy for heart disorders. Both the blossom and the berries normalize blood pressure, increase the strength of the heartbeat, and improve coronary blood flow.

Hawthorn is effective in treating mild to moderate heart failure as well as reducing anxiety associated with these conditions.

Also, recent findings suggest that hawthorn can have a positive influence on heart and circulation in less than 60 seconds.

Therefore, this backs up its ancient use as an immediate fix to counteract fainting from low blood pressure levels.

Hawthorn tea or tincture can act as a daily tonic for the elderly, promoting better circulation and heart health.

Beyond physical benefits, hawthorn also helps to improve emotional and spiritual well-being by reducing negativity and encouraging love and forgiveness.

Folklore, Myth and Symbol of Hawthorn Tree

Hawthorn Tree Flowers
Hawthorn Tree Flowers

The prefix “haw” comes from the Old German hagedorn (which translates to hawthorn). Along with the hornbeam, the hawthorn was often utilized to enclose and protect woodland sanctuaries.

Many hawthorn spells and talisman customs survived throughout the Middle Ages and beyond, which showcases how much value was placed on its protective power.

The protection offered by the hawthorn hedge is based on spiritual cleansing, as expressed in various sacred Hittite texts from c1500 BCE. These texts ask the tree to “pluck any evil, impurity or wrath of the gods from this initiate, who walks through the gate (of your hedge)”.

References to the “gate” in these texts indicate that hawthorn-enclosed sanctuaries existed in ancient Anatolia (modern Turkey).

The overflowing whiteness of hawthorn flowers has historically symbolized physical, moral, and spiritual purity to people all over the world. They’ve been used in springtime celebrations, fertility rituals, and marriages for thousands of years because they’re seen as a herald of summer.

Furthermore, the hawthorn is known as the “White Goddess” tree. Hence the legend that Olwen—the Welsh goddess of creating things from Nothingness—once walked across an empty universe leaving behind a white path made out of hawthorn petals which eventually became our Milky Way galaxy.

The Romans also dedicated this tree to Cardea, the goddess of childbirth. Zeus’s wife Hera conceives Ares and his sister Eris when she touches the hawthorn blossoms.

The fact that Hera gives birth to a boy and a girl highlights the hawthorn’s connection with the balance between genders—its blossoms are hermaphrodites.

According to Celtic tradition, the babies who were subjects of Cardea’s protection resulted from the union of male and female creative energies. This is similar to the Welsh legend of Culhwych and Olwen, which reflects early traditions about a king marrying an immortal queen as part of ensuring fertility for land harvests.

In other words, by having this respectful and loving attitude toward nature (or in modern terms, via a strong economy and healthy ecology), humans would be ensured good fortune.

The Glastonbury thorn is a legendary tree that is said to have grown from the staff of Joseph of Arimathea. Joseph of Arimathea was a man who, according to legend, travelled from Jerusalem to Britain shortly after the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.

The connection between Joseph and the thorn only exists in 16th-century writings, however, the cult status surrounding this tree continues an ancient tradition of purity within Christianity.

Hawthorn Tree Symbolisms and Meanings

Hawthorn Trees
Hawthorn Trees


Hawthorn is uniquely protective, due in large measure to her power of concentration. When we’re fully present and focused, it’s easy to remain relaxed while also being alert. This focus enables us to be ready to defend ourselves if need be.

In several cultures, hawthorn has been used medicinally to support digestion. This is similar to her ability to help us “digest” and assimilate what is true at any given moment.

When we accept what is—not what “should” or “shouldn’t be—we release resistance and move through challenges more easily.

Protection from Vampires

Hawthorn wood is said to be the most effective material for killing vampires, according to Serbian legend.

This is because vampires are allergic to hawthorn, similar to their legendary aversion to garlic.

Fairy Communication

Hawthorn is often associated with fairies and is known as the tree that lies on the border between realms.

People decorate with her flowers during Beltane- a time when fairyland becomes visible to humans. Therefore, she’s also tied to the pagan Goddess and God’s sacred union that takes place on Beltane.

The hawthorn means a lot to the fairy realm because of everything she does for other creatures. She provides them with food, shelter, and nectar, which helps sustain many different types of birds, mammals, and insects.

Heart Healing

According to author Fred Hageneder in The Meaning of Trees, hawthorn has been used medicinally to strengthen the physical heart, and trials have shown that it helps reduce anxiety and treat high blood pressure and mild to moderate heart failure.

Magically, hawthorn’s vibration has also been long employed to heal broken hearts.


Because the hawthorn flower has five petals, is part of the rose family, and was used in traditional wedding ceremonies and to decorate altars for Hymen, the Greek god of marriage celebrations, she is associated with joyful commitment and lasting romantic love.


Is Hawthorn Mentioned in the Bible?

The Hawthorn tree, also known as the May or white thorn, is not mentioned by name in the Bible. However, it has been suggested that Hawthorn may have been referenced where Abner strikes Asahel with the “stob of a fresh branch” and kills him.

Hawthorn branches are known for their stiff and sharp thorns, making them suitable for use as weaponry. Hawthorn trees were also often used as boundary markers in ancient times, possibly pointing to their mention in Isaiah 5:2 as a symbol of Israel’s borders being set by God.

In addition, Hawthorn is associated with fidelity and endurance, traits that align with the qualities highlighted in Proverbs 24:3-4. While Hawthorn may not be explicitly named in the Bible, it can certainly be seen as symbolic throughout its pages.

What is the Spiritual Meaning of Hawthorn Berry?

Hawthorn berries have long been associated with spiritual practices and beliefs. In Celtic mythology, hawthorns are considered sacred trees and were often used as boundary markers or places of worship.

In Christian tradition, hawthorn berries were said to represent the crown of thorns worn by Jesus during his crucifixion. In Chinese medicine, the Hawthorn berry is believed to open and cleanse the heart chakra, promoting love and forgiveness.

As a symbol of hope and renewal, the Hawthorn berry can also be used in rituals for cleansing negative energy and promoting emotional healing. Whether used in traditional spiritual practices or simply as a personal symbol, the Hawthorn berry holds deep meaning for those seeking spiritual growth and development.


The hawthorn tree has been significant throughout history and across cultures. Its symbolism and meanings are many and varied, from good luck to protection against evil spirits. If you’re looking for a tattoo design with deep meaning, the hawthorn tree may be the perfect choice for you.