Alas, this series is focusing on Irish tree traditions, and with being Irish a certain amount of literality and rationality must go out the window, because you’re a kill the craic if you don’t. Therefore we must take note of the faerie trees and the exceptionally important toothache tree, brace yourselves folks…..
Crateagus (Hawthorn) are still much revered in Ireland due to their conotations with faeries, lone trees and bushes are often found standing on their lonesome as if by magic in fields and on roadside verges and if damaged or removed bad luck would surely follow.
The generic name Crataegus stems from the Greek-Kratos meaning strength. The species name monogyna reveals that this species contains one (mono) seed (gyna), whereas C.leavigata typically has two seeds. Hawthorns belong to the ROSACEAE family (Rose family to you amateurs) and contrary to popular belief those red ‘berries’ you see are not actually berries at all but ‘Pomes’ a botanical term for the types of fruit hailing from this family. There you go, a fact you can use to impress your tinder date on those long walks through the countryside…Flowering in May they have extremely pretty and abundant blooms, followed by red POMES beginning from September to October, depending on location and elevation. These pomes are rich in Vitamin C, as well as containing flavonoid molecules which have vaso-dilation properties, Translation: ability to expand blood vessels and strengthen capillaries. Thus, Hawthorn has been used in traditional medicine for increasing energy levels, shortness of breath and even to ‘mend a broken heart’. Be it metaphorically or physically…potato, potatoe?
Also known as the ‘faerie thorn’, the Faerie Queen by her hawthorn can be seen as a representation of an earlier pre-Christian archetype, reminding us of a Goddess-centred worship. Traditions still stand strong today, in 1999 the Irish Times reported on how the preservation of a faerie thorn was deemed so important that the construction of a £100 million road was put on hold till members of the community and constructors could discuss what to do. The tree was never felled and the road was rerouted to avoid the removal of the faerie thorn…not much wonder really when you listen to the story of the Delorean car factory….
John Delorean an American car dealer bought some land close to Belfast for the development of his car factory in Dunmurry, however didn’t there stand a faerie thorn slap bang in the centre of the field? Now, all the locals knew of the stories of the faerie thorns and how the foot prints of the ‘wee folk’ were said to be found surrounding the base of the trunk. Development started in 1976, however workmen refused a direct order cut down the tree. However one day the tree was gone, it is said the impetuous Delorean felled it himself and the wrath of the faeries was set upon him….many misdemeanours plagued the venture and Delorean is now known today as the man who was brought down by a thorn tree…..don’t mess with the little people dear John!
Another faerie thorn can be found at Beragh hill in county Tyrone, however this is not renowned for the thwarting of American car dealers but for the cure of a toothache. Where it was said driving a coin or nail into the trunk with a stone could bring relief from a toothache, chewing on the bark of the hawthorn was also said to bring some sweet relief from the pain of an unholy toothache. Elsewhere in Ireland there are also many more sites where nails and coins have been driven into trees to cure what ails ye! Such trees are seen to hold cultural links and beliefs which encourages preservation and conservation of such trees, as well as enabling future generations to learn and preserve their natural heritage, while carrying on sacred traditions through generations….as well as warding off suspicious American car dealers!
My thoughts on folklore
I am a woody perennial plant, typically having a single stem or trunk growing to a considerable height and bearing lateral branches at some distance from the ground, what may I be?
Folklore is an integral part of our development as a society and our cultural and religious beliefs, it defines who we are as a society and our identity within that. Folklore heritage and myth can create strong bonds between human and nature, thus creating a need to protect that bond. Fear or loss is found when such bonds are broken, such as the case with the faerie tree and the loss of king Williams tree.
Passing down tree traditions and the preservation of them can focus attention on relationships to certain species and specific sites, thus creating a need to protect them, as well as a need for localized conservation and environmental awareness.
ANSWER: Why, I am A TREE silly.