Spending her spring break in Ireland, Hadley has shared a post about a holy well she’s encountered!:
During my travels in Ireland, I was driving through County Clare and saw a sign for Saint Brigid’s Well. Remembering the name as one of the Holy Wells of Ireland, I pulled over to take a look. Later in town, when I was asking the locals about more information on the well, I found out that “Saint Brigid’s Well” is actually a misnomer. This is because there are, in fact, two wells, each just outside of Kildare in Co. Clare and about a mile apart. (So of course I had to jump back in the car and track down the second one). The reason they both are considered “St. Brigid’s Well” is because they both emanate from the same spring, considered to be holy and healing. The “healing” properties of this spring, however, are in much debate. This is because the well doesn’t incorporate just one, or even two, religions. Saint Brigid’s Well is the site of three different denominations: Christianity, Paganism, and Druidism.
This all began with St. Brigid herself. According to Celtic belief, Brigid was one of three daughters and part of the Tuatha De Danann, the race of gods and demigods of Irish mythology. She was known as the Goddess of the Sacred Flame of Kildare and associated with elevated thought, such as philosophy, wisdom, and most importantly, healing. However, due to inadequate written records, when the spring became first associated with her remains unclear. It is also unclear when Irish mythology in antiquity can be considered Paganism and when it can be considered Druidism since so little is known about the Druids. However, references to Brigid can be found associated with both.
Finally, enter Christianity. It is no secret that much of modern Christian practices originated from the attempted assimilations of non-monotheistic religions, such as Paganism, that worshiped primarily nature-based deities, and Druidism, that believed in the immortality of the soul, and Brigid is no exception. As Christianity was forced on the Celts, Brigid of the Tuatha De Danann became St. Brigid of Kildare, the story claiming she had been born in a Druid slave family, but could never eat what was brought to her because they were so impure. She supposedly performed many miracles, the majority of which involved healing, and was called the “Mary of the Gaels.”
This dual-religious worship is still seen at the well today. Christian worshipers asking for healing follow very specific instructions, including when and where to kneel, which prayers to say, how many times, etc. However, the only things generally left are rosaries (seen in the picture which her statue). The Pagan worshipers, on the other hand, to this day still leave many votives and offerings, most notably ribbons. According to Pagan belief, healing occurs upon proper offering, followed by drinking of the water. I won’t include both the Pagan and Christian rituals specifically since it’s rather long, but here’s the link to its Wikipedia; its history of the well is lacking but at the bottom is a good explanation of the ritual (please note that it is not perfect in that they’ve combined both the Christian and Pagan rituals).