Coins in the Aira Force wishing tree in the English Lake District (photograph by Claire1066/Flickr)
In some places people toss coins into fountains begging for a wish, but in parts of the United Kingdom coins are pressed into trees for the same purpose. These "wishing trees" or "money trees" are a strange fusion of nature and manufactured metal, and represent a tradition dating back centuries.
Much like the clootie wells we featured last week, the money trees are believed to have pagan origins. (The "wish tree" Wikipedia entry actually includes both as iterations of a similar practice, along with alcohol trees, "shoe trees," and the eclectic "other offerings.") Many of the money trees reside in the North Yorkshire forests, although they've been spotted throughout the Peak and Lake districts and other overgrown corners of the woods that remain wild. According to Wales Online, it's a deeply rooted belief that "any illness you are suffering will leave you when you force money into the wood." At the ruins of Saint Maelrubha wishing tree on the Isle Maree in Scotland, there's a coin dating to 1828, and even Queen Victoria is said to have left her own offering in 1877.
While many of the coin-laden wish trees are fallen trunks and dead stumps, others are living, which can be harmful. There's at least one report of a wishing oak dying of metal poisoning in the Highlands. Yet after its slow death the remaining wood is still where it fell full of coins, with shiny new pence pieces and euro coins appearing in the few remaining spaces.
Below is a photographic tour of the strangely beautiful wishing trees.
Money in a yew tree near Ingleborough Cave, North Yorkshire (photograph by David Baird)
Coins in a Tree near Janets Cave, North Yorkshire (photograph by Steve Partridge)
Toothache Tree near Beragh, Omagh District Council (photograph by Kenneth Allen)