12th December

What the Old Wife Said

‘Now, you know about clootie wells, do you? These are wells usually with a tree growing beside them, and the water from the well has special healing properties. People come from far and wide to get the benefit. They come with all kinds of ailments and they dip a cloot or rag into the water and tie it to a branch of the tree, and perhaps say a prayer or perhaps not, and as the rag dries and fades and reduces over time so the ailment goes away. Or if a person is too ill to make the journey a friend or relative may bring something of theirs to dip into the well and then tie it in the tree, and the illness diminishes. Sometimes a clootie well is associated with a saint or a spirit, and sometimes no one knows why the tradition grew in this or that location, but the site is always very ancient. And where the tradition survives there is no sign of it coming to an end, not even in these enlightened times!

‘You may laugh at what I am telling you, but just as they say God is not mocked neither is the clootie well. I know of someone who visited one such well. She showed it respect but she came neither to be healed herself nor with a cloot from anybody who was ill, and maybe that was the problem. She took photographs of the tree festooned with cloots, because without question it is a curious thing to see by the side of a road, and before she could leave something picked her up and flung her on her back, and cracked her camera off the tarmac, as much as to say, Don’t think you can come here and take those pictures away without an offering. Well, that tumble gave her a fright and when she got home she checked to see if her camera was still working, and it was, but did she even look at the pictures of the clootie well? She did not. She deleted them. She had been warned, and she heeded the warning.

‘I believe that was a wise decision, whatever you think.’

Reader: Gerda Stevenson
Fiddle: Aidan O'Rourke
Harmonium: Kit Downes
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