Few Asheville trees have attracted as much attention as the magnolia located on a parcel of downtown parkland that was sold to developer Stewart Coleman. For starters, it’s at the center of a debate surrounding a controversial land deal.
It’s also become the symbolic center of a mini culture war of sorts between a Pagan group, Coven Oldenwilde, and a conservative political group, the Carolina Stompers. Last summer, the coven held a ceremony to protect the tree from being removed to make way for a condominum building. They encircled it, chanting spells — called “barbarous words of power” — that they said were meant to keep the tree safe from harm.
The ceremony was captured on a YouTube video ad that showed City Council candidate Elaine Lite taking part. A raging letters-to-the-editor war that ensued between the Pagans and the Stompers this past winter brought the magnolia into public consciousness once again.
Most recently, the magnolia has gained the favor of the Asheville Tree Commission, which has recognized the 100-year-old flowering tree’s historic significance. In a March 18 letter to City Council, the commission “recommends that City Council take another look at means to protect the magnolia tree in Pack Square due to the importance of the tree as an historical symbol to Asheville and because it is intended to be removed for private purposes versus public use.”
Click here to go to The Xpress Files and download a PDF of the commission’s letter.
— Rebecca Bowe, contributing editor