The Darling Buds of May

Today is the first day of ‘Hawthorn’ on our Ogham ‘Tree Calendar’ – ‘May’ being an alternative folk name for the Hawthorn.   The phrase was coined by William Shakespeare in his Sonnet 18 ..

‘Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date ..’


For the full poem along with a modern translation and analysis see  ..

“Sonnet 18 is the best known and most well-loved of all 154 sonnets.”

I think of the Hawthorn as a very feminine tree; the beautiful white blossoms, red berries in autumn and bare thorny branches in winter I see as the 3 stages of Womanhood – the blossoms the white lace of a wedding dress, the berries the ‘ripeness’ of pregnancy and motherhood, the thorns the prickly wisdom of an elderly lady – as with Maiden, Mother and Crone, the 3 aspects of the Goddess 🌒🌕🌘

When getting to know the trees whilst studying the Ogham this was my impression of the May ..

I really love the hedges which line a road nearby to where I live. The smell of the blossom and foliage in springtime, the pretty berries in autumn 🥰 They are wildlife corridors – on approaching them there are always birds to be seen flying in and out and they must give protection to a lot of small animals from the open fields. I think of them as a row of merry maidens – sturdy, strong country girls with pretty rosy cheeked faces who make you feel welcome and inspire confidence – kindly but knowing 😉 Because there is also something mysterious about them, you peer in but you still get a sense that there is more beyond what you can see – where do those birds and small animals really go? 🤔

There really is something quite mysterious about the Hawthorn, the ancient Celts saw this tree as a portal to the ‘Otherworld’ – a fairy tree that must never be cut down.  Even to this day in Ireland roads have been re-routed to avoid cutting down a May tree. 

Also several workers at John DeLorean’s car factory in Northern Ireland in 1982 blamed the failure of the company on the cutting down of an old Hawthorn tree during the factory’s construction!

Of course the most famous May tree of all has to be the ‘Glastonbury Thorn’ on Wearyall Hill near Glastonbury, Somerset.  Legend tells us that the original tree sprouted from the staff of Joseph of Arimathea after he thrust it into the ground on top of the hill whilst visiting the area – very similar to the story about St Patrick in Aspatria, Cumbria. Miraculously the staff burst into leaf and blossom as a sign perhaps that his mission to spread the Gospel in Britain would bear fruit.  It soon became a site of pilgrimage for early Christians until it was chopped down and burned during the English Civil War. A replacement tree was planted in 1951 but was sadly very badly vandalised again in 2010 – in March 2011 it was reported that a new shoot had appeared on the remaining stumps of the tree.💖

The ‘Glastonbury Thorn’ is a special variety of Hawthorn Crataegus monogyna‘Biflora’ which flowers twice a year – midwinter and May-time.  A spray from the Glastonbury Thorn is sent to the Queen each Christmas.

There is a real wealth of folklore to be found regarding May trees as any search for it on the internet will show you – here is some more particularly interesting information ..

‘It was at the dawn of day in the merry Maytime, when hedgerows are green and flowers bedeck the meadows; daisies pied and yellow cuckoo buds and fair primroses all along the briery hedges; when apple buds blossom and sweet birds sing, the lark at dawn of day, the throstle cock and cuckoo; when lads and lasses look upon each other with sweet thoughts; when busy housewives spread their linen to bleach upon the bright green grass.’

from The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood by Howard Pyle.

Wishing you all a very “Merry May!”

Kim x

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