The Holy Well, Knockomagh
A favourite Wild & Precious walk is to the Holy Well in Knockomagh Woods, which itself is a couple of miles from Skibbereen in West Cork. Ireland has over 3000 holy wells, many of which date back to pagan, pre-Christian times. In Irish myth, wells and springs are depicted as originating in the Otherworld - that parallel dimension whose inhabitants have the power to control the natural forces of this world. It was believed that drinking from these holy waters or bathing in them would bestow the power of the Otherworld in the form of poetic inspiration, wisdom, or healing. Most holy wells share three key elements: the well, a sacred tree and a hill or standing stone. Traditionally, visitors tie a strip of cloth - a clootie - to the holy tree after washing, bathing, or drinking from the well. This practice was thought to drive illness into the cloth that is left behind. In some places, a pin or coin was tossed into the well as an offering. Did we say ‘traditionally’? In Knockomagh Woods the practice is clearly alive and flourishing. Indeed, we always leave our own offering when we visit.