It is safe to say Scotland has some traditions that would be considered weird anywhere else. We are obsessed with Irn-bru, ceilidhs are a regular occurrence and deep-fried Mars bars have had a huge amount of Americans believe it’s not real. However, many people may not be familiar with the 14 century-long Celtic tradition of hanging rags on trees as a symbol of healing and good fortune. One of the most famous sites for such offerings is the Clootie Well in Scotland, yet someone “tidied” it up last year (2022).
What is Clootie Well?
Clootie Well is a natural spring located in Munlochy on the Black Isle near Inverness, posing as a sacred pagan site predating Christianity. The grove of trees used to be decorated in a haunting, yet mesmerising way with clothes and rags, also known as “cloots” in Scots, bringing prosperity to those whom it belonged to.
The well’s water has been used for healing purposes for a very long time, dating back to as long as AD 620. Up until 2022, the tradition has been maintained with the site covered in rags, giving it an eerie, otherworldly feel.
What happened to all the cloots at Clootie Well?
Unfortunately, one individual has taken it upon themselves to “tidy up” Clootie Well and remove all the rags from the trees and the well. Ever since, huge debates have been sparked by the local communities of Facebook, arguing both sides of the spectrum.
On one hand, people said the actions are disrespectful, as it is also believed the person’s good luck will be reversed if the rags have not disintegrated by themselves and have been removed. On the other hand, environmental reasons have been listed saying not all materials hung on the trees have been biodegradable. The identity of the person who did it is unknown, however, it is believed one person managed to remove all the cloots from Clootie Well by themselves.
As it happened The Guardian reported the words of Claire Mackay: “I’m sure the person who cleared up thought they were doing something good but the fact they took it upon themselves, weren’t a local and did it without the permission of Forestry and Land Scotland [which manages the site] has upset a lot of people.”
“The clean-up should have been a community decision, but now we can treat it as a clean slate and hope it has planted that seed about the need for people to leave more natural things.”
What is more, there is already a sign present at the well requesting that visitors leave “small, biodegradable offerings” only. Plus, local rangers already remove any unsuitable items. While a build-up of modern clothing with plastic in it is obviously concerning, it is nothing that couldn’t be managed in the past by the local community.
So, should we just go leave a wee biodegradable offering at Clootie Well? After all, there can never be enough good luck.