I came across this site by accident. We had pulled off the road into a wooded parking area en route to Cromarty on the Black Isle, north of Inverness. The first thing I noticed was a rag tied onto a branch. Curiosity led me further into the trees along a winding path, up and around a hillock with a stream issuing from its base. Everywhere was festooned with rags, clothing, shoes, toys, and goodness knows what. Each trunk, branch, twig and root had something tied to it. It looked a bit like wind-blown rubbish from a waste dump but it was in fact all very deliberately placed and felt eerie despite the early summer brightness of dappled sunlight and fresh foliage.

I asked a local dog walker what was going on, and she told me that it was the site of a sacred spring, and that generations of people had left objects in the hope of healing or good luck. You can find out more of the history, folklore, and tradition by clicking HERE. I was totally amazed by the range of objects that had been placed there, like strange fruits, flowers, and vines decorating the woodland, and fading and disintegrating with the passage of time. I would think it is a lonely and atmospheric place to walk at dusk or dawn, especially in winter when the trees lack leaves. A bit of an eyesore really but venerating Nature in its own way.

Click on any image to see the details of the wide range of votive offerings at the site.

 

6 Replies to “The Clootie Well”

  1. It is strange, isn’t it? I believe there are other similar sites but maybe just in Britain and not the US. Sometimes people leave coins – hammered into wood or rock crevices – for the same kind of purpose.

  2. I’ve never seen quite this kind of thing here, in quite the way this place is; in my experience it’s usually a religious monument, or man-made place that inspires this kind of thing, and I’ve never seen such a large-scale participation and so many objects. I don’t think we seem to have the many centuries of association behind any site here that you do, except for Native Americans, and their traditions are for them, not for the general public to participate in, it would be presumptuous, I think. I like the idea of approaching in hope in what might be the middle of despair or worry, that this tradition involves.

  3. I read a book some time ago about sacred spots in England, wells, springs, groves of trees, stones, and so on, and the book explained the often ancient traditions the spots were associated with. Your photos reminded me of this.

  4. Yes, this site is one of those. The link with the pictures says “The holy well at Munlochy is said to date back to – and probably beyond – the time of St Boniface or St Curitan, who worked as a missionary in Scotland in about AD620. Pilgrims would come, perform a ceremony that involved circling the well sunwise three times before splashing some of its water on the ground and making a prayer. They would then tie a piece of cloth or “cloot” that had been in contact with the ill person to a nearby tree”.

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