Tag Archives: sacred sites

Holy Wells and Sacred Springs

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Holy Wells and Sacred Springs, a set on Flickr.

Via Flickr:
Photos from visits in 2011 to Holy Wells and Sacred Springs. 8 July 2011: Giants Well at St. Michael’s Mount; Madron Well. 31 October 2011: Chalice Well and White Spring, Glastonbury, England. Well of Tara.

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Rock Close: Druid’s Cave and Circle

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Druids Cave and Circle
* The Rock Close * Blarney Castle, Blarney, Ireland * http://www.blarneycastle.ie *

Right next to the Witch’s Stone and Kitchen is the Druid’s Circle and Sacrificial Altar that is believed to be a traditional Celtic stone circle that was once used by Druids who practiced on the grounds long ago. The Senior Druid Priest was reputed to have lived in the Druid’s cave. Nearby is the Faerie Glade, round the hill from the Witch’s Kitchen, underneath giant gunnera leaves and it is reputed to have lots of faeries. Across from the Faerie Glade is the Druid’s Circle.

Not much is known of these rock monuments, circles, and cave – but they are believed to be prehistoric dwellings and ritual sites. The Rock Close Dolmen is believed to be 4,000-5,000 years old. The Druid Circle and Cave are not officially dated nor is the Witches’ Kitchen. We do know that the castle owners in the early 1800’s landscaped around these features making the Rock Close as it is today with the myths and legends surrounding it. As Druidism in this era was word-of-mouth and oral traditions and no archaeological surveys, excavations, or artifacts – the guesses of the use of these remains are hypothetical and guess work. There is still little known about the ancient Druids even though the revivalistic Meso-Pagan and Neo-Pagan Druid faiths are very abundant today throughout the world. We do know the Druids were classed as “Bards”, “Ovates”, and “Druids” – all of whom shared similar functions albeit the Druids were the administrators and leaders, the Ovates the diviners and healers, and the Bards the story tellers, musicians, and keepers of the oral wisdom. Most of what we do know about the ancient Druids is from writings by Julius Caesar and the Romans, all biased from the enemy perspective. In that the Romans never really conquered or inhabitated Ireland like it did the rest of the Celtic world, there is no telling what the Irish Druids were up to outside of myths and legends found in the Mythological Cycle. There is a purported “sacrificial altar’ here that Blarney Castle labels as such, but it purely deduced from basic knowledge that Druids performed rituals that involved sacrifice in the ancient days.

The Echoe Ghost Hunters investigated this area in 2010-2011 and claimed very strong EMP’s were recorded in the area of the Witches’ Kitchen. Most of the lore in this area is centered around the Witch of Blarney.

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Purification Pools at Saveok

Saveok Purification Pools:
Saveok Mill, Greenbottom, Cornwall, England

Located on the small local farm of Saveok Mill called “Saveok Water Archaeological Site”, resident Jacqui Wood discovered very curious archaeological features in her backyard when clearing the ground for a metal-work furnace on her land as one of her experimental archaeology projects. One of the phases of the site, was the uncovering of sacred stone-lined purification pools that had a plethera of ritual offerings within them such as cloth, heather branches, a cauldron, clothing, shoe parts, pins, finger clippings, and hair. This votive pool was found to have been filled in during the mid-18th century. The silt appears to have been imported into the site from elsewhere. This site phase appears to be a Neolithic ritual area was a series of Spring pools that may have been utilized as ‘purification pools’ or ‘sacred wells/springs’ through the ages. This natural spring line were large rectangular pools stone-lined with white quartz cores. As of this writing, there are at least two such pools on the site. Patterns of the stone lining, pool contents, and the seasonal filling of the second pool appears to have religious or ritualistic usage. Both of these features are very unique in Cornish archaeology – the only other such find was under the Maeshowe monument in Orkney that had a similar stone lined drain. Since anti-witchcraft laws were in place since 1541, their participation in these activities would have definitely remained hidden, for at this time the King James version of the Bible at the time declared into law that “thou shalt not suffer a witch to live“. [Exodus 22:17] The stone-line spring may have been utilized as a ‘holy well’ by these residents as well as its prehistoric use as such. The spring was packed full of ‘offerings’ dating to at least the 17th century including 125 strips of cloth from dresses and clothing, as well as pins, remains of a cauldron, cherry stones, human hair, shoe parts, imported heather branches, and nail clippings – all very commonly used offerings to sacred springs and wells. Modern day applications of these elements can be found existing in sacred wells and springs throughout the Cornish landscape today. Pins and cloth are common offerings to wells. Heather branches are associated with luck. The scraps of clothing could potentially have been remnants of ‘clotiers’ that are found around most of the wells throughout the United Kingdom and Ireland perhaps from a tree that was alongside the spring or just offered into the pool directly. (see modern example in article on “St Madron’s Well” located 25 miles from this site) This Well and/or Spring had sometime after the time of Cromwell had been filled in and destroyed in order to hide the practices that were taking place on this site since at least Neolithic times. The death penalty for the practice of Witchcraft officially ended in 1735 and by that time, evidence of this ritual site was covered over, and later residents of the site would have not been aware of what lie beneath. Over 128 pieces of fabric, varying from different weaves, thickness, and color were found in the votive pool. There were over 48 leather shoe parts found in the votive pool from sandals to shoes. Shoe offerings are notably in history to be associated with female genitals and could have been deposited for fertility offerings. Heather branches found offered into the pool are potentially good luck offerings done by gypsies. Six delicate pins were also found in the votive pool.

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Merry Maidens Stone Circle

Merry Maiden Stone Circle

Cornwall, England

An infamous late neolithic stone circle on the coast of Cornwall, 2 miles south of the village of St. Buryan. It is also called the “Dawn’s Men” stone circle. It is thought to have been a 19 granite megalith stone circle back in the day that was 24 meters in diameter with stones standing as tall as 1.4 meters. The stones are regularly spaced around the circle with a gap at its eastern point. It was believed to have been used for ritual purposes for the stones are placed at the cardinal points of the compass it could also have been used from astronomical or calendrical functions. Suggestions that the 19 stones were important for people who celebrated the path of the moon through the great Lunar cycle. This is another reason why many of the stone circles in the Penwith area has 19 stones. It is believed that these were 19 dancing maidens and musicians who were turned to stone for dancing on a sunday – just like with the 9 maidens circle near Madron. But again, this myth is believed to be attributed to the Church trying to scare people away from visiting these sites.

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Madron Well

Madron Well, Wishing Tree, and Baptistry
Madron, Cornwall, England

This is one of Cornwall’s most actively sacred sites and blessing wells. It is throughout Cornish history known as a Cornish sacred site that was dedicated to Madron or Mabon, the Earth Goddess, as a site for the granting of wishes, answering of prayers, and its healing waters. To this day, people flock from all over the world to make requests or petitions by offerings of pins or coins to the well or by tying ‘clouties’ (or pieces of cloth) to the nearby bushes to appease the water spirits within the well to grant blessings. The well has a long history of healing properties. Up until the 18th century it was the only source of fresh water for Madron and Penzance. A stone baptistry was built near the well dating to the 6th century that was utilized for baptisms and blessings making use of the sacred waters that flow in this area. The baptistry is now just stone ruins measuring 7 x 5 meters with no roof (no evidence there was ever a roof). The blocks are made of granite. Spring water flows through the granite blocks into a basin located within the southwest corner of the ruins. A low altar stone, believed to be Pagan, can be found along the eastern wall with stone seats lining the walls. During my visit in June of 2010, the altar was in use as a memorial for a girl named Cherry who loved this site. I can only assume she recently passed away. The waters flowing from this Spring, feeding both the baptistry and the Pagan well is buried in lore about it hosting healing waters. The true ‘Pagan’ well is believed to be buried further into the marsh (approx. a half a mile from the baptistry) and not at the actual spot where people traditionally have been tying the clouties.

There is little evidence as to the existence of a actual Saint Madron and is believed that it was just a means by Christianity to take over a very Pagan sacred site to claim as their own. Author Misses Quiller-Couch stated that “No clue can be found as to whom St Madron was, or whence he came; beyond the fact that he lived in the hermitage which bears his name, nothing is known of him; there is even a diversity of opinion as to the sex of the saint, some writers speaking of him as a woman.”
It is told that local Pagan groups have located the original well and made the true location more accessible. The well is outlined by a stone surround and is located near the green mound known as “St Madderns” bed where pilgrims would sleep upon as part of the healing cure. Clouties or pieces of cloth are often cut from a person’s clothes, like I did with the shirt I wore to the site, and hung / tied to a thorn on the hawthorne tree for luck. Also tearing a piece of cloth off of the body where the body is ill will result in a cure for that which is ailing the requestor. East Cornish lore also has a custom of bathing in the sea on the three first sunday mornings in May – after which the children were brought to this site before sunrise to be dipped in the running water so that they may be cured of rickets, skin diseases, colic, shingles, aches, pains, and other child disorders. After being stripped naked, the children are plunged three times into the water, parents facing the sun, and passed around the well nine times from east to west. They were then dressed and laid by the side of the well to sleep in the sun – and if the water bubbled when they lied down, it was good sign the prayer/petition was heard. Not a word was spoken of the even for the whole time for fear it could break the spell. The water from the well has magical healing properties if drunk or applied to the body of the ill. The site is also used for love magic. Young girls often would visit the site in May to find their sweethearts by dropping crooked pins or small heavy things into the well in couples, and if the items stayed together the pair would be married. The number of bubbles surfacing from the fall will show the time that will elapse before the match is made. Sometimes two pieces of straw were weaved into a cross and fastened to the center by a pin to be utilized in these divinations. The area is extremely magical and enchanting. Walking in the forests around the Well on a breezy day will result in great tree chatter and omens revealed by dryads. Water naiads are also abundant in the Spring who grant the wishes/petitions. In 1996 there was an incident where unidentified persons who took offense to the Pagan practices of the Spring cut down to branches upon which the clouties were tied. Folklore states that the Bishop of Exeter brought a crippled man named John Trelille here … who was paralyzed from the waist down. Upon bathing in the waters on the first three thursdays in May, each time sleeping on St. Maderne’s bed, was miraculously cured of the paralysis.

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