Hawthorn, Crataegus oxyacantha
, is a small tree of the rose
family, and is also known as whitethorn. In southern Europe
, hawthorn was used as a symbol of hope and as a charm
. As protection against witchcraft, people would place it in cradles of infants
, build a barrier of hawthorn around their house, or place pieces of hawthorn in the foundations
of houses to prevent the entrance of witches. Hawthorn was known not to fully stop supernatural forces
, but it was believed that it could slow down these forces, allowing time for other action to be taken.
, hawthorn was used as protection from vampires-- when someone died, the visiting women would place hawthorn behind their headcloth
, and would throw the twig
away when they exited the house. According to legend, if the recently deceased
was a vampire, it would be attracted to the hawthorn, and would therefore be unable to follow the women home.