Riddle over spooky corn dolls: Calls for pagan symbols found hanging in trees on pathway to be removed
The appearance of sinister-looking figures hanging from trees along a popular east Belfast pathway has been giving people chills.
There have been calls for the corn dolls along Comber Greenway to be removed - but last night Northern Ireland's only pagan priest claimed they are actually a symbol of hope, placed in trees in the area to encourage growth and prosperity.
Patrick Carberry from the Order of the Golden River said: "Corn dolls are an ancient pagan ritual but they are also associated with the Christian faith as well.
"It is a similar idea to the St Brigid's cross. They are used around harvest time and Halloween and, basically, they are made at the end of the harvest out of the last crops to encourage new growth the following season.
"They are actually a good thing and people shouldn't be worried by them. They are supposed to bring good fortune to the area they are in, and so it is actually nice to see them. Someone is trying to bring good fortune to the Comber Greenway."
The dolls were nowhere to be seen yesterday, suggesting that someone had already removed them from the trees. People making their way along the route seemed oblivious to the spooky goings-on, but they did not find any comfort in Mr Carberry's reassurances.
One cyclist said: "I haven't seen any myself, although I haven't been along here in a while. I hope I don't see one anyway because they sound pretty weird. I certainly wouldn't like to see one if I was coming along here in the dark by myself. It all seems a bit creepy to me."
The pathway is one of the busiest and well-known walking routes running through Belfast, going from Dee Street in the east of the city all the way to Comber along the old railway line, which was closed in 1950.
It is popular with dog-walkers and cyclists alike, and both groups have expressed concern in recent days.
Posting on the Comber Greenway Facebook page, Rhonda Coates wrote: "These have been around in the trees for a year now -they are not a new addition to the walkway.
"On a closer look at them, they do look rather evil... [like] wee voodoo scarecrows.
"My son did meet a guy on the walkway about a year ago who was taking them down from trees, and he told my son never to touch them in case of sharp objects being in them and he could get hurt. I wonder what is the reason for them."