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OCTOBER: TREE LORE: Blackthorn Magic




The blackthorn is one of the most powerful trees in Old Craft and because it was an important tree to our pagan ancestors, it is now thought of as having a sinister reputation. Like the whitethorn (hawthorn), the blackthorn has its fair share of associations with the Faere Folk, even having its own appointed Faere guardians. Carrying a leaf, flower or berry in a charm bag will attract the powers of good fortune. Alternatively, fasten a scrap of ribbon or fabric to one of the thorns as you make your wish. The spikes from the blackthorn have long been used to pierce wax images, both for cursing and healing purposes.


 The blackthorn sends up erect shoots or suckers from its roots and if these are not cut back they gradually spread to form a dense thicket, which is extremely difficult to remove. In a short time, a large stand of blackthorn can result from just one parent plant. This method of re-colonising, and its Faere Folk connections make an ideal symbol for Elemental Earth. Blackthorn wood is hard and the grain forms intricate patterns of colour. Ireland’s fearsome cudgel, the shillelagh, is cut from the main stem of the blackthorn, while the straight stems from younger bushes make handsome walking sticks, stangs or staffs. 


From medieval times, the tree’s medicinal purposes have been recorded: blackthorn flowers were used as a tonic and mild laxative; the leaves as a mouthwash and to stimulate the appetite; the bark to reduce fever; the fruit for bladder, kidney and digestive disorders. According to medieval herbalists, the shrub was held to be ‘the regulator of the stomach’ since its flowers loosened the bowels and its fruit bound them. The bitter fruit of the blackthorn was made into jellies, syrups, jams, wine and verjuice (an acid liquor).


The wood and dried berries can be used as incense in rituals of banishing negativity and so it is as well to collect a small supply of these to dry out and use in a special blend of your own, as and when necessary. Anoint a few twigs of blackthorn with oil and burn a little as incense each day at noon and midnight for seven consecutive days to banish even the most persistent negative forces.


Traditionally, blackthorn twigs were woven into a crown of thorns and burned in the cornfields on old New Year’s Day, similar to the women’s custom of the hawthorn ball. This ceremony was later used as a Christian compromise between the old faith and the new, to ensure that the pagan spirit — the Earth Mother — looked kindly upon the community by bestowing continued fertility upon the land.


Sloes from the blackthorn can be used in wart-charming. Rub the wart with a plump berry, then dispose of the fruit. Before the sloe has shrivelled up, your wart will have vanished. Alternatively, rub the wart with a small piece of raw meat and hang the meat on a blackthorn spike for the same result. For magical workings, stab the point of a pen into a raw sloe to obtain the purple-black juice and write your charm on parchment, linen or cloth. Hang the charm on a blackthorn spike.


It is obvious that the folklore and superstitions surrounding the blackthorn are a result of thousands of years of cultural clashes and we would be well advised to strip away as much of the incoming, or non-native, beliefs as possible when exploring its power. Like most trees, it appears to have both benign and malevolent energies, depending on the period of history to which its folklore relates. Whatever we may feel about the tree, it really does herald the beginning of spring in a spectacular fashion.


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Mélusine Draco originally trained in the magical arts of traditional British Old Craft with Bob and Mériém Clay-Egerton. She has been a magical and spiritual instructor for over 20 years with Arcanum and the Temple of Khem, and writer of numerous popular books on magic and witchcraft. Her highly individualistic teaching methods and writing draws on ancient sources, supported by academic texts and current archaeological findings.


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