Plant Magick

Blackthorn in Bloom

githeach-dubh / droighnean/straif in Gaelic (prunus spinossa in latin).

It seems appropriate to post about Blackthorn today as we have had a wee taste of another blackthorn winter or blackthorn hatch it is sometimes known as. There is said to be a wee blackthorn winter in the second week of may to and said to fall on the festival of the ice saints like St Mamertus, St. Pancras and St Servitus and their fest days are the 11th , 12th and 13th of May respectively interestingly enough these are also the old dates for Bealtainn before the calendars changed.

The more berries the worse the winter would be Many nuts many pits many stones many groans. As the saying goes.

This plant has so much folklore and folk magic associated with it it is a really good idea to read more about it for example the thorns of the plant were used to stick in wax images to curse folk, (interestingly enough you can get sepsis very easily from a scratch of a blackthorn bush) and Major Weirs staff ( Major weir. Famous Edinburgh sorcerer) was made of blackthorn wood and the tree itself was buried with people in both Scotland and Ireland. We also have the shillelagh made of blackthorn to ward off evil spirits.

The plant gives a slate blue dye from the fruit and a black dye from the bark ( I seem to remember) The leaves were once used as an adulterant for tea and were used as a tobacco substitute.

Medicinally blackthorn has astringent, mildly diuretic, laxative and anti-inflammatory action. An infusion made from the dried flowers is used for blood cleansing in skin diseases and rheumatic complaints and as a gargle for mild inflammation of the mouth and throat. A compote/jam made from the berries combats poor appetite.

Blackthorn only ever fully displays its beauty once a year, during its flamboyant blooming season. It shrinks away for the rest of the year, as evidenced by the dark wood’s thorns and tiny, sour fruits. These hold the fire of the blackthorn, which it only gradually releases to us. Blackthorns warmth comes from a lengthy, radiant glow rather than a quick “flash in the pan”

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