“Instead of the thorn shall come up the fir tree”… a Weekend Journey to County Mayo

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Just recently my husband and I made a journey, in just one weekend, through our own County Meath and then on to counties Westmeath, Longford, Roscommon, Mayo and on the last day – a little trip to the golden (but very cold and windswept) beach in Enniscrone, County Sligo. All in all we covered six counties, stopping here and there to take photographs of some of the fascinating sights enroute.

Just into Mayo I noticed something which brought back memories of a visit to Westmeath once. There, by the side of the road and a river was an old tree which was covered in colourful rags of one sort or another. My thoughts returned to a much warmer afternoon when I had stood by a tree which was massed with similarly hanging rags. The sparkling river, too, was full of mostly copper coins, while the bark of the tree itself had dozens of small coins forced into it.

‘Pagan traditions,’ I remember thinking ‘are surely very much alive in Ireland today.’ In other parts of the world, too, this practice of hanging rags on trees is still very prevalent. In certain parts of Scotland one can still see ‘clootie trees,’ while coins battered into the barks of trees supposedly bring ‘good luck’ and are known universally as ‘money trees.’ All over this world of superstition and unbelief, across Europe, as far as Cyprus and even into Persia it has been documented that these widespread customs are still in existence.

It is interesting to note that Roman Catholicism adapts itself to the original (usually Pagan) beliefs of the inhabitants of any country where it becomes the predominant religion of the people; hence the Pagan goddess ‘St. Brigid’ became a Roman Catholic saint. Islam, too, has adapted itself to the original beliefs of the natives of many nations of the world.

“There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.” (Proverbs 14v12) Sometimes when we look at barren land, devoid of trees or growth, it reminds us of how barren and cold certain areas are in the spiritual sense. Churches where the gospel may once have been preached now lie crumbling; roofless and open to the drifting clouds of the heavens.

Yet the Lord says: “The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: where is the house that ye build unto me? and where is the place of my rest? For all those things hath mine hand made, and all those things have been, saith the Lord: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word.” (Isaiah 66v1)

Oh to have humility, to love the souls of our fellowmen, to tremble at His Word… and to obey the great commission… “Go ye into the world, and preach the gospel to every creature…” (Mark 16v15)

“Every creature” in every tiny hamlet and every larger village, town and city on the island of Ireland and beyond… wherever the Lord calls you and I to live, or work or the places that we have occasion to pass through… hospitals, surgeries, shops and restaurants; how necessary to say a word in season to those whom we are commanded to reach in His Name.

In a small village near Knock in County Mayo, we had lunch in a little riverside restaurant. After leaving the restaurant, I suddenly felt a strong impulse to go inside again and give an elderly lady and her daughter some Christian literature. And we have this certain promise from the Lord when we distribute the Word to hungry souls…

“So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth; it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it. For ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace: the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. Instead of the thorn shall come up the fir tree, and instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle tree: and it shall be to the Lord for a name, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.” (Isaiah 55v11-13)

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