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Research Journey | Tobar na Coille (St. Mary’s Clootie Well)

I walked to Tobar na Coille, Gaelic for ‘well of the wood’, from the Culloden Battlefield. Walking deeper into the forest, I felt the air grow cooler, sounds were hushed and the wind slipped in and amongst the low brush. When I finally came upon the stone-walled well I knew I had arrived at a place that had been visited countless times before by others seeking health and happiness.


A clootie well or spring is a pagan place of healing, individuals journey to these places to dip a cloot (also clout), a piece of natural cloth like wool or cotton, into the water. After saying a prayer, usually to heal an illness or injury, the cloot is tied to a branch of a nearby tree. It is believed that as the cloot disintegrates, so too does the illness

In preparation for my journey to Tobar na Coille, I wove my own cloot to leave at the well. The colours reflect the Clan Donald tartan, which is part of my distant familial heritage.

After dipping my cloot in the well, I tied it to a branch overlooking a nearby stream. The babbling stream made for a meditative backdrop while sitting on a nearby stump and listening to the forest birds.

Waterless lithograph prints from plates drawn on-site


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