In the mystical traditions of the Celtic tribes, the Hawthorn bush has a great significance. While this significance varies from location to location, certain elements of it remain common throughout: it is associated with runes, with healing, and with the locations of portals to the faerie otherworld. Although history does not record whether the Kulin people had similar traditions regarding the area, the earliest settlers of the Hawthorn region were emancipated convicts from Ireland, Wales and Scotland, who recognised the plants that grew in the area as the Australian native flora equivalent. In particular, the area that became known as “the Faerie Glen” – a wide, flat paddock not far to the north of the first railway lines in the area – was seen as the centre and wellspring of the area’s magic.
For a magic it certainly had. The suburb was one of the richest in Australia, a title it retains even today (although is due more to the mundane magic of inheritance than any specific enchantment). The banner and namesake of this magic, the May-blooming plant known as the hawthorn was imported to Australia, and grew well in the area’s rich soil, displacing the native plants. But as the area became more and more developed – and today, not a single scrap of land in Hawthorn remains untouched by the hands of the European colonists – the hawthorn plant too was displaced. And more and more often, it was not replaced by any other plant. Ashphalt and cement were the new blooms of Hawthorn by the late Nineteenth century, and they were less friendly to magic. The portals to the otherworld shrank with each new incursion of the built environment, until finally they were almost gone. Even the faerie glen – whose name had transformed over time into the glen faerie, and then just Glenferrie – became less and less magical as the years went by. Although some magic lingered as late as the early 1970’s, it was largely gone after that time – and certainly extinct by 2007, when a neo-celtic pagan movement attempted to tap into it on the glen and could find no trace of the power that had once dwelt there.
Today, Hawthorn is an inner city suburb not unlike any other, and yet, something still remains of what there once was – a certain spirit among the people who dwell there, a sense of ease that sometimes seems out of step with the often-hectic city of which it is a part. But perhaps, just perhaps, it is Melbourne that is out of step with Hawthorn, and not the other way around.
Suburbs near Hawthorn: