A pishogue, in the Irish tradition, is a charm or superstitious practice. And there are many associated with trees, including raggy trees, adorned with physical proof of enduring traditions. Here are just two of them, one at Fore, County Westmeath, and the other at Carraroe, County Sligo.
The Seven Wonders of Fore are well worth a visit, even just for the raggy tree shown below, hung with rags, bits of cloth, watches and plastic bags, resonant of visitors’ wishes and prayers for health, love, exam results, job prospects and good fortune in all the areas of life which remain to some degree out of our control, and therefore susceptible to a handy good luck charm or protective practice.
The tree is an ash, traditionally associated with fertility and healing, especially when linked with water, often in the form of holy wells. This tree is known locally as the Tree That Will Not Burn. It is also called the money tree, because of the coins that have been hammered into its trunk for centuries by pilgrims and visitors. The ash tree sits above St Feichin’s holy well (The Water That Will Never Boil) where sick children used to be immersed to receive a cure.
The Holy Well – An Tobar nAlt – at Carraroe predates the arrival of Christianity in Ireland, and is still a place of quiet reflection. Holly trees at the site are garlanded with rags, bits of cloth, rosary beads, holy medals and scapulars – material proof of prayers and wishes. The holly tree is a symbol of strength, protection, magical power and purification. Although the trees are cleared of their embellishments from time to time, this tradition is very persistent, and the rags and medals are always replaced before long.