Many believe that cutting down an old tree brings bad luck--if not the wrath--of the elemental spirits. I once heard a story about how a community refused to let a developer cut one down for fear of retribution from the sidhe. Even on a recent investigation, we noticed that there might be a connection between some activity and an old, very large tree that was cut. I thought I'd ask Barry about them:
"The Fairy thorn--as they are known--are places that are and should remain sacred. Farmers are known to have removed these only to result in bad luck follow. In 1989 a power station was relocated in Kilkeel Co Downfor fear of moving a fairy thorn that had already claimed four broken legs that week.
I thought I would explain some more superstition about the trees. In 1982, a lady from No. Ireland by the name of Isobel Dawson contemplated the removal of a fairy thorn in her back garden but later changed her mind in fear of the consequences. Later while weeding around the tree she lifted a stone and found not only her lost wedding ring but other items of jewellery that had gone missing over the course of time and she was then convinced she had been rewarded for sparing the fairies favourite place.
Also in 1982 a fairy thorn stood in Blythe Street in Belfast seemed condemned to be knocked as the whole area was scheduled for redevelopment and all the homes were being destroyed. It is important to remember you don't even cut branches from these trees as it brings bad luck. The local housing authority listened to the residents and the tree was spared and now is the centre of a plantation in the community.But lest we forget many fairies are not necessarily for good luck. An old wives tale says that to show them disrespect, even inadvertently, could spell disaster.
Belief in nature spirits in North and South of Ireland is taken very seriously by some, but where did they come from? The 'Slaugh Sidhe' or translated 'People of the mounds' (Note, if you guys are coming over inNovember I have a mound lined up, its one of the more serious mounds sobeware.) but their origins are a matter for debate. In early celtic times they were identified as elemental spirits who were seen and respected as powerful gaurdians of the natural world. In early Christian times they were thought to be fallen angels who had fallen from grace, but not that far that they were doomed to hell. They were reported to have degrees of good and evil, but could never be redeemed.
They were also labelled to be descendants of the Tuatha Da Danaan, who were a god-like race from Greece and contended with the inhabitants of Ireland for the right to rule the land. A compromise was struck and the Tuatha De Danaan were granted the right to rule the underground and the waters including certain pools, (For example Loch Sheelin beside Ross Castle) and trees and bushes. A particular favourite haunt would be a lone Hawthorn bush, known locally as a Skeogh of Fairy thorn. (A townland beside me were locals live is also called Skeogh) These are particularly unusual due to their twisted branches and lonely locations."