It is becoming more and more common when visiting places in Cornwall regarded as sacred or ancient sites to find any tree that dares grow in the vicinity covered in a plethora of strange materials and items tightly tied to all branches within human reach. This strange practice has in recent years exploded in popularity and has now spread out of Cornwall to other sacred sites.
This is now a real problem and seems to have become an established and compulsive behavior at sacred sites. Part of the attraction of these sites for visitors was that they often had a beautiful “otherworldly” feel far removed from the stresses and strains of the modern synthetic and commercial world. One could cross the barrier and escape such things at sacred sites but today the barrier has been well and truly eroded. One can no longer visit many sacred sites now without being surrounded by the detritus of the modern world flapping around in all available tree branches. The trees themselves now have to struggle to grow and survive with a bewildering array of rubbish garroting their branches. The range of items to be found at effected places is astonishing! Bags, complete items of clothing, sunglasses, jewelry, bits of fabric, ribbons and food wrappers to name but a few. Of course very nearly all of the strange items to be found are made of synthetic materials and would linger for a very, very long time if it were not for the efforts of those who care for the sites and who have the ongoing task of un-picking every bit of tat from every branch.
How did this situation come to be? What drives people to take the synthetic produce of the modern world and habitually affix it to the ancient and the sacred? It can only be that they are in some very misinformed way trying to emulate the cloutie tradition.
The use of the cloutie is a form of good old-fashioned Cornish “get rid of” magic traditionally performed at Madron Well. The cloutie spell was used to remove ailments and was done by tying a piece of cloth around or wearing it against the area of the body that held the ailment. Upon arrival at the well the piece of cloth would be removed and hung over a branch or tied loosely to it as healing was asked of the spirits. As the cloth fell to the ground and rotted the illness would be healed. Often the cloutie would be a single thread.
It should be remembered by people today that the cloutie spell was to be rid of an ailment and that the falling and rotting of the cloutie was vital to the spell's success thus it must be of organic material. The action of tightly tying synthetic items to tree branches will bring about no positive magical results and will only succeed in a number of other areas: littering a beautiful place, damaging trees, annoying spirits of the place and creating work for those who go in and tidy up!