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At the corner of the extravagant 19th century mansion, Palais Equitable, in the city of Vienna, Austria, is a glass case behind which is the midsection of an ancient tree. Its trunk is studded with hundreds of nails pounded over the centuries for good luck. Back in medieval Europe, hammering iron nails into living trees, wooden crosses and even rocks was a common practice, just as throwing coins into wishing wells or fountains is today. Sometimes, sick people would rub a nail on the afflicted part of their body and then hammer it into a tree hoping that the healthy wood would absorb their pain. The custom disappeared sometime around the late 19th centuries, and so did many of these so-called “nail trees”. The nail tree in Vienna is the oldest one still preserved.

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Photo credit: Magdalena Niemirowicz/Wikimedia

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© Amusing Planet, 2017.


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