24 June 2016

The highlands of Scotland are still home to some very ancient traditions some of which pre date Christianity having their roots in our pagan Celtic past.  Many of these old practices and customs were often concerned with the well being or fortunes of the practitioners. On a recent trip north with Lisa and Kun Ying we were able to stop in to visit the famous Clootie well at Munlochty on the Black Isle.

A cloot is an old Scots word for a piece of cloth or a rag, and clootie wells were places long associated with healing. Despite an act of parliament in 1581 banning pilgrimages to such places the practice continued even  to this day with visitors still tying pieces of cloth or sometimes even whole garments to the trees which surround the well . The Munlochty well is one of a cluster that can still be found around the Inverness area, but due to its proximity to the road side it is one of the most visited.

Traditions varied from well to well but usually involved a combination of walking three times round the well clockwise, drinking from the water or dipping the cloot in to the well before tying it to a nearby tree. As the cloth (which should be of natural fibres like wool or cotton) rots away the ailment or worry affecting the pilgrim would also melt away.