Brittany’s Magical Trees

Since antiquity, trees have been associated with the mystical forces of nature and the Divine. Special or sacred trees are to be found in the traditional beliefs of cultures across the world; many possessed particular characteristics based on natural properties or else were laden with deeply-rooted symbolism. Brittany contains its share of sacred trees and a trove of legends and superstitious beliefs that attest to the reverence long afforded to trees here.

In this corner of Europe, much has been written about the beliefs of the people who dwelt here in the early years of the Common Era. However, little is really known about the spiritual life of the ancient Celts of Brittany; they left virtually no written trace and exercises in comparative mythology based on Irish and Welsh texts set down in the Middle Ages although interesting are, at best, speculative. First century accounts written by Roman authors contemporaneous with the druids tell us that their secret instruction was carried out in forests and caves and we know that certain groves, oak being especially esteemed, within forests were sacred because Romans and Christians alike cut them down in an effort to eradicate the old beliefs.

St Boniface-cutting-Donar-Oak - Magic Trees Brittany

That trees once held a ritual significance in the religion of the Celts would help to explain why trees were venerated here well into the Common Era. Later, Christianity sought to eradicate the ancient religious feeling concerning trees but it was clearly a slow process as evidenced by edicts from various Church Councils. The Council of Arles in 452 expressly forbade the worship of trees and decreed that anyone who worshipped trees or neglected to destroy them, should be found guilty of sacrilege. A point reinforced by the Council of Tours in 567 that pronounced: “excommunication for all those who engage in certain practices of idolatry, such as the worship of trees consecrated to demons and for which the people have such veneration that they dare not cut off the smallest branch; and on which they make vows and oblations.”

Clearly, the old beliefs refused to be swept away for, over a century later, the Council of Rouen in 692 denounced all who offered vows to trees. Interestingly, the edicts of the Council of Leptines in 743 provide us with a small insight into the kinds of activities that still needed to be denounced; it forbade “vows near trees and in sacred woods”, “the worship of tress and secluded places” and condemned those that “make wishes in front of trees … or place there a candle or some offering, as if some power was there, which could bring good or evil”. Also proscribed were: the weaving of laurels, making herds pass through the hollow of a tree and hiding charms in trees in order to cure animals of diseases or to ruin the livestock of a neighbour. Another ritual outlawed was the making of vows in front of trees and stretching out a hand upon the tree trunk. Possibly this is the origin of the superstitious practice known as “touch wood”, still practiced across Europe today?

Cezanne_Well under trees - magic trees brittany

Forests of trees once totally dominated the landscape of Brittany and with their vitality and longevity it is not difficult to imagine how they retained their ancient associations and devotions. Many believe that the ancient Bretons venerated trees as the abodes of gods or the spirits of their ancestors. Perhaps this helps explain why trees are often closely associated with supernatural beings such as korrigans and fairies; entities who are often said to be the degraded echoes of deities venerated before the arrival of Christianity.

The little people of Brittany have long been associated with forests; dark, lonely realms that they jealously guard from the encroachment of men. Local tradition attests that the korikaned, the wildest of korrigans, claim overlordship of the forests and control the weather in order to disperse trespassers. There are many legends that place the korrigans and fairies in forest settings and others that tell of dead fairies becoming trees or that the fairies punished those who touched their favourite trees. Local lore tells of trees which one must take care not to cut, if misfortune is to be avoided. A woodcutter who had felled an ancient oak in the forest of Rennes, experienced from that moment, until the end of his days, a constant trembling in his limbs. Sometimes, the fairies’ guardianship manifested in other ways; after having built the castle of Montauban de Bretagne, the fairies are reputed to have sown the forest that surrounds it in order to give it protection.

Yuliya Litvinova_Fairies and the peasant girl - magical trees brittany

In Brittany, the traditional folk beliefs associated with trees are, as you might expect, numerous. However, the degree that these afford us a glimpse into ancient beliefs that may have survived into modern times is for the reader to decide. There were a great deal of superstitions that associated trees with death and the Afterlife. For instance, in eastern Brittany, the leaves of the Aspen tree were said to be home to the souls of children. Those that were coloured white underneath were believed to indicate that a treasure was buried at the foot of the tree but the exact place to dig was only revealed at midnight, on a Friday, by a ray of moonlight which illuminated it for only a second.

In several Breton legends, the souls of the dead are trapped in trees; one story tells of two old Oaks endlessly battling each other, said to have been the souls of a married couple who had continuously fought whilst alive and condemned to suffer this torment until a man had been crushed between them. Similarly, some souls were said condemned to do penance until an acorn, collected on the day of their death, had become an oak suitable for some proper use. According to a belief noted around Dinan in the 19th century, an Apple tree planted on the day of the birth of a child suffers when this infant is sick, and if it becomes a man and dies, the tree withers.

Acorns - magic trees Brittany

Evergreens, particularly Boxwood and Laurel, were believed to be one of the preferred locations for the souls of the dead performing their earthly penance. The Laurel was also deemed surrounded with danger as it was claimed that whenever it was planted, someone in the house would die before the end of the year. The tree was therefore commonly planted on the last day of the year and by someone who was not part of the household. It is worth noting that in northern Brittany twigs of Laurel were, alongside mistletoe, once traditionally pinned to the sheets of the funeral chapel.

The Chestnut was once believed to possess a power unconnected with its strength as a hardy wood used for supporting roofs or making ploughs. In southern France, roasted chestnuts were part of the traditional meal eaten on All Saints’ Day; each nut represented a soul freed from purgatory destined for Heaven. In Brittany, in a time before coffins were widely used by the poor, Breton peasants carefully peeled the bark of a Chestnut to serve as a bier for a dead child.

Chestnut - magic trees brittany

One curious link between trees, their fruit and the dead is preserved in a practice noted in the west coast town of Plougastel-Daoulas on All Saints’ Day. Here, a small tree, known as the Gwezenn an Anaon (Tree of Souls), is fashioned from a trunk of Yew whose branches are cut into points upon which Apples are pierced. The tree is paraded and then auctioned; the successful bidder re-selling the Apples for the benefit of the parish, the proceeds being used to pay for masses to be said for the souls of the dead. As part of the auction conditions, the buyer committed to putting the tree, adorned with fresh Apples, back on sale the following All Saints’ Day. The Gwezenn an Anaon was thought to protect the household of its custodian against all misfortunes.

This ceremony took place in the Parish Close until the late-1970s when the local priests refused to accept money derived from such a pagan service. Thankfully, a group of locals refused to let the tradition die and continued the ceremony, much as before, at the sacred spring near the Notre-Dame-de-la-Fontaine-Blanche chapel, a short distance away; monies collected now going to community causes.

Plougastel_chapelle-fontaine-blanche - magic trees brittany

Unsurprisingly, trees were also closely associated with fertility. In times past, young women visited the Ligouyer lake near Saint-Pern to rub themselves against an Oak tree that grew near the shore in expectation of being married within the year. A Hawthorn tree in the nearby village of Miniac was also believed to possess the same virtue but only if the young girl circled the tree three times without making any sound. A similar ritual, performed on the eve of May Day, was also observed at a Hawthorn near Saint-Briac.

A little south, around Pipriac, if a young man went to ask for a girl’s hand in marriage, branches of Boxwood burning in the fireplace signalled the parents’ refusal to any union. Again in eastern Brittany, it was once customary for a new bride to enter her home for the first time through the back door; her husband being obliged to enter through the front door, which was blocked by a small tree adorned with ribbons known as ‘The May’. In the west of the region, this name was given to a branch of Beech that young men left against the door of houses on the eve of May Day as a declaration of romantic interest in one of the unmarried women residing there. At other times, aspiring suitors placed a Hawthorn leaf on the door for the same purpose.

Sebillot - Magic Trees Brittany

One of the simplest traditional spells to attract love here consisted of heating a red Apple by rubbing it between one’s hands, cutting the fruit in two and sharing one half with the object of one’s affections. Wands made of Hazel were believed able to allow the skilled practitioner to know whether they were truly loved by their partner but wands made from Apple wood were said best for those rituals involving the control of human emotions.

In Brittany, those seeking marriage or children customarily visited sacred springs and saints’ fountains to undertake certain rituals believed to bring about the desired outcome. However, deciding which was likely the most favourable source to visit was a task handled by the local witch. This was typically done by a ritual known as ‘the pull of the saints’; a branch of Hazel was burnt over a container of water while the names of propitious saints were recited. The name pronounced at the moment the first piece of burnt wood fell into the water, signalled the saint’s fountain to be visited.

Jules Breton_Asleep in the woods - magic trees brittany

In southern Brittany, new brides were traditionally presented with a Laurel branch loaded with apples and bedecked with ribbons. In many parts of the region, new brides were given Hazelnuts on their wedding night or else sprigs of the tree were placed at the foot of the bridal bed; a practice believed to aid fertility. It was said that if the Hazel tree carried a lot of nuts on the day of one’s wedding that the bride would bear more girls than boys. The connection between trees and birth is also found in a local legend that tells that the woman who ate the leaf of certain Oaks was assured the birth of a child.

If a newlywed wanted her husband to love her dearly, it was recommended that she put a Walnut leaf, picked on Midsummer’s Eve, in her left sabot while the Nones bell was ringing. However, if it seemed as though her husband was going to abandon her, calling upon the power of the Chestnut tree was said to be an effective means of guaranteeing that he did not; provided the wayward spouse ate Chestnuts with every meal and Chestnut wood was burnt in the fireplace. Another curious belief can be found in a practice once recommended to ensure marital fidelity through the year ahead. This advised that upon hearing the first toad of the year, one took a branch of Hazel and struck the marital bed with it eight times without drawing breath.

van gogh_planw trees - magic trees brittany

As a symbol of vitality, the healing power of trees was once widely accepted here and numerous rituals were noted as extant in Brittany at the end of the 19th century. Those people that visited sacred springs in hope of being cured of their ailments often, as part of the ritual, hung various objects or items of clothing from the branches of trees that grew nearest the spring. Following the belief that disease could be transferred from the patient into another being or even inanimate object, people would sometimes bind themselves to a tree with a tie of straw or rope in hopes of passing their fever.

However, it was more typical for the patient to visit a tree before breakfast and bind a tie that had been in contact with the disease onto the tree, at the height of the sick part of their body. The sickness was said to ease as the tie rotted but only if a certain charm had been recited and the bark of the tree bitten. It was also essential that no part of the ceremony had been witnessed by another. There is an account of a beggar who once held a powerful reputation for healing fevers; his most effective remedy involved the Aspen. Having climbed the tree and cut its bark with a knife, the healer sucked the sap while intoning: “Tremble, tremble harder than I tremble.” The patient was believed healed as their sickness passed into the tree.

Monet_Grove of Olive Trees - magic trees brittany

The region’s folk medicine also called upon trees to provide the ingredients necessary to treat a broad range of ailments. A decoction of Alder bark was said to cure a fever, as were Horse Chestnuts boiled in sweetened milk. Rheumatism was treated by boiling Ash leaves in water while boiled Walnut leaves were used in the treatment of skin diseases such as eczema, boils, herpes and even frostbite. A hot poultice made from Walnut leaves was used to treat toothache, as was a roasted Hazelnut.

Patients suffering from liver disease, asthma or whooping cough were treated with Apples cooked in cabbage leaves over red charcoal; hot Apple cooked over charcoal was also applied directly as a treatment for earache. To cure ringworm, an Apple was cut in half and its seeds replaced with sulphur before the two halves were tied back together and baked. Once mashed, the Apple was applied to the affected area for five days.

One cure for warts required the sufferer to cut an Apple in half and rub the warts with both pieces before tying them together in a Fig leaf; as they rotted, the warts were expected to disappear. Some healers believed that the ritual was most effective if the Apple was buried at the foot of a Walnut tree. Another remedy called for the Apple to be cut in half with one half remaining attached to the tree; having rubbed the warts with the detached piece, it needed to be grafted back onto the other half by a length of twine or a dowel. As the fruit rotted, so did the offending warts.

Hazelnuts - magic trees Brittany

Many Bretons once wore or carried pieces of wood about the body to cure or protect against illnesses; a Horse Chestnut carried in a pocket was said to protect against rheumatism and prevented haemorrhoids. To treat epilepsy, a Hazelnut filled with quicksilver was placed in a scarlet pouch that was hung around the neck. Animals too could be protected by the power of trees; to rid sheep of worms, they were made to wear an amulet of three or nine different kinds of wood. Likewise, collars of Ash branches were hung around the neck of cattle to guard against Foot and Mouth disease. Some people carried the tip of an Alder branch and some of the tree’s bark in a small pouch as a protective talisman against the Evil Eye and other misfortunes. The tree’s sap, when collected before dawn on 10 March, was regarded as a powerful weapon in the fight against the forces of darkness.

In Breton folklore, when God created the Chestnut tree, the Devil wanted to imitate His creation but only succeeded in making the Horse Chestnut. Breton children were once cautioned against eating raw Chestnuts lest they attract lice. For those that were infested, one popular remedy called for the sufferer to visit a riverbank before sunrise and there beat their shirt for an hour with a branch of Blackthorn. This tree was also utilised in disenchantment rituals involving cursed livestock.

A patient suffering with fever was believed cured if a cross made of Laurel was placed on their chest while the priest read from the gospel during Sunday mass. However, sometimes it was not even necessary to make physical contact to enjoy the power of a tree; on the moor south of Combourg, three Oaks once grew very close together and it was believed that just to pass between these trees would cure the patient of any fever.

Emily Carr_Tress - Magic Trees Brittany

The mystical elements surrounding trees fostered a number of beliefs and superstitions regarding their ability to project magical power. At Saint-Pôan, an enormous Oak was said to have once been a man transformed into a tree by a fairy’s curse. This tree was believed to act as a plug that stopped a spring from overflowing; if it were uprooted or felled, the land would be inundated for a hundred leagues around. Near the northern town of Quintenic, it was once claimed that there was a plant which only grew in the hollow of Oak trees. If one ate this plant while holding a bunch of Mistletoe and Verbena, they were immediately granted the power of becoming invisible at will and of being able to travel instantly from one place to another.

In western Brittany, a ritual known as Barrin ar Mae (May Branch) was performed on the eve of May Day. A branch of Beech but sometimes Birch was hung in front of the house in order to bring on good luck and to protect against evil. Similarly, the gateways to fields were often honoured with a May Branch in order to ensure a good harvest.

May Day was believed a time when cows were particularly susceptible to the power of sorcerers and their evil spells. For instance, five or seven Hazelnut clusters passed under the door of a barn and dragged to the spellcaster’s house were said to stop any cows in the barn from producing milk. In order to protect them against such misfortune, an elaborate ritual was performed; the cattle were taken from the barn which was then cleaned thoroughly. The leaves of a number of plants, namely Bay, Bramble, Elderberry and Laurel, collected that morning, were then burned with scraps of old leather in all the corners of the building. As a final mark of protection, branches of Elderberry were hung from the walls inside the barn and a Bramble fastened in the form of an arc above the door.

Adélard_Bois Sacre -Magic Trees Brittany

Many trees were believed to cast a protective spell over people and their animals. Hawthorn was said to protect one against lightning strikes; an attribute that it shared with Laurel and Holly. The Holly tree was considered a design of the Devil; formed out of spite against the marvels of God’s creation. Despite or perhaps because of this, the tree was said to also protect one against poisoning and evil spells. Branches of the tree were also hung in barns in the expectation that they would repel cow sores. Similarly, a branch of Medlar, if placed above the stable door on the morning of Good Friday, was thought to ward off the bad luck that jealous neighbours might throw on one’s livestock.

Near Landeleau, a tree known as the Oak of Saint-Thélo attracts the attention of many pilgrims who visit the town on Pentecost to participate in the Troménie de Landeleau; a religious procession that covers a time-honoured 15km circuit. The bark of this tree was traditionally prized in the belief that it afforded protection against fire but these days it is collected as a talisman for good luck. When the original tree died about 15 years ago, popular devotion transferred to a younger oak belonging to the same grove.

Glover_Oak - magic trees brittany

It was said in Upper Brittany, that each Hazel tree possessed within its folds a branch that turned into pure gold. This branch made a wand that was reputed to equal in power those of the greatest fairies. However, this prize could only be gained if cut between the first and last chimes of the bell announcing the Christmas mass and that whoever tries and fails, disappears from this world forever.

Often associated with magic, Hazel was said to furnish the very best divining rods, particularly when searching for hidden springs and silver, but, handled well, it could also indicate whether one was truly loved by their partner and who amongst us was a thief. The power of Hazel was also manifested in the belief that sorcerers could make it rain by beating the water of the ponds with Hazel wands. A branch of this tree was even reputed to kill snakes with just a single blow and yet curiously Hazel was the only wood said able to handle new honey which was never stirred other than with a stick of this wood.

Tree Magic - magical trees Brittany

Certain trees seem to have been granted the ability to impart knowledge: around Dinan, it was once said that if a young woman cooked an oak apple, of a certain maturity, in the water of a spring that watered a cemetery; she would be imbued with all the wisdom and knowledge of the ancient fairies. One Breton story tells of a girl who sought absolution for having had three children by a priest; absolution was granted because a rod of Holly that she planted in the sand took root and flourished. The moss found under the shade of an Ash tree that grew near a stream, if gathered on the night of a full moon between eleven o’clock and midnight while the cuckoo sang three times, was once considered a sure way of finding the Devil.

Other trees seem to have possessed some kind of innate power such as the Chestnut tree whose harmful shade was said to causes diseases of languor to those who fell asleep under its shade; the Ash also carried the same sinister reputation. However, Beech wood was hung in front of the house and stable in order to, by its presence, bring-on good fortune and protect against evil over the year ahead. Likewise, throwing a broom made of Birch onto the ground in front of a sorcerer who entered your house was believed enough to counter any curse.

Pelouse_Breton Forest - magic trees brittany

In Brittany, it was said that the trees which grew near houses wanted to see what was happening there; they were imbued with a vitality and personality akin to a domestic animal. On May Day, Medlar trees were even said to lean towards the ground in an effort to encourage people to trim them. This close affinity between humanity and trees is perhaps best summed-up in an old Breton saying: “When you cut down trees, the earth shakes!”

Published by Bon Repos Gites

Enjoying life in Kalon Breizh - the Heart of Brittany.

154 thoughts on “Brittany’s Magical Trees

  1. On days when storms blow through and the sturdy oaks cheerfully whistle and the willows face the wind with their green locks flowing behind them (while us mere humans hunker in fear), I can totally understand how trees and forests could be magical.

    Liked by 7 people

    1. Thank you!! I am pleased you enjoyed the read!
      Yes, exactly so! The Christian symbolism associated with trees is quite extensive; aside from the various sacred trees mentioned in the bible, we have, as you say, the Tree of Life and the apple of knowledge, the crucifix etc. Over here, some of our old chapels still possess Trees of Jesse and there are sacred trees in the hagiographies of several Breton saints. It is surprising how dominant trees are in our culture!

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  2. Ohhh I like that… when cut down trees the earth shakes – yes!

    People used to be way more connected to the earth!

    Native Americans also had deep connections with trees and nature …

    Trees can tell you a story with their rings ❤️ and some trees have seen many things – like our redwoods here … they can be 2,000 years old!

    Trees have wisdom if know how to look for that. You can tell direction and many things from trees, they can also provide shelter

    In my business – if you would like to be a tree – I can make you a tree 👏🙌 … but people would come to pay respects to tree and enjoy it

    A tree gives CO2 – a tree is a life force ✌️

    So no tree huggers huh? Lol

    Funny how the ancestors knew there was healing properties to things – and they also aware of evil 😈

    So to try and hope for good things and good luck without bothering disturbing or conjuring Evil … I would have wanted that too ❤️

    But I never would have remembered everything they say or for sure would have mixed up the sayings! 😮

    They had a lot of heavy duty requirements to remember lol

    Very very interesting though 😊❤️ I always love hearing the tales ❤️

    They very deep in beliefs ❤️

    Liked by 3 people

    1. You are right! In our journey towards modernity we have lost much that connected our ancestors to their homes. We can say that it is of little consequence but who are we kidding! We have gained riches but at the expense of value.

      I kinda like the idea of planting a tree as part of the burial service! That was what my grandfather did and it surprised me that he, as a city boy, had left that instruction!

      Haha, you would remember all the superstitions!! It’s reading them like this that is daunting but hearing them from your mother’s lips from day one would make the second nature, I’m sure! 😉

      Liked by 4 people

      1. Yes – we slowly lose the connections and awareness.

        There is a tradition of planting a placenta in the ground after a birth when planting a new tree for the birth… it nourishes the tree and continues life

        That does not surprise me with your grandfather at all if he city… because you still appreciate and know the beauty of nature and maybe yearn for the peace? Smart man leaving instruction 😉

        We can actually have someone be a new tree.

        Hahaha yeah I suppose if my mom always say it – yes I would remember lol

        I remember many of my grandfathers old sayings, so yeah you right on that one

        Plus if was something that I wanted or needed – I would pay attention lol

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Hahaha it’s because of the nutrients – some do that, not all ✌️

        What tree you be if you could pick one?

        I would pick a weeping willow – when was a kid… we had forts in weeping willows … they made perfect houses/forts ✌️

        They were beautiful and would hide us ❤️ they have beautiful canopy 🙌

        I would pick a weeping willow for its peace, beauty and fun ❤️ I miss those forts ❤️ that was fun 😊

        What would you pick? And why?

        Liked by 1 person

      3. When I was a kid, we lived near a row of beech trees and it was possible to climb one tree and go across them all til the end of the road and the last tree about 300 yards away! But my fave tree has always been the Weeping Willow! I have never had a garden with one in and have always coveted one! I always stop to look at them whenever I see one. Just so beautiful and serene yet mysterious at the same time!

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Well how funny it is you say these things …

        I also love weeping willows ❤️ very much! We had so much fun in them as a kid! They are beautiful and serene – also fun to have forts in ❤️

        When I was child we lived in Florida and there was a place that had, believe or not – you can google lol … weeping beech trees lol ❤️❤️

        Just as beautiful and serene as a weeping willow ❤️

        How funny you say that. Interesting 😊✌️❤️

        Liked by 1 person

      5. Yes ❤️ we had the best time, we swept out all the inside near the trunk… and used rocks to outline the rooms lol

        We each had our own trees lol … they were a bunch of weeping willows all in a field not too far from house … my mom could look out and see the field

        We would bring our things and set up our willow houses ❤️✌️

        Very cool den site!! We would have picnics and fun stuff in those trees ❤️

        Liked by 1 person

  3. A beautiful narrative. Your text reveals where many of our beliefs regarding trees sprang from. It’s very common to hear “knock wood” when there is good news or things have turned out well. We do have our tree huggers who in their own way worship trees. Life is dependent on trees for its very oxygen and how ironic that even back then there was a sense of the importance of forests and trees and how they were determined magical. Such a wonderful text Colin, gorgeous paintings that pull us into your beautiful story. Thank you so much 😊

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you very much Holly! I am pleased that you enjoyed the read! 🙂
      Yes, I think that that is a strong candidate for the “touch/knock wood” as effectively it is the same practice – we touch/knock wood to hope that what we said stays true!
      And you are right, we think of the folks who came before us as unenlightened at our peril! Sure, they might not be able to set-up a smart phone but they had a real appreciation of the land that gave them everything! Sadly, that is something we have lost – for now.
      Thanks again for your encouragement – it is much valued!! Stay well! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Definitely true Colin, sadly we are neglecting to our detriment our beautiful planet, it’s waters and forests that are essential to life. Thank you for your look into our past and present behaviors , we need to think about these things.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha, thank you! Well, there would be no squirrels without trees! 😉 And there is something uplifting about seeing an old copse of trees. Well, to me haha 😉
      Yes, a good summer, thank you and I hope the same for you and yours? Keep well! 🙂


  4. I wonder if “touch wood” is akin to “knock on wood”? Great article! I had a class awhile back called, Communing with TREES that had a few participants in it. But it didn’t sell well, so I took the shopping cart down. I still offer it if anyone is interested. You could create a course too, with all this fantastic information.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you!! Yes, I believe that touch wood is the same as knock wood! It is maybe a slight variation but its meaning is to express hope that what was said is true! 😉
      Ooh.. communing with trees! Hopefully, there will be more participants to come. It is, afterall, one of the most primeval pulls that humanity had and we forget that at our risk as we choke under all these pollutants! Good luck!! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Fascinating and informative, as always, Colin 🙂 How detrimental to human evolution when we lost our sense of wonder and magic for our great trees and forests. In our Modern Era, we suffer the consequences of razing our ancient forests. Here in California, we face the risk of losing our majestic Sequoia Forest to intense wildfires fueled by two decades of drought. Such truth and wisdom in the old Breton saying: “When you cut down trees, the earth shakes!”

    Liked by 1 person

  6. There is no such thing, in Brittany, as a “simple” superstition! I’m afraid I would get the required ingredients all mixed up and be in the wrong place at the wrong time and oh dear, what would I cause to happen! I am not surprised that people worshiped (and still do) trees. I have very great respect for them and it amazes me how old some are, how much of human history they have lived through. I think it is time for us to turn back to Nature for the wisdom we so need. Brilliant and such detailed post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha, it is all relative, I suppose! 😉 You are right, the ages of some of the trees we can see is phenomenal. Not too far away from me are some Yews that they think are almost a thousand years old!! Imagine that!!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Wow. This is fabulous. Very very interesting and I thoroughly enjoyed reading. The supporting images make this post more exciting. Excellent.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Kate! I am very pleased that you liked this one! Yes, there is something quite special about an old tree and it doesn’t matter if its full of leaves or wintering – the majesty remains! Thanks also for your generous support – it is always a lift!! Stay well! 🙂 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Maggie!! I am glad that you liked it! 🙂
      Ha, yes, isn’t that wonderful?? I believe that the local priests withdrew their support as the effects of the Second Vatican Council filtered through to the parishes but, yes, how wonderful that some folk refused to let the tradition die!


    1. Thank you!! I am glad that you liked it and agree with your sentiments fully!!
      Funnily enough, I was tempted to drop you a line to ask if you could draw me some apples on a stick to illustrate this but realised that would have been too cheeky! 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  8. As someone who lives in a forest and hugs her trees, I loved this post. The ‘old ways’ have much to teach us about preserving trees and green space. Our township has just been LEED certified because we have an eco-friendly amount of trees and open land per inhabitant. One of our new neighbors has been vilified because he went away for months with no sprinkler system on (in a drought). At least four trees have died and our neighbor from New York went to talk to him…

    Meanwhile we mourn the trees. 🌳🌳🌳🌳

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha, many thanks indeed! I am very happy that you liked it and that you share my love of trees!! Kudos to your town for taking a proactive stance on tree management! Now, we just need them to spread the word! 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I love the way you are able to glean, facts, customs, history and suppositions in such a readable way. Brittany certainly has a wealth which I would imagine is common to all regions throughout the world if we had , like you, the persistence and interest to dig them out and retell.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you very much!! Yes, I am certain that every region has a similar (well, you know what I mean!) vein of folklore and superstitions to mine. I find these things fascinating and so keep a sharp eye out for them in the old books I read. My only proviso is that whatever it is has to have been documented before WW2 😉 Many thanks for reading!! 🙂 Stay well!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Susan! I am very pleased that you enjoyed the read! It is always a battle to try and keep those posts on-track! I appreciate that they are long but the published post is not as long as the draft haha! Thanks for always reading and supporting – both much appreciated! Stay well! 🙂


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    1. I think it is not too much of a leap! The journey from venerating trees and, for a variety of reasons, adorning them with pieces of cloth could easily eventually end with the May Pole. The Church spent centuries stamping out the earlier practices but people still felt that ancient ‘connection’ and so a tree was cut that was festooned with cloth/ribbons on one of the most auspicious days of the old pre-Christian calendar. This practice of the May Pole was observed differently – in some places, the pole was 20 foot; sometimes, it was kept up all year while others stored them or even cut a new one each year. Customs change according to the locale and degree of animosity of the local priest but I would not be surprised if the May Pole traditions recorded from the 16thC onwards did not have much older roots!


  11. I’ve never read an account as detailed as this. I like that saying too – and I think it’s true.
    Here in Palestine, we consider some trees sacred – we don’t worship them, but they’re sacred nonetheless. There’s an olive tree in a village in Bethlehem that is more than 4k years old.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you!! Yes, it speaks to something deep within humanity’s very fibre that sacred or special trees are found in almost every part of the world. 4000 years!! Imagine that – almost mind-blowing isn’t it!! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  12. A long but most interesting read (some of those remedies are actually valid and used in natural medicine), thank you! Just one question: what difference do you make between bay and laurel? Are they not the same thing? Kind regards.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! I am glad that you enjoyed the read!
      As to the difference between Bay and Laurel, I am afraid that I cannot distinguish – some texts use the word ‘laurier-sauce’ and others ‘laurier franc’. The first always refers to Bay Laurel but the latter can sometimes refer to other trees. So, to keep things simple, I have just translated the words as originally used. 🙂


      1. Interesting, I had never heard of laurier franc but I have just checked, it is the same as laurier-sauce in France, which in turn is the same as bay leaf in England, the botanical name being laurus nobilis (this is when Latin comes in handy!). I wondered if by laurel you were referring to laurier-rose, which some people in my family call laurier-fleur, but it is a different kind of tree (nerium oleander), more suited to the Mediterranean climate, probably not what you meant. Keep on writing! Best regards

        Liked by 1 person

      1. I researched him and he was assassinated: June 5, 754 AD. It said It was on a trip, around the time of Winter Solstice, he was said to have come across a group of pagans worshipping an old oak tree. Horrified by what he saw as blasphemy, St Boniface grabbed the nearest axe and hacked down the tree. Sounds a lot like Patrick and the snakes. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  13. The power of trees! I learned, when a friend was being for breast cancer, that what is used as the infusion is made from a tree the grows on the west coast of the USA. Taxol is made from the west coast Yew tree.
    Also, when the Roman’s first confronted with the forest of the Germanic tribes, they feared the forests. They used a two man crew to chop down a forest in a day or two. Modern experiments proved the truth of the history. Sorry I can’t site the details anymore. Trees!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. ‘The moss found under the shade of an Ash tree that grew near a stream, if gathered on the night of a full moon between eleven o’clock and midnight while the cuckoo sang three times, was once considered a sure way of finding the Devil.’
    But what was the formula for losing him afterwards?

    Liked by 1 person

  15. You have written about two of my favorite things, trees and horses. They both seem so magical to me. Now I don’t know if circling a tree will make you fertile or make you have more girls than boys or make your husband a non cheater LOL. But one can hope.
    I love the couple that fights by the tree filled with acorns that was hilarious.
    I wonder if these tails bleed into the hippies being called tree huggers. A few yogi friends of mine hug their trees in their front yard every morning so that they carry a sense of peace with them throughout the day.

    I could go on an on about this post! I really enjoyed it.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Haha, thank you very much – indeed!! I am happy you liked it! 🙂
      You raise a good point about modern tree-huggers! It certainly sounds plausible and even if there was no unbroken link from past times, I can quite see why Earth lovers and such would feel a deep connection with nature in hugging an ancient tree!
      Thanks again for all your kind support!! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Many thanks! I am pleased that you liked it! 🙂 Yes, it is likely that the druids were and rather interesting (well, to me 😉 ) that 800 years later, people were still being persecuted for touching trees while they made their vows!


      1. Lol … fingers to keyboard ⌨️

        Ok just want to make sure is not months lol – I like your tales ✌️ very interesting

        I just watched this show about Egtved Girl… they dove into the time period she would have lived 😮

        And how superstitious was and why … makes you totally see why had these superstitions and beliefs 😊

        Always enjoy – just wanted you to know that 😘✌️

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Ha, yes, it will be keyboard! 😉 I am unsure that I would have the patience to write everything longhand! 😉
        I have not seen a documentary about Edtved Girl but imagine it would have been as interesting as you say! 🙂
        And thank you Tricia – your support is very much appreciated!!! Stay safe, stay well! 🙂 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Lol – when I was little they used to make me write sentences over and over and over 🤨 hated it then

        But my penmanship is beautiful lol 😘✌️ legible, readable and beautiful lol everyone comments lol

        They all know my writing ✍️ lol

        I imagine your posts would be quite the feat done by hand lol

        I saw it on YouTube

        She was found in Norway – but they say she from Germany and dates to BC 😮 her clothing is almost in perfect condition buried in oak casket!

        This is why my kids do not like when I control what we watch 😉😘✌️

        When we go on MY YouTube is all documentaries and funeral things lol or both

        So I am not allowed anymore 🚫 ✌️😄🙄

        Your welcome! Always enjoy the history view 😊✌️ sets you back in time and see how they think or traditions 😊✌️

        So far I have not burned in hell, so doing well. ✌️

        Liked by 1 person

      4. It is always a joy to see a beautifully penned letter! Sadly, it is a dying art.
        Buried in a recognisable casket? That sounds a very rare survivor! It is truly amazing what still lies to be uncovered! We have so much to learn about the folks who came before us.
        Haha, that’s funny! We have different TV accounts too and its always amusing to see what comes up in the “because you watched x, you might like y” when the kids have been on! 😉
        Haha, good but be careful of those darned fires!!

        Liked by 1 person

      5. It is a dying art! ✍️

        Yes – one of oak – both the casket she was buried in and the soil – allowed for water to seep in, but not get out – they say is what help preserve her

        And yes in BC times they were using caskets 😮 she looked like someone of some kind of importance ?

        There was also a small pot which contained the cremated remains of a young child – they are not able to see if was her child or not

        She was 17-19 yrs old – the age expectancy of her era… was 30 years old 😮 … I would be long gone already 😮

        But yes is fascinating!!

        Haha yes exactly, on the tv accounts

        Fire still burning – is California’s largest fire 🔥 for 2022.

        Only 20% contained – just about 68,000 acres burned – active for 9 days 😮

        🙏🙏 our temperatures are great though! Only been in the 80’s – so much more tolerable that 115!!!

        Hope you are enjoying your summer or maybe fall ☀️🍁

        This year just flew by!!! 😳😮

        Liked by 1 person

      6. You are right! It really has flown by! Already here, the very hot days of just a few weeks ago are gone with a breeze and clouds. No heavy greys or rain yet though but Autumn is definitely in the air!

        Liked by 1 person

      7. My hot days were just last week, literally- but yes!

        Our winds pick up now… still weird cause fire still happening so depending on how wind blows – determines how smoky’ … is sunny – but smoky

        Autumn is coming – our winds have picked up

        Soon the rain will start – and then it’s winter 🥶

        Seems like 2020 was slowest year possible lol

        2021 was medium mixture of fast and slow

        2022 was fast and also crazy with literally everything

        I suspect 2023 will be similar to 22

        But then – the older I get – the faster time moves 😳😮✋

        I can not believe we up on the holiday season again!! Too fast!! ✌️

        I was kinda enjoying summer even with the “cook me” heat

        But ok – here comes winter ❄️

        At work – we do not like winter … I feel like game of thrones because constantly I warn… “winter is coming”!!

        It’s like that. Past few winters we are just soooo busy and crazy

        I know death comes really bad in winter …

        Winter is coming 😳😳

        Yeah so I like summer ✌️😘

        Liked by 1 person

      8. Yes, it really does seem fast especially after two years of being stuck in treacle!

        We humans are a funny lot aren’t we? In the summer, we want winter (well, maybe spring!) and in the winter, we want summer (well, maybe spring). Is there a place that is forever spring I wonder??

        Liked by 1 person

      9. Well Hawaii is an even 80 degrees all year – I could do that lol

        But I also think about tsunamis and volcanos and things lol ✌️ ya know – picking the poison lol

        I love California for weather though – the only problem is 115 degrees is way too much!!

        But mostly I do LOVE summer – totally my favorite season

        Winter has all the crazy holidays and cold weather 😝 neither of which I am fan lol ✌️

        Once Halloween hits then omg holidays coming out the ears ugh 😑

        And coldness ugh

        I count down to December 21 – the winter equinox … shortest day of year – once I pass that – I know spring coming

        Just have to make through January mostly – that’s our coldest month

        Ugh holidays and coldness 😝

        I love warm summer rain (I never get that but I love it ❤️ – I remember it)

        Summer holidays are the best!! Fireworks 💥 and good times 😊❤️

        Winter holidays too commercialized and lost their meaning and then it’s cold on top of that!! Bleh

        My ranking system is :
        In that order lol ✌️

        I don’t know if there is a safe place with spring all year? What is the trade off to have that? Lol ✌️

        There is always some trade off for things wanted – nothing ever perfect 😉✌️

        Even my summer is 115 sometimes 😑🙄 – I’ll deal to have long summer – just don’t burn my house down 🙏🙏

        So yeah always a trade off lol

        Liked by 1 person

      10. That is one hot summer! That could be brutal without A/C! I will plumb for Spring/Summer/Autumn/Winter haha 😉 but you are right, as with almost everything in life, there is a trade-off! Gahh 😉

        Liked by 1 person

      11. Hahaha yes!! Yes it is!! I feel like you slowly cooked!! 😮 is dangerous at those temps!!

        Omg you MUST have AC here … San Francisco is cooler – the homes and places there sometimes don’t l have AC at all – they usually never go above 100… rarely making it to the 90’s

        But they on the water off the Pacific Ocean 🌊 so always cooler on coast ❤️

        You do have threat of earthquakes though – it’s shaky town lol

        Every time I go there I think “please not today!” 🙏

        Not to mention expensive AF!! You better be rolling in dough to live there!! Omg 😱 😳

        So yeah where I am – you MuST have AC!! Is required in these temps!

        We do offer cooling centers if someone does not have AC or can not afford or are homeless

        Usually a school, community center or location who will provide the AC and water 💦

        Hahaha it comes down to – what someone wants or loves – what is important and how want to live – what willing to have?

        Or also money ? Lol

        Spring huh? I like spring too – that’s my second… is so chill and beautiful when everything blooming – and smells so sweet ❤️

        But I have allergies to Oak trees? And in spring they just go nuts

        I have some allergy with my eyes that sometimes if really bad… my eyes make crystal diamonds 💎 that are awful!!!

        The eye drops are $60 for 1oz!!! 🤨

        Is not always- only some years. Always in spring …

        But when happens it hurts and can cut the outter corner of my eyes without those eye drops! – the crystal diamonds come out the sides of my eyes, so I don’t like that – they look like small diamonds 💎

        It sounds interesting but it is not.

        I stay far away from oak trees!! Or try to!

        I do have a necklace that is a “tree of life” … but it looks like oak tree lol – I still wear it ✌️

        Yeah – always trade off. Depends on what you love most 😉 … and like I said – also money ✌️😘

        What is worth it?

        But also with that… anywhere you are, you could make it worth it – depending on how someone views or sees 😉✌️🙌

        Liked by 1 person

      12. Those cooling centres sound a great idea!! And I guess they are totally needed!

        You’re right, there is a definite smell to Spring!! I love it! 🙂

        Your oak allergy sounds as awful as the price of the meds!! Geez, sixty bucks an once is no joke!

        Yup, money can often limit our choices but that is, I guess, just another trade off! 😉

        Liked by 1 person

  16. So enlightening, because I always thought people went to forests and did their thing just for the privacy factor–I never even THOUGHT about the types of trees and/or their significance! Duuuuh! lol
    At any rate, great stuff. I also hate to say the obvious, but you know the girl that sought absolution for giving birth to the priest’s babies? Where was the priest doing HIS absolution for the same act? LOL
    Oh, and the edict against worshiping trees…omg. Incredible!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am very pleased that it was interesting to you! You are right, we often just take the trees for granted and forget how they once dominated the lives of our ancestors.
      Ha, thank you for that question – it is a valid one!! Sadly, and this will not come as a surprise to you, the fate of the philandering priest is not mentioned at all 😦
      I have been collecting legends of errant priests and probably have enough to merit a small post one day! I shall put that on my “to do” list and see if we can not retrospectively redress some of the gender blame game!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Many thanks for saying so!! 🙂 I am glad that you enjoyed the read! 🙂
      Well, with less than 50 days to go, I need to get my head around some ideas to write about for Halloween! 😉 Hmm … ghosts or ghouls?


  17. Thank you for an amazing article! I’ll be bookmarking this to help with my research. Was very glad to read that a folk tradition which raised money saw it being given to the community after being refused by the Church. A fine example of a custom that changed with the times and put to a good use too.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You are very welcome!! I am glad that you liked it and appreciate you taking the time to read it all! 🙂
      Yes, I too, am glad that they did not let that old custom fade into the history books. Apparently, the local bishop was keen to see the spirit of the Second Vatican council enacted fully!, so, I suppose the wonder is that it lasted so long!

      Liked by 1 person

  18. I don’t know whether to be in awe of the weight of superstition you’ve amassed here, or thoroughly horrified. I mean, just think if all of this was true – what a strange world we must be living in! 😃

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha, well, it is a dangerous world, going out of your door! 😉
      Seeing the superstitions listed in one post can be overwhelming as some parts of the region adhered to some but not others. In any event, there was certainly a goodly amount once! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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