On the Subject of Clooties…..

As the Pagan Federation environmental policy officer, I’m sure you can imagine I am very passionate about all things green. 

I have a deep seated belief that as Pagans we must do everything we can to protect Mother Earth and all her creatures.  It was in this regard I joined the clootie debate.  I wish the answer was a simple one, but it isn’t. 

At the moment there is raging debate about clooties and their environmental impact.  Recently there was a uproar at the Munlochy Well being cleared of clooties at the dead of night by persons unknown and this was widely reported in the media. 

But what about the less well known sites? Are we being sensitive to suggest these offerings are removed? 

Speaking to several site managers recently, it would appear that this is becoming a growing problem and has begun to have a impact on the local wildlife.  Lots of sites have volunteers that try to keep things under control, but they seem to be challenged from all sides.  Do they remove some things and leave others?  Do they remove or leave everything.  At the Rollrights some child had written on the back of a till receipt, can I be the best footballer in the world, is his wish any less valid than someone else is?   

The actual custom is as I understand it is that you dip you clootie in the well and tie it to the tree for healing and as it decomposes the person then gets better.  The gift bags, ribbons and tealights aren’t going to decompose anytime soon. 

Anything with polyester in it takes up to 200 years to decompose, whilst plastic can take up to 500 years. Even pure cotton can take up to 20 years although most cottons has some polyester in it thus taking a lot longer.   Of course this makes that polyester ribbon tied to the tree meaningless. 

I have found little evidence of our ancestors leaving debris at sacred sites, obviously rituals were performed at sites, but nothing was left other than a few herbs, and maybe a small offering of food for the wildlife.   These days lots of sites, have all manner of things left at them. In my opinion that we should only leave our thoughts, love and prayers at these sites.

I visited the Rollrights with my friend a couple of weeks ago.  My friend, who had been going to the site since he was a small boy, was astonished to see how many clooties there were on the trees and stones.  He said that he had seen the odd few before, but nothing like the amount that was there now.  I contacted the site manager and they were equally at a loss to know what to do about this issue. They too are are very aware that this a sensitive subject, but they are also aware metals, wax and crystals could damage the lichens on the stones and over time the stones themselves. 

More and more of our sacred sites are being fenced off and public access is not allowed in part at least, due to this isue. Access will become more and more of a problem for us and in my opinion, rightly so unless we can resolve it.

Anne Edward
Pagan Federation Environmental Officer