“What potent blood hath modest May” – Hawthorne Syrup/Cordial

What potent blood hath modest May
when violets bloom sweet and fair
as the butterfly on red roses play
without a thought, without a care?

Ralph Waldo Emerson

May is usually the time  for Hawthorne blossoms, and Queens.

The May Queen, 1900. by Margaret Macdonald Mackintosh

The May Queen, 1900. by Margaret Macdonald Mackintosh

However, May 2016,  seems to have arrived a little late her in the North East  of England – as has Spring it’s self , or so it seems.

So we are in June – according to the Gregorian calendar that is. Though no one has bother ed to tell  the trees, shrubs, plants and even some of the wild life that, and the Hawthorne Blossom have been abundant.

pink Hawthorne

One in particular, which I admire every year; and it has this year it has been rather stupendous. Its has been the most wonderful Pink. And over the last few days we have been blessed with rather wonderful weather and the sun has been shining . Very Elysian, in that the birds have been singing, and every time you walk passed this wonderful Hawthorne, you can here the melody of the honey bees as they have been darting in and out and collecting it’s  delicious pollen.

“May, queen of blossoms, and fulfilling flowers,
With what pretty music
Shall we charm the hours? Wilt thou have pipe and reed,
Blown in the open mead?
Or to the lute give heed, in the green bowers.”

— Lord Edward Thurlow

 The Hawthorne is  also know as  The May tree, or even the ‘Queen of May’ according to some accounts.   It’s blossom or flowers appearing on the tree usually the beginning of May, well in the south of England, at least.  We who are further north,  do not tend to see them that early [ though not usually as late as this year either]


May Day  or Beltane as it is called by many ‘Pagans’. was a cerebration of the return of life and promise.  People  would go out and bring in the  blossom and deck their homes – hence the term “bringing home the May”. While many now celebrate Beltane/May day is on the 1st of May that was not always the case and as I have previously mentioned,  for most of the British Isles the Hawthorn is not usually in flower on the 1st of May; May Day was traditionally on the 13th May. In  1732 a new calendar, [The Gregorian Calendar]  was adopted. and the date was changed.

may flowers

These celebrations of fertility of the land  also included a May Queen,  who many have suggested represent not only the Goddess ,  but for some she is also the Fairy Queen, and many images of the Fairy Queen have her with Hawthorn flowers in her hair.

Arthur Racham The Hawthorne is also know as the ‘faerie tree’, and where  the fae  lived.  It was considered to be bad luck by many in the past to cut then down – in 1999/2000, in Latoon, Co. Clare, Ireland – they were building a bypass of Newmarket-on-Fergus  when they came upon a Hawthorne bush and the  workers refused to destroy it for fear of the bad luck that would be visited upon them by the Fairies.

 This the Hawthorne bush which stopped the bypass - the bush is the meeting point for the faeries of Munster (southern region of Ireland) when they go into battle with the faeries of Connaught (western region of Ireland). People magazine and others raised the story along with all the local papers and radio stations. The road was moved to accommodate the faeries, but it still means that they have to cross a busy motorway on their way to the meeting place!

This the Hawthorne bush which stopped the bypass – ‘the bush is the meeting point for the faeries of Munster (southern region of Ireland) when they go into battle with the faeries of Connaught (western region of Ireland). People magazine and others raised the story along with all the local papers and radio stations. The road was moved to accommodate the faeries, but it still means that they have to cross a busy motorway on their way to the meeting place!’ [c] Pictures of Ireland 20.05.2010

And like the Oak and the Ash tree, the Hawthorne – or ‘Thorne’ is considered  to be a door or a portal to the realm of the fae.

aurthur Rackman doorways
In a poem by  Ruyard Kippling – taken from his book ‘ Puck of Puck’s Hill‘ – Illustrated by Arthur Rackham,  and published in 1906 – the poem ‘A Tree Song.’.

Of all the trees that grow so fair, old England to adorn,
Greater are none beneath the sun than Oak, and Ash, and Thorn.

     Sing Oak, and Ash, and Thorn good sirs,
     All on a midsummer's morn.
     Surely we sing of no little thing
     In Oak, and Ash, and Thorn.
 Oh, do not tell the priest our plight, 
                Or he would call it a sin; 
            But--we have been out in the woods all night, 
                A-conjuring Summer in! 
            And we bring you good news by word of mouth -- 
                Good news for cattle and corn -- 
            Now is the Sun come up from the south, 
                With Oak, and Ash, and Thorn! 
            Sing Oak, and Ash, and Thorn, good sirs 
                (All of a Midsummer morn)! 
            England shall bide till Judgement Tide, 
                By Oak, and Ash, and Thorn!

which later became a folk song ; Peter Bellamy  set the words of the poem  and renamed it to the chorus’s words Oak, Ash and Thorn.


Words, Rudyard Kipling. Music, Peter Bellamy]
Arthur Rackman

Arthur Rackman

During the Middle Ages it was common belief that the the white flowers of the Hawthorne, were a a symbol of the Virgin Mary, The Holy mother of Christianity.

The May hawthorn, which bears white blossoms, [and tinged with pink]  in early spring, became known as Mary’s Flower of May.


Mary was seen in Medieval period as the mother of all growing, living things.

mary blossoms

And indeed . Alfonso X of Castile in the 13th century wrote in his Cantigas de Santa Maria about the special honouring of Mary during specific dates in May. Eventually, the entire month was filled with special observances and devotions to Mary.

And later Pope Pius XII, proclaimed the “Queenship of Mary” through his encyclical, Ad Caeli Reginam.   

[2] And many hymns to her end with the words:

Hail Virgin, dearest Mary! Our lovely Queen of May! O spotless, blessed Lady, Our lovely Queen of May. Your children, humbly bending, Surround your shrine ‘

 as well as;

O Mary we crown thee with blossoms today!

Queen of the Angels and Queen of the May.

O Mary we crown thee with blossoms today,

Queen of the Angels and Queen of the May [3]

Mary as Queen of May, work of artist Clare O Hagan

Mary as Queen of May, work of artist Clare O Hagan


In 1557, a London diarist called Henry Machyn wrote:

“The xxx day of May was a goly May-gam in Fanch-chyrchestrett with drumes and gunes and pykes, and ix wordes dyd ryd; and thay had speches evere man, and the morris dansse and the sauden, and an elevant with the castyll, and the sauden and yonge morens with targattes and darttes, and the lord and the lade of the Maye”.

**On the 30th day of May was a jolly May-game in Fenchurch Street with drums and guns and pikes, The Nine Worthies did ride; and they all had speeches, and the morris dance and sultan and an elephant with a castle and the sultan and young moors with shields and arrows, and the lord and lady of the May”.[1]

queen of the may

The Fairy Wood by Henry Meynell Rheam 1903

So what to do with all this wonderful pinkness and magical flowers from a magical tree such as the Hawthorne?

Hawthrone flowers- red

I pass the tree every year, but this year it’s beauty and colour were so bright that I wanted to do something with the flowers. I have used the berries before but never the stunning flowers of this plant – other than to eat them in a salad with  Hawthorne leaves. The flowers and the leaves are called   * bread and butter*  –  And as if by magic, who would have though it,  that day I also came across some wonderful Hawthorne recipe on the interweb and social media. So not one to let things waste, I decided to make a small bath up.
IMAG2203*sorry for the orange carried bag – all I had on me at the time*

  • Now I am not good at following recipes to a ‘T’ – I like to mess with them, and so I played with this too.
  • So, on a warm sunny day- it does help- pick a rather large carried bag of flowers.  Try not to take them from the same bush if you can – remember we need berries for the Autumn!.
  •  When you get back, pick the flowers of the stems, making sure you get rid of any green leaves.  – this can  be time consuming – but rather Zen like! Make sure you get rid of any small insects! Remember these are wild flowers, and like for us, they are food for Bees and other lovey creatures.


  • You will need approx. 5 cups of flowers – or so the recipe said – but I used a rather big breakfast cup – as you can see and found that I had only 4 . However as this filled the bowl I was confident that there would be enough.


collected Hawthorne flowers 2016

  • Then using the same cup  – measure our 2  cups of sugar – everyday granulated sugar works for me and it’s much cheaper –  and dissolve it in  2 cups of water over a low heat.
  • Once it has dissolved, and then turn up the heat until it’s boiling and boil for approx. three minutes. You are making a sugar syrup here and believe me it will be very very hot – so be careful.
  • Then pour this sugar syrup over the Hawthorne flowers and give it a good stir. The flowers with turn a brown colour but not to worry!.
  • Return to the pan and then bring the flower syrup to the boil.
  • Once it has come up to the boil, take of the heat and add the juice of a large lemon or lime. Now I had run out of lemons – well it has been warm and there is sloe gin in the cupboard and lemonade in the fridge – so I used a couple – well three smaller limes.
  • Let the flower mixture cool down at this point.
  • Then when it has cooled for a while- I gave it 10 minutes – I am impatient – you can then strain it through some cheesecloth, muslin or what very you use for jam making. I have been known before to use a tea towel!.
    jelly bag stool 1
  • Then it’s ready, according to the recipe I used to be strained into sterilised bottles or jars.  Not mine looked a little too runny for me, more like a cordial than a syrup- I am rather more fond of syrups as I like to use them over ice cream ; in yoghurt etc. So I popped the strained juice back into the pan and brought it up to jam temperature [I have a jam thermometer] and boiled it again rapidly for 5 mins.
  • Leaving it to cook down slightly, I then  poured it into 2 small bottles and a couple of jars.


  •  I found that it gave me approx. 3 1lb jars and 2 small bottles.
  • The original recipe suggests that you keep it in the fridge, but as I have now made it into a jam I think it may keep a little longer. Though I don’t think that there is enough pectin in it to keep it for as long as I would a jam.  So I tend to keep one or two jars and give syrups away.


My grandson love it on his pancakes which he has for breakfast when he stays. I and my OH have had it on yoghurt and ice cream… and it’s very yummy – you don’t need to much either as it is very sweet!

You can, always dilute it water, soda water, lemonade or even add it to gin, vodka and champagne – idea if you have a wedding coming up!

It is, as you can see,  the most wonderful pink colour!

Victorian May Day Queen

[1] Nichols, J. G. (ed). (1848). The Diary of Henry Machyn: Citizen and Merchant-Taylor of London (1550-1563). –

[2] http://campus.udayton.edu/mary/resources/mayhymns.htm


[3] https://udayton.edu/imri/mary/m/may-crownings.php


All words and images unless otherwise stated © Shullie H Porter  2010-2016.


About Wælcyrie

I'm a 50 plus [ how time flies] multifaceted, oxymoron, who can never really make her mind up. A Follow of the Hekate, a Wælcyrie who walks in the liminal spaces, between and betwix. a Medium, ( I'll talk to anyone dead or alive), a Writer of short stories, a disorganised Blogger, Cake Baker, Jam Maker; Mother Grandmother and Wife.
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5 Responses to “What potent blood hath modest May” – Hawthorne Syrup/Cordial

  1. QuercusRobur says:

    I’ve made Hawthorn Cordial before, but to a different recipe. Mine involves steeping the flowers in vodka and then adding a sugar syrup to it

  2. bmkeeling says:

    Great post Shullie. Sorry I won’t see you on Saturday.

    • me too; hopefully will see you at another event- keep me posted if yiou see anything up and coming. Please let me know about any competitions you may think I could be interested in! Have to get some work out there.

  3. Pingback: “What potent blood hath modest May” – Hawthorne Syrup/Cordial | Knot Magick

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