Wishing Trees

 


Wishing Tree @ Brigid’s Well in Kildare, Ireland

 

Wishing Trees
“Wishing Trees” are very common throughout Ireland, England, and Scotland. They are usually individual trees upon which “folk magic”, “folk spells”, “faerie offerings”, or “prayers” are offered. Sometimes it is particular to a specific species, where the tree lives, or how it looks. Many times they are associated with faeries or a particular Deity. They are very common alongside sacred wells in Ireland and the UK. The practice usually involves petitions or offerings made to the tree, a nature spirit associated with the tree, a Saint, a God/dess, or the ancestors with a request for a wish to be fulfilled.

Coin trees involve offering of coins to a particular tree. These are often hammered into an old trunk, branch, or small tree. Sometimes these are oaks, rowan trees, hawthorns, ash, or thorn trees. Some hawthorns serve for fertility magic such as a common one in Argyll, Scotland by the Ardmaddy House. Sometimes hundreds of coins are hammered into the bark and wood with the belief that a wish will be granted for each of the coins added. A similar one that is well known is by the sacred well of ST. Maree in Loch Maree, Gairloch, Scotland that has hundreds of coins hammered into it. Also all over the Yorkshire Dales, such as in the pictures shown here I took during a hike, are found with hundreds of coins offered to nature spirits and/or faeries for a granting of a wish.

Clootie Wish Trees (a.k.a. Cloughtie or Rag Trees) are found next to sacred wells throughout England, Scotland, and Ireland. This involves the practice of tying a piece of cloth, often called “clouties”, “clooties”, or “cloughties” to ask for a answer to a prayer, a wish, and/or a petition. As the rag decays, so will the illness; or so will the petition come true. It is a form of sympathetic magic. One of the most well known “wishing trees” is the Madron Well in Cornwall. With the Madron well, a sacred well of healing, it is believed that as the cloth rots, the ailment that one is seeking a cure for disappears. Even Charles Darwin recorded the finding of a “wishing tree” in his travels in Argentina called “Walleechu” which was treated by the local inhabitants as a Deity. It was festooned with offerings such as cigars, food, water, and cloth hung from the branches by bright strips of colored thread. Popular wishing trees in Hong Kong is the “Lam Tsuen Wishing Tree” near the “Tin Hau Temple” in Lam Tsu where paper tied to an orange and thrown up in the trees that stick will grant the petitioner a wish. The wishing tree next to Brigid’s Well in Kildare is a common tree for petitioning healing requests.


Penny offerings for good luck and as gifts to the Fae
“Wishing Tree”
Yorkshire Dales, England

The Wishing Tree at Tobar Ghobnatan Holy Well
not only consists of rags, but trinkets, rosaries, jewelry, prayer cards, toys, personal effects, and other items given as offerings. You can see these at Tobar Ghobnatan Wishing Trees. The concept is to leave behind something of yourself or someone that you love that is in need of prayers, healing, or petitions. The concept with the rags is that when it decays so will the illness that it represents. This is a kind of sympathetic magical rite. Unfortunately some pilgrims to the sites don’t realize how the spell or magic works. You can see this when they tie a piece of a plastic bag on the tree. Plastic will take forever to decay, so will the illness it is to represent. If only they knew! In addition to the rags, others leave coins, jewelry, rings, prayer cards, figurines, toys, personal effects, clothing items such as belts, shoes, garments, and trinkets. The cloutie and Wish trees found at Tobar Ghobnatan are considered to be dedicated to the Matron Saint of Ballyvourney and sacred Bee-Keeping mistress, Saint Ghobnatan holy pilgrimage site and monastic settlement known as “Tobar Ghobnatan”. This is the legendary home of St. Gobnait/Ghobnatan. It is located a kilometer south of the village of Ballyvourney where her church Móin Mór (a.k.a. Bairnech) was built.

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