WEAKLY children--"children that wouldn't goode," or thrive - were sometimes drawn through the cleft ash-tree. I have seen the ceremony performed but in one case.
The tree was young, and it was taken by the two forks,-- bifurcation having taken place,--and by force rended longitudinally. The cleft was kept open, and the child, quite naked, was passed head first through the tree nine times. The tree was then closed and carefully tied together. If the severed parts reunited, the child and the tree recovered together; if the cleft gaped in any part, the operation was certain to prove ineffectual.
I quote another example. A large knife was inserted into the trunk of the young tree, about a foot from the ground, and a vertical rending made for about three feet. Two men then forcibly pulled the parts asunder, and held them so, whilst the mother passed the child through it three times. This "passing" alone was not considered effective; it was necessary that the child should be washed for three successive mornings in the dew from the leaves of the "charmed ash."
In the Athenaem for September 1846, Ambrose Merton - Mr Thom--has some interesting notices of the wide-spread belief in, and the antiquity of, this superstition.