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The Word on the Week

Clootie Wells

Clootie Wells                   Word on the Week                    14th November 2020.

The old Celtic practice of tying a piece of cloth to a tree appears to be alive and well according to a recent press article.   Indeed, accompanying the 6.00 pm angelus, we often see a soulful looking woman tying a votive cloth to a tree in an act of worship.

The tree used was mainly hawthorn and was located beside a ‘holy’ well.   The spirits were said to inhabit such places and if the cloth was dipped in the well then applied to an injury healing was reckoned to have a better chance of taking place.   The cloth was then tied to a branch of the tree and left to rot.

Various other emblems of a religious nature were also tied to the tree perhaps in memory of the dead.   It had the effect of disfiguring nature with emblems of personal grief.   These places are usually to be found wherever there are the remains of the ‘Celtic church’ and probably predate it.

The well at Munlochy on the Black Isle drew a crowd on the festival of Beltane which was held on the Sunday nearest the 1st May.   A group of us travelled the few miles from the Baptist Church in Inverness and gathered for an act of worship close to the well.   What was rather bizarre was the pedal organ which we carried onto the site to assist with the singing!

We had song sheets prepared for the occasion and included as many onlookers as we could in the service.  We saw it in simple terms of engaging with the enemy and overcoming by means of the Word preached and prayers offered (Revelation Chapter 12 verse 11).

Needless to say we did not take up a collection!   The bottom of the well was covered with coins but as far as I recall they were of low value!   I expect the ‘spirit’ of the well removed them at the end of the summer.  

Scripture does not give any credence to those who worship the creation and ignore the Creator.   There is one God whom we are to worship (Deuteronomy chapter 8 verse 3).   And when Jesus was tempted by satan he replied in a similar vein (St Matthew Chapter 4 verse 10).

Scripture does however instruct us in how to deal with spirits to see whether they are of God.   If the spirit acknowledges Christ’s two natures namely that he is wholly man and that he is also wholly God, then the spirit is of God (1 John Chapter 4 verses 2 /3).    If that does not happen then the Apostle John states unequivocally that it comes from the antichrist.

Instead of dabbling in Clootie Wells St James states the contrast: – “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world” (Chapter 1 verse 27).