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Tidying up offerings
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Edited Jun 18, 2010, 21:51
Re: Tidying up offerings
Jun 18, 2010, 21:50
Branwen wrote:
Wells are the biggest draw because there is at least a custom going back into antiquity of using sympathetic magic and the power of healing afforded by sacred wells and the nearby sacred trees. The original sentiment was certainly not one of you got nowt for nowt, but rather that you got nowt without following the proper method. In a time where giving a gift that could be termed a "possession" to the otherworldly beings that were thought to be mankind's helpers, you DID get nowt for nowt in some cases. (Yes, thats what the Potter elf who is given the sock was based on, most of it has origins in folore of one country or another). It's an ancient custom bastardised by modern "pay for salvation" and "capitlist bargaining" type thinking. Not to mention the bastardisation of the beliefs behind such customs by mixing them with other cultures and time periods.

The whole "the spirits will tell you if you are doing it right or not" would seem to be a get out clause being trumped out as an excuse.

I think your penultimate sentence sums up the modern day problem Branwen. The author of the article, Rowan, writes ...

Nowt is got for nowt, as we say in Yorkshire, and it went without saying that one paid for one's renewed health by leaving an offering for the spirit of the well or spring. Today there is a tendency again to throw a few coins into the water (a practice which had been very common in Roman times), though traditionally one left either a piece of clothing tied to a nearby tree or some other evidence of the cure anticipated. The tying of rags is the most common of these practices and is still in widespread use today, such wells being generally known as "rag" or "cloutie" wells, the idea being that as the rag rotted so the disease or illness withered until it had gone - so no instant cures were presumably expected. This presupposes that the rag left as a gift was of an organic, ie biodegradeable, substance, typically wool, linen or cotton. A visit to many sites today will reveal that modern understanding of this ancient practice leaves much to be desired as you can find scraps of nylon lace or string, polythene, even magnetic recording tape and other such synthetic (and therefore non-degradeable) substances, tied to branches. According to the old lore, the diseases represented by these offerings would take a long time, if not a lifetime(!) to cure. On a visit to Madron Well in Penwith several years ago, I found a Berlei bra draped across several branches - persumably some sort of fertility spell. On a later visit last summer it had gone. Perhaps if "Madron" does indeed commemorate the "Mother" (as has been suggested by more than one writer) the donor had had sextuplets and come back to remove it!

I wish you wellness from your 'flu (no irony intended).
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