I really wasn’t sure what I was going to write about today. I have a lot of things on the go at the minute, but none of them are at a newsworthy stage yet, so this morning found me (only a little desperately) trawling through my copious Beastie photo archive, plus ALL my emails, in the hope of finding some pictures that I haven’t used before.
But the good news is that my search wasn’t in vain! What are the chances?! I found a series of lost Paddy and Plunkett pics from an adventure they had last spring, at a time when I was super-busy. I had kept them back for future use, and then forgotten about them (sorry lads)… Until today! Let’s take a trip into the past, shall we?
And perhaps in more ways than one…
“Hey Plunkett, where are we? And what’s with the coins stuck in the tree?”
“Glad you asked, Paddy. See that water down there? We’re at an ancient holy well!”
There are hundreds of holy wells dotted all over the island of Ireland. And while some of them are marked with big, glitzy shrines decorated with flowers, statues and religious trinkets, many of them are so simple you’d hardly notice them. They’re often found in wild, remote places… like this one, tucked away in the corner of an ancient forest.
Like many holy wells, the water here is said to have healing properties. In fact, some wells are specialists, offering relief from dental problems, diseases of the eye, back pain, digestive trouble… You name it, there’s probably a well for it! This one was allegedly used by St Colmcille (also known as St Columba), an Irish abbot from the 6th century who brought Christianity to what is now Scotland. The sign beside the well says he “performed many acts of healing” here, although it doesn’t take a stance on whether he or the water deserves the credit!
Further down the road is another well. This one is a specialist… in the treatment of warts!
The rags in the tree branches are tied there as part of the cure. As the fabric rots away, your troublesome wart should also magically vanish. But before you start thinking this is an especially warty part of the country, don’t worry! The rags can also signify a request for help, which will be answered once the cloth has disintegrated. The well itself is just underneath the trees, bubbling up from this moss-covered boulder.
After this, the boys had time for one more well before they headed home for dinner. St Aidan’s Well seems more formal than the first two, and is associated with nearby St Aidan’s church.
Although St Aidan’s (formerly St Caden’s, after a follower of St Patrick) has been the site of a church since the 13th century, the well has been in use much longer and suggests that the area had spiritual significance back in pre-Christian times too. In fact, although most wells are now associated with a Christian saint, it’s thought that these places were considered sacred or significant long before Christianity arrived on these shores.
And as usual, we’ll be back next week – hopefully with at least one finished monster project to share! See you then…