C is for Clootie Well

Day three of the A to Z Blogging Challenge and we’re looking at a Clootie Well.
Cloot or Clootie is the Scottish for cloth and this is one of those slightly odd ancient traditions that has continued into modern day and people are sort of doing their own thing without really understanding the meaning behind it. 
There are several Clootie Wells in the Highlands, but we chose the one at Munlochy on the Black Isle, 24 miles from us, as the site covers quite a large area. As soon as you get into the parking area you can see Cloots hanging off the trees that line the path you need to take to get to the well.

The Munlochy Clootie Well is believed to date back to at least 600 AD and perhaps even older than that. Pilgrims believed that if they left a piece of cloth that had touched an ill person, as it degraded it would remove the illness from that person. They also had to circle the well three times and splash water on the ground whilst praying for the ill one.

The wells are probably from pre-Christian times when they were used to leave offerings to local spirits, but like lots of old beliefs they’ve been incorporated into Christianity.

What has been lost in translation over the years is that the offering (cloth) needs to be of natural material so that it will breakdown and rot away – instead people now leave whatever they can get their hands on. It is obvious by what is left that some people come and then decide to take an item of their own clothing off and hang it on a tree – it’s slightly concerning how many pairs of underpants are hanging off tree branches, in fact Ken accidently put his hand on a pair when he was pushing a branch aside.

The variety of things that have been left is really incredible – I didn’t find an Australian flag but in the picture below there is a New Zealand flag.

In the picture below you might just be able to make out a teddy bear that has been nailed to a tree – poor thing, left there in the creepy woods all by himself.

This is the opening to the well, so as you can see lots of people have tried to get their cloot as close to the source of the water as possible.

A sari strung between two trees. The other thing there were lots of was socks – I’m picturing lots of tourists who leave without their pants or socks.

Pinned to one tree (in a plastic sleeve, so not going to degrade this millennium) was the five reiki principles:

Just for today
I will not be angry
I will not worry
I will be grateful for my many blessings
I will do my work honestly
I will be kind to all living things

Something we could all try to live by.

This is the well with the stone trough to catch the water.

More of the cloots – a santa’s hat which I’m sure is not made of a degradable material. Do you think santa or Mrs Claus left this here and I’m hoping neither of them are ill.

A few more shots to show you the range of cloots that are attached to the trees around the well, including a Scottish flag.

I’m hoping this person didn’t leave their pants and socks as otherwise they would be leaving the site naked.

I took my own offering to the well and yes it was made out of a cloth that will degrade – it’s the purple scarf hanging in the middle of the picture.

That’s the Clootie Well, and the letter C done and dusted. Before you go why don’t you pop over to the A to Z blog and see what my fellow bloggers have come up with for the letter C – click HERE to visit.
Until next time, be good, stay safe, and I wonder what ancient traditions exist where you live.
Pamela & Ken

31 thoughts on “C is for Clootie Well

  1. Now that was interesting. Can't imagine what I would have thought if I simply stumbled upon it. I agree with others that said it's a bit eerie. My \”Save the Earth\” side does wish the proper tradition of leaving something behind that will break down was adhered to more. Great pictures, as usual!


  2. Hi Pam and Ken – fascinating … I wrote about a clooty cloth being sent with a cow when it was sold … I'm guessing but I suspect it'd be like a baby's comforter? Just extraordinary that you posted about Clootie Wells … they're well known in Cornwall too … as no doubt Wales …Loving your journey round Scotland … fun way to get us to travel with you … cheers Hilaryhttp://positiveletters.blogspot.co.uk/2017/04/c-is-for-cattle-and-cow-cooper.html


  3. Thanks Hilary, glad you enjoyed it. That's really interesting about the cloth being sent with the cow – wonder where that tradition started. Thanks for coming on the journey with us.


  4. What a wonderful tradition. It is sad to think of the 85% polyester every-things hanging from the trees.As a Reiki Master it seems weird to have the tenants posted on plastic but, at least, they are posted..


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