A POEM A DAY - THORN OF TARA


The Hill of Tara was among the special places I visited in Ireland. Freed in late afternoon from the tour buses of the Newgrange complex, the hill was quiet, with just a few local walkers with their dogs braving the blustering wind. The view was spectacular and it was easy to feel why the High Kings of Ireland would be at home here. The landscape revealed the remains of the ancient ceremonial and buriel site with a passage tomb (The Mound of Hostages), standing stone (the Lia Fáil or Stone of Destiny) and visible round enclosures and a ceremonial avenue. 


Battered by winds stand a row of hawthorn trees, known as the Wishing trees, Rag trees, May trees or Fairy trees. Believed to be the home of the good neighbours who protect the boundaries, these trees have longstanding spiritual and mythical significance and the tradition of asking for a wish by leaving a token in the tree is an old one. Originally it would be a small rag of cloth, tied to ask for help with ill health. In recent years these trees, at the Hill of Tara and many other sites in Ireland and Britain, have become victim to their own popularity, becoming laden with all sorts of unsuitable materials, even coins banged into the bark. This is damaging the trees and guardians of the sites now ask for care, stopping tours of people from tying plastics and damaging materials to the trees. One tree on the Hill of Tara was bent over and put in danger by the weight of heavy objects tied to it. 


This hawthorn tree did have evidence of offerings but they were tied with grass, which degraded and fell to the ground. I hope this example will be followed, allowing people to enjoy the tradition and ritual but with the necessary respect for the living trees.  





© 2019 Jacqueline Knight Cotterill.  All rights reserved. 

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