Hawthorn is a small tree of the rose family that was prevalent throughout southern Europe. The plant is sometimes known as the whitethorn.
In ancient times, hawthorn was used as a symbol of hope and as charm against witchcraft and sorcery.
- It was often placed in baby cribs to protect them from witchcraft.
- Some people would hang hawthorn around their house or doorway as a barrier to ward off witchcraft.
- Greeks would place pieces in the casements of houses to prevent witches from entering the home.
- In Bohema, hawthorn was placed in the thresholds of the cow houses to prevent witches from entering.
It didn’t take much to transfer hawthorn as a preventative for witches to a preventative for vampires.
Hawthorn was not able to stop or slow down physical forces, but it was capable of blocking intruding supernatural beings and spirits.
Hawthorn branches were used outside a coffin to keep vampires and corpses inside the coffin. Sometimes it was placed in the corpse’s socks or on top of the corpse. The wood of the hawthorn was sometimes used as a stake to impale vampire corpses in the heart, head, or stomach.
In Bosnia, women would visit the home of a recently deceased and would place a small piece of hawthorn behind the head cloth of the person. The twig would then be thrown away after leaving the home of the deceased. If the person was destined to be a vampire, it would focus its attention on the hawthorn rather than follow the woman home.
An alternative Bosnian legend is that people would attend a funeral with hawthorn twigs in their clothes, so that when they left, they could drop the twigs along the way back home. If the deceased was a vampire, it would follow the twigs, stopping to pick up each one, becoming too distracted to follow the living person home.