Wednesday, February 6, 2013


This is not a shot of St. Ciaran's well at Clonmacnoise. That one is a bit too touristy for my taste. This one is appropriately mossy, ferny and ivy covered. If you look really hard you can see the water. 

Ireland is dotted with springs and wells sacred to either the pagans or Christians or both. As Tom Cowan tells it, wells can be mighty particular about how they’re treated. Wash your clothes in one? Not a good idea. Dump your trash in one?  Not recommended. Show disrespect and the spirit in the well may just decide to go elsewhere. Taking the water with it.

There is holy well near the ruins of the ancient monastery of Clonmacnoise. And it went dry several years ago. Now it could be disrespect. It could be that the EU experts that oversaw the draining of local marsh lands in efforts “improve” the land might have had something to do with it. In any case, locals still visit the well and leave prayers tied onto a bush on strips of cloth. The local priest keeps removing the strips and folks keep leaving them.

Dry or not, Cowan led a pilgrimage to the well several years ago. Leaving the interpretation center behind, the group followed the path to the well. Sure enough, the well was dry. Prayers were said. Rattles were shaken, songs were sung. A few prayers tied to the bush. And back they went to the monastery ruins. In need of the facilities some of the group headed for the restrooms. Only to find them posted closed. It seems that the water, well it was gone. The water level dropped during the prayer meeting. And it hadn’t returned before the party left.   

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