This photograph of a Rag Tree was taken at the Tobernalt Holy Well in Sligo for inclusion in a Made In Sligo exhibition called ‘The Poetry of Craft - Interpretations of W.B. Yeats poetry’.

The photo was inspired Yeat’s poem ‘He Wishes For The Cloths Of Heaven’:

Had I the heavens' embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light,

I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams

By hanging a piece of clothing or other keepsake relating to someone who is sick or suffering from an infliction on a rag tree, people believe that their problems will disappear as the rag rots away.  In this way the rags becomes a vehicle for peoples’ hopes and dreams. The existence of rag trees at the Tobernalt Holy Well was recorded in 1902 by William Gregory Wood-Martin when he discusses Faith Cures at Tobernalt in his publication entitled ‘Traces of the Elder Faiths’:

‘The immediate surroundings of a celebrated and much frequented holy well are, at all times, festooned with many coloured rags, red, blue, green, white, black — in fact, kaleidoscopic in character.  The rag, or ribbon, taken from the clothing, tied up to a tree, and fluttering in the breeze, is viewed somewhat in the light of a scapegoat, and is considered to be the depository of the spiritual or bodily ailments of the suppliant’.

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© Ciaran McHugh Photography 2009-2017, by Sea Design