Friday, January 11, 2008

The Hawthorn/ Hvidtjørn


The lovely fragrant hawthorn flowers come in both white, pink and crimson red.

'Buzzing with the fragrance of hawthorn' were some of the words Marcel Proust said in his declaration of love to the most beautiful tree of all. He praised this wonderful tree, the tree of hearts on several pages in his novel ' A la recherche du temps perdu' (In Search of Lost Time).

When hawthorn is blooming it's summertime in Denmark.

The hawthorn always knows how to be decorative and beautiful, here above a bench by Sønderborg harbour in the southern part of Jutland.
The name hawthorn comes from Anglo-Saxon Hagathorn, haga meaning hedge, and it was commonly used as a hedge plant since ancient times. Young hawthorn grow fast with many thorny branches and side-shoots making a fine hedge. Many species are hold as ornament and street trees, and furthermore the hawthorn tree is one of the most recommended for water-conservation in landscapes.

Hawthorn has many synonyms, like May, Mayblossom, Ladies' Meat, Whitethorn etc. The name Whitethorn is used in the Danish version Hvidtjørn. The white colour refers to the whiteness of the bark. The Latin name Crataegus Oxcyacantha is from Greek kratos, meaning strong, and oxcus (sharp) and akantha ( a thorn). The wood of some species live up to its name being very hard and resistant to rot.

Hawthorn berries in August, Skyum Bjerge
Hawthorn gives food and shelter for many birds, and the flowers are important for many nectar-feeding insects. Both leaves, flowers and berries have been useful to humans since ancient times. In herbal medicine it was regarded as good for the heart, which modern research has shown to be true.

The leaves have been used as adulterant for tea, and both flowers and leaves are astringent and useful in decoction to cure sore throats.In some districts the red berries are called Pixi Pears, Cuckoo's Beads and Chucky Cheese. Hawthorn berries are used in a fine liqueur with Brandy, called Grieve.

Hawthorn trees in Mindeparken, Århus

Legend and Folklore
At the wedding feasts in Athens each guest carried a sprig of hawthorn, a token of happiness and prosperity for the future of the newly married couple.The tree was formerly regarded as a sacred tree, probably according to a tradition that it furnished the Crown of Thorns. The legend said that the hawthorn growing on Glastonbury Thor was originally the staff of Joseph of Arimathea, and branches from this hawthorn were highly valued in England.

After the Battle of Bosworth a small crown from the helmet of Richard III was discovered hanging on a hawthorn bush, and therefore Henry VII chose the device of a hawthorn. Hence the saying 'Cleve to thy crown though it hangs on a bush'.Once upon a time old ballads were sung about those who had entered the Otherworld by the door of a sacred hawthorn tree, the famous Eildon tree, from where they were taken away by the Queen of Elfland.

Hawthorn by Kalø Castle ruin, Djursland. The area surrounding the castle ruin is a dream sight of flowering hawthorn trees and bushes in May.

A knight setting out for a crusade to the Holy Land offered his lady a sprig of hawthorn, tied with a pink ribbon as a token that he would live in hope. In Celtic lore the hawthorn plant was used for rune inscriptions along with Yew and Apple. It was said to heal a broken heart. In Serbian folklore the corpses of suspected vampires were impaled by a stake of hawthorn.The beautiful hawthorn was praised in poetry since ancient times and later like Marcel Proust in his great novel. A modern writer Kathleen Raine wrote this poem:

A hundred years I slept beneath a thorn
Until the tree was root and branches of my thought
Until white petals blossomed in my crown.
photo: grethe bachmann


Michael Harris said...

Hi Thyra,

Does your blogger user name derives from the name of the wife of Gorm "the Old?" Thank you for your many wonderful photos and the Hawthorn information.

You might be interested in a genealogy site called CrispinCousins:

This site is dedicated to the descendents of Harald Klak, including families that appear to have held areas near Hald and Viborg, together with Haithabu and portions of Frisia.

You might be interested in this research. Also, your knowledge would be very helpful. A research team is presently trying to solve a puzzle with the following key clues. From the results of DNA research, we know that ancestors lived in an area characterized by flowering hawthorn, beech trees, oak trees, acorns, trout, a steep valley with very rocky sides. We think this describes an area near Viborg, but not sure. A key clue concerns the notion of a high ridge connecting two mountains and the neck leading to the ridge. The mountain tops near the ridge are very rough and jagged (craggy).


Thyra said...

Hello Michael

I have tried to give a respons to your mail, but it obviously failed.

Yes, Thyra is from the first Danish
queen we know a little of.

Your research sounds interesting, but I haven't found the crispincousin-group.

Kind regards