Since this is Mythic Well’s inagural post, I figured I’d write about, well, wells.
Though they go by several names–sacred springs, holy wells, or even holy-hole–the practice of attributing healing and or other beneficial properties to a body of water is practiced across the globe. Many of these sites are said to have been touched by a person of note, historical or otherwise.
Evidence of holy wells reaches back to the Paeloithic era, such as at Wookey in Somerset, and at the well near Tadmarton Hill in Oxfordshire. The famous springs at Bath, Somerset, once called Aquae Sulis by the Romans, show evidence of being considered sacred by Iron Age Britons. Many pagan sites gradually evolved into Christian gathering places, such as the many wells dedicated to St. Bridget, patron saint of Ireland, who began as the goddess poetry and fire.
The Clootie Wells in Scotland are still frequented today. Their name is derived from the Gaelic word clout, which means rag. Visitors to the well would dip a strip of cloth in the sacred water, say a prayer and tie it to the tree. An alternative practice involves washing an affected body part with the rag, then tying the rag to the sacred tree; as the rag disintegrates over time, so does the ailment. Additional offerings, such as rosaries or votive candles, may also be left.
Perhaps the most famous sacred wells, are those located beneath the Norse world tree, Yggsdrasil, though we may only visit them via literature. The wells are called Urðarbrunnr, Hvergelmir, and Mímisbrunnr, each located under different roots of Yggsdrasil in distant lands. The wells feed Yggsdrasil with death, wisdom and life, respectively. The Norns care for Urðarbrunnr, where they also spin the webs of fate that will ultimately lead to Ragnarok.
Even today, human culture seeks sacred and healing spaces, to rest and recharge both physically and spiritually. Do you have a favorite place to relax, sacred or otherwise?