In the woods near the village of Overasselt you find a so called ‘fever tree’ [koortsboom]. The oak is situated next to the ruins of the medieval Saint Walrick chapel, a place of pilgrimage for ages. The saint was regarded a patron of the sick, fever sufferers in particular. From the early 19th century people come to this place to “tie off” the fever by hanging pieces of cloth – worn by the diseased – in the tree next to the chapel. I understand it became increasingly popular from the 1990’s on, when the place became widely known due to media attention. The branches of the initial, century old, tree are nowadays to high above the ground to tie pieces of cloth. So a small tree has become the new designated fever tree.
I heard about the tree through a story in De Gelderlander last week in which a ranger of the Forrestry Commission spoke of his worries that the ‘legendary fever tree might collapse under the weight of clothing’. He calls on people to bring only small pieces of cloth and not complete garments – ‘like a winter coat or a bra with an impressive cup size’ – they have to be removed.
I visited the site today and found no bras (of any size) but a variety of items hanging from the tree: pieces of cloth and clothing in various colours, with and without messages written on them. But also a pair of shoes, Buddhist prayer flags, a blue evil eye charm and a butterfly. And there were quite some pieces that memorialized deceased loved ones.