Wells and springs are found all over Britain, Scotland, Ireland and France where ancient Celtic gods and/or goddesses were honored. After the coming of Christianity, wells were made part of Christian observances through the blessings of a Saint. In Ireland and Scotland, people still visit wells or springs and sip water between their two hands then leave a gift or offering.
Two thousand years ago, offerings were impressive—swords, shields, jewelry, etc. Pilgrims would offer their most prized possession to the god or goddess, hoping to obtain the deity’s favor. For the last several centuries the offerings have been extremely modest—bent pins, nails, spools, corks, coins, keys, rags, etc. At Munlochy, near Inverness in Scotland, there is a rag well which has become unsightly. The town council was asked to clean up the site a few years ago, but couldn’t find anyone willing to take down the rags. However, the trees have grown up, and people leave their offerings out of sight of the road for the most part.*
A sacred well is found in Cromarty Scotland. Cromarty is located in the territory of the ancient Picts who worshiped at the well. Following is an excerpt of a passage from the the book by Brenda B. Taylor, AHighland Ruby, that explains the legend of the holy well. In the story, the water was used for healing. The belief is, if a person drinks from the well or the water of the well, they will be healed of illness and disease.
“I have some water from the lion’s mouth well in the kirk yard for ye to drink. It has healing powers.” She bent to retrieve the goblet from the floor then filled it with clear water. “We keep a supply here for the injured and sick.
“I can see why you would need healing water in this place.” Gavin recalled the red healing water Flora offered him in the dream. He rubbed the large lump on his head then took a long drink of the cool, sweet water. “I’ve heard of the Cromarty well, but have no’ drunk of its waters ‘til now.”
“The story says two boys were friends and both got consumption,” the lass said as he drank. “One died. Uilliam, the friend left livin’, was gettin’ worse when he had a dream. A large bumble bee, his dead friend you ken, buzzed about his head and told him to go dig in a certain bank and drink. Uilliam ventured to the bank, pulled a large sod from it, and a stream of clear water burst forth. He drank from the stream and was made weel. Later the kirk built beside the bank, enclosed the stream, and put a lion’s mouth over the flow. ‘Tis holy water, you ken, and has healing power.” The pretty pink lips turned up in a smile. “Pilgrims come from afar to drink the waters.”
“’Tis quite a story. Thanks for givin’ me a drink, but I also pray to the Lord for healin’. He helps more than any water.” Gavin handed the goblet back to the lass.
*Taken from information by Shelia Curry in Celtic Mythology, 2015.