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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Brigid’s Sacred Wells in Kildare, Ireland

 


Brigid’s Well #1, the “Wayward Well”, Kildare, Ireland

Brighid’s Holy Wells in Kildare
* Kildare, Ireland

The Goddess or St. Brigid has two holy wells in Kildare? She certainly does. Some say that one of the wells belongs to the Ancient Goddess Brigid while the other well belongs to St. Brigid. Both are sacred, both are holy, and both hold Brigid’s magical healing waters. Well #1 is the ancient “original” sacred well of Brigid. Well #2 is the dressed up sacred shrine and park of Brigid with her well. They were two distinctly different entities … an Ancient Goddess who’s ethereal Godly presence can manifest as a human female and the actual magical human nun turned Saint who was the personification of the Deitie. One in the same? could be. Two differently distinct entities who share the common thread? very possibly. Two wells … that seems to be the case. One for the Goddess and One for the Saint? I would say “both” wells contain “both” the Saint and the Goddess in them. I’ve come to notice a pattern with this, that the “ancient” Pagan “original” well is often offset from the “Christian” one. This seemed to be the case when I went to see the Madron well in Cornwall, England (though technically that one had “three” – the original one buried in the marsh, the Pagan “original” one offset from the one underwater, and the Christian well house.). There are many Brigid wells in Ireland as well as Britain. As wells were the sacred sites of veneration in the Druidic faith, many also have an associated sacred tree with them that are covered with votive offerings. These are often called “Wishing Trees”. Trees covered with “clotties” or ribbons of cloth done as a prayer for healing or a spell to obtain something. Pilgrims come here to get in touch with the well inside themselves. Wells are sacred places where people for thousands of years have come to pray, worship, and reflect. Pagan and Holy wells are often seen as the entrance to the womb of Mother Earth, the source of life. Each holy well usually is always related to healing, and each well usually has a specialty that it performs. Brigid’s wells are pretty powerful for healing sore eyes. Brigid is associated with all healing. Her girdle is capable of curing all disease and illness and this well is rumored to make “the blind man seeing, the dumb girl speaking, etc.”

Brighid’s Holy Well #1 a.k.a. “The Wayside Well”

The first well is the ancient Pagan sacred well of the Goddess Brigid. It is located just next to the car park of the Japanese Gardens. This well / spring itself feeds and nourishes the Gardens themselves. This is the spring source whose waters run off and feeds the newer well. It’s not really decorated and is simple, rustic, ancient, and silent. Seemingly forgotten. I has only an inscription sign in Irish that translates “St. Brigid, Mary of the Gael, pray for us.” However it is still a major focal point for pilgrimmages and ceremonies. The Brigid Eve ceremonies (January 31st) start at a small fire set up just outside the Japanese Gardens car park with a chanting to the Goddess Brigid which is followed by a candlelit journey of contemplation about the Goddess and the Saint and the spirit that weaves them together. The candle lit journey goes to this well and ends at the second well. It is customary to gather this well water in a bottle because of its strong healing properties and in exchange to leave an offering for the spirits and faeries who dwell there.

 


“Tobair Bride” / St. Brigid’s Well, Kildare, Ireland

 

Brighid’s Holy Well #2 a.k.a. “Tobair Bride” (St. Brigid’s Well)

The second well is the “supposed” Christian well of St. Brigid. It’s the tourist one. It’s the “Official” one. This is the one in the tourist guides, sign posts, and advertisements. It is located in a landscaped grotto at the end of a short lane close to Well #1. The local Catholic clergy moved Christian devotion and practices to this site in the 1950’s supposedly out of concern for people’s safety in accessing the original well which was at the bend in a narrow busy road. It is here that the Roman Catholic healing well is located. While pilgrims often visit both wells, this is the well where an involved ceremony, similar to the “stations of the cross” is conducted. Pilgrims reflect on the Goddess and/or Saint Brigid and how they weave together.

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Faerie Trees

 


Fairy Tree, the Curraugh, Kildare, Ireland

Faerie Trees
United Kingdom and Ireland

Faerie trees are mythical hotspots of otherworldly and/or faerie activity. Faerie trees are seen as the haunts of Faeries. They are fiercely protected by the Fae. It is believed that any human foolish enough to pass by a host-tree late at night will find their arms bruised or pinched by small faerie fingers. Three thorn trees growing closely together are especially potent. Thorn trees hung with ribbons or rags are good gifts to faeries of the tree. Faerie trees are most associated with the Oak, Ash, and Thorn. Sometimes it is associated with the Rowan tree. Others claim its the Elder, Blackthorn, Hazel, and/or Alder. The trees most twisted together are the most notorious of faerie trees – and this is common amongst the Elder. If two thorns and an elder are found together it warns of great danger as do Oak, Ash, and Thorn. In the British Isles, the Rowan is believed to protect one from witchcraft and enchantment. Its berries opposite its stalk display tiny five pointed stars or pentagrams which are notable protective symbols. Color red, as in the flavor of the berry, is also seen as a protection against enchantment. The tree is believed to afford protection to the dwellings by which it grew and often people would take branches of the tree to be carried for personal protection from witchcraft. The belief in them go back to classical mythology, whereas legends tell us that ‘Hebe’, the Goddess of youth, once dispensed rejuvenating ambrosia to the Gods from her magical chalice. When she lost this cup to demons, the Gods sent an eagle to recover the cup. The feathers and drops of blood which the eagle bled in the fight, fell to the earth, whereas each one of them turned into a Rowan tree – the legendary Faerie Tree. It is because of this it is believed that the Rowan derived the shape of its leaves from eagle’s feathers and its berries look like the droplets of blood. The Rowan is also prominent in Norse mythology as being the tree from where the first woman was made. The Mountain Ash were also associated as Faerie Trees which are the most well-known of the Rowan. The wood of the Rowan is often used for staves, wands, divining rods, and walking sticks. Berries are often used to make alcoholic drinks.


The Curraugh, Kildare, Ireland

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