Brigid’s Well, Tully, County Kildare, Ireland
This page features photos of Brigid’s Well in County Kildare, Ireland. This well is a lovely example of the ongoing practice of water veneration in the Celtic world. Many wells and springs are dedicated to Brigid in Ireland; this one is especially lovely because of its location, within walking distance of the town of Kildare (“the church of the oak”) where priestesses of Brigid, and later nuns, kept a sacred flame burning until the sixteenth century (and where, even today, Brigidine sisters keep a perpetual fire lit in honor of Brigid).
The well is located just off a country road, on a small parcel of land in the midst of pastures where cows and sheep graze. The well produces so much water that the rushing sound of the flowing stream creates a meditative ambience where it is easy to enter a contemplative state of consciousness. Leading up to the well is a row of five small standing stones, which according to local tradition represent virtues of Brigid: meditation, hospitality, charity, peacemaking, and reverence for nature. At the head of the stream, a small stone arch has been built, above the concrete “shoes” through which the water flows in two streams. Some observers have suggested that the “shoes” actually look more like breasts, the water flowing through them like milk through a mother’s breasts.
The well itself is surrounded by a short round wall, emphasizing its feminine symbolism. Next to it is a clootie (prayer rag) tree, where supplicants offer coins and strips of cloth, tied to the tree as “time-capsule” prayers. The entire site has a feeling of deep holiness that transcends the religious differences of Pagan and Christian; this is a site of universal peace and love.
Here are some pictures taken at Brigid’s Well in the summer of 2002.
This handpainted sign is as fancy as it gets.
The emphasis here is on spirituality, not “polish.”
In this picture you see the well in the background,
the five standing stones,
and the stone arch where the stream begins.
This photo was taken with my back to the well,
looking toward the carpark. Notice the Brigid’s Cross
on the arch, and the “shoes” beneath it.
A better look at the five stones.
They stand for five qualities associated with Brigid:
meditation, hospitality, charity,
peacemaking, and reverence for nature.
A closer look at the arch and the “shoes” beneath it.
This picture (taken at a different holy well)
shows how the water flows through the “shoes”
in a way that has made some observers suggest
that they represent breasts: the breasts of the
Divine Feminine, nurturing us with her healing waters?
Two photos of the holy well itself.
Notice how someone has superimposed a
Brigid’s Cross on top of the Christian cross.
Traditional customs do not die easily in the Celtic world.
The clootie, or prayer-rag tree,
located next to the well (which
is seen in the foreground of this picture).