Sustaining and Substituting the Sacred: The coin-trees of Britain and Ireland
It is the character of a natural holy place to shift and alter. Sometimes the changes are the product of natural causes; other times, they are the result of human intervention. The mutable character of these natural sites, however, does not impair their ability to act as holy sites; instead, it appears to benefit them, for just as nature is not static, neither is the ‘sacred’. In order to explore how appropriate natural sites are as ‘settings’ for the ‘sacred’ because of their very mutability, this paper will focus on coin-trees. These are natural places of pilgrimage in Britain and Ireland, which have sustained themselves as sacred centres for decades – in some cases, centuries – and have, during that time, undergone numerous recontextualisations, adapting themselves to the religious and cultural changes of their surroundings.