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"Just be who you are, calm and clear and bright." - Richard Bach, Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah

Irish Holy Wells, part 1

I have visited six holy wells for novel research over the past couple of weeks. Some were well tended, others neglected and even polluted. Some were enchantingly situated, others less so. But each of them has a long history and tradition behind it, even if they’re seldom visited these days.



St. Attracta’s Well in Clogher, County Sligo. If you follow that link, you’ll see just how much further into disrepair this well has fallen since those photographs were taken several years ago. You can still see the bullaun and “serpent’s eggs,” but the crucifixion carving has been removed (for safekeeping, one hopes!)



A 17th-century memorial slab at St. Lasair’s Well.


The next day I stopped by St. Lasair’s Well, which is just across the road from Kilronan Abbey in County Roscommon. (Somewhere in the graveyard is the final resting place of Turlough O’Carolan.) Kilronan means “church of Ronan,” by the way—Ronan and Lasair are father-and-daughter saints. Her well is in the midst of refurbishment.





Unfortunately, the stone commemorating the visit of John Paul II is now on the ground gathering rainwater and other muck.


Because of the renovations, all the bits and pieces people had left at the well over the years were scattered on the Mass rock a few paces away.



One of those Marys glows in the dark.






Some of the religious medals and jewelry are quite lovely.


Here I found my first “rag tree”: a bush or tree near a holy well where people leave items belonging to a loved one in need of healing. It could be as simple as a scrap of clothing, a bit of yarn, or a set of rosary beads; or you could find children’s shoes, stuffed animals…even a pacifier. (Along with this teacup, I found an unopened package of Weetabix. St. Lasair is all set for breakfast whenever she wants it.) I have an even better example of a rag tree to show you in a future post.


3 Comments to Irish Holy Wells, part 1

  1. Susan's Gravatar Susan
    April 22, 2014 at 7:27 am | Permalink

    I love it! St. Lasair is ready for breakfast whenever she wants it! You do paint a great picture with words…The pictures are so vivid, I feel that I’m taking a pilgrimage with you. But I feel like tidying up some of the shrines. That makes me sad. xoxo

  2. Kate's Gravatar Kate
    April 23, 2014 at 11:36 pm | Permalink

    I love old stone relics. I’d like to see one of these someday.

    The muck looks like a heavy beard.

  3. Andy Carty's Gravatar Andy Carty
    February 13, 2015 at 4:33 am | Permalink

    Hi there, I was just researching my 200 year old Traditional Irish Cottage located in Co Fermanagh. The cottage is linked to an ancient Holy well ( Saint Lasairs well ) located apron 400 meters upslope. The wells waters runs into the cottage garden & into a large lake ( Lough Mac Nean.)
    Also associated with the cottage is an old 17 century medieval church (beside the Holy Well)

    The entire site is located within Marble Arch geo park, Florence court, N.Ireland.

    The Point… You say you are researching for your Novel.
    Then, you are more than welcome to come along and stay in the cottage,( @ no cost… just keep the fights on & turf fire lit) research and explore the area (esp Claddagh Glen, apron 600 meters away.)

    I work away a lot of the time. Therefore the cottage is empty and is needing some human contact.
    If interested, please feel free to drop me an email for some photos of the cottage.



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Hi! I'm Camille. I only write stories that could never ever happen in real life, though I do believe in real-life magic. If we were in the same room I'd fix you a cup of tea, but for now we'll have to settle for a virtual connection. I'm really glad you're here.