A likeness of the Virgin Mary spotted in the trunk of a suburban tree is being touted as a divine blessing.
The image, which resembles the mother of Jesus in her traditional open-armed pose, has reportedly been causing local residents to shake and cry in wonder.
Christopher Moreau, who first spotted the trees markings in his neighbours garden in the Toronto suburb of Scarborough, believes that it may have helped the health of his mother-in-law, who recently recovered from cancer.
“At first I thought I was seeing things,” the 47-year-old said. “Then I went and got my mother-in-law to tell her. She was overwhelmed by it. She was crying.”
“I don’t know why it’s there, but I think it’s a blessing,” he told the Toronto Sun newspaper, adding that he hoped it would help others looking for a miracle.
“She’s not there just for me. She’s there to share.”
Eulalee Hamilton, Mr Moreaus neighbour and the owner of the tree, said that she was happy for people to come see the likeness as long as they did not damage her garden.
Laughing off suggestions that it was a sign from God, she said that the Virgin Mary image was just the scarring from a limb that was cut off the tree a year ago.
“Chris can have all the people he wants on his back deck but I don’t really want people trampling on my garden,” she said.
Mr Moreau has admitted he was drinking in his garden when he first spotted the likeness, but insists he was completely sober. “I’m not a wacko,” he said.
“It raises the hair on your neck, it gives you chills,” he added.
A spokesman for the Catholic Archdiocese of Toronto said that it does not investigate the veracity of such appearances.
There have been hundreds of “sightings” of the Virgin Mary down the centuries, but recent years have seen her appearing in ever more unusual places.
A decade-old toasted cheese sandwich said to bear her image was sold on eBay $28,000 in 2004.