Fairy trees – you might find one at an ancient site or at a holy well. They’re usually hawthorn trees and people tie torn handkerchiefs, little gifts, prayers and personal tokens to the branches in the hope of receiving healing or good fortune.
I used to think that it was a particularly Irish custom but no, it happens in several other countries, as I found out recently.
I was listening to an interview with Miriam McConnon on the Artist’s Well and she mentioned her art installation in Merrion Square in 2013. I remember it well.
Originally, she had collected handkerchiefs and pieces of traditional lace from the people of Cyprus, where she lives. She sewed them together into a huge cloth and created a beautiful installation at the ancient tree of St. Solomoni in a Unesco heritage site in Paphos, Cyprus.
Locals have visited this ancient tree for hundreds of years to attach handkerchiefs to it, in memory of their loved ones or as prayers for those who are sick. Tama is the Greek word for the handkerchiefs that are hung on the tree.
So in July 2013, she brought the Tama back to Ireland and recreated the installation in Merrion Square. It was beautiful. It swayed gracefully in the breeze, its gentle undulations creating a dreamy, ethereal atmosphere underneath.
Another outdoor installation by McConnon, entitled: “Lost Lace” was intended for Sculpture in Context this year but because of Covid-19, it will be a virtual one. (See image above) The 1775 handkerchief roses represent the number of lives lost to the virus in Ireland to date. The artwork reminds us not to lose sight of the individual lives lost in this national and global grief.