Sunday, 29 January 2017

Searching for Brigid’s Well.


My older post on making Brigid's crosses HERE

Brigid’s Eve draws nearer and with thoughts of making crosses, I wandered down to the Lough Field to look at the reeds. 
Standing alone in this quiet place a phrase, spoken by a Donegal Seanchaí, came to mind:

“ There were two St Brigids.
There was St Brigid up in Kildare, but this is the Brigid from this place.”


This set me wondering about the Brigid who walks the land locally and who is remembered here in stories of stones, wells and small offerings. 



Stone by the roadside in Killeigh.
A local story relates that Brigid rested and left the imprint of her leg upon the stone.




St. Brigid’s Well, Rosenallis.
The saint is believed to have founded a church here and blessed the spring well.



Coins and white quartz at the well.



Brigid’s Cross made from reeds.
The old custom here was to make the cross from oak twigs, 
bind it with reeds and place it in the thatch for protection. 


St. Brigid was believed to have been born in Doire Aircean, Derryarkin, on the bog north of 
Croghan Hill, Co. Offaly and Brigid Begoibne, Brigid the Smith, had her workshop beneath the Hill. 

Another Brigid, not of fire but of healing waters, had a sacred well which flowed from Croghan.
In the distant past Croghan Hill emerged as an island from the surrounding lakes, a sacred place where water, earth and sky met. 



Map showing the Hill and bogland today.

A place where legends of the pagan goddess and saint intertwined. 



The Hill, reminiscent of a breast, appears to have long been a place of the sacred feminine.


The old name for the Hill is Cruachán Bri Éile, the prominent hill of Éile, an elusive mythological woman or goddess who was sister to Queen Maeve.
One source tells that the River Shannon erupted from a well, known as Linn Mna Feile, 
'the Pool of the Modest Woman’, sacred to Éile, found beneath Croghan. 

Several sacred wells were associated with the hill, some visible on old maps, though all but one are now lost. 



Only two old names were recorded Fuarán Well and Finneenashark Well, which cured headaches 
and was accompanied by an ancient Ash tree. 


With Lá Fhéile Bríde approaching I decided visit Croghan to search for clues to the whereabouts of
Brigid’s sacred well.



The Bronze Age mound upon the summit has never been excavated but is thought to contain 
the remains of Éile and her chariot. 
In local folklore it opens at Samhain, leading into the hollow hill and the Otherworld. 

Could this be the site of the elusive Well?




Croghan village.

I found the small village of Croghan and drove up the hill to view the site of St. Maccaille’s church, founded around 465 AD, and the remains of the cemetery.
In Christian lore it was here, at the hands of Maccaille, Bishop of Croghan, that St. Brigid received the veil.



Perched high on the hillside it is easy to imagine that the church was built here to claim the site 
from its’ pagan predecessors and proclaim the new religion.


A sacred well with a tree, seen in the illustration below, stood in the graveyard. 
This well was named for St. Maccaille, it’s older name unrecorded. 




 Did this well once belong Brigid ?


As the sky darkened I drove to the other side of the hill, to Glenmore, considered to be the place where earlier pagan veneration took place.  
Once a forested glen, three springs formerly emerged here from the rock of Croghan Hill, two of which rose beneath an ancient Ash tree.

My plan was to walk the land hereabouts looking for evidence of wells or bullaun stones, although 
I knew that two of the wells had long become dry. 
Driving uphill was fine until I approached the glen itself when the track became impassable by small car or even booted feet.



On a previous visit I had found the well, now dedicated to St. Patrick, 
although Brigid is still remembered here with fiery tinsel and a Brigid's Eye.


The older name for Patrick’s well is not recorded but like many other legendary Holy Wells, 
the water here will never boil and any stone taken from the site will return of its’ own accord. 

Disappointed I descended the Hill and stopped to look around the modern church of St. Brigid.
There was no sign nor information about her well but I did find a small stained glass panel of her.



Brigid holds her woven cross aloft in St. Brigid’s Church, Croghan.


My final glance at Croghan Hill was through dark, bare branches. 
I felt my way to Brigid’s Well was barred by too many changes or perhaps it had never existed at all.




Back home, by the fire, I dug deeper into an old book to discover that Brigid’s Well could once be found on the summit of Croghan, the exact location long forgotten. Her spring may even have been part of the mound's sacred space as it was in the passage tomb at Newgrange.
The story warned that if her well was ever discovered again the water would rise up violently to drown the cattle which graze upon its’ slopes, so it seemed fortunate that my search was fruitless.

***

When I closed my eyes that night images of the womanly hill appeared. 
Drifting towards sleep her well formed from the darkness, surrounded by ancient stones, shaded
by twisted branches, offering healing, reflection and respite from the modern world.



At the Sacred Well.

Brigid’s Well still flows within the Otherworld. 

















8 comments:

  1. A wonderful journey of discovery, I like the Bridget from this place, and what a beautiful image to finish with. The St Patrick Well is also rather fine, and the little churchyard so evocative and remote.

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    1. Thanks Freespiral - I agree the churchyard perched up high is quite lovely.

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  2. Maybe, just maybe....if Mna Feile is aspirated, Mna Fheile, then it could become both Eile, and Maccaille.....?

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    1. I'm not sure that the farming families would be too happy if the well was flowing again Eilidh.

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  3. Another wonderful blog Jane, I really loved this one and the painting of the well stirred something inside me, beautiful.Thank you xx

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    1. Thank you Michelle really glad you enjoyed my adventure and the painting! x

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  4. Enjoying your discoveries ad journeys very much. As I was born on St. Bridget's day and given the name Dara, I've been drawn to St. Bridget's legacy. Quite by accident I discovered the White Spring in Glastonbury also connected to St. Bridget. Have you been? I want to visit Cill Dara some day and spend time in the Irish countryside.

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  5. Thank you Darabridget. Yes, I visited the White Spring many times when I lived in UK. I hope you manage a visit to Ireland - there are many places sacred to Bridget here so I'm sure you'll love it.

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