Most of us will have, at one time or another, thrown a coin into a fountain for good luck.
I happily tossed a few lire into the Trevi fountain in Rome in the 1970s to ensure I would return one day. I did return about ten years ago and threw a Euro into the water as the city is certainly worth at least a third visit.
Wishing trees have existed for centuries, with people making offerings to divine spirits thought to live in them.
In Iceland I stood on the fault line where the tectonic plates of North America and Europe are slowly pulling apart. My guidebook advised that the fissures of clear water in the rocks have become an oracle. Ask a question as your coin falls and if you can see it land, the answer is ‘yes’. I remember giving my son, Rory, a handful of low value Krona to throw merrily off the bridge into the fissure. He asked a succession of questions relating to Newcastle United’s chances in the following season. None of the coins were ever visible again.
I’ve now discovered some people don’t just throw their money into fountains and wells, they also ram them into old tree trunks. On our recent trip to Wales we were exploring the woodland walks in the Italian-style village of Portmeirion, when we came across a tree trunk jam-packed with coins which had been squeezed into cracks in the wood. The patterns created by these mostly copper coins were surprisingly beautiful; they looked like pieces of contemporary sculpture.
We found other similarly decorated trunks and decided to add our own coin to the collection. It wasn’t as easy as you’d think, so I’m assuming that previous adornments had been hammered in there with the aid of a rock.
It was only yesterday that I looked into this strange phenomenon and it seems to have puzzled the people of Portmeirion just as much as me. What would seem to be a new fad may, in fact, be a very old tradition.
Wishing trees have existed for centuries, with people making offerings to divine spirits thought to live in them. The idea of placing coins in the bark is unusual but not confined to Portmeirion. There are other decorated tree trunks elsewhere in Britain and there is an old tree in Scotland which sports a florin in its trunk.
The Portmeirion estate manager’s research indicates that people place the coins in the tree if they are ill and seeking a cure. If someone removes a coin, however, legend has it that person will then become sick.
A fallen tree in a wood does look rather wonderful with its coat of copper but I think we should resist hammering coins into trees on a whim. We’ve seen how the new trend for attaching love-locks onto city bridges has caused much concern, with the authorities in Paris removing nearly one million of them from the collapsing rails of the Pont des Arts. Maybe we should stick to decorating trees at Christmas.
For more tales of my travels in Wales, go to www.mumsgoneto.co.uk