Holy Wells

From An Illustrated History of Ireland by Margaret Anne Cusack

« start... Chapter X. ...continued

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The author of a very interesting article in the Ulster Archaeological Journal (vol. ix. p. 256), brings forward a number of Irish customs for which he finds counterparts in India. But he forgets that in Ireland the customs are Christianized, while in India they remain pagan; and like most persons who consider the Irish preeminently superstitious, he appears ignorant of the teaching of that Church which Christianized the world. The special "superstition" of this article is the devotion to holy wells. The custom still exists in Hindostan; people flock to them for cure of their diseases, and leave "rags" on the bushes as "scapegoats," ex votos, so to say, of cures, or prayers for cures. In India, the prayer is made to a heathen deity; in Ireland, the people happen to believe that God hears the prayers of saints more readily than their own; and acting on the principle which induced persons, in apostolic times, to use "handkerchiefs and aprons" which had touched the person of St. Paul as mediums of cure, because of his virgin sanctity, in preference to "handkerchiefs and aprons" of their own, they apply to the saints and obtain cures. But they do not believe the saints can give what God refuses, or that the saints are more merciful than God. They know that the saints are His special friends, and we give to a friend what we might refuse to one less dear. Lege totum, si vis scire totum, is a motto which writers on national customs should not forget.

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