Joy Journal

Joy Journal #11: April 23, 2022

I spent a beautiful morning walking along the stunning Antrim coastline: beginning at the Giant’s Causeway and ending at Dunseverick Castle. The castle is an ancient royal site of the Dál Riada, a Gaelic kingdom from at least the 5th century AD. Saint Patrick is recorded as having visited the site, where he baptized Olcán, a local man who later became a Bishop of Ireland. The castle was captured and destroyed by General Robert Munro in 1642, and his Cromwellian troops in the 1650s, with only the ruins of the gate lodge remaining. The northern area contains an oval depression of wet ground which is thought to be a holy well, known as Saint Patrick’s Well.

As I explored this desolate and ancient site, I discovered a lone Hawthorne tree. In Ireland, the Hawthorn is synonymous with the ‘Sidhe’ or Fairies. From the times of the druids the tree was highly valued as a source of medicinal remedies. The flowers, leaves, and berries were used to treat conditions of the heart, and lower blood pressure.

Certain hawthorn trees, especially those associated with Holy Wells, are known as “Rag Trees” or “Wishing Trees”. Historically, cloth strips taken from the clothing of an ill person were tied to the branches of the tree as a petition to a local saint or deity. Local people also tie strips of colourful cloth to the wishing tree as a symbol of their prayers or wishes. These items are known as clotties. It was an honour to come upon this beautiful and sacred offering. #JoyBlogging

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