Folklore of Fairy Trees in Ireland

A Fairy Tree in Ireland

All over Ireland there are Fairy trees believed to be scared grounds for the ‘wee folk’. The superstitions surrounding Fairy trees is still very strong amongst the Irish, even for those who don’t believe in the wee folk, so they remain protected where they stand.

What is a Fairy Tree?

A Fairy tree is usually a Hawthorn or an Ash tree but what makes them stand out from any other tree of its kind is their location. A Fairy tree is found standing by itself in a centre of a field or on the side of the road and they’re quite easy to spot, if you know what you are looking for. Some of these trees have stones surrounding its base for protection but who put them there? The locals or the wee folk?

Fairy Trees in Irish Folklore

Ireland is a place with thousands of folklore stories and Fairy trees are still commonly talked about to this day. Some believe these trees are the gateway between worlds for mortals and that of the faeries in the other-world.

Irish Mythology is split into four different cycles with the Mythological Cycle describing how faeries (Sidhe)  moved to the other-world.

When the Milesians or Gaels arrived in Ireland they took up a dispute with the Tuatha Dé Danann, children of the Goddess Danu.  The Tuatha Dé Danann retired underground and became known as the fairy people, sidhe, or the wee folk.

The wee folk had many entrances to the otherworld such as in burial mounds, under water and even at the base of Fairy trees. As you can imagine these gateways are extremely important for the movement of the wee folk so they are heavily protected by magic. You wouldn’t be considered mad if you just so happened to spot a Pooka or Leprechaun at a Fairy tree.

Superstitions surrounding Fairy trees

With Fairy trees being regarded as sacred sites for the wee folk there are many superstitions that surround them and as you’ve probably guessed involve magic and bad luck.

Some believe if you damage or cut down one of these trees you’ll be faced with a life of bad luck. As you can imagine people are very weary of touching one.

Its certainly uncommon for farmers to work around these trees even if it does mean they cant grow crops where the tree stands. When travelling through Ireland you’ll often see a perfectly cultivated field with a Fairy tree standing in the centre and untouched, evidence of a farmer unwilling to risk his luck.

There are also many stories around Ireland of road works being delayed simply because a Fairy tree would be standing its path, workers would refuse to touch the tree. In most occasions roads have been re-routed to by-pass the tree.

There are stories of the famous car manufacture DeLorean chopped down a fairy tree in order to build their factory in Dunmurry on the outskirts of Belfast. Its believed DeLorean failed due to bad luck from chopping down the tree.

If ever come across a fairy tree in Ireland our advice is to not go near it, any damage to the tree could bring unwanted bad luck.


Feature photo by Shannon McNeice

This article was first published on 04-10-2016 and last modified on 17-06-2017.

About the Author

Dave Donnelly
Dave was born in Cork but migrated to Kerry where he works in IT. He's a self confessed bookworm and has a passion for anything relating to Ireland but whenever he isn't stuck in a book he's out and about with his camera.