I never heard of a cloutie (or clootie) well or tree until last week when I began reading a mystery set in Edinburgh by Ian Rankin. Cloutie means cloth. Folks come to the well/tree to hang pieces of cloth in the trees hoping to be healed from illness. In the mystery, one of the murder victims clothing was found at a cloutie well.
I didn't think about it very much until yesterday when I began to research sacred wells(re: my ancient ground/well paintings) on the internet. On one site, they mentioned "cloutie wells." This might not even have hit a chord had I not read about it the week before in the Rankin book. My curiosity was peaked. And thus I was off on an adventure, finding a blog post from Wales, info sites and You-Tube videos about the wells.
Often the visitor to the well will dip the cloth, which can be just an ordinary rag or a piece of their clothing or the clothing of someone else who is ill, into the well and then tie it to the tree. The idea is that the cloth will disintegrate through time and thus too the illness will disintegrate. Nowadays though folks often leave polyester and non-biodegradable items at the well which a.) wont disintegrate for a long long time and b) defeats the intention of having the illness disintegrate.
The wells can be found in Scotland, Ireland, Wales and England. The videos I have seen are haunting and certainly different.
Here is a post from a Welsh blog about the wells. Codlins and cream.
For some reason the idea of the wells got me so excited I wanted to travel to see one. At the least, I can turn our well hear into a cloutie well. Be well, Suki PS See the post following this one for a You-Tube video.