Wednesday, 3 August 2022

 A Forest Sounds Like a Ship at Sea:

The Ash tree: Dance of the Tree of Life

Day 15: Remote Residency at Uillinn: West Cork Arts Centre, Skibbereen, Ireland, 7/18/22 to 8/13/22,  Maria Driscoll McMahon checking in from New York State

Today I was determined to find an ash tree because they are native to both County Cork and Ridgebury, Pa., and 2)  They are prominent in Irish lore (as well as that of other cultures). For instance, "Biddy's tree," which grew in County Cork near St. Brigid's Well was considered to be holy, like the well. A skeptical police officer wanted to prove that the tree was nothing more than vegetable matter by swinging on the branches. It was said his own limbs began to ache, leaving him in excruciating pain the very same night.  Several months later the man died.  Many folks believed
 the wood from the ancient "Biddy's Tree," would never burn and that water from St. Brigid's Well would never boil.  

"Biddy's Tree," Colonel Grove White, 1905

There is another ash tree in county Kildare known as the "dancing tree," probably due to it's undulating limbs swaying in a breeze. It sits near the Cloncurry graveyard on top of a Norman motte.  

Some indigenous Irish believed that the ash tree is a means by which to become reacquainted with one's origins. The Druids believed the ash held the key to universal truth based upon the physical properties of the tree; the roots penetrate the earth at the same depth as the tree is high - a symbol of "universal order."  They believed in the three interlinked circles of being: Past/Present/Future; Physical/Mental/Spiritual; Chaos/Balance/Creative Force.

The ash tree looms large in Haudenosaunee legend as well; this stems from a tragedy involving the deaths of a warrior's wife and children succumbing to bites from a rattlesnake. The warrior husband was so griefstricken, the Great Spirit transformed him into an ash tree so that his branches could be made into bows and arrows to be used against one's enemies;  his leaves could form a protective ring around those asleep so that no rattlesnakes could infiltrate; his leaves could be used to remove the venom from a snake-bite wound; and finally, his bark could be made into a beverage to calm a victim. When approached by others for aid, they would refer to the warrior tree as "my brother."

In Norse mythology the ash tree is considered "the tree of life."

My app identified this tree as a "white ash" growing on "The Forbidden Path" in Waverly, NY, that leads to a Seneca Nation cistern in Waverly, NY. Aurelio, my long-time walking partner/philosopher/physicist extraordinaire adds "tree-hugger" to his impressive resume!

"Seek" and "Plant Net" both identified this tree as a white ash with high probability

The Carantouan Nation included Susquehannocks/Andaste who lived in PA and NYS near Ridgebury, Pa. Survivors later assimilated into the Haudenosaunee Confederacy. 

Ash trees can live to be 200 years old and there are several species. Baseball bats, shovel handles, and church pews are frequently made of the ash wood.

Unfortunately, as with so many trees and forests, the ash is under existential threat largely from a rather beautiful beetle known as the emerald ash borer: yet another invasive pest causing serious damage to this important, beautiful, and celebrated tree.

 Sacred Trees of Ireland by Christine Zucchelli | Goodreads 

The Wisdom of Trees by Jane Gifford (

St Bridget’s Well, Churchtown (

Ireland In Ruins: Old Cloncurry Church Co Kildare

the Ash Tree (

The Ash Tree (

White Ash Tree on the Tree Guide at

How to Identify an Ash Tree: 6 Steps (with Pictures) - wikiHow

Emerald Ash Borer – Signs, Symptoms, and Treatment (

Susquehannocks - Native American Heritage Programs (

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