Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Lough Hyne: A venerated, ancient place

The Holy Well of Skour
For a long, long time lands here, around Lough Hyne in Ireland, have been occupied by humankind.  For four-thousand years people have left behind them material evidence of their having lived, died, worked and worshipped their deities here.

Sitting in the bay window of this cottage close to the edge of the Lough, the notion of the Lough and its purlieu having been a sacred place since the beginning of time sits quite comfortably with me.  It is an elemental place; earth and water are apparent to all senses, air manifests itself in the strong westerly winds which shape the crowns of trees, winds which, during winter gales, blow some of the trees to the ground to provide fuel for the fires that have burnt in hearths of homes hereabouts for millennia.  The majority of the tangible evidence of human occupation bequeathed to us is connected with religion and religious ritual; standing stones, stone circles and wedge tombs, giving further credence to the idea of this area having a long sacred / spiritual history.

The Christians were here early in their western history, as early as the sixth century Christianity had become the dominant religion of Ireland but there must, I believe, have been an established ritual paradigm onto which the early christian proselytisers were able to impose their social designs.  Indeed, as recently as the lately passed eve of the first of May, the Celtic festival of Bealtaine, a Christian mass was held at the ‘Holy Well of Skour’.  The mass has been celebrated at the well for no more than the past fifty years; earlier it had been the termination of an annual pilgrimage.  I can but believe that this ‘Holy Well’, where life-giving water rose from the depths of the earth, would have been held sacred long before Christianity was imposed on the people here.

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