On Monday of this past week we, that is Mrs Heron, a friend of ours and myself, took time out from the usual chores and had a day's holiday to tour some of the wells in our area. I have always been fascinated by these holes in the ground containing water and their elaborate kerbs. It is of course not so much the hole but the water that attracts me !
It was a glorious day, cool at first, needing a top coat, though as the day wore on I found myself quite happily leaving it in the car, as we walked the length and breadth of fields to lean over railings and peer into the watery holes.
What surprised me more than anything was the number of Ballaun stones that there were around. These are ancient stones that have a depression, a pot shape cut into them and are often water filled. The definitive purpose of them is not actually known so theories abound that they have curing properties for various ailments, or that the water is for cursing and they might just be bird baths. For Ballaun stones are mostly found adjacent to a well and sometimes in graveyards.
Healing wells are said to be potent if a water snail or fish can be seen in it's depths. Being a pragmatist, I believe that presence of a living creature shows that the water is fairly wholesome even if not actually potable. Having said that I have to admit to having drank from moorland streams on the odd occasion.
Some of the holy wells dedicated to ancient Irish saints, have Hawthorn trees growing near them which are draped with bits of cloth and religious relics of all kinds. Then there are others which have been allowed to fall into neglect which were dedicated to Pagan deities such as Anu's Well
(as in photo)
On arriving home we looked at the photos and noticed that there was a stone fish in the ballaun stone that was not present before the photo was taken. We assume that it is a reflection from the stones above. But then this is Ireland and anything is possible !