Trees of Ireland: Importance and Mythology

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dark hedges ireland

The trees of Ireland have long held a special place in the country’s culture and history. House of Lor designs take inspiration from our surroundings, the elements and the natural world we all occupy. For instance, the creativeness of our Wishing Tree Collection is the Celtic Tale of the “Wishing Tree” and the famous ‘Dark Hedges’. Their branches are an Integral Part of each piece’s design.

Source: Pexels

Have you ever heard of the Dark Hedges in Northern Ireland?

This beautiful avenue of beech trees was planted by the Stuart family in the 18th century as a stunning entrance to their Georgian mansion, Gracehill House. Today, this natural phenomenon has become one of the most popular photographic destinations in Northern Ireland, attracting tourists worldwide. The Dark Hedges have even appeared on television, as it served as the King’s Road in the hit show Game of Thrones.

dark hedges game of thrones
Bregagh Road was used by the show to represent https://www.insider.com/places-game-of-thrones-fans-need-to-visit-2018-6King’s Road. Source: Insider:Shutterstock/HBO

These historic trees serve as a reminder of Northern Ireland’s rich history and are a testament to the enduring beauty of nature. So next time you’re visiting Northern Ireland, be sure to make a stop at the Dark Hedges and witness this fantastic feat of 18th-century landscaping.

Trees of Ireland Mythology and Folklore

The Celts worshipped trees long before their environmental values were discovered, which can be seen through their mythology and folklore.

Hawthorn trees were believed to be representative of love and protection. Celtic folklore tells of how these trees are also the subject of various superstitions. One of the most famous examples of such is the “Irish Fairy Tree”. Believed to be sacred to the fairies and possibly even serve as a gateway between worlds, lone hawthorn trees that stand in the middle of a field are never cut down. These trees are thought to bring good luck to the landowner, and terrible misfortune upon whomever damages it.

This superstition is so widely shared that it is not uncommon to drive around Ireland and see fields of farmland with Irish fairy trees right in the middle, as many farmers fear cutting them down and instead choose to work around them.

While many “Irish fairy trees” exist, the most well-known is located on the Hill of Tara. People travel to these trees in order to tie ribbons around them, representing their wishes or prayers, and many leave gifts behind as a sign of gratitude for a wish that was granted.

The Celtic Tale of the Wishing Tree involves tying a loose knot in a branch as one makes a wish. When the desire is fulfilled, the knot is untied, and a gift is left to thank the tree. Our trees’ magical and spiritual properties in Irish culture make the Wishing Tree collection a favourite to showcase at Halloween.

Trees of Ireland earrings
Wishing Tree Drop Earrings with Sterling Silver and Irish Gold

Halloween’s origins date back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain.  The Celts believed that at Samhain the division between this world and the otherworld was at its thinnest, allowing spirits to pass through. In other words, the ghosts of the dead returned to earth. Two hills in Ireland were associated with Samhain in Celtic Ireland, Tlachtga and Tara. Tlachtga was the location of the Great Fire Festival which began on the eve of Samhain.

Native Irish Trees: An ancient Celtic symbol

Our most common native trees include oak, ash, hazel, birch, Scots pine, rowan and willow. Eventually, people brought other trees, such as beech, sycamore, horse chestnut, spruce, larch and fir to Ireland.

Trees are entwined in Irish culture from the deepest of our ancient roots. The early Irish alphabet used tree names as letters. The majority of Irish place-names were once Gaelic tree names. Trees such as Oak, Ash and Hazel were sacred in Brehon law and were believed to have magical and medicinal properties. The Irish’s love for trees is reflected across the country as over ten thousand places in Ireland contain a tree in their name. Derry, for example, evolved from the Gaelic name for a place of Oak trees.

trees of ireland
Oak Tree- Source: IBYD

Our fascination and admiration for Irish trees stemmed largely from the fact that they serve as symbols for pure human life, as they too are living beings that fight to live and grow.

The Irish people’s deep respect for trees can be seen throughout history. Due to their extraordinary structure, with their roots spreading underground and their branches reaching high in the sky, ancient Celts perceived trees as doorways to the underworld and heavens. The ancient Irish also believed Irish trees were home to the spirits of their ancestors. As such, trees in ancient Ireland were believed to be protectors. The Celts further showcased their respect for trees by tributing a specific symbol to individual tree species.

In Celtic history, Oak, Ash and Hawthorn trees were the most sacred trees. Oak trees embodied truth, courage, and wisdom. The Oak tree is also featured in the Celtic Tree of Life symbol. The Tree of Life is a popular symbol that has a long history spanning cultures and centuries. The Celts believed that trees were the ancestors of humans, and they saw the tree as a symbol of strength, stability, and fertility.

tree of life pendant
Tree of Life Pendant – Gold Plated, Sterling Silver decorated with Cubic Zirconia and Containing a Trinity knot made from Pure Irish Gold

The Celtic Tree of Life is often used as a symbol of strength and resilience. At House of Lor, we have a collection of pendants and earrings in honour of this meaningful and much-loved imagery. Irish Ash trees were cherished for their strength and healing power.

The rich history of trees in cultures around the world, particularly Irish mythology and folklore, tied with the environmental benefits they provide, make the Wishing Tree Collection a very special collection indeed. The unique collection is made using sterling silver, conundrum sapphire stone and a piece of pure Irish rose gold in each design.

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