The Well in Kilranelagh Graveyard. Remembering our Traditions.

An interesting article about the well in Kilranelagh graveyard by Hilary Healy. Thanks Hilary for the fascinating read!

The Well in Kilranelagh Graveyard. Remembering our Traditions.

We have such a rich heritage here in Ireland. Our landscape holds reminders of our history and our ancestral ways. One of the first turnings to celebrate is Spring and here we mark it with St Brigid’s Day. Imbolg is the ancient name for this turning of the year. Imbolg, often written as Imbolc, signifies “in the belly”. New Life beginning. New Blessings. Imbolg and St. Brigid’s day are inextricably linked on this land, and so, our ancestors turned to the Holy Wells to bring the blessings of the waters home in Springtime. The Holy waters were used to cleanse and to bless the hearth, home and animals.

This St. Brigid’s Well is located on Kilranelagh Hill, in the very ancient graveyard which is reputed to be the oldest still functioning burial site in Ireland. Wells in high places had a particular veneration. It seemed nothing short of miraculous that a strong spring could burst forth high in the hills. This is part of the reason why this well has such great significance. In Irish tradition, the eve of a holy day was the most important. It’s why Hallowe’en is celebrated on the 31st of October, the eve of Samhain. In the same way, the “Brát Brid” would be set out the night before St. Brigid’s Day. The Brát Bríd is a cloth left out for St. Brigid to bless with healing qualities and it was used for ailments throughout the year. These ailments might be as diverse as toothache, or cuts, to a cow with milking problems. St. Brigid would pass throughout Ireland on that night and bless every cloth that was left out.

The fires in each home would be raked and cleared on the eve of St. Brigid, to set it anew for the turning of the year. St. Brigid was the keeper of the flame and her 19 handmaidens kept the flame alive in her monastery in Cill Dara (Kildare Town) after her death. Traditionally 19 women would keep that flame going. The moon calendar is linked to that number, as the moon arrives in the same place over the same constellations every 19 years. Many of us think that these older traditions have been brought forward into Christianity. Because, of course, in the background is her connection to the older Brigid. She who is the Goddess, worshipped in ancient times and linked to the European worship of Brigantia. So many of these miracles that have been passed down in the Christian tradition are also attributes of Brigantia.
St. Brigid is connected with fire and water. St. Brigid’s crosses are made and hung in the home to protect the dwelling from fire and flood.

I have included here the copy from Dú, an entry made in 1938. Every school in the country was asked to collect knowledge of the folklore from the old people of the district. This piece is from Talbotstown, the most local school to Kilranelagh. The informant is Mr. Humphries, of Kilranelagh.

In the days before internet, it was the grandparents who held the memories for the families. In another piece in the collections, Thomas Lambert collected information that stated “There is a well in Kilranelagh and it is called Saint Brigid’s Well. People that have sores go to the well and bathe the sores in it and are cured.”

It was important in 1938 to collect the memories of a people, in case it might be forgotten. As we come to another Spring, another Brigid’s Day, it feels important to remember Kilranelagh Graveyard, and its well waters gushing down to bring clean fresh waters to the great rivers that pass through our villages, our towns and our cities.

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