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The tradition of making offerings at wishing trees and wells dates back hundreds of years, and can be found all over the world in different forms. In Scotland, Ireland and England, where old Celtic tradition persists, they are known as Clootie wells. A clootie well is a well or spring, almost always with a tree growing beside it, where strips of cloth or rags are tied to the branches, usually in the hope of having an illness cured.

"Clootie" is a Scottish word that means cloth. To make an offering, pieces of cloth or cloot are generally dipped in the water of the holy well and then tied to a branch while a prayer of supplication is said to the spirit of the well. At some wells, the affected part of the body is washed with the wet rag before tying it to the tree. As the rag disintegrates over time, the ailment is supposed to fade away as well. Over the centuries strips of cloths gave way to complete garments. Today, you can find socks, dresses, t-shirts and even pants along with pieces of rotten cloths.

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The clootie well in Munlochy, Black Isle. Photo credit

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