© 2018

The Magic of Coin-Trees from Religion to Recreation

The Roots of a Ritual


  • Provides the first book-length study focusing specifically on, and cataloguing, British coin-trees

  • Contributes to debates on the historic relationships between religion, ritual, and popular magic in British contexts

  • Utilises an interdisciplinary approach, combining methodologies from folklore, anthropology and archaeology


Part of the Palgrave Historical Studies in Witchcraft and Magic book series (PHSWM)

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-x
  2. Ceri Houlbrook
    Pages 1-23
  3. Ceri Houlbrook
    Pages 25-70
  4. Ceri Houlbrook
    Pages 71-106
  5. Ceri Houlbrook
    Pages 107-151
  6. Ceri Houlbrook
    Pages 153-177
  7. Ceri Houlbrook
    Pages 179-204
  8. Ceri Houlbrook
    Pages 205-240
  9. Ceri Houlbrook
    Pages 241-253
  10. Back Matter
    Pages 255-307

About this book


This book traces the history of ritual landscapes in the British Isles, and the transition from religious practice to recreation, by focusing on a highly understudied exemplar: the coin-tree. These are trees imbued with magical properties into which coins have been ritually embedded. This is a contemporary custom which can be traced back in the literature to the 1700s, when it was practiced for folk-medical and dedicatory purposes. Today, the custom is widespread, with over 200 coin-trees distributed across the British Isles, but is more akin to the casual deposition of coins in a wishing-well: coins are deposited in the tree in exchange for wishes, good luck, or future fortune. Ceri Houlbrook contributes to the debate on the historic relationships between religion, ritual, and popular magic in British contexts from 1700 to the present. 


ritual landscapes microhistory folklore paganism relics

Authors and affiliations

  1. 1.University of HertfordshireHatfieldUnited Kingdom

About the authors

Ceri Houlbrook is Early Career Researcher of History and Folklore at the University of Hertfordshire, UK, and the co-editor of The Materiality of Magic: An Artefactual Investigation into Ritual Practices and Popular Beliefs and Magical Folk: British and Irish Fairies.

Bibliographic information

  • Book Title The Magic of Coin-Trees from Religion to Recreation
  • Book Subtitle The Roots of a Ritual
  • Authors Ceri Houlbrook
  • Series Title Palgrave Historical Studies in Witchcraft and Magic
  • Series Abbreviated Title Palgrave Historical Studies in Witchcraft and Magic
  • DOI
  • Copyright Information The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s) 2018
  • Publisher Name Palgrave Macmillan, Cham
  • eBook Packages History History (R0)
  • Hardcover ISBN 978-3-319-75516-8
  • Softcover ISBN 978-3-030-09252-8
  • eBook ISBN 978-3-319-75517-5
  • Edition Number 1
  • Number of Pages X, 307
  • Number of Illustrations 0 b/w illustrations, 25 illustrations in colour
  • Topics History of Britain and Ireland
    Social History
    History of Early Modern Europe
    Cultural History
    History of Religion
  • Buy this book on publisher's site


“The author has spent many hours hanging about at 40 identified sites all over the British Isles, asking visitors their thoughts, assessing their ritual, touristic and aesthetic context, and then writing up field notes and a highly considered academic contextualisation that is laudably readable.” (Northern Earth, Issue 163, March, 2021)

“Coin-trees are now very much part of British tradition, folklore and landscape as this most enjoyable book makes clear. … it is an academic contribution to a series of historical studies on witchcraft and magic, it is a clear and readable account accessible for the non-specialist reader and laced with interesting sidelights and anecdotes, of a fascinating piece of folklore, as authentic as any truly ‘ancient’ tradition.” (John Rimmer, Magonia review of books, July, 2019)