Wish Tree

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For the band, see The Wishing Tree.
Wishes on the Spier's Wish Tree in Beith, Scotland

A wish tree is an individual tree, usually distinguished by species, position or appearance, which is used as an object of wishes and offerings. Such trees are identified as possessing a special religious or spiritual value. By tradition, believers make votive offerings in order to gain from that nature spirit, saint or goddess fulfillment of a wish.


Coin trees[edit]

Wish tree coins in timber at Aira Force

One form of votive offering is the token offering of a coin. The remains of one such tree can be found[1] near Ardmaddy House in Argyll, Scotland, a hawthorn, which is a species traditionally linked with fertility. The trunk and branches are covered with hundreds of coins which have been driven through the bark and into the wood. The local tradition is that a wish will be granted for each of the coins so treated.[2]

Folklorist Ceri Houlbrook observed actions at a coin tree in Aira Force, Cumbria, noting that a succession of at least twelve families passed by the site and decided to hammer coins into it using a piece of limestone lying around; she commented that this custom appeared to offer "little variation: it is imitative, formulaic, homogeneous."[5]

Clootie wells[edit]

Main article: clootie well

The practice of tying pieces of cloth to a wish tree is often directly associated with nearby clootie wells, as they are known in Scotland and Ireland, or "cloutie" or "cloughtie" in Cornwall.[6] Culloden has an example of a clootie well in the nearby woods.


There are parallels here with wassailing where the Wassail Queen is lifted up into the boughs of the apple tree, where she places toast that has been soaked in Wassail from the Clayen Cup as a gift to the tree spirits to ensure good luck for the coming season's crop and to show them the fruits of what they created the previous year.

Shoe trees[edit]

In a related cultural tradition found in many locations, including the United States, supplicant will toss or hurl shoes into trees that are locally designated as wellsprings of good fortune. See Shoe tossing.

Other offerings[edit]

Other cultural traditions[edit]

In art[edit]

Yoko Ono[edit]

Since the 1990s the wish tree has played a significant part in many of Yoko Ono's exhibitions.[15] Ono's Wish Tree, installed in the Sculpture Garden of the Museum of Modern Art, New York in July 2010, has become very popular, with contributions from all over the world. Her Wish Tree for Washington, DC at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden was installed three years prior.


See also[edit]



  1. ^ http://www.forestry.gov.uk/forestry/INFD-6UFDV2
  2. ^ Rodger, Donald, Stokes, John & Ogilve, James (2006). Heritage Trees of Scotland. The Tree Council. P.87. ISBN 0-904853-03-9.
  3. ^ Sharp, Mick (1997). Holy Places of Celtic Britain. Blandford. ISBN 1-85079-315-8. P. 149.
  4. ^ Wilkinson, Gerald (1976). Trees in the Wild. Book Club Associates. P. 108.
  5. ^ Houlbrook 2014, p. 40.
  6. ^ a b c Straffon, Cherly (1998). Fentynyow Kernow. In Search of Cornwall's Holy Wells. Pub. Meyn Mamvro. ISBN 0-9518859-5-2, pp. 40–42.
  7. ^ Rundall, *Rundall, Charlotte (Editor) (1998). The Magic of Cornwall. Reader's Digest.
  8. ^ Glasgow's Hidden Gardens.
  9. ^ MacGeorge, Andrew (1880). Old Glasgow. The Place and the People. Glasgow: Blackie and Son. Page 145.
  10. ^ Wilkinson, Gerald (1976). Trees in the Wild. Book Club Associates. P.26.
  11. ^ Pride, David (1910), A History of the Parish of Neilston. Pub. Alexander Gardner, Paisley. P. 213.
  12. ^ Woodward, Charles & Patricia (2006). Oral communication to Mr. Roger S.Ll. Griffith.
  13. ^ "The Voyage of the Beagle", Chapter IV
  14. ^ Thompson, Harry (2006). This thing of darkness. Pub. Headline Review. ISBN 0-7553-0281-8. P. 358.
  15. ^ Wishing in Yoko Ono's Art.


Billingsley, John (2010). "Coins Inserted in Trees". FLS News (London: The Folklore Society) 60: 7. 
Curtis, Mavis (2004). "Coins in Fallen Trees". FLS News (London: The Folklore Society) 42: 14. 
Gould, Cathy (2010). "Coins Inserted in Trees". FLS News (London: The Folklore Society) 60: 7. 
Hartland, Edwin S. (1893). "Pin-wells and Rag-bushes". Folklore (London: The Folklore Society) 4 (4): 451–470. 
Houlbrook, Ceri (2014). "The Mutability of Meaning: Contextualizing the Cumbrian Coin-Tree". Folklore (London: The Folklore Society) 125 (1): 49–59. 
Patten, B.; Patten, J. (2009). "Coins Inserted in Trees". FLS News (London: The Folklore Society) 59: 2. 

External links[edit]