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  • Bodies in Elm, 1760? May 6, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern , trackback

    Beach has recently been searching for records of bodies within trees. There is a lot ill-informed nonsense about such tree burials (in a living tree) as being part of a British magical tradition. Here is one quoted reference from the Gentleman’s Magazine, 30 (1760), pp. 346. The problem is that the text does not live up to its promise.

    Two men grubbed down a very large old ashen tree at Lidden near Canterbury, whose circumference at the root was upwards of 50 feet. In the center [sic] were two human skeletons almost entire, and by their bones and teeth seem to have been of large stature; there was a scymetar or dagger, with some sort of box heads found by them; their heads lay very near together, but their bodies one to the East, and the other S.E. and a head stone to each. Whether this tree grew on them casually, or was set on them as a memorial is not certain.

    Surely the only way to read this is that as the tree was brought out of the ground two bodies were discovered in the roots of the tree, not in the trunk. The bodies were lying down for one; each had a headstone; the tree grew on them… Beach has published and enjoyed a couple of bodies in trees stories here in his time and there is also the deliriously mad Bella in the Wych Elm tale. Can anyone add any others: drbeachcombing at yahoo dot com.

    Note that this sounds like a medieval burial: early medieval burials would not typically have ‘head stones’. But then burial with a dagger would not be very medieval. Perhaps an Anglo-Saxon burial of some kind? Beach’s memory is that burials were more common in Kent than cremations. Possibly the headstone was just all a misunderstanding?