Life

Wishing rubbish would disappear

A campaign has been set up to save the 'fairy trees' at the ancient Hill of Tara, which are being 'suffocated with heavy rubbish' by wish-makers

PEOPLE using ancient hawthorn trees on the Hill of Tara in Co Meath to express their beliefs in the magical and spiritual are in fact causing great harm, it has been claimed. A new campaign has been launched to stop members of the public tying hairbands, plastic and even handcuffs to two hawthorns at the seat of the High Kings of Ireland. Traditionally, people have tied biodegradable ribbons or strips of cloth to wishing trees - also known as May bushes or fairy trees - to send appeals to saints or local fairy folk. The pieces of cloth are the embodiment of prayers or wishes, while they can also contain messages for loved ones who have passed away.

Ireland's Tree Council lists almost two dozen so-called 'rag trees' that exist in across the island today, including hawthorns at Dungivan Priory in Co Derry and at St Olcan's Well in Cranfield, Co Antrim.

For generations a single hawthorn tree on the Hill of Tara was widely believed to be a fairy tree, with the power to act as a conduit for messages to the spirits, who in turn could cure illnesses and conditions.

It was said that as a piece of cloth disintegrated - because of the Irish weather - their illness would also begin to vanish. However, a modern trend has seen people putting bits of rubbish, including plastic bottles and bags, baby's dummies and even old nappies on trees in the globally famous spot.

Carmel Diviney of the Tara Skryne Preservation Group says that about four years ago, people began moving their attention away from Tara's

actual fairy tree and began placing what can only be described as tat on two nearby hawthorns, with devastating consequences.

She revealed on RTE's John Murray Show this week that the original tree is now dying, because of years of abuse by the people who hammered copper coins into its bark.

The two other trees, each thought to be up to 500 years old, are now being suffocated by the amount of rubbish tied to them by wish-makers. Carmel complains that people tie hairbands and strips of plastic so tightly to the trees that it restricts growth, preventing them from thriving. Copper coins poison the trees while objects like handcuffs have no place in the mystical life of Ireland's oldest and most special trees.

She has set up a Facebook page aimed at educating people about the need to protect the hawthorns - check out the Save Tara Trees campaign page for more details.

And Carmel is organising a clean-up of the trees at 3pm tomorrow in an effort to prolong their lives.

In a very clear message to visitors to Tara, Carmel says: "If you feel moved to help, you can do so by filling rubbish bags with whatever you can, having first said a prayer and sending out healing energy to the people who have attached items and their intentions with them. For people who insist that they 'have the right' to hang 'clooties' from the trees, please remember that trees have rights too.''

The campaigner says that leaving socks, underwear and even syringes at the sites is "an insult to the trees'', before adding: "It's a total eyesore and a health hazard. It's not good for the trees and it's not good for the image of Tara.''

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