My experience with the magic of the Cloutie tree is a deeply personal one. Two years ago I traveled to England on a sacred pilgrimage, the pinball wizards journey of sacred sites that was my graduation venture upon becoming a Druid of the Green Mountain Druid Order. I went to England to give my vows to Gaia (the Earth), a marriage or bonding to the land which took place in Stonehenge. I call it the pinball wizards journey because we visited so many sacred sites in a short amount of time…sometimes visiting 3 stone circles in a day. As I said this was a matrimonial journey and I feel that Gaia was as excited about it as I was. The land itself was speaking to me. Many magical events happened on that trip but the most personal thing that happened to me involved the sacred well in Sancreed and the Cloutie tree at Madron’s well (both in Cornwall).
First a bit of info on Cloutie trees…Cloutie trees are prayer trees, they are places of pilgimage often located near holy wells in the Celtic lands and other places of the World. Ribbons or clothe strips (cloutie) are tied onto the bows of the tree sending prayers to the heavens/god/goddess by the wind. The prayers that are woven into the clouties (ribbon, clothe, etc.) are often around healing and soul growth. Cloutie trees are powerful & the prayers attached to them not only benefit the one binding the ribbon but also the tree itself. People visiting these trees come with a reverence that truly honor the tree and the work it does. In my opininon Cloutie Trees are priests and priestesses among the trees.
My experience began as I visited my first sacred well & cloutie tree in Sancreed, Cornwall. The cloutie tree there was an apple I believe and its branches spread out over the well which was underground. When I went down the few steps into to the well itself I reached out to the land..Gaia and to the god/goddess. I asked that I become more aware, that my senses be more open, that I be more. After leaving the well I drew the Rune Gebo which looks like X. X/Gebo is a rune that represents gift or gateway. In that moment I beleived I was being told that I must simply step through or unwrap the gift that was already present. I acknowedged the cloutie tree there and placed a ribbon on it with my thoughts geared toward the Rune X/Gebo I had just drawn. Later that day we traveled to Madron’s well. The cloutie tree at Madron’s well is a Blackthorn and its roots and branches spread out over the water in a magical, fae kind of way…I was instantly enchanted. As I reached up to tie a ribbon and Rooke feather (I had collected from a Rookery @ Sancreed’s well) to the branch I was blown away. Right next to the space I was to tie my ribbon was a tag hanging with my name on it. I started crying and told my companions. They thought it was cool, but it didn’t quite sink in…they thought I meant that it simply said “Sally” on it. But the last name was mine as well. The tag hanging next to where I was to tie my ribbon said “Sally Brown”, which was my maiden name. This experience was so surreal, so personally breathtaking that all I could do for a long time was sit with the tree. Everyone else continued down the path to the ruins of the church that was there….I just sat with the tree thinking. I thought deeply about how I had come to the U.K. to bond myself to Gaia and I felt that this was her reply, that she had accepted my offer, that she too wanted to be bound to me. As I sat there I kept thinking how much I wanted a peice of this tree. I didn’t feel right about cutting from it though, as it was sacred and carried so many peoples wishes. Then the tree led me into the marshy area following the roots and brances as they went under the water and back up again. I was led to an area where a shoot of the tree had sprung from the water far enough from the ribboned branches to not be considered for such use. The branch I harvested from the tree was brought home and used for a wand, an extension of that bond I share with Gaia. When returning from the marshy area I happened to notice the back of “Sally Brown’s” tag and was again blown away. She had the Rune X/Gebo drawn on it and her wish “to wake up and smell it”.
My love for these magical priest of trees led me to create one in my own sacred space. Last year on Summer Solstice we named my property “Solstice Meadow”. As part of the ceremony our guest were asked to hang ribbons & prayers on the apple tree to the east of the alter officially waking our Cloutie tree. As the seasons turn and indiduals step into the circle of Solstice Meadow the bows of her Cloutie tree will fill with chimes, bobbles, ribbons and prayers….Awen!