Monday, November 24, 2008

The cloutie Well

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.

14 comments:

Blue Sky Dreaming said...

Oh Suki, How beautiful, haunting these simple pieces of cloth on the tree limbs! I couldn't help but feel the individual and collective desire, faith and hope of healing. This is what I meant about my research leading to images in my art. This study of yours will serve you and your upcoming work. I was taken with a piece of red cloth among so many bleached out cloths. Wow!
Thank you for the award!

Cris, Artist in Oregon said...

You do get into your subjects. When you find something you like your reading even makes it more interesting. Thanks for sharing.
Will there be a WELL series?

Kim said...

Suki, this is fascinating. I have never heard of these cloutie wells, but I am now eager to learn a lot more. I am off to watch the video.

Thanks Suki for this introduction...and I can't wait to see your spirit well!

Have a Beautiful Day!

willow said...

Interesting! Well, I'll be sure to use some thinly woven, well used cotton, if I give it a try. ;^)

patti said...

Fascinating to hear about these old beliefs & customs. The tree looks surreal.

I'm booked in for a Reiki session this week to see if my ailments can be cured.

When you get your well up and running let me know and i'll send you some cloth. I'm a believer! :)

Claudia said...

Dear Suki,

thank you so much for the award. I'm visiting some friends at the moment and won't be home until coming Thursday. I will start naming the nominees at that time. In the meantime I wish you all the best and a very creative week.
Kind regards from Claudia.

sukipoet said...

Blue Sky Dreaming, it was your comment about doing research that led me to try a bit of it myself. These strips of cloth also remind me of a Japanese healing custom of hanging up strips of paper. I think I'm getting that right. You are welcome re: award. Your blog is fascinating.

Cris, I am trying to make a series of pictures. Yes. At first i thought they would all be wells. However then I decided something like ancient ground would be broader and leave me some space to move away from the wells specifically but to stay in the same ballpark. I think I may try to do something with the pieces of cloth idea, for example though not sure what.

Kim it is entirely possible you were near some of these wells when you were in England.! Next trip.

Willow, good idea.

Patti, that's a great idea. IE your sending me some cloth. I was wondering how I could get other's to leave cloth, without inviting hoards of people onto the property but that's a good idea. Mail order cloutie tree. I hope your Reiki session goes well. They can be quite powerful.

Claudia, you are very welcome. Have a great trip home.

katie jane said...

Interesting facts about the well. I never knew they were used for anything other than drawing water.

Thank you for the award, too. I have to confess that Soulbrush already awarded me with this one and I am very deliquent at posting it. I will give credit to both of you, but I am not good at passing on, I'm afraid.

Lynn said...

suki's well, a well of wellness of well being...I like all these images and ideas. It goes along with the well on your property there. and the art you are making of it.

Echo said...

Wow, increadable possibilities in a single small thought.

Dianne McNaughton said...

Hi Suki,
I am married to a Scot, his favourite pudding is called "Cloutie Dumpling", which is a fruit pudding steamed in a cloth.

sukipoet said...

Katie Jane, I have received a number of awards when I didnt have the time or energy to pass them on. So I wouldnt feel bad abt not being able to do that part. I think, historically, wells were also gathering places to spread the gossip among other things.

lynn, the well on this property is growing in resonance and meaning.

Echo, thanks for stopping by.

Dianne, that is so cool about the pudding. Actually they mention a cloth wrapped pudding in the mystery too. Now I think here, there is a brown bread pudding that can be cloth wrapped but I may be wrong. I used to make it in a can and put brown paper on top, that's it. But it could have cloth like cheesecloth on top. fascinating. And sounds delicious.

marianne said...

Well not spooky anylonger but more mysterious and fascinating

sukipoet said...

Marianne, I definitely think the trees I have looked at via You tube, some which I didnt post, have a spooky quality to them. esp as they have soooo many bits of cloth hanging.