Friday, October 15, 2010

Folklore, The Hole in the Tree

Hollow Lime-tree, Fussingø, photo:gb

People's trust in the medical profession was not good in the old days, even close up to our time. Many preferred to seek assistance by wise men and women, who made medicaments and used magic in a large scale. Others -maybe most people - chose to seek help from nature itself - it was cheaper anyway. All over the country were springs with healing qualitites and miraculous power. And if there wasn't a spring nearby, a hollow tree might be just as useful.

A special hollow tree was needed, a tree, which forms an opening to creep through. Such trees were not common, but just like people knew where the healing spring was, they also knew where the hollow tree stood. In order to be healed the sick person had to creep, small children and very weak persons had to be carefully eased through the hole. Each tree had its own rules, one creep-through might not be enough, three, six or maybe nine passages might be necessary to achieve the best effect. Sometimes the tree claimed that the sick person had to be naked. The time for the healing was important too - it might be evening after sunset or morning before sunrise. The best weekday was Thursday. Other trees claimed the ceremony had to be carried out in silence - or else everything would fail.

Those healing trees might cure rickets, gout, gland-disease, boils, epilepsia, hernia. Some side-actions might promote the healing, like to cut off a piece of the bark, bring it home and put it under the sick person's pillow for nine nights - or if it was an infected wound, to smear some pus into the rifts of the bark. The disease would then be transferred to the tree.

When the creeping-through had been carried out, people often hang a piece of cloth up upon a branch. This was meant as a sacrifice , a thank you to the tree for the expected healing. Most healing trees have disappeared now, a few are still alive - but not used. The last rest of people's belief in their power was lost in the late 1800s.

Source: Skalk, archaeological magazine, Nr. 5, October 2004: August F. Schmidt i Danske Studier 1932. - V.J. Brøndegaard: Folk og Flora, bd.1. - Mads Lidegaard: Danske træer fra sagn og tro.

In various places in the country are still a few trees with cloth on the branches. One is the famous Kludeeg (cloth oak) in Leestrup forest at Østsjælland. Today people still hang pieces of cloth up in the old tree. Another present and strange custom is to hang children's pacifiers up in a tree. I have heard there is a tree filled with those pacifiers in a forest west of Århus, my town. I haven't seen it yet - and I have no idea, why a young mum hangs her baby's pacifier up in a tree!
And I have no idea if the tree has to be hollow!

Last News!
Wauw! I have just found it on the net. There are lots of those trees with children's pacifiers all over the country. I'll have to open my eyes! And do you know why they do it? The child's last pacifier is placed in the tree. That's really some kind of ceremony, isn't it? I've just now read an example of such a ceremony: It's the child's birthday, the grandparents come too , they all go out and place the last pacifier in a wellknown tree, they praise the child up to the clouds, then they go out to buy a teddy-bear, and the child chooses clothes and shoes for this bear, in the afternoon they have buns and chocolate and so on........... I have never heard about this, but I have no grandchildren, maybe that's why!

I'm not sure about the name pacifier in the dictionary. Don't you have another word for it?

The cloth oak at Østsjælland and pacifiers in a tree
photo: and


Joan said...

Grethe I love this post. What a lovely ritual..leaving the baby pacifier at the tree. Your postreminds me of my trips to Irelna where their are holy wells that are very ancient, have been christianised, and people leave gifts of holy pictures and beads etc. In NZ I know of one spring on a main road in the King Country that is sacred to the maori people. I have stopped there myself at times. I just love the ancient, sacred feeling of water from a spring.

Joan said...

PS.. we call pacifiers ..dummies. That's a strange name! I like pacifier better!

Wanda..... said...

Very interesting folklore, Grethe; there's several hollow trees on the property here, but only one that a person could actually pass through, if stooping over a little. I might just try it.

Teresa Evangeline said...

I am fascinated by all the ways that people understand the healing nature of Nature. I love trees, especially older trees, and how they communicate with us and us with them. So much to learn from Nature.

Thyra said...

Joan,yes, I love the springs too and the places where they sprinkle up from the earth. It really gives you an ancient feeling of those who were here before us. Some of them are still known by their names, mostly by their christianized names.
Thank you, I think I'll keep the pacifiers!

Wanda, if you try this then please avoid getting stuck. Let's hear from you after the week-end!

Teresa, those old trees really talk to us, don't they. On the Lime Hill in the park nearby are 6 tall lime trees, where I sometimes stand enjoying the view down to the bay. I like to lean on them and touch their good old trunks. I cannot hear what they tell me but I feel good!