The Haw in Hawthorn

I originally published these blossoms as “wild  rose”.  It was my Facebook friends who pointed  out these are hawthorn flowers.  The key to identification was the shape of the leaves.

Hawthorne Blossoms on the former McArdle Home
Blossoms of Hawthorne taken on the site of the former McCardle Home, Proleek Townland, County Louth, Ireland.

In correcting my mistake, I learned the young leaves of Hawthorn are excellent for salads.  Wonder how the fairy folk, associated with single hawthorns (as in the following photograph from the Hill of Tara), react to picking leaves from their trees?  I didn’t hear of the practice during our time in Ireland.

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Speaking Stone Hill of Tara
View northwest from Hill of Tara looking across County Meath with views of Counties Westmeath and Cavan. On the horizon, right, is Hag’s Mountain, (Irish: Sliabh na Caillí) , site of the Loughcrew Cairns. The standing stone is the “Stone of Destiny: (Irish: Lia Fáil), which served in coronation the coronation of the High Kings of Ireland. It stands on the Inauguration Mound (Irish: an Forrad) of Tara. This photograph was taken the morning of May 27, 2014 hours before the stone was vandalized, doused with green and red paint.

My mistake was understandable, in botany the hawthorn is in the same family as the rose.  The flowers are similar, having five petals.  The “haw” in hawthorn is from the Old English word for hedge, as is this linear standoff the tree lining the way up to the Loughcrew Cairns.

Path on Hag's Mountain, Loughcrew
Reaching highest point of County Meath, Ireland means a steep path, not too long, to glorious views on all points plus Lough Craobh (Lake of the Branches).

I read these votive offerings are made at Beltane, in which case these are fresh from placement May 1.

Hawthorn Tree with Offerings
A hawthorn tree in bloom on May 27, 2016. Growing on the slope of Hag’s Mountain

The following year Pam underwent double total knee replacements, never the less, she was great company for all our adventures on the island.  Even this steep climb.

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Pam and the Offering Hawthorn
The steep path to Loughcrew passes a hawthorn covered with flowers and May offerings.

These views were our reward for reaching the top.

Loughcrew View, North by Northwest
View from Loughcrew Cairns, “Hags Mountain”

The Emerald Isle, we fully understood this name.

Standing Stone, Loughcrew
Loughcrew Megalithic Site, County Meath, Ireland. A solitary standing stone below the trail to the Loughcrew site surrounded by whin bush (gorse) and hawthorn hedge rows. A fieldstone fence, farmhouses, a patchwork quilt of fields completes the view.

The Greek name for the Hawthorn species is formed from two words meaning “strength” and “sharp”, referring to the thorny branches.

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Charlemagne of County Cork
For County Cork we stayed with Marantha House B&B.   Our day of arrival, that evening, I visited Charlemagne and fed him an apple, saved from dinner. We learned from our hosts, Olwen and Douglas Venn, he is a retired show horse they rescued. The following morning I visited Charlemagne again with an apple and my camera. As I walked up, starting from the far end of his field, Charlemagne rewarded me with a series of astounding poses, trotting toward me in fine form. The morning mists, hawthorn in bloom, distant hills came together for this memory.

We marveled at the hawthorn hedges in field after field.  I first notice them from the World Heritage Site, Newgrange (Brú na Bóinne, “Palace of the Boyne”).  Here is one on the Dingle Peninsula, on the other side of the island.

Field of Yellow Iris Flowers, Dingle Peninsula
A roadside field of yellow Iris flowers with flowering Hawthorn and Whin Bush in the windbreaks. Looking northwest toward Killeenagh and Caherpierce on the R561 between Lack West and Inch. Dingle Peninsula, County Kerry, Ireland.

Another Ireland post of interest, “Proleek, Grandfather McCardle’s home.”

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Loughcrew Hill View

On the Ground in County Meath

The popular name of the Loughcrew megalithic site is, “The Hill of the Witch” (In Irish, Sliabh na Caillí). In lore sites such as this are associated with The Others (“fairies”), living lives parallel and invisible to ours, touched now and then with resolutely ill effect to our side though sometimes theirs as well. Resolute as in these meetings are fated to end poorly unless…..unless the mortal knows the rules. “If you are ever in an Other’s mansion for a party never, ever eat or drink anything. Eating or drinking will condemn you to an eternal round of parties. You will dance till dropping every night.” Rules such as that, and others, can be used to turn the tables, gain an advantage, of beings from the Other Side.
The story of my wife, Pam, how our lives came to be touched by this afternoon of May 27, 2014, is parallel to the tales of mortals benefiting from contact with The Others. The immediate source was the passing of my mother, Catherine Ann Wills (McCardle), at the age of 90. Mom’s passport gave her place of birth as Proleek, a place in Louth. My maternal grandmother, Mary Catherine McCardle (Mills) spoke with a brogue, less a lilt than a down to earth and kind warmth. I remembered the stories of Mom’s passage to Canada with her mother and father in 1926 at the age of three. The Ireland connection with my father was less direct as I never met his mother as an adult and we seldom spoke of her. It was left to me in the time between my Mom’s passing, an invitation for a visit from our cousin’s in County Louth, and our arrival May 2014 to understand more about Elizabeth (Duffy) Wills, my paternal grandmother.
In this way, I discovered Elizabeth came from a family of Dunderry, County Meath, Ireland, her parents Matthew and Teresa (Plunket) Duffy; our tour of Ireland came to start from a bed and breakfast near Trim, County Meath, with Dunderry up the road. May 27th, we planned as an exploration of all things County Meath, to include Loughcrew, the highest point of the county in the west.
Along the steep path to the hilltop a hawthorn tree covered with flowers and offerings welcomes visitors. May is the month for decorating hawthorns, the blossoms are also known as “Mayflowers” as in the ship the pilgrims sailed to Plymouth Rock.

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Pam and Hawthorn– CLICK ME!!!!

As if we entered a gateway, when pausing and turning high on the hill, this view was revealed, otherworldly in its fullness, scope and wonder.
Cairnbane East of the Loughcrew Cairns site, County Meath Ireland, is also known as Hag’s Mountain. We are looking south, southwest from the north side toward Cairnbane West. Flowering yellow whin bush, also known as gorse, is in foreground; white flowering hawthorn trees in distance. No elements of this photograph hint at the year 2014.

Hag's– CLICK ME!!!!

A solitary standing stone below the trail to the Loughcrew site surrounded by whin bush in yellow flower and white blooms of hawthorn hedge rows. A fieldstone fence, farmhouses, a patchwork quilt of fields completes the view.

Hag's– CLICK ME!!!!

Meanwhile, in the real world, when Pam and I complete our round of the island to return to my cousins in County Louth, they told us, on this day, two young men were discovered parked next to a nearby lough, murdered during a drug deal gone bad.

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Copyright 2017 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved