“Lakes and rivers were seen as ways in which prayers could be carried to the deities. The waters were sacred messengers. Whereas lakes and rivers pour your supplications away and therefore calmed the gods or goddesses, or alerted them to your problem, the benefits of wells are usually depicted as being given freely to all.”
~from The Spiritual Traveler by Palmer & Palmer
To me, holy wells represent unconditional purity and sanctity, renewal, blessing and recovery. From illness. From the past… From whatever. I’m a big believer in ‘the fresh start’ and the ‘new beginning.’
I think this is because the symbolism of the goddess – and Saint – Brigid is sacred and beautiful to me, and I take it very personally. An ancient Celtic fire goddess, later turned saint by the early Irish Catholic church, both goddess and Saint Brigid are patrons of light, fire, poetry, brides, purification, renewal and holy wells.
Brigid’s time of year is early February, when snowdrops, the first flowers of spring, begin to appear, pushing their heads through the snow and the dark of late winter. There are many celebrations that exist in different guises, yet similar in essence, with which to honor Her. For instance, the medieval holiday of Candlemas, celebrated February 2nd, first inspired me to create the Brigid’s candle in 2001.
For roughly the past ten years, I’ve made candles in my kitchen during this holiday, honoring light and renewal, and creating this tool for others to do the same. I add drops of the holy well water to the wax as it is melting for an extra ‘benediction.’
The word Candlemas comes from the Latin word festa candelarum, the festival of candles, and it isn’t at all a coincidence that it falls on the Celtic fire celebration of Brigid, celebrated sundown February 1st to sundown February 2 and the feast day of Brigid the saint, February 1st.
Both the Goddess and the Saint Brigid also have a connection with smithcraft.
Which sounds rather random and odd, if one does not know that smithcraft and metalwork was a highly revered and honorable craft in the North and Hiberno-Saxon (ancient Irish) art movement of the 6th – 9th centuries, akin to magic. (When our goddess became Saint Brigit, the patron saint of smithcraft, brides, poetry and purification, she was said to have lived in Kildare, Ireland in the 5th century. And the first Vitae Brigitae, or Life of Brigid, was written c. 650 AD.)
In the Hiberno-Saxon art movement metalwork, particularly where the use of gold is concerned, revealed the concern with the transmutation of the soul into something higher, better, illuminated and purified. For the above reasons, I find it difficult to entirely separate Brigid’s array of symbolism from the ancient art of alchemy.
Holy Wells such as the ones in Kildare, Ireland, the Roman ones in Bath, or the Chalice Well in Glastonbury, England, are visited by thousands of pilgrims each year who bring with them their hopes and prayers of transmutation, purity and renewal.