Money Trees, Folklore, and Faeries …

Monday 2 April 2007
:: Janet’s Foss :: Malham, England – Yorkshire::

Money Trees at Janet’s Foss (Malham, England)
On my trip to England, hiking across the Yorkshire Dales, I came upon an English tradition that I still do not know the full story of. I’ve asked over a dozen different people through my travels on Dales countryside and most could not remember the belief or myth behind the practice of hammering coins (mainly pennies or 2 cent quids) into fallen trees, trunks, or logs. These are most commonly referred to as “money trees” or “Wish Trees.

Some believe, and have told me it’s a common practice similar to throwing coins in wells – for wishes. Others state it is for safe passage. Romans would always offer a coin to the Gods before crossing water. Others as a tithing or offering to the tree spirits as an apology for human intrusion and destruction of the woods or impeding on a fairy path. Coins are sometimes used, hammered deep into the tree trunk, however the practice of tying pieces of cloth to the tree may also qualify, although this is more often directly associated with nearby Clootie wells as they are known in Scotland and Ireland or Cloutie or Cloughtie in Cornwall. It is likely that an offering is also being made to the tree spirit as elsewhere the ritual is to place objects into water, so here they are ‘hedging their bets’ and effectively making an offering to both.A rare example of a ‘Wish Tree’ exists near Ardmaddy House in Argyle, Scotland. The tree is a Hawthorn which are traditionally linked with fertility, as in ‘May Blossom’. The trunk and branches are covered with hundreds of coins which have been driven through the bark and into the wood. The local tradition is that a wish will be granted for each of the coins so treated. [3] On the island of St Maol Rubha or St Maree, in Loch Maree, Gairloch in the Highlands is an Oak Wish Tree made famous by a visit in 1877 by Queen Victoria and its inclusion in her published diaries. The tree, and others surrounding it, are festooned with hammered in coins. It is near the healing well of St Maree, to which votive offerings were made. Records show that bulls were sacrificed openly up until the 18th century. Others state for a sacred spring or foss. Trees have long been associated with wells and waterfalls. An old sycamore is the ‘money tree’ at the holy well of St Fintan near Portlasie, Ireland. Tradition states that St Fintan dropped some water on the tree and the damp hollow in the trunk bears a trickle of holy water. Pilgrims used to tie clothing to the tree, but more recently hammered coins into the bark, so that its base is now more metal than wood. There are several myths/beliefs involving that the money is offerings to the faeries for protection, blessings, wishes, or safe passage. Here’s a belief posted on a blog stating “…We even saw a money tree on the way home – it was absolutely covered from head to toe with coppers and 20 and 10 and 5ps. And they could be taken at your leisure. But now – legend has it that the pixies long ago took money off travellers who would be given invisibility to protect them against the giant serpent that lurked in the waters. That’s right – genuine 2002 coins way back in the early centuries. By gum they kept up with the times in those days. Anyway – if anyone picked a coin from the tree it would anger the pixies and you would be in danger of their wrath …”


Hammered Coins into a Trunk

Penny offerings for good luck
and as gifts to the Fae


Wishing Tree …


Cut log with pennies hammered in
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