The Wishing-Tree of Isle Maree
In April 2012, a ‘wishing-tree’ was created by a local artist on the shores of Loch Maree, Scotland; visitors to the tree were encouraged to attach ‘offerings’ of rags, ribbons, and wooden baubles. In isolation, this appears to be a contemporary community art project. However, this construction boasts far more heritage than its recent creation would suggest, for it was intended as a reproduction of the nearby wishing-tree of Isle Maree, which has been the focus of folkloric customs since the 1700s. This chapter explores the numerous recontextualisations this custom has undergone since the 18th century, from the original tree’s various incarnations – as a rag-tree, pin-tree, and coin-tree – to its modern-day manifestation on the loch’s shore. A consideration of the custom’s shifting materiality will demonstrate the versatile nature of ritual, illustrating the importance of viewing popular belief as an unfolding storyboard rather than as a fixed and isolated snapshot.