Friday, June 16, 2017

The Munlochy Clootie Well

One of the most powerful sites we visited in Scotland was the Clootie Well at Munlochy. A Clootie Well is a place, usually at a spring surrounded by trees, where people seeking healing from an illness or woe make an offering of a piece of cloth (cloot). Sometimes the cloth is dipped in the waters, or used to wash the ailing person. Sometimes coins or other offerings are left. These sites are pre-Christian, but often came to be associated with Christian saints. The Clootie Well at Munlochy is associated with St Boniface and dates to before the time he worked as a missionary in Scotland around 620 AD.

My photographs can't convey the overwhelming power of the grove. When you first walk up the path the site seems quirky and odd, or even whimsical. A pair of trainers over a tree limb reminded me of my Philly home with end-of-school-year sneakers tossed over telephone wires. But as we wandered deeper into the wood, the air became still, the birds quieted and a full view of the offerings came into view.

It took my breath away - I don't think I've ever seen anything so human in all my life. Thousands of wishes and prayers for healing tied to every tree and vine. Suddenly I could see the sneakers were no longer thrown on a dare - maybe they represented a teen with leukemia and the bras weren't a drunken afterthought - they were for a mom with breast cancer. Some people left healing prayers for the world, just wanting everything to be better for everyone. I've seen the site described as "creepy" or "weird", but I wasn't spooked; I felt surrounded by longing and a desire for connection and peace. We live in a crazed world filled with suffering and frustration and yet here in this ancient grove people still come as they have for more than a thousand years to say, "I am one of you. I share your pain. Let's ask for help together."   I don't think I'll ever look at a shopping mall wishing fountain the same way.

You can read more about the Clootie Well here:


Georgianna Grentzenberg said...

I've felt that way in cemeteries, especially ones very decorated. It's like you can feel the longing and the bittersweet love all around, like a light breeze. I also got that feeling in Siena, Italy in the Duomo in front of an icon of the Virgin and Child to which were attached generations of what are called 'melagros' in Mexico--wishes for healing, thanks for blessings, so many individual pieces nailed together.

Sarah Gowan said...

Yes! BillQ and I have been talking about exploring the Laurel Hill Cemetery in East Falls. I've been working near there for more than thirty years and never gone in. I think it's time!