Prunus spinosa

The Mother of the Wood

Fourth of the Witches' Cross-Quarter Sabbats

Samhain, Hallowe'en, All Souls; October 31 / November 1





Ogham Name: Straif
Letter: Z, Ss, St, Z
Color: Bright Purple
Animal: Wolf, Toad and Black Cat
Virtue: Unity
Association: Bad luck, strife, unexpected changes. Resentment, confusion, refusing to see truth.
Challenge: Turn a negative situation into a positive one.
Uses: Makes excellent hedge grows and provides ample shelter for wildlife.

The branches are used to make fighting sticks known as shillelaghs.
Description: Thorny, rosaceous shrub bearing white flowers and small blue-black fruits.

Straif is a tree letter associated with pain, wounding and damage. The dense, spiny 'sloe-bush' us an unpleasant plant to tangle with and drawing this ogham suggests that you have been, or will be, on the receiving end of  rather thorny experience. Yet it is not all bad, for straif also offers initiation into the mysteries of self-conquest and transcendence.


Planet: Mars, Saturn

Element: Earth, Fire

Zodiac: Aries, Scorpio

Symbolism:  The inevitability of Death, Protection and Revenge, Strife and Negativity,

The Balance between light and darkness.

Stone: Black Opal, agate, bloodstone

Birds: Thrush

Color: White, Black, Red

Deity: Morrigan

Sabbat: Samhain

Folk Names: sloe, sloe plum, wishing thorn, faery tree


Medicinal properties: The fruit and leaves contain Vitamin C, organic acids, tannins, and sugars. Steep the flowers for a diuretic, tonic, and laxative. Her dried fruits can treat bladder, kidney and stomach ailments. Boil the leaves for a mouthwash or to sooth the throat from tonsillitis or laryngitis.


Magickal properties: The thorns were used as pins to stick in a poppet. Wand or Staff can be used for help in exorcisms or for protection from fire and for general protection.  A staff can be used to make wishes, and carrying the wand or Staff protects one from evil. The wood makes a good divining rod.


The blossoms, the fruits and the crimson sap display the three colors of the Great Goddess: 

white, black, and red. The dangerous long spikes and the red "blood" that flows in the veins of this tree enhance the dramatic effect of her symbolism. The advance of dualistic religions, which separate the world into "good" and "evil" brought about the demonization of the Blackthorn tree.

Where it once had provided magical protection against negative influence, it now became the emblem of evil forces. 


Blackthorns are sacred to the Luantishees, which are Blackthorn Fairies who guard the trees. Their Festival is November 11th.

The Celtic Tree Oracle by Liz and Colin Murray


by Liz and Colin Murray


The Blackthorn is a wintery tree. The fruits, known as sloes, ripen and sweeten only after the first frosts. The white flowers open early, often before the leaves appear. A cold spring was traditionally known as "a blackthorn winter." Black-barked and with vicious thorns, the Blackthorn forms dense thickets when given the opportunity to spread. The Gaelic word "straif" has links with the English "strife."  The wood of the Blackthorn is that traditionally used for the Irish cudgel, or shillelagh; the thorns, those used in witchcraft to pierce wax images.

Celtic Tree Mysteries

by Steve Blamires


The spiritual lesson of the Blackthorn is to accept the inevitability of your own death, and to prepare for it. This means having a good grasp of what the Otherworld is and what it means to you It also means more mundane things like making sure all of your debts, on all levels, are paid; that there is nothing left unsaid or undone in this world; that provision has been made for those you leave behind; and that you are ready and able to face those who have gone before you. These will include friends and family whom you will be pleased to rejoin; but there will also be those whom you tried to avoid in this world.  You must be in a constant state of readiness for death, doing things as soon as they need to be done, saying things when they need to be said, and repaying debts and favors as soon as practical. Tomorrow may be too late.

You can try to examine your death objectively by seeing yourself as a sort of Otherworld judge, who is now reviewing your physical life and deciding just how you coped with it.  Use your imagination at a spiritual level to scrutinize how you have fared in this world so far. Act upon any faults or omissions you identify during such spiritual exercises. Use the spirit of the blackthorn to help you through these difficult exercises. They will leave and indelible mark in your aura, just as the juice of the sloe will upon your clothes. This mark will point out, to those who can see such things, that you are a person who understands the nature of this world and the Otherworld, and who is not afraid to move from one to the other as the need demands.

Blackthorn has twisting and angular branches, seldom reaching over twelve feet in height. Traditionally used in hedgerows, it produces white blossoms in spring and later, sloes (clusters of small round berries.) It's most potent feature is the thorns which are long, slender and extremely sharp. These thorns may be the reason for the association with strife, warfare, and wounding. 

"Straif" is a tree-letter associated with pain, wounding and damage...however, it also offers initiation into the mysteries of self conquest and transcendence.

Protection Spell:


Carefully gather a few thorns from the tree. 

On a piece of paper, 

write the name of the person or situation 

from which you seek protection, 

and then wrap it around the thorns.  

Bury this in the ground - if possible near the tree 

from which the thorns were collected. 

Whispers from the Woods, by Sandra Kynes


Of all the trees that grow so fair,

Old England to adorn,

Greater are none beneath the Sun

Thank Oak, and Ash, and Thorn

Rudyard Kipling, Puck of Pook's Hill 1906



from The Wisdom of Trees by Jane Gifford


The blackthorn was respected as a cantankerous old crone, the hag aspect of the White Goddess, whose thorns remind us of our own negative attitudes that tear us apart. These attitudes also take root and grow into impenetrable thickets if they are left unchecked. We are advised to look at the many ways in which we hurt ourselves and others, and to think of ways to prevent this. When we face up to our own negativity, blackthorn guides us through the darker parts of our personality, helping us to pay off spiritual debts, and to accept the inevitability of our own death, which is the one thing on earth of which we can all be certain.



The Great Goddess



Morrigan is a Triple Goddess of battle, strife, and fertility. She reigns over Destruction and Creation. Her name means “Great Queen,” “Phantom Queen.”  She also was a prophet and a shape-shifter, frequently appearing as a hooded crow, and the raven of battle. Some say she evolved into Morgana LaFay, sorceress of the Arthurian Legend. Worship Her at Samhain, the Festival of Death, and the decent into the time of dormancy. 



“The holy day of Samhain is, in the Celtic tradition, the first day of Winter: a time of sacrifice, divination for the New Year, communion with the dead, of endings and rest. On this night the world of spirits, ancestors and mortals might meet.

Within the mythic cycle of the Goddess as Crone, She deepens into Herself and enters the dreamtime, the place between the worlds where past, present and future exist simultaneously. The season invites you to enter a place of stillness and simply be where you are: not moving forward or backward but utterly present, suspended in the space between past and future. It is here that you may hear Her voice in the crackling fire, rain, and wind.

 Review the year that has passed with introspection and retrospection. Commune with your ancestors and honor your beloved dead. Remember your sisters who perished in the Burning Times, and commit yourself to the struggle for justice. Divine and ask the Fates for blessings in the coming year. What do you leave behind in the year that has passed, and what do you wish to take with you? How will you prepare to listen to the Old Wise One within?”

Adapted from “Women’s Rites, Women’s Mysteries by Ruth Barrett, and We' Moon 07

The Green Man Tree Oracle

by John Matthews & Will Worthington



Magic lies all around us - not the magic of fairy tales, but real magic connecting our universe to a living continuum. After centuries of being told that it was forbidden, the preserve of experts, we have now forgotten the magic that lies within us. To access this personal magic, we must step away from busy, surface consciousness and sink deeply into the ever-flowing stream of our magical dreams.  The ideas, scenes, and presences that throng the deepest levels of our understanding require intense listening: we must step into the present and interact with it as fully as possible. This Blackthorn card suggests that we remember that magic is everywhere (far closer than we think) that it brings light into the darkest places. What makes the Blackthorn so strong is its ability to foster waking dreams.


The magic of thorns: Like all thorny plants, the blackthorn had a darker side and, like the blackberry, reminds us of the hedge of thorns preventing the prince from reaching Sleeping Beauty unscathed. In some stories the prince loses his sight when he falls upon the thorns, and of course there is also the ever-present association with the crown placed around Christ's brow at the Crucifixion. 

The Green Man Tree Oracle by John Matthews & Will Worthington

Green Man Tree Oracle

An old Celtic custom was to light great bonfires on Halloween. After each fires had burned out, they made a circle of the ashes of each fire. Within the circle, nearest the circumference, each family member that helped build the fire place one pebble. If, on the next day, any stone was out of its place or had been damaged, that family member was to have a very bad upcoming twelve months.


On Halloween, we wear costumes and masks to mimic or trick the spirits into thinking we are one of them, so they will not create havoc for our crops and livestock.
Sprinkle some salt on your child's hair to protect her/him from evil spirits.
The Goddess Pomona and her Roman harvest festival inspired the traditional "Bobbing for Apples" at this time of year. 


If you hear footsteps behind you tonight, don't look back - it may be the dead following you. And if you turn back, you may join them soon.

If you see a spider on this day, it is the spirit of a loved on watching over you.

Wishing you a Blessed Samhain, Halloween, All Hallows Eve, All Saints Eve, Hallowmas, Witch's New Year, and Dia de los Muertos!

The Song of the Blackthorn Fairy


The wind is cold, the Spring seems long
The woods are brown and bare;
Yet this is March: soon April
will be making
All things most sweet and fair.

See, even now, in hedge
and thicket tangled,
One brave and cheering sight:
The leafless branches of the Blackthorn,
With starry blossoms white!


by Cicely Mary Barker

Blackthorn Fairy by Cicely Mary Barker

 Pray Peace



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