Photographs of a not-very Christian holy well, in the wilds of Ireland…
On the road that runs along the coast of Co. Clare, between the Cliffs of Moher and the holiday hamlet of Liscannor, there’s an innocuous looking Catholic grotto, sitting next to a pub. From the outside, it just looks like every other shrine in Ireland – tacky, and slightly decrepit. Inside the gate, beside the statue of a woman in black and white, wielding a staff (a black and white Virgin Mary, if you like) there’s a dark tunnel, leading into a holy well dedicated to Saint Brigid. There’s dozens of such holy wells around Ireland, but this one is different.
People come from all over to visit this well, and to leave a bizarre collection of offerings inside the small, man-made cave. Apart from the candles, there’s scarves and handkerchiefs, holy statues in various states of disarray and draped in rosary beads, Stacked up agains the walls are soft toys, prosthetics, dog collars, photographs of loved ones. Visitors to St. Brigid’s well come there to seek solace, to ask for help in finding missing persons and lost pets. to wish the dead well, to pray for sick children.
As a result, the junk mounts up. Piles of the stuff, in mouldy, organic heaps. Half a dozen plaster Christs stand together as if in conversation, some chipped, some headless, and some furry with mossy green life.
Each time that I visit St. Brigid’s Well, it’s different. Those responsible for taking care of the well clear it out every so often, only for the shelves and ledges to fill up again with new offerings. One wonders what they do with the stacks of religious paraphernalia. Is there a landfill somewhere or a warehouse, full of decommissioned St. Brigid’s Well items?
St. Brigid, of course, never really existed as a Christian saint. She only appeared after the fire goddess, Bríd was assimilated into Irish Christian belief. No two sources seem to agree on who Bríd was, or how many aspects she had, or how Christian she is or was. And I’m not about to get into that row. Not yet, anyway.
All photos © 2004 Dave Walsh. For High Rez versions, visit davewalshphoto.com
All photos © 2004 Dave Walsh. For High Rez versions, visit of these St. Brigid’s Well photographs, please visit my stock photograph website »