I’m listening to “Pagan Poetry” as I work, and it brought my mind back to one of the early influences on this project….cloth tied in the woods, healing, rotting, pilgrimage…
The Clootie Well is a rather weird remnant of an ancient tradition once commonly found in Scotland and Ireland, of holy wells to which pilgrims would come and make offerings, usually in the hope of having an illness cured. The tradition dates far back into pre-Christian times, to the practice of leaving votive offerings to the local spirits or gods in wells and springs…..
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.
As the cloot rotted away, the illness would depart the sick person. An alternative tradition suggests that sick children would be left here overnight to be healed. Presumably any with the strength or spirit to survive what would have been an exceedingly creepy ordeal were pretty likely to recover anyway.
From Undiscovered Scotland (land of my People)