Some of you may recall that a few months back I came second in a competition run by the V&A in Dundee to name their souvenir toy coo. I still think I should have won but that is just overwhelming arrogance on my part – Lord have mercy! The name I had chosen was “Clootie”. My reasoning was that a coo has a bit of a dumpling look to it, its hide can look like strips of cloth and it was very much a local name.
Interestingly the spellchecker on my computer is underlining Clootie in red telling me I have misspelt the word – Scots clearly hasn’t made it as a language for word processors. Word processors are ever keen to please and offer alternative suggestions for my clear incompetence. The first suggestion it offers as an alternative to “clootie” is “clothe” which isn’t a bad guess. A clothed dumpling is a fairlyaccurate representation of a clootie dumpling. The clootie being the strip of cloth that is wrapped around the pudding.
More recently, I have learnt of the existence of Clootie wells such as the well at Munlochy on the Black Isle. The well is dedicated to Saint Curetán (or Boniface) – a Pictish Bishop (c.690-710). Curetán arrived from Rome, sailing up the River Tay to Invergowrie where he built a church before later heading North to the Black Isle. Amongst other things Curetán is linked with the healing of children through prayer. Perhaps this is why the well is dedicated in his honour – the tradition of wells/springs being a place of healing is an ancient one as the Samaritan woman at the well would testify. The Well at Munlochy is surrounded by trees with bits of cloth (clooties) hanging off them as a symbol of healing. In our Christian tradition the Turin Shroud is often a focus of pilgrimage which, if nothing else, serves as a reminder of the discarded grave clothes at the resurrection.
As the Easter story unfolds in John’s telling of the gospel (Jn 20:19-31), the disciples are still hiding away, and Jesus surprises them. But more than this Jesus makes good on his three promises to share with the disciples: Peace (Jn 14.27); Joy (Jn 15.11; 16.22); and the Spirit (Jn14.16). We also encounter Thomas who foolishly (like many of us) says (like Victor Meldrew), ‘I don’t believe it’.
Christ, the gospel encourages us to let go (or like Mary in the garden not to hold on to) the earthly Jesus but to breathe in the risen Christ. To experience this not as a historical story but a living reality in our lives.
I wonder then, if a bit like the grave clothes, we can put some things to one side and welcome the gifts of peace, joy and the Spirit. The Clootie wells are a sign of hope and healing. I invite you to find a bit of cloth, and, holding on to the cloth offer a prayer for healing (which could be of someone you know, or giving thanks for the healers in our society, of for healing in the face of the global pandemic or healing for ourselves or all of the above or something completely different). Having prayed your prayer, if you have a tree in the garden tie it on to that so that others might see it. If you don’t haveaccess to a garden, tie something to a pot plant and put it in a window (if anybody asks tell them it’sa bonsai clootie!). These clooties will form signs of healing and hope in our communities offering a sign of blessing for those who pass by and serving as a reminder for us of the peace and joy in the Spirit. And who knows, I may even get over not having won the V&A competition!
If you can, take a photo and email it to me and I shall collate them and send it round. May the Peace and Joy of the risen Christ dwell within you.
With love & prayer Nick