Hawthorn Tree Mythology

I’m away at the moment and won’t get a video blog done this week(visit my channel here!), so I thought I’d share another video of sorts with you here. It’s a short and entertaining video from the RTE (Radio Telefis Eireann) archives. Trust me, you’ll love it. I’m sharing it, as it could have come directly from my novel (work in progress), Waking Tara.

The video touches on many topics and stories that were the food of my childhood imagination. In this video a man believes his fate is tied to an old hawthorn tree. I remember being told that the hawthorn had supernatural connections; that it was a fairy tree and that it was very unlucky to cut one down. Even today in Ireland, you will see hawthorn trees untouched in the midst of a meadow; cutting it down could bring bad luck to the farmer.hawthorn

Here is a scene in my work in progress (Waking Tara) where my main character, Ciara, is confronted with a farmer who believes he will die as he’s cut down a hawthorn:

Ciara gave the old man a grave smile, not wanting to seem like she was treating his maladies lightly. ‘I need to go through your activities over the last few days. Your symptoms are peculiar to any illness I’ve seen. But I think I can help you.’

         He sagged back against the bed and rubbed a hand across his face. “Thanks be to God.”

         “Mr. Sheridan?”

         He nodded. “Aye, aye. Well it started after a day o’ clearin’ the field for the hay. I felt quite well ye know, not o’ bother on me. And me brother says to me that we should get rid of a tree in the field. It’s been there as far as I can remember, but every year it hinders the cuttin’ – of the hay, ye know?”

         She nodded.

         “Well. I was a bit reluctant to be sure, but sure, says I, tis only a flamin’ tree. Síle told me to leave well enough alone but I’ve a streak o’ the stubbornness in me and I didn’t mind her. So I took the ol’ axe there and went to gettin’ shot of the thing. It took me half the day, it did. It clung to the earth like it had claws, but I eventually got it out.”

         “But you didn’t hurt yourself?”

         “No, I was feeling okay after it. But at teatime I began to come over a bit odd. And I says to Síle, you know, I don’t feel the best. And it came on me quite sudden after that.”

         Ciara waited a moment and the silence was occupied by the sounds of clucking in the yard and the rain hitting the wet ground outside. She sniffed the beaker and the hot scent of the whiskey and ginger chased away the stench that hung in the room.

         Finally she felt able to draw breath. “What type of tree was it, Mr. Sheridan.”

         His eyes became fearful and he whispered. “I knows I shouldna ha’ done it.’ He looked down at his hands. ‘Twas a hawthorn.”

Waking Tara touches on many areas of mythology and superstition that occupied Ireland at the time the story is set, in the late nineteenth century. This video shows that those beliefs extended someway into modern Irish culture, or at least until this video was shot.

Here is the video: Man, Fairy & Hawthorn

Olivia Kiernan is author of Dawn Solstice, another novel that centres around Irish myth and legend, particularly the Banshee. Read/download a sample here.

On Twitter: @LivKiernan

On Facebook: Olivia Kiernan (Author)

YouTube: Olivia Bright’s Vlog Adventures


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