A day celebrating Scottish folk magic and community traditions hosted by
the Taibhsear Collective who are launching their album, Tales of The
The day features presentations by Jess Smith, Dr Julian Goodare, Claire Hewitt, Dr Valentina Bold and Ross Parish, with workshops on traditional
herbal use, mead-making, folk magic, traditional crafts and much more.
I’ll be discussing customs and traditions of Holy wells with a special focus on Nottinghamshire
International Dowsing Day 5 May
Sacred Springs and Wells
So what’s the difference between a Spring and a Well? In modern-day language, a Spring is a source of water which effuses from the land… or any other substrate: a Well is a hole in the ground, from where water is drawn. However, when we examine the etymology of each word, the Old English word for ‘to spring, to rise, to gush’ was “wiellan”. In Old Norse it was “vella”.
Thirteenth Century, Old High German describes any source of water as “sprung”. So, it would appear that in many respects, the two words are interchangeable.
During the last 3 years I have been following and mapping two Telluric Energy Lines inland from the East Yorkshire coast. During this adventure, I have made use of several Ordnance Survey Maps to plot various points of interest along the Lines. Clearly marked on all the maps are springs and wells, some even showing the names given to them. Research into these sources of water proved extremely interesting and revealed that each had a history intertwined with local, ritual, religious and rural custom; sometimes a combination of all four.
It was no coincidence that I was to attend a presentation, given by Claire Heron at the 2017 Mysterious Earth Conference. The topic described the purpose and nurture of Sacred Springs and Wells. Nor could it have been a coincidence that whilst integrating the positions of ancient settlements along the course of the Gyspey Race, a water course of varying size which traverses the Yorkshire Wolds and can in parts disappear underground for years only to burst back to life through many springs; discover that it had not one but two sources!
I will share with you an example of one of my visits: to the small village of Hapham, once an important focal point for trade and commerce in East Yorkshire.
St. John’s Well is a roadside spring on the outskirts of Harpham and is documented to have existed in the early 700’s AD when, then just plain John of Harpham, a monk, sought to slake the thirst of the army of the Anglian Prince Athelstan who were en route to the banks of the river Humber to engage Anlaf The Dane and his invading Norsemen.
In true ‘dowser-like’ fashion, John struck his staff into the ground and hey presto “a fount of pure water flowed freely.” After John died in 721, eventually retiring as Bishop of Beverley, he was Canonized and the well took his saintly name. Qualities variously attributed to the water of the well are, a cure for headaches and eye infections and the ability to calm wild beasts!
A stone dome, possibly an old font from the local church, was added in 1856 with access to the water being from a small arch facing East.
Unfortunately, in 1998, one of the churchwardens decided the well required renovation and the whole structure was strengthened and turned 90 degrees to face the road. Alas, this was a great mistake as gradually the flow of water decreased and now the well is dry. Local belief that the waters of the well benefitted from the early morning Sun shining into it, may have been vindicated.
International Dowsing Day 2018 falls on a Saturday. This is a perfect opportunity for individuals, groups, families and friends to explore the sacred wells and springs in their locality and share their experiences by sending short reports to the BSD.
As International Dowsing Day has now grown from a brilliant concept in 2011 to a permanent fixture within dowsing communities’ calendars in Ireland, France, Scandinavia, Holland, Canada, USA, India, Australia and probably other Countries who we have, as yet, not heard from, it would be a huge opportunity to compare and explore the folklore and traditions of other cultures and celebrate those qualities
Sikhs to get Amrat Jal from Hassanabal starting next month
LAHORE: Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) Chairman Muhammad Siddiqul Farooq told media on Sunday that Sikhs will be able to get Amrat Jal from Sarover Sahib Hassanabdal starting next month.
He said that it was long desired by followers of Sikh religion to receive the sacred water (Amrat Jal) from Hassanabdal.
“Two water treatment plants are being installed along with other arrangements for making available water,” he said, adding that Amrat Jal had not been available even at the Gurdwara Janam Asthan Nankana Sahib for 67 years. He said that the sacred well had now been cleaned and water from it would begin to be released soon.
He added that there had been a shortage of washrooms and accommodation facilities at Nankana Sahib, which is currently being addressed through the construction of new rooms and washrooms.
Moreover, Farooq said that four yatra promoters had been registered and efforts were being made to register more so as to facilitate yatrees (pilgrims) coming from all over the world.
The ETPB chairman said that all these efforts were being made in keeping with Islamic teachings which advocate harmony and tolerance.
New Pilgrimage route involving holy wells
New pilgrimage route to be launched from East Lothian
13 October 2017
Image copyrightChurch of Scotland
A new pilgrimage route that travels through coastal scenery from North Berwick in East Lothian to Lindisfarne is to be launched.
The Forth to Farne Way will take modern-day pilgrims along pathways and through places linked to Christianity’s earliest days in Scotland.
Celtic missionary saints associated with the route include St Aidan, St Baldred, St Cuthbert and St Ebba.
It is one of five Pilgrim Ways under development just now in Scotland.
Lord Wilson of Tillyorn, patron of the Scottish Pilgrim Routes Forum and former Lord High Commissioner of the Church of Scotland, will formally open the new route at a service in St Mary’s Parish Church, Whitekirk, on Sunday at 11:00.
Rev Joanne Evans-Boiten, minister of Athelstaneford, Whitekirk and Tyninghame, who initiated the effort to develop the new route, said a group of people would walk a section of the route from Whitekirk to North Berwick after the official opening ceremony.
She said: “We are very excited to be launching the new route on Sunday and everyone is welcome to join us on the walk.
“We will make sure that everyone gets back to their car.”
Whitekirk is one of many sites along the route that attracted pilgrims in the late Middle Ages, she said.
She added: “Thousands of people came to Whitekirk because of a very famous holy well.
“That is why we have such a large church in such a small place.
“The story is that Agnes Countess of Dunbar had sustained injuries defending Dunbar castle when it was under siege. She visited a hermit living near Whitekirk and he told her to go to the holy well and drink the water.
“After visiting the well the Countess was healed and she went on to put up a shrine here that became famous throughout Europe.”
In mediaeval times pilgrims travelled the coastal route from Lindisfarne to St Andrews crossing the Firth of Forth by ferry from North Berwick.
The 72-mile pilgrim route follows parts of three well-marked designated footpaths: the John Muir Way, and the Berwickshire and Northumberland coastal paths.
Nick Cooke, secretary of the Scottish Pilgrim Routes Forum, said: “The route goes through some very important places with a strong pilgrimage heritage, from Whitekirk itself to Coldingham Priory which was one of the largest Benedictine monasteries in Scotland in its day.
“The steering group volunteers have done tremendous work, but there is a lot more to be done.
“The next stage will be to develop waymarking and interpretation to tell the stories of these special places as well as provide accommodation for pilgrim walkers making this journey.”
Two talks next week – please consider supporting and attending if local!
Claire Heron admin on FBs Holy Wells and Sacred Springs is giving a talk on Sacred Waters, Holy Wells and Springs at Westmorland Dowsers this coming Saturday 27th May at 10.30am in Shap Memorial Hall. Followed by a field visit in the afternoon. £6 members and £8 non members. All Welcome! https://sites.google.com/site/westmorlanddowsers/
On Sunday 22nd May, I am discussing Holy Wells and healing springs, I am up against Morris Dancing, food fermentation and whistle making so wish me luck!
Ritual “Litter” Redressed Workshop, 5th May 2017 Bayfordbury Campus, University of Hertfordshire Programme
Details of a conference I am presenting at #rituallitter
PANEL 1 10:25 Tiina Aikas, ‘Contemporary offerings at Sámi sacred places in Taatsi, Finland’
10:50 R. B. Parish, ‘‘Votive’ offerings and healing wells: A historical and modern perspective’
11:05 Lindsay Fricker, ‘British Seaside Piers: An archaeological perspective’
11:35 Refreshment break
PANEL 2 11:55 Sonja Hukantaival, ‘Contemporary deposits in buildings and ships – who cares?’
12:15 Melissa Beattie, ‘Eight Years [G]on[e]: A Study of the Torchwood Memorial in Cardiff Bay’ (video)
12:30 Sara Hannant, Title TBC
12:45 Paul Graves-Brown, ‘Celebrity Veneration: The creation of spontaneous street shrines and tribute archives’
13:15 Lunch (to be provided)
14:15 Delun Gibby, ‘Sacred Circle: Contemporary ritual deposits at Gors Fawr, Pembrokeshire’
14:30 Debora Morretti, ‘Folk Litter on Display: The Ferretti Collection’
14:45 Tõnno Jonuks, ‘Sacred Rubbish: Cleaning sites of contemporary deposits’
15:20 Refreshment break
15:40 Ian Marshman, ‘Diverse deposits and contemporary connections at Lincolnshire’s historic sites’
15:55 Andy Foley, ‘Secrets of the Smithy’
16:10 Keynote: Christine Finn, ‘Leaving More than Footprints. Modern Artifacts and Public Interventions at Chaco Canyon, New Mexico, US, and in Kent UK’
16:30 Discussion and conclusions
17:00 Mini-bus pick up, return to de Havilland campus, Hatfield
‘Cursed’ Medieval Well Found in England
By Rossella Lorenzi, Seeker | November 3, 2016 07:31am ET
Records suggest a strange death occurred at St. Anne’s Well, which was found on a private farm near Liverpool, in the United Kingdom.
Credit: Jamie Quartermaine
A Medieval well that was once believed to wash away sins, while healing eye and skin diseases has been recovered in England. Legend has it that the well was also cursed and records indicate a strange death occurred there.
St. Anne’s Well was found on the lands of a private farm on the border between the townships of Rainhill and Sutton St Helens, near Liverpool, UK.
According to Historic England Heritage, which commissioned the excavation, “the well had become completely filled with earth due to ploughing.”
“When we first got to the well we found that there was very little indication of it on the surface, but after excavation it was found to be in reasonable condition,” Jamie Quartermaine, an archaeologist who supervised the dig, told Discovery News.
The well was built of local sandstone blocks and consisted of a shallow square basin with two steps leading down into the bottom.
“The fabric of the well is consistent with a Medieval date,” Quartermaine said.
The archaeologist noted that St. Anne is quite commonly associated with holy wells.
“This well was probably a late Medieval foundation as the cult of St. Anne did not become widespread in England until after the end of the 14th century,” Quartermaine said.
The dating is important. Alexandra Walsham, professor of modern history at Cambridge’s Trinity College, told Seeker that “a Medieval past for many healing wells was assumed or even invented by later antiquaries, especially in the 19th century.”
After descending the steps, pilgrims submerged themselves in the pool, which was about 4 feet deep. Water seeped in from below the floor, while a stone conduit, now lost, took water from the overflow of the well, which measures 6.5 feet by 6.5 feet.
According to Historic England Heritage, local legend suggests St. Anne’s Well was associated with a nearby priory of about 12 monks, which was lost during Henry VIII’s draconian dissolution of the monasteries.
The legend said the priory held an extensive estate from which the monks had an income. The story goes that St. Anne had bathed in the well, which was reputed to have healing powers for eye and skin afflictions.
“The well attracted numbers of pilgrims, necessitating the building of a small three-roomed structure around the well and the custodianship of two of the monks,” Quartermaine said.
According to local folklore, a dispute rose in the 16th century about boundaries and access to the well between the prior, Father Delwaney, and Hugh Darcy, the estate manager of the neighboring landowner.
One day, when the two stood nearby the well, Darcy predicted the prior would not be in position for much longer. Two days later the king’s commissioners arrived and took possession of the priory and the well.
Father Delwaney promptly understood Darcy’s role in the action as he was clearly known to the commissioners.
“With teeth tightly clenched, and his face white with suppressed passion,” the prior hissed out his curse, according to a 1877 report on local legends in the St. Helens Leader.
Darcy would be dead within a year and a day, Delwaney predicted. He then collapsed and died himself.
A series of disgraces fell on Darcy: three months after the curse, his only son died of a mysterious illness. He suffered financial losses and “plunged recklessly into dissipation,” according to the St. Helens Leader.
One night, after heavy drinking at a tavern, he disappeared.
“The search began. Nothing was seen until they came to the well, in which Darcy was found lying dead, his head crushed in,” the St. Helens Leader reported.
Despite the grim legend, the well continued to be revered even after the dissolution, and people immersed themselves in the waters until the 19th century.
To protect the structure from damage by farm machinery, new wooden edging will be installed.
“We have worked with the farmers to ensure this important holy well survives long in to the future,” Tamsin Cooke, a Historic England Heritage at Risk representative, said.
A new free App has been released to tell the story of St Agnes Holy Well in Cothelstone. The App is the culmination of 14 month’s work led by Debbie McKenna and Becky Wright of New Leaf Life Design in partnership with Bridgwater College’s Entry to Land Based Studies students and Alex Roland of YourITNow.
The project, which was funded by Bishops Lydeard Parish Council, The Heritage Lottery and New Leaf Life Design, came about after Becky found a small Well located on an OS map. The Well was very overgrown and in a state of disrepair when she finally found it and having spoken to the landowner she gained permission to clean up the area.
On researching the Well further it was found to be Grade 2 listed and had in fact been considered one of the most beautiful Wells in the County in its day. The story of how this all came about and the painstaking restoration is all told on the App.
Alex and Becky’s share the same passion for conservation which led them to form this unique partnership, and it is this partnership which has resulted in the first App ever to be created by young people to support a heritage project.
Students from Bridgwater College were given the opportunity to be part of the whole restoration process, learning about natural stone masonry and historic building restoration work. They took part in two projects, one based around Art led by Artist, Lucy Large and the other to help develop creative writing using the folklore surrounding the Well. This was led by Storyteller Chris Jelly. Both these projects can be viewed and heard on the App.
In May this year, the Well was officially opened with a Well Dressing Ceremony and there is a video of this occasion filmed by Dan Gale available via the App.
Iain Porter, Development Officer Quantock Hills AONB Service said, “This is a wonderful example of a community led project which has restored and increased our understanding of the heritage of the Quantock Hills and Cothelstone in particular. Becky’s enthusiasm and the engagement of the other partners have ensured the success of this project and the conservation of the Well into the future.”
The App has original music on it by Jon Guard and a unique sound walk which transports the listener back to the Well and the sounds around it.
Andrew Hopkins, Marketing and Visitor Centre Manager for Taunton Deane Borough Council and West Somerset Council said, “We are delighted to welcome this initiative and look forward to promoting this to visitors. The Holy Well is already cited as a Culture Secret of Somerset.”
Parish and County Councillor for the area, Mike Rigby, was set on supporting the project as soon as Becky brought it to his attention. He said, “It’s fabulous to see forgotten parts of our heritage uncovered and restored by public-spirited individuals and organisations. Download the App and take a trip to the well.”