An empty field stands at the crossroads of two busy streets near the outskirts of Galway. Three cows graze inside it, and a lone tree stands near the perimeter. On every other corner is a gas station or an apartment complex, a development of some variety; but not this one. Despite its desirable location, despite the city being less than ten minutes away, it remains mostly untouched. There's no clear reason why, not unless you know your trees.
Legend has it that hawthorne trees are protectors, omens of the supernatural and sources for healing. A ribbon tied to the branch of a hawthorne tree can bring fertility, health, and luck to a family home. Tearing one down, on the other hand, can have disastrous consequences.
For example: Once, there were two farmers. They went out to collect wood, either for fire or for building; the story varies. They each found a full hawthorne tree, ideal for their purposes, and so they pulled it from the ground. Roots still intact, the trees were transported to the farmer's home and left outside until the next morning.
The farmers went to sleep and thought nothing of it. Until, in the middle of the night, little voices came to them.
"If you wish to see tomorrow morning," they warned, "replant the hawthorne tree! If you do not, you will pay a terrible price."
One farmer, properly concerned for his well-being, immediately went out to the hawthorne and replanted it. He returned to bed satisfied with his work, and was not disturbed the whole night through. The following morning, he got out of bed and told his wife and children what had happened over a nice breakfast.
The other farmer believed that it was only a dream. He told the voices to shove off and returned immediately to sleep, thinking to himself that this was all silly superstition and he would not take it seriously. The next morning, he awoke with the intent to tell his wife and children what had happened over a nice breakfast.
Only when he tried to get up, he found himself completely paralyzed and confined to his bed. He would not be able to chop up the tree, but he could still tell his family what had happened. And he did.
This is only one of multiple stories that were told to me by a bus driver on a tour of Galway and the Cliffs of Moher. We drove past multiple empty fields and hawthornes, all left alone by the farmers there. It seems like a joke until it comes time to tear them down, the driver explained; then, no one wants to volunteer for the task.
The superstitions and beliefs from the past are still a part of Irish culture today, to the point that when a road was planned over a patch with a hawthorne, the builders refused to continue. They were punished by their bosses, but their belief in the bad luck that would come to them - and anyone who drove on the road after its completion - was so strong that they made a case of it, and it entered into the court of law. After years of legal debates, it was decided that the road would curve ever so slightly around the hawthorne tree, so as not to disturb it on the way to its final destination.
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<p>Hi! My name is Taylor Haggerty. I'm twenty years old and currently go to school in Bloomington, Indiana, for magazine design and poetry. This summer I'll be studying English and history in Dublin, Ireland!</p>