Thursday 16 March 2023

Flower Folklore: Blackthorn for Wine and Witchcraft

The blackthorn is in blossom where I live and I photographed the little white flowers you can see above on a tree growing by the side of a south London street I was walking down. Blackthorn blossom is among the first to appear, before that of hawthorn, and does so before leaves can be seen. It provides early nectar and pollen for bees and other insects as well as being a sign that spring is on the way.

The tree is strongly connected to witchcraft. Blackthorn wood is traditionally used to make wands and blasting rods for protection magic. The branches have long thorns on them. One example of a wand in the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic in Cornwall still has the spikes attached. Both its appearance and the energy are decidedly prickly - this is to get rid of unwanted things, not for gentle magic. Blackthorn wood is hard and makes good walking sticks too. Any witch who wants to have a go at wittling could make themselves a fabulous double-purpose stick to help them over rough terrain out in the countryside and to blast away troublesome supernatural nasties they might come across in the woods and wilds.

The thorns are also traditionally used with poppets, to be stuck in effigies instead of pins when cursing, with the intent of causing the victim discomfort. Even in Irish tree ogham symbolism, blackthorn is associated with endings rather than beginnings. Damh the Bard's lyrics, written as a mnemonic for learning the ogham, state: "Blackthorn sharp for death preparing."

However, in herbal medicine, the dried flowers and fruit have been used for healing purposes, including help with stomach problems, throat infections and rhuematism. The berries, or sloes, which appear in the autumn, also make wonderful fruit wine and can be used to flavour gin. This was one of my mothers' favourite tipples in the cold weather.

You can find out more about poppets and magical dolls in my book in the Pagan Portals series.

Note: This is for information purposes only, it is not medical advice. Always consult a qualified medical herbalist before taking any herbal remedy.  I earn commission from advertisers for some links. This helps support my blog at no extra cost to those who read my posts.

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