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Velvet ribbon votive offering, Isle of Man, 1880-1916

This blue velvet ribbon was found tied to rushes growing around St Maughold’s Holy Well on the Isle of Man. Named after St Maughold (d. 498 CE), the well is said to have healing properties. Rags and ribbons were used to wash the afflicted area and after prayers were said they were left at the well – usually tied with others to the branches of nearby trees, which became known as fairy trees. Some believe that when the rag has rotted away, the person is cured or that the material maintained a connection between the visitor and the well. Tradition has it that at St Maughold’s well, whoever picks up one of these offerings will catch the disease attached to it.

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Glossary: votive offering

Objects or monuments donated by an individual for a public place or shrine. The object is usually given in gratitude for deliverance from distress.