Sunday, December 1, 2013

Holy tree and a cure for warts

It's been an amazingly mild Autumn this year. I tried to visit a tree in County Laois, Ireland during the summer of 2012, only to find that due to the volume of rain, it was a walk in waders as opposed to wellies to visit the site that the locals had often mentioned to me. However the Autumn of 2013 proved successful to see this holy tree with attested abilities to relieve the presence of warts.

You won't find this tree marked on Ordnance Survey maps, though I suspect that there would be a reference to it in the National Schools Folklore Collection carried out in the 1930's (only a hunch... perhaps one day I'll get to follow up that line of enquiry)

The tree is an ash tree located at a modern gated entrance to an agricultural field in Ballygillaheen townland. The townland name, although uncertain, is probably a reference to the baile (i.e. settlement/ hamlet) of Giolla Chaoin (Gillachaein's town). Mac Giolla Chaoine translates as the Servant of St. Caoine and is relating to the modern surname of Coyne or Kilcoyne.

I know little about a St. Caoine... I'd be glad to hear any information from anyone who reads this entry.

The ash tree has two main branches rising from the main trunk. The trunk itself is rotten and badly damaged at the base. At the junction of the two main branches is a small area that retains water. It is said locally that if you immerse you hands in the water you will be cured of warts on your hands. I have also heard through local knowledge that the water has been given to sick animals (but with unknown results).

There is a small religious picture of Mary pinned to the tree trunk and a plethora of coins lodged into the bark of the tree. The coins are firmly fixed in the bark, as it a car key from a Nissan, which has been bent sideways. I've often visited 'rag trees' in Ireland associated with holy wells, and regularly visited holy wells where people have places coins either in the water of the holy well or in a case on the Inisheer, Aran Islands, placed the coins in a bullaun stone beside the well, but I've rarely come across coins lodged into the bark of tree which has curative associations to water lodged within the tree.

If anyone reading this can shed some light on a St. Caoine or indeed others trees with curing/ holy trees associated with coins lodged in the bark, I'd love to hear from you. And if you are ever wandering through County Laois let me know and I can give directions to this beautiful spot. But remember your wellies !

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