A few evenings ago we were hunting for a holy well and finally discovered it at the end of an old farm track, at the top of a grassy knoll. The area surrounding the well is an ancient ritual site with the remains of enclosures long buried in the deep grasses and wildflowers.
It was amazing to consider that this well has been in use in its Christianized form as St.Finnian’s well since the fifth or sixth century. Prior to that it may have been in use for many hundreds of years earlier as a pagan and prehistoric ritual site. A beautiful piece of quartz crystal marked the centre of the well’s enclosure. It’s interesting to note that offerings of quartz crystal stones and charms can often be found at ancient sites including stone circles and passage graves. An article about holy wells by Dr.Nancy Edwards states,”white quartz has been collected since prehistoric times because of its striking appearance, and that in the early medieval period white pebbles were sometimes associated with water and healing”. Making a quartz offering was thought to increase the power of the water and potentially provide a healing cure.
The site has been carefully restored by a gentleman in the community in loving memory of his nephew who tragically lost his life last year along with two of his friends. The flat stones placed around the perimeter will allow pilgrims to make their rounds. Connie Murphy, a locally respected historian, explained in his fascinating online article about Beara History, “‘Rounds’ consisted of walking on a path around the well in a clockwise direction reciting set prayers at the same time.”
A pool of clean clear water was visible in the well, a carefully wrapped portrait of Padre Pio was tucked gently inside the ferns growing out of the old stones, small crystals glittered in the gravel, and the sun’s setting rays cast long shadows from the white quartz pillar in the centre . Sometimes I wonder if it is the small snapshots of beauty that continue to give these old places their power.