Have you ever made a wish into a well? Did that wish come true?
In Ireland you may have heard of the hundreds of holy wells that are dispersed around the country. Considering the republic’s size, that is a lot of wells! The likelihood that wherever you stand in Ireland that you are also very close to a holy well is very high and you may not even know it. It also might be hard to know where to look. For starters, what is a holy well and why visit one?
Unlike the holy wells that most westerners recognize as the pools of water inside their churches, holy wells are naturally occurring. They are primarily outdoors and connected to a spring or body of water. Why they are located in certain spots is attributed to legend or the insight behind those who built them.
Many wells have been around for centuries. Most of them were built as sanctuaries for the locals to seek out in times of need. For example, today we have dentists and ophthalmologists. Hundreds of years ago these people didn’t exist and if they did, their services were so costly that most people could not afford them. Still eye and teeth problems have always occurred and if anything, our resources today are better then they once were. But for those from long ago, they may not have had an option other than a holy well.
Wells are typically found in remote locations except for some of the better known ones. Saint Brigid’s Well is a good example of a famous well. Many are named after St. Patrick or other sacred figures who had a particularly helpful hand in shaping the culture of Ireland. In times of distress and desperation, locals would hike long distances or travel uncommon pathways to find these places. Perhaps, their willingness to seek them out was a prerequisite for those who truly deserved assistance in the eyes of the gods. It is also possible that some could not get there themselves, but may have been able to send others on their behalf.
If and when they arrived the blessing would be presented to the deities. Whether or not it came true is a mystery.
Today we may not think we need these wells as much as we once did. We may have grown accustomed to relieving ourselves from this attachment to the spirit world. Lucky are the few who still seek these places out though. I know in these modern times, life seems to be laid out in a predictable and understandable fashion that many see not much point in visiting a holy well. However, for those who have made the time and sacrifice, they probably comprehend just how much that notion is a misnomer.