Thursday, 29 April 2010

The Seven Wonders of Fore

Please double click to enlarge images

St Féctains church next to the yew tree, the hill behind
is Carrick Balor (Balor is ancient one eyed god) the field
to the left is a water meadow. In the foreground is Féctain's
healing well & Rag tree where the water will not boil,
it is aso the site of a megalithic tomb.
The stone lintel that was lifted by the power of prayer

Photo taken from window hole in St Féctain's church,
the Mill is a small stone building on the right

The Sheela na-Gig in St. Féctain's Church

The Rag tree at Féctain's well it is
actually an Ash.

The tree that will not burn

Sheela na-Gig at St Munnas Church
Before Munna became a Christian
he was a Druid apprentice under the tutelage of his father.

Hello my friends!

Last weekend I had every intention of writing about The Hill of Tara and of showing you pictures from angles which are not normally shown. Alas, I went to Tara on Tuesday of this week with two others, who like myself normally carry a camera and guess what ? It was one of those days when the three cameras were left behind.

Wednesday afternoon, it being so very sunny, we made a trip to Fore [Fobhair] in Co.Westmeath which nestles in an airy valley between high stony hills. There is something very precious about Fore, in that on leaving I always feel as if I have had a long holiday; even though my stay there was only for two hours.

On reflection I think that it might have something to do with the water that flows rapidly through a large water-cress meadow.

Fore is unspoilt by commercialism, given that its' former glory was as an early Christian stronghold of St Féichin - his name means Little Raven. The Seven Wonders of Fore are all connected to him in some way, these being :-

1. The Monastery in a bog.

2. The Mill without a race. Féichin built the mill and then walked to Lough Lene struck the bottom of the hill that stands between it and the waters flowed into Fore.

3. The water that flows up hill. This is an optical illusion of course, though it does appear that way until one looks at the lay of the land

4. The tree that won't burn. It would if you were brave enough to face the consequences of burning a tree with a cure.

5. The water that won't boil. Similar to 4 above, the waters can be bathed in for healing purposes only and one would have to face Féichin's curse if you removed any.

6. The anchorite in a stone. This refers to a stone tower on top of Carrick Balor.

7. The stone lintel raised by prayer. It is said that the builders became exhausted trying to position the huge stone, so they stopped work for refreshment and when they returned it had been perfectly positioned by Féichin using the power of prayer.

The 8th wonder for me was the Sheela na-Gig carved into a coinstone that we saw in Féichin's church.

On the way home I became fed up with the behavior of other road users who were tailgating me, whilst others were simply dangerous drivers, so I turned off onto a narrow country road to connect with another route home. It was on this narrow road that we came across St. Munnas church, a very untypical design for a church, having a Norman style rectangular three storied tower (known in Ireland as a Norman fortified farmhouse) attached to the church. Above one of the windows there was yet another Sheela na-Gig.

Sheela na-Gigs in situ are rare finds in Ireland for most of them have been removed to The National Museum in Dublin where the majority are stored in the cellar and rarely see light of day, the public display of them is rotated so we are told and permission has to obtained from the Curator to view the majority.

My travels for this week are not yet finished, for on Saturday we will be driving to Carna in Connemara, Co. Galway for The Joe Heaney Commemorative Festival of Traditional Singing & Music. Where pride of place is given to Sean Nós singing which is unaccompanied and has a highly ornamented melodic line.


  1. I first read Yates in pre-internet days, and never knew what 'sheela na-gigs' were. I think of them now as being symbols for 'the origin of life'. Sad that they are all locked up.

  2. What is the origin or significance of the rag tree?

  3. We seem to have rag-wells in my area of England (I've just read in the book I told Mel about) Let's see what his explanation is, and see if it concurs with my book? I love this stuff.

  4. Fran & Tom,
    The Rag Trees are situated near healing wells, people tie on all sorts bits of cloth belonging to a person who needs healing, the idea being that the energy passes from the tree to that person. There are other people who attach a personal token as a gift to the Saint of whose well it is or to the Sirits who inhabit the place.

  5. This book I keep banging on about says that the strip of rag that is tied to the tree associated with the healing well, is also associated with the part of the afflicted body - or as close as possible. I.E. a strip of shirt from the chest for lung problems or the heart, maybe a strip of the rear part of a pair of Y-Fronts for piles? Then, as the cloth rots and disappears, so the illness goes with it. What do you reckon?

    There is also the personal tokens as gifts to the sprites, etc, but these can also be in the form of curses if - say - someone stole your horse or your wife (or both). Folk lore, or more deeply rooted in international pagan ritual?

  6. Well Tom as most of the cloth today is man made fibre, it is likely that the person might have to last a hundred years before the cloth rots & they get a cure! :-)
    Your book is quoting the original idea of when material was of natural fibre.

    Folk law still runs very deep amongst rural dwellers, because we live in close contact with nature.

  7. Sorry Mel, I took it for granted that the cloth was to be natural. As for rural dwellers being in close contact with nature, spare a thought for us Bathonian urban dwellers, who live right over what is usually considered the most important holy spring in the British Isles. It takes a lot of traffic to drive out the spirits from this place.

  8. Thank you. I have come across a rag tree in Cyprus before but never in this neck of the woods.

  9. My favourite blog Mel, thank you. Fore has the same effect on me, I always feel that I have been on holiday...may have something to do with my 8th wonder; Halpins! The area is special and it is always first on the tourist route when I have visitors to visit Oldcastle. Never noticed the Sheela-na-gig but is good enough excuse to go there the next time I am home.
    A talented friend of mine carved a Sheela for me and it sits in my garden but I always feel that it should be in a wall somewhere.

  10. 'visitors to visit' ???? must preview posts!

  11. Fascinating capsule of historical wonder, Sir Heron :) And, dare I say, inspiring!

  12. I know rag trees as 'cloutie trees' and in fact I'm tending to think as well as having healing and spiritual properties they may also have been the equivalent of a totem in Celtic lands. Fascinating post, most informative and I'm glad you're having a whale of a time over there travelling about.

  13. My friends thank you for your interesting comments.

    Erica it is always a pleasure to hear from you & this time I have an even bigger smile re the missed Sheela :-)

    Nat perhaps you will come and visit the time capsule ?

    liZZie I do believe that you are right & as for me travelling about I think there is a nomad within me that needs to experience the open road from time to time!

    Lastly a big welcome to the new followers of this blog & please feel free to make comments.

  14. Wondeful post Mel, I had visited a healing tree near me recently, thanks for explaining your sights, Aine.

  15. Wow absolutely wonderful post - thoroughly enjoyed reading it - what I wouldn't give to visit Ireland .