Fifty Holy Wells, #4
I really look forward to these well stories every Sunday, they make me so happy 🙏
This past week I found myself wishing for Sunday morning to arrive and therefore your next installment of your Irish well series. They give me a great deal to ponder on as I go about my life during the intervening days - thank you.
I was in Newcastle-upon-Tyne last week and, inspired by this series, I visited St Mary's Well in Jesmond. It's a holy well down a wooded lane in a pleasant suburban neighbourhood, although I wouldn't be surprised if many of the people who live nearby have no idea it's here.
About a hundred yards along the lane you can step through a gap to find yourself in a gloomy hollow about 20ft across, surrounded by trees and a wooden fence.
A channel leading to the well source has been constructed of stone at some time in the past. On the day I was there there there was a smallish pool of water speckled with a confetti of early autumn leaf falls. Carved into the stone above the source is the Latin word 'gratia' ('thanks').
Despite being in the middle of a busy residential area, when I stepped into the hollow I felt as if I had entered another world. Everything was silent and dark, with a damp odour. I'd be tempted to say it felt spooky, but perhaps what I mean is 'different'.
This is a Marian well (like Derrycrag) and although there is no shrine here, there were offerings that were clearly recent.
An internet search tells me the well is linked to the nearby chapel of St. Mary, which was once one of the holiest pilgrimage sites in the UK. However, although the chapel dates to the 12th-century, the well supposedly dates to only the 17th-century, which I find a little surprising.
The well is Grade II listed, which means it is protected by law, and I found that there is a local 'friends' support group: https://www.stmaryswell.org
I spent about half an hour there and said a prayer to the Holy Mother before departing.
I will try to add a couple of pictures but I don't know whether the site permits this, so I apologise if they don't appear.
I spent most of this morning watering my houseplants with tap water... my orchids that I fuss over. For sure, spending so much time watering house plants, handling them, observing them, seeing their growth is in another time frame, like much of what we do around our house. It is not the time frame of this well, though...
Yesterday I was at the funeral of someone dear to me, a French man who was baptized Catholic at a late stage in his life. He put his considerable musical gifts to play music at the Sunday mass, and he and his talents will be sorely missed now, I fear.
One of the hymns we sang was for/to Mary :
"Look at the star, invoke Mary, if you follow her, you will fear nothing... she will lead you on the path....If your soul is overcome with anger ; jealousy, and treason overwhelm you, if your heart goes over into the abyss, carried away by streams of sadness, She rises over the sea, she shines, her splendor and her rays give light over the whole world, from the skies, to the bottom of the sea. If you follow (her), you won't stray, if you pray to her, you will not weaken. You will fear nothing, she is with you, and, she will guide you right into port."
She was with us yesterday, and at the well too.
I have not seen holy wells in France, and do not know if they exist in such a "rationalist" country these days. It's good to see that they're still alive in Ireland.
I am so happy that the school children wrote down their thoughts about this. In the craziness of the world we live in , these stories and memories will live on .
The rags on the Rag tree will come and go, stories will be handed down for generations to come.
Ha! It was the Pater Noster. But I probably said the Hail Mary in Latin too. Why Latin? I dunno -- it felt more magical, I guess.
Thank you for the reference to your writing, the Cross and the Machine. They reverberate so deeply in me and speak to what has happened all my life....that relentless presence of Christ and the ongoing death and resurrection within me to admit my love for the mystical path of consciousness, the teachings command.
Why do you think Rod was praying a Roman Catholic prayer in Latin?
So fun to see these shrines and wells...they exist in the Azores too. There are villages there(Azores) that were settled by Irish that fled the potato famine..but the Portuguese are very devoted to Mary as well.
I was looking at family records there yrs ago and was so impressed with the beautiful hand written documents. Are they readable to the computer educated users of our time? I have heard that recent college grads can not read them...astonishing how advanced and lost we have become.
I absolutely love this series. There is so little of this in the US. The only thing I can think of is Chimayo and its holy dirt in New Mexico.
But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God” Acts 7:55
Sky blue is supposed to be Mary's color, right? That box is painted the same hue as the wellhouse from last week. I ran into this passage from the Orthodox theologian Florensky the other day:
“Sophia is the true Sky; in sophianic experiences the perception of blueness is present; therefore, blue is the natural symbol of Sophia, and hence the Sky—Sophia’s symbol—appears blue to us. In short, Sophia does not appear in a blue environment because the sky is blue; rather the sky is blue because Sophia has a blue environment.”
(He helped develop a school of thought where Sophia, the Wisdom of God, is closely connected to the Virgin Mary.)
So me and the machine are not getting along today. 🤣 I tried to type a comment twice. The first time most of the text deleted while I was typing (some glitch of iPhone where if you type to fast it sends a trigger to delete?!). Then the second time I finished and posted the comment, but then accidentally either deleted it or hid it irretrievably from myself and maybe everyone else (I don’t know).
Anyway I will try to summarize:
--Enjoying the well series, thank you!
--Inspired to check out holy wells if/when I ever make it to Ireland
--I have often instinctively looked for or wanted to note sacred natural places in my home place of Western Canada. But unless it is an acknowledged indigenous site, such markers do not exist
--The only other thing that comes to mind are “memorial benches.” These are usually in parks or along walking paths, and families will pay for a bench to be put in with a plaque on it acknowledging their departed loved one. On a couple of occasions I have seen benches commemorating a wedding or most touchingly, the birth of a grandchild (that one was particularly well done with a beautiful poem included.)
While this isn’t exactly a holy well type location it is a way of locating a sort of transcendent meaning on the landscape. I know I always feel compelled to read the plaques, though I can rarely tell much about the person from what is shared.
Beautiful, the rags as incarnation of hopes. Makes me soft for humanity.
"We may be in the age of vaccines and gene therapy, but we are still, it seems, in the age of the rag trees too. Even in the heart of an Irish winter."
The poetic juxtaposition is striking. Reading about these ancient holy wells while being conscious that I am a 'modern' is a spiritual experience.
The opening of the well looks like the wound in the side of Christ. It does seem like the mysterious lady you met at the end of the chamber was Mary, who is always near the heart of her son. Are you familiar with Our Lady of Lourdes and St. Bernadette?