The Celtic Tree of Life… sort of!

Ever hugged a tree?


Okay… Perhaps you thought about hugging something that looked like a tree?

The ancient Celts – there are very few real ones left in Ireland – absolutely adored trees. People used to think that fairies lived in them, and trees were often described as having special powers.

I love trees myself. They grow from very humble beginnings to majestic icons of power. Strong, unwilling to move whatever goes against them, rejuvenating themselves year after year. The fact that my last name is derived from an oak tree has nothing to do with this.

I. Simply. Love. Trees.

Ireland used to be covered in woods. One day, a race called the English swam across the Irish Sea,  noticed how well-formed, fantastic and plentiful Irish trees were, and decided to plunder Irish oak trees to build their naval fleet. Ireland must have felt like tree-heaven. Ancient woods thousands of years old were emptied by the enemies of the day.

Now, all that aside, I love to think I have some Celtic blood in me so I read about the Celtic Tree of Life, and loved it. A friend of mine gave me a fabulous birthday present years ago: an image of the Tree of Life carved into a piece of trunk. Not only has my love of trees become somewhat legendary since moving to Ireland in 2002, but my love for them still provide spontaneous giggles when I think of it.

There are certain stories which I might as well own up to, just for a minute of laughter. As such, during one very cold December night in 2002 in Oughterard, County Galway, after having been in the local pub with friends, singing along to Irish traditional music and I was feeling giddy with happiness. Since I don’t drink alcohol, I was being a good girl and stayed off the deadly poison.

I took being giddy to the next level. Upon leaving the pub, I started hugging trees and declaring my love for them. Some of the Irish people in the gang said, “They should never have allowed the Belgians to enter Ireland,” and that I “was ready for the loony bin”.

“Ah lads, ye know I don’t need to be drunk on alcohol to feel happy as Larry!”

One of them in fact uttered that, “That crazy Belgian chick knew more about the Irish Celts than some of the Irish people did,” and I wholeheartedly agreed (Who am I to disagree when I am bestowed such honour?)  I was on a high on fresh, cold Irish air, and I was hugging trees. Yeah, baby!

The horses standing nearby looked at me as if I had taken too many happy pills. “Hugging trees, yeah baby, gimme more, gimme more!” I was running from tree to tree, shouting that I loved the ones with ivy all twisted around their trunks. They were just enormous and magnificent in size, and I just had to share! I shouted that I had never ever seen such straight trunks on trees before and that they had to be special trees. I just loved it. Yeah, baby!

Walking on, the laughter and tree hugging galore just went on, until one very wise man stepped forward, saying “Er… Billie, do you not have trees in Belgium to compare ours to them, because you are hugging telephone utility poles here!” The crowd of proud Irish/Munster tribesmen started roaring laughter so hard the horses whinnied “hihihihihihihi” as if they joined in the Munster men’s laughter.

It was pitch dark that night, so nobody saw my red cheeks if I had any, but OK, I can take making a fool of myself. I make a fool of myself every single day if I can make people laugh, but being laughed at by horses?

Oh no, thát I will never be able to live down properly.

To this day I am asked how the telephone/utility poles are in Galway.

Shame… On… Me…

Have I hugged a tree since that day? Rarely. Hit me once. Shame on you. Hit me twice, shame on me!

© WVE and Ireland, MS and Me, 2011-2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to WVE and Ireland, MS and Me with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

7 thoughts on “The Celtic Tree of Life… sort of!

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