Hidden in the woods of Scotland’s Black Isle is a grove of trees covered with rags. Known as a Clootie Well, this is one of several remains of a Celtic tradition that goes back to calling on water spirits for healing.
Clootie Wells — taking their name from the Scottish word for cloth — can be found around the UK in Scotland, Ireland, and England. However, the one near Munlochy on the Black Isle is among the most popular, where on any day you can descend into the forest and be shrouded in the shadow of thousands of bits of cloth knotted on the tree branches. Sometimes even whole pieces of clothing are in the trees as if on a curious clothesline.
The ritual is a pagan one that has continued into contemporary spirituality. As a rag is left to rot at the Clootie Well, it’s hoped that some pain or sickness will fade with it. It’s bad luck to remove any of the offerings.
Forestry Commission Scotland encourages visitors to continue to bring rags to the Munlochy Clootie Well, although does request that they be biodegradable — the better with which to please nature’s spirits.