St Ciaran's Well

Dublin Core


St Ciaran's Well

Description of Well Item Type Metadata

1 Name of well and saint

St Ciaran's Well

2 Townland, County, GPS

Castlekeeran, Meath

3 Physical description of well and its surroundings

St. Ciaran's (also seen as St. Kieran's) Holy Well is near both Castlekeeran and Carnaross townlands (approximately three miles). The well is of bedrock and is accessible by crossing one of two bridges across a river (Thunder, 1886; French, 2012). The main well is situated beside a large ash rag tree and has two steps descending into its gorge; two others are proximal and follow along the rock streambed. The smaller well southeast of the main well, referred to as the "chair," is known to offer pilgrims relief from back pain when sat in. The other small well east of this is called the "healing well" and is distinguished by the stream passing through and dispensing two different sides of the stone. This holy well has Celtic origins but was Christianized, which is can be recognized through the Christian shrine atop the hill near closest to the main well (Dempsey, 2012).

4 Cure

Water from one side of the "healing well" is meant to cure headaches and the other toothaches. The water in the narrow stream gets rid of warts. To reap headache relief pilgrims are understood to repeat "Our Fathers" and "Glory be to the fathers" three times each. No matter which well you visit, a visitor is expected to give a votive offering such as a pin or coin to demonstrate appreciation to the genius loci (French, 2012).

5 Pattern day

While there is a proper St. Ciaran's Day on June 14th, the pilgrimage to the well takes place separately on the first Sunday of the harvest or Autumn (French, 2012).

6 Offerings

Variety of rags left on ash tree just beside the main well. Small votives also left on Christian shrine (e.g. small figurines).

7 Prayer rounds and stations

Historically people have turned up in large numbers—records indicate upwards of three to ten thousand pilgrims between 1913 and 1917—for the St. Ciaran's pattern. According to French people acknowledge the Five Stations of the Cross at five markers close to the well on the eve of the pilgrimage. Apparently pilgrims said prayers and circled each cross three times, concluding each station with a "drink" (French, 2012:39-40).

8 Stories

Sir William Wilde, in 1849, described St. Ciaran's Well as the most beautiful holy well in Ireland (Thunder, 1886:656). The well is said to contain several large trout (one story describing three with the names of Faith, Hope, and Charity that surface on the eve of the pattern). Pilgrims respected these trout, however a fisherman caught them unaware of their significance, but amid frying found that they were able flee the pan and speak "Leave us back where you got us" (French, 2012:40).

9 Publications

Dempsey, Jim. Megalithic Ireland. "St Ciaran's Well."'s%20Well,%20Castlekeeran.html?src=gpx; Thunder, John M. 1886. The Holy Wells of Meath. The Journal of the Royal Historical and Archaeological Association of Ireland, Fourth Series, 7:68, pp. 656; French, Noel. 2012. Meath Holy Wells. pp. 37-40;