Sunday, October 5, 2008

Wish Tree

A Wish Tree is an individual tree, usually distinguished by species, position or appearance, which is used as an object of wishes and offerings. Such trees are identified as possessing a special religious or spiritual value. By tradition, believers make votive offerings in order to gain from that nature spirit, saint or goddess fulfillment of a wish.



Practices


Involving coins alone



One form of votive offering is the token offering of a coin. One such tree still stands near Ardmaddy House in Argyll, Scotland. The tree is a , a species 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.

On Isle Maree in Loch Maree, Gairloch, in the 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.

Near Mountrath, County Laois, is a shapeless old Wish Tree in the form of a tree called St. Fintan's Well. The original well was filled in, but the water re-appeared in the centre of the tree. Hundreds of Irish pennies have been beaten into the bark as good luck offerings.

Many public houses, such as the Punch Bowl in , near in Cumbria, have old beams with splits in them into which coins are forced for luck.

Clootie wells



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. has an example of a clootie well in nearby woods.

Madron Well is a Cloutie well in Cornwall with the same practice of tying cloth, and as it rots, the ailment disappears. Sancreed and Alisia Wells are other Cornish Cloughtie wells where this ritual is carried out. 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.

Offerings of alcohol


There are parallels here with wassailing where the Wassail Queen is lifted up into the boughs of the apple tree, where she places toast that has been soaked in Wassail from the Clayen Cup as a gift to the tree spirits to ensure good luck for the coming season's crop and to show them the fruits of what they created the previous year.

Involving other offerings





This was a rhyme one had to sing whilst sticking a pin first into one's warts and then into the tree.

The Lam Tsuen Wishing Trees are located in Hong Kong near the Tin Hau Temple in Lam Tsu. Two banyan trees are frequented by tourists and the locals during the Lunar New Year. Previously, they burnt joss sticks, wrote their wishes on joss paper tied to an orange, and then threw them up to hang in these trees, believing that if the paper successfully hung onto one of the tree branches, their wishes would come true.


In Glasgow's Hidden Garden at Pollockshields and at the Kagyu Samye Ling Monastery, Scotland, a number of trees have been planted onto which people can tie white labels, onto which they have written their wishes.

Eglinton Castle estate, now Eglinton Country Park, has had a Wish Tree for many years. This tree is a yew on an island in the Lugton Water, now left high and dry due to the weir giving way.

The Christmas tree is often quoted as being a pagan symbol connected with tree worship, clearly linked with good luck achieved through offerings to and veneration of special trees.

Charles Darwin encountered a tree in modern-day Argentina called ''Walleechu'', which was regarded by the Native Americans as a god. The tree was festooned with offerings such as cigars, food, water, cloth, etc., hung from the branches by bright strips of coloured thread.

A number of Wish Trees have been set up to make a wish for the environment, such as at the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park? Centre at in Scotland. People make their wish for and pledge to help the environment and tie the wish label to the tree.

Thomas the Tank Engine


In one of the television episodes of ''Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends'', one of the locomotives goes to the Wish Tree and wishes that he will pull passenger trains. He later regrets this and then wishes at the Wish Tree only to haul freight trains in future. On the model, one can see many people standing around the wish tree, also making their wishes.

Wish or Kissing trees in British folklore and other cultural traditions


In Hindu mythology, the banyan tree is also called ''kalpavriksha'', meaning "wish- fulfilling tree", as it represents eternal life because of its seemingly ever-expanding branches.

The Wishing Tree or Kissing Tree was made at Christmas or Yuletide before pine trees were introduced by Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha in 1840. An evergreen bough was hung with apples, sweetmeats, and candles and decked with ribbons representing wishes.

At the summit of the Fereneze Braes in Neilston, Renfrewshire, Scotland, there was an old hawthorn, well known locally as "The Kissing Tree". The story goes that if a young man could drive a nail fully into the thorn tree with a single blow, then he would be entitled to "ae fond kiss" on the spot from his sweetheart. Success in the task was considered proof of his suitability as a good suitor for the young lady. The original tree fell in around 1860, but in 1910, a replacement was said to exist. Driving a nail into the tree may link the custom with that of driving coins into trees as noted above.

In parts of Yorkshire, a tree with two spreading branches which also formed a bower over the point of branching, was known as a Wish Tree by children who would climb onto the junction and make a wish.

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