Plant Totem: Hawthorn, Fae Tree of Heart + Transformation

For a good while now, I’ve been considering how to work with plants just as some coaches/practitioners work with animals.  As spirit totems.  Teaching how to work with plants not to only heal us physically, but also spiritually, emotionally, and energetically.  Understanding what they have to teach us in terms of our relationships, career, life circumstances, money, and most importantly, how to form better connections with ourselves, other people, and with the earth.

hawthorn-tree-12

Lots of herbalists out there write beautiful and well-researched pieces on materia medica of western herbalism, herbal energetics, and the medicinal and therapeutic actions of herbs.  However, I think the deepest healing occurs when we form our own relationship with the plant and learn to work with the medicine it has for us individually.  This is the story of my own journey with Hawthorn, one of my foundational plant totems.

Traditionally viewed as a heart tonic, Hawthorn reminds us to be patient with ourselves, slow down, and give our heart space to breathe, be still, and speak his or her truth.  Though its prickly thorns protect the heart from outside assault, that very protection is what allows it to be such a nurturing and calming spirit.  It provides sacred boundaries and a soft space to rest in times of heartbreak, grief, or when the energetic heart needs a rest.

hawthorn thorn
Thorns of a Hawthorn tree

For the past few years, I’ve been working and learning to listen closely to the whispers (or sometimes shouts) from my heart.  Establishing boundaries, softening, opening, protecting, clearing, and filling up my heart with the things she desires, yearns for, and guides me toward.  It’s been the hardest thing I’ve done so far because so often my ego wants to take over with the shoulds, the have-to’s, feelings of anger, guilt, and most of the time, fear.  Hawthorn came to me soon after my heart got cracked open during part of my Visionary Craniosacral training that I learned to work with the four-chambered heart (another shamanic concept that I’ll write more on later).  The lessons Hawthorn taught me allowed me to integrate the wisdom of my heart and of love itself, sometimes gracefully sometimes not so much.

Artwork by Ruby Clark
Ogham Artwork by Ruby Clark

Hawthorn is known for its associations with magic, witches, and fairies.  As Darcey Blue writes, Hawthorn’s “rank smelling flowers and thorns and association with spirit worlds make Hawthorn a tree of ‘death’ and transformation, and also of protection and caution.”  Death here, to me, doesn’t mean literal death, but rather a shedding, releasing, letting die that which no longer serves us.  The archetypal theme of life/death/rebirth.

A key element of transformation, of alchemy of the soul is in the allowing of what needs to die in order for the rebirth parts of our self.  It’s the Death card of the Tarot: learning how to detach and release, cutting through old patterns that bind us so that we can give birth to new forms and previously unexpressed parts of ourselves.

Death card from the Thoth Tarot

One of my favorite things about Hawthorn is the magical obstacles it presents to us at just the right moment.  It reflects to us the exact lesson we need at the exact moment in life that we need it.  Synchronicity at its finest.  Somehow she knows what we’re ready for, what our next lesson needs to be on our path in order for us to meet our purpose.  Hawthorn will “guard you as it teaches you – sometimes strongly, sometimes gently – but always with love.”

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12 thoughts on “Plant Totem: Hawthorn, Fae Tree of Heart + Transformation

  1. “Hawthorn reminds us to be patient with ourselves, slow down, and give our heart space to breathe, be still, and speak his or her truth. Though its prickly thorns protect the heart from outside assault, that very protection is what allows it to be such a nurturing and calming spirit. It provides sacred boundaries and a soft space to rest in times of heartbreak, grief, or when the energetic heart needs a rest.”
    Katie, I feel like this part was written just for me to hear. Beautifully written! My heart has been overly protected lately and not given much room to breathe. It’s as if you have just pinpointed my very issue. Thank you and namaste.

  2. Love this! I dig the idea of a plant totem, and I think mine is Red Clover. I didn’t know that Hawthorn is about the heart…could definitely use some of that in my herbal medicine chest!

  3. Hawthorn will “guard you as it teaches you – sometimes strongly, sometimes gently – but always with love.” I love that! I think we all need a little Hawthorn in our lives! :)

  4. I love this post. How interesting. I have been in search of learning my animal totem and didn’t even realize we could learn similar things from plants. How fascinating. I now have profound respect for Hawthorn. Thank you.

  5. This is amazing!!! I love the connection you have made with plant totems and tarot. It is very inspiring to look at nature and the massive amount of knowledge we can gain from each living thing. Thank you so much for sharing this!!! I will definitely be incorporating some Hawthorn into my life because of this post.

    So much love!
    Paige

  6. What a beautiful concept of a totem plant. Plants are truly fascinating, yet almost taken for granted. Most people do not acknowledge the power and complexity they are made of. My acupuncturist was telling me about a book she was reading, I think entitled “The Secret Life of Plants” in which experiments were done showing that plants may actually have some form of personality. I forget all the details, but it’s definitely something I want to look into further. This post reminded me of that.

  7. “I think the deepest healing occurs when we form our own relationship with the plant and learn to work with the medicine it has for us individually. ” What a great reminder that meaning can be found in everything that we do when we are conscious of the connection occurring.

  8. You are an amazing writer Katie and I love how simple it was for me to instantly understand the depth of plant – and in this case Hawthorn – medicine. We truly are so interconnected I believe and yet I still sometimes forget that the universe gives us all we need to heal, and plants can be a part of this! How wonderful; for someone like myself going thru a ‘death and re-birth’ of sorts; how would you recommend taking Hawthorn berry; thru tea?? So much love wild woman! xxoo

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