I became obsessed with the sacred wells of Ireland after my first visit there. The first well we visited was St Brigid’s well in Liscannor. I researched St. Brigid’s Well as a part of our planned journey to Ireland, but at the time I was unaware it was one of many wells dedicated to Brigid. I was overtaken by the aura of the site, the wildness of Clare combined with the simplicity leaves one stunned at the site of the Holy Well. You can feel the presence of all those who had come before, all those who left prayer cards, pictures, poems and candles in the hopes their prayers would be answered by Ireland’s great Goddess.
You become aware of the great devotion the Irish people have to the wells and the entire site takes on a sense of the sacred that is palpable. You want to believe what those who visited before you believed, you want to feel the intensity of faith they had. The beauty and the devotion are intoxicating.
The Sacred wells were first used by the Celts in the belief that certain wells could cure certain ills. The purity of the water becomes an object of the devotion and it is so present and captivating. Visitors would dip pieces of cloth called clooties in the well and place it on the ailing part of the body. The clootie would then be tied in a nearby tree and as it dried and deteriorated, the illness was supposed to fade away as well.
After St. Patrick brought Catholicism to Ireland the devotion to and belief in Brigid and the sacred wells never diminished. The Church incorporated the custom into the body of the devotion in Ireland and Brigid the great Goddess now became St. Brigid the humble converted servant. The Church couldn’t break the Irish peoples devotion to her so they diminished her, raised St. Patrick to a higher level and conquered Ireland. Her legend and that of the Tuatha de Danann continues on in Ireland to this day. The beauty and the mystery of the wells carries on because they are awe inspiring and the sense of the sacred they embody doesn’t fade.
There are 3,000 Holy Wells in Ireland, we have visited 14 of them to date. Each has a unique personality, each well mapped for our journey a sacred quest. The adventure has turned into a mission bringing more family and friends into the trek. We have climbed hills in the pouring rain, crossed muddy fields, traversed grave yards and talked to many cows along the way. Our adventure continues, I will post more photos of other wells as time goes on.