Rag trees in the Rose Garden

 

When you visit the Rose Garden in Trinity College you will see that a few of the trees have many ribbons and scraps of fabric tied to the branches. See images above.   I haven’t been able to find out who initiated this tradition or the reasons behind them. I can only presume though that they follow the traditions of the Rag Trees that are scattered around the country on the roadsides.

A ‘ragtree’ or ‘raggedy bush’ can be completely covered in rags or scraps of clothing. Usually, though not always, the trees are close to Holy Wells, and they are almost invariably Hawthorn trees.

The custom of hanging rags on trees is particularly strong among Ireland’s Traveller community, an indigenous minority of nomadic people whose culture is very old and who still maintain many ancient customs which have largely died out among the rest of the population.

Usually the rags are placed there by people who believe that if a piece of clothing from someone who is ill, or has a problem of any kind, is hung from the tree the problem or illness will disappear as the rag rots away. Sometimes the rag represents a wish or aspiration which will come to pass as the rag rots.

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When I encounter a tree where someone has left a token behind for whatever reason it always makes me wonder about the person or the intention tied to the token. I think these Rag Trees are an important conduit, allowing for a private intention to be expressed in a public sphere.

Introducing the Rose Garden

 

 

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Even at peak student population, you’ll sometimes have the Rose Garden to yourself. It is a small intimate space enclosed on three sides. The well-spaced benches and domestic-style planting make it feel like a haven in a busy campus.

I recently spent a wonderful afternoon in the Rose Garden surrounded by the cherry blossoms, which were in full bloom. The flowers created a blanket like structure that seemed to hover overhead defying gravity. I was also captivated by the various species of birds that seem to frequent the space. I was especially delighted to see what must have been an adult bird wandering around on the grass pulling up worms while a young chick followed along greedily eating the food passed to it from its parents beak. I will write more about my time in the Rose Garden in a future post as the responses I received from visitors to the garden will form part of the art work that will be placed in the Crab Apple Tree in September/ October 2017.

The Rose Garden itself is located between the end of Woodward and Deane’s Museum Building and its perpendicular neighbor, the number 40 block of New Square housing, with open space (the rugby pitch and College Park, with the cricket crease and running track) behind railings on the other two sides. The path into New Square is the only open side, and even this feels somewhat enclosed thanks to the large cherry blossom tree planted nearby.