The Celtic tree month of Hawthorn is upon us. Lets take a look at the history of this botanical name.
Hawthorn (pronounced "HAW-thorn") was known as Huath (pronounced "HOH-uh") by the Celts. The tree is native to temperate regions of Europe, North America, and Asia. They don't grow to be very big, they are only 5 to 15 meters tall. The tree is also sometimes called a thornapple, because it has both thorny branches and a small apple-like fruit.
The Hawthorn Moon is associated with the fertility, virility, and the fire element. This time of year is considered the best time to try to conceive a child. It is customary to decorate the house with hawthorn branches on Beltane. In Ancient Greece it was common to carry hawthorn branches during wedding processions. Branches were also popular for rune inscriptions. The idea that Jesus' crown of thorns came from this plant gave rise to the French superstition that it cries and moans on Good Friday. It is believed that hawthorn makes a particularly good stake for killing vampires. In Ireland, strips of cloth were tied around this tree as part of a healing ritual. This tree is also associated with the realm of faerie and sacred wells in Gaelic folklore, and it's considered bad luck to uproot a hawthorn.
The tree has many practical uses. The fruit is a favorite Chinese snack item, that is also used to make juice, jelly, and alcoholic beverages. In Mexico, the fruit is traditionally stuffed into pinatas. The American pioneers often ate this fruit during the winter. The leaves are also edible, and can be used in salads. Hawthorn has been used in traditional medicine, believed to strengthen the cardiovascular system and the digestive system. The tree is also used to create a mild sedative, but this shouldn't be done during pregnancy.
If you find this name in baby name websites and books, you'll most likely see it spelled Hawthorne, in reference to the author. Nathaniel Hawthorne was the American writer who created The Scarlet Letter, among other stories. His real surname was actually Hathorne. He was born in Salem, Massachusetts, and had an ancestor that presided as a judge during the Salem Witch Trials. Supposedly, he added the "w" in order to distance himself from this person.
Hawthorn seems like a name that should be used more than it actually is. River and Avery are making great strides, as are Harper and Atticus. But Hawthorn remains rare. Somehow, I doubt that it will stay rare. I think it will sneak into the top 1,000 at some point in the future. In the meantime, it's literary, manly, and woodsy, and that's not an easy thing to do.