recent paintings and news

recent paintings and news

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

'rags for those loved', intentions from Ireland


Wish Horse
 rags for those loved', intentions from Ireland  
outdoor installation, Grimsby Public Art Gallery
Niagara, ON, Canada

This is a toy horse that my daughter played with as a child. I embellished it with  feathers for flight and a jewel for luck. Before I hung it on the rag tree (borrowed from the Irish custom which you can read about here) , I made a wish, or 'intention' as they like to phrase it.

A few images of the project-as usual I forgot to take many photos and these are not the best. I will be going back periodically to document the tree as it fills, but along with rags and the wee wish horse, I have seen a child's purse, a pair of reading glasses, some small ears of corn, and even paintbrushes suspended from the branches (not mine). I added some rags that my Mother used for painting-she never threw anything out-she would wash and re-use them.
I am so grateful that the gallery has allowed me to leave the installation up for an extended period! 

The plaque states the following

Rags for Those Loved

 Tying rags as an offering to a sacred tree is an ancient Celtic tradition still alive in Ireland. 
The fabric is meaningful - it symbolizes a desire or dream. Some leave offerings to saints, others to ancient gods or nature spirits. Sometimes the rag represents a wish or aspiration.                                                    
‘The custom is an offering in exchange for an intention (or wish), whether that be for those still with us, or for the memory of those who have passed. There can be a variety of items - from rags torn from clothing, to rosary beads, to lengths of ribbon, to hair ties, to belts, even socks! You find yourself looking at an item and wondering who had left it, or when, and what intention was so important to have granted that they would leave behind some part of themself, and most importantly - was their intention granted! Every item holds a secret and a story and I think it is this that makes the tree so full of mystery and symbolism!'  
Carol O’brien (Ireland)
 You are invited to adorn this tree with rags or any object that you find to be meaningful. Make a wish or say a prayer for a loved one who is ill or has passed.
 ‘The rags are placed 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. At a time when community health care is in a fragile state, this gesture can perhaps symbolize and give thanks to the roles our hospital and hospice have played in the lives of many Grimsby residents.’  
Jan Yates (Canada)

Thank you again to Carol O'brien


  1. Hi Susan, thanks for stopping by. yes, the Irish have the most wonderful customs! Some I think we can learn from ...