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Old 24-12-2009, 10:38 PM   #1
curly
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Default Holy wells

We could talk forever about the history of these special places,the things that have happened at them and the possible explanations for these stories.Anyone fancy a chat about Ampullae,Baptism,Bowssening,Bullauns,Circumambulat ion,Cloutie wells,Cursing,Deposition,Divination,Dragons,Drummi ng wells,Ebbing and Flowing wells,Eye wells,Fertility,Flower of the well,Folklore,Fortune telling,Ghosts ,Godesses,Guardians,Healing,Immersion,Incubation,M iraculous powers.Pilgramage,Prophecy,Rags,Rejuvenation,Relic s,Rituals,Saints,Shrines,Skulls,Stones,Treasure,Tr ees,Visions,Votive offerings,Warts,Well cults,Well-dressing,Wishing-Wells,Witches and lot's more besides.
If correct or incorrect rituals are used sometimes these places seem to be able to cure people and harm them,to manipulate fortune in one's favour and against those of your enemies.Folklore from the Isle of Man tells of witches being able to sell the wind to sailors after performing rituals at a well with a piece of rope with three knots in it,they would undo a knot each time they were becalmed.(i do like me folklore).The Christian Saints seem to hog much of the limelight and take credit for a lot of these places and Ireland seems to be Holy Well central,but i'm more interested in the place and the folk culture than the saints and christian rituals old or modern to be honest.
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Old 25-12-2009, 12:29 AM   #2
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Check this place out curly...

Struell Wells (in Irish: Toibreacha an tSruthail) is a set of four holy wells 1.5 miles (2.4km) east of Downpatrick, County Down, Northern Ireland (grid ref: J513442).[1] The wells date from before the time of Saint Patrick, and even today are used for people seeking cures. On Mid-Summer Eve (St. John's Eve (or Oiche Fhéile Eoin (Bonfire Night)) and the Friday before Lammas (in Irish: Lá Lúnasa) hundreds of pilgrims used to visit Struell.[2] The earliest written reference to the wells is in 1306, but none of the surviving buildings is earlier than about 1600. Pilgrimages to the site are well documented from the 16th century to the 19th century.[1]

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedi...tober_2009.JPG

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Old 25-12-2009, 09:50 AM   #3
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Check this place out curly...

Struell Wells (in Irish: Toibreacha an tSruthail) is a set of four holy wells 1.5 miles (2.4km) east of Downpatrick, County Down, Northern Ireland (grid ref: J513442).[1] The wells date from before the time of Saint Patrick, and even today are used for people seeking cures. On Mid-Summer Eve (St. John's Eve (or Oiche Fhéile Eoin (Bonfire Night)) and the Friday before Lammas (in Irish: Lá Lúnasa) hundreds of pilgrims used to visit Struell.[2] The earliest written reference to the wells is in 1306, but none of the surviving buildings is earlier than about 1600. Pilgrimages to the site are well documented from the 16th century to the 19th century.[1]

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedi...tober_2009.JPG

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Struell_Wells
Thanks very much,Four in one place,it would be interesting to find out what cures were particular to each well.No time at the moment though i've got to go out for christmas dinner.Cheers will have a look later.
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Old 25-12-2009, 07:23 PM   #4
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That's quite an impressive site with the bathing houses as well,i found the different shaped roofs interesting,the beehive shaped dome on the mother well and the pyramidal roof on the eye well.The chair or bed of St Patrick nearby sounds like it might have been a place where incubation would take place,where the person seeking healing would have to try to fall asleep on it overnight receiving a visit from the healing spirit of the well.I see the site is first mentioned around 1300 with the present buildings coming later it's a shame they can't date the stone chair or bed to see if it ties in with the St Patrick story.I'd like to forget the saint's for the moment but there are so many stories and they even left their bones as evidence and they bloody heal people apparantly
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Old 25-12-2009, 08:04 PM   #5
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Yes, a significant area in it's time. The water is freezing, you wouldn't want to take a bath in one and they still on occasion have rituals there... This place is about 1 mile away from it...

http://www.ni-environment.gov.uk/pla...ments/inch.htm
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Old 25-12-2009, 09:06 PM   #6
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I started to think about the water i drink a few weeks ago what with us
being mostly water 70/80% or whatever,I've been using a berkey filter
with super sterasyl cartridges for a couple of years.But what i'm
filtering is tapwater which is crap so what's the point it's dead
anyway,so i thought i'm just gonna drink spring water sold in glass
bottles,expensive but probably the most important thing you can buy if
you think about it in a you are what you eat sort of way.The
regulations are tight and nothing can be done to this water at
all,anyhow after about three or four weeks of drinking just this i
realised all my aches and pains were gone,i've had a couple of similar
experiences involving visits to certain places but this time i just put
it down to the change of water.Just an achey hip,fingers,neck and
shoulder nothing that affected my movement just getting a little bit
older i think but all of a sudden they are all gone and i feel
literally ten years younger nothing aches at all but for how long i
don't know.At the same time i'm reading a book called Cures And Curses
ritual and cult at Holy Wells by Janet Bord and in it she mentions my
hometown during a chapter about blood wells and the various
explanations for red water in chalybeate springs,iron and algae being
two of them.She says "Any well named Redwell is very likely to have
chalybeate water such as that at Wellingborough which became famed as a
healing spa",my heart swelling with pride for my hometown i read on as
i found out that King Charles and his court stayed here for nine weeks
in 1626 for the benefit of the queen who visited again.King Charles
promised to make Wellingborough a royal Spa town such as Bath or
Tonbridge Wells but unfortunately another regular visitor to the well
Oliver Cromwell chopped his head off the next year,their paths would
probably have crossed at the well.Maybe he took the mickey out of old
warty boy Cromwell a bit too much,apparantly there were hundreds of
wells in the town and i got a map of where 16 of the named and most
important ones were and as soon as the snow disappears i'm on it,i
think there may only be 1 or 2 without a house on but the Redwell may
not be under too much crap a stream runs down that way but also a road
and tarmacced pathways,The court camped on the top of the hill
overlooking the well and that is right where i live the well is only
about 150 yds from my house which brings me to my point.I've been
drinking spring water and to my thinking i have been incubating every
night very close to an ancient healing well,not on St Patricks bed but
in my bed,i totally believe in these places also.Do you think it's just
the change in water that cured my aches and pains or was i visited by a
healing god or spirit of the well during incubation and rewarded for my
faith or is it my overactive imagination.I sourced some local history
on the net and a hundred and fifty year old book states local folklore
says the Redwell was used for druid ceremonies which is impossible to
prove but many celtic barrows were found around the town which had been
vigorously defended.Talk about a pig in shit,how lucky am i,Ten days
off now dowsing for wells and metal detecting for celtic bits and bobs.
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Old 13-01-2010, 02:27 PM   #7
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I used to live in a place called "Holywell"

Pronounced Holly Well by locals.

And yes, there is a holy well there....surrounded by a church.

The story goes :-

In 660AD the town of Holywell, located in northern Wales, was a cluster of huts centered around a church. Caradoc, the son of a prince living in the area, pursued Winefride((real name Gwenfrewi - a Welsh Nun in the 7th century. Her being was since proved from historical facts), the daughter of a local prince. Refusing to marry him, she sought sanctuary in the church, but, before she reached it, Caradoc caught her. Angry at her refusal to marry him, he beheaded her.

It is said a spring of water rose where Winefride's severed head came to rest, a spring with healing powers. St. Winefride's uncle placed her head next to her body. He then prayed over her, and she rose to her feet, head attached, became a nun and was eventually made Abbess of a convent. She died 15 years later. As the fame of the well's healing power spread, pilgrims journeyed to the spring to pray for healing, passing through the cold, clear, bluish water three times. Walking down limestone steps, they kneeled and kissed a stone cross. An ancient carving of one pilgrim carrying another is etched into the worn stone.

Royalty visited the site. Henry V, who relied on the Saint's aid at the battle of Agincourt in 1415, made a pilgrimage of thanksgiving to the well the year following his victory. In the 15th century, Lady Margaret, Countess of Richmond, and the mother of Henry VII, commissioned an elaborate arched crypt to be built above the spring. Emblems of the family are found in the stained glass. Carvings of St. Winefride and her legend adorn the weathered stone. High in the crypt ceiling St. Winefride is seated with a staff in her hand and a crown over her head.

Five hundred years of graffiti on the walls of the crypt attest to the years of unbroken faith in the well's healing powers. Thousands of visitors continue to come today.

Last edited by airkraft; 13-01-2010 at 02:36 PM.
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Old 15-01-2010, 04:46 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by airkraft View Post
I used to live in a place called "Holywell"

Pronounced Holly Well by locals.

And yes, there is a holy well there....surrounded by a church.

The story goes :-

In 660AD the town of Holywell, located in northern Wales, was a cluster of huts centered around a church. Caradoc, the son of a prince living in the area, pursued Winefride((real name Gwenfrewi - a Welsh Nun in the 7th century. Her being was since proved from historical facts), the daughter of a local prince. Refusing to marry him, she sought sanctuary in the church, but, before she reached it, Caradoc caught her. Angry at her refusal to marry him, he beheaded her.

It is said a spring of water rose where Winefride's severed head came to rest, a spring with healing powers. St. Winefride's uncle placed her head next to her body. He then prayed over her, and she rose to her feet, head attached, became a nun and was eventually made Abbess of a convent. She died 15 years later. As the fame of the well's healing power spread, pilgrims journeyed to the spring to pray for healing, passing through the cold, clear, bluish water three times. Walking down limestone steps, they kneeled and kissed a stone cross. An ancient carving of one pilgrim carrying another is etched into the worn stone.

Royalty visited the site. Henry V, who relied on the Saint's aid at the battle of Agincourt in 1415, made a pilgrimage of thanksgiving to the well the year following his victory. In the 15th century, Lady Margaret, Countess of Richmond, and the mother of Henry VII, commissioned an elaborate arched crypt to be built above the spring. Emblems of the family are found in the stained glass. Carvings of St. Winefride and her legend adorn the weathered stone. High in the crypt ceiling St. Winefride is seated with a staff in her hand and a crown over her head.

Five hundred years of graffiti on the walls of the crypt attest to the years of unbroken faith in the well's healing powers. Thousands of visitors continue to come today.
Thanks for replying,It must have been{still is**a very important place to have a town named after it and it still gets 30,000 visitors a year.Definitely the grandest holywell in Britain in terms of surrounding buildings with the closed well basin and bathing pool and chapel upstairs{although i've not looked into the history of the springs at Bath yet**.What can you say about the Winifride story? i wouldn't like to cast doubt on it as i know these places are special but it seems the saints were franchising these places for christianity and i havn't done enough research to see how many were actually there before the saint arrived.It says in legend that her head fell off at the church where the spring then appeared,the church is already probably on a site of significance,maybe with a blind spring or a vortex underneath{conjecture on my part**,or was it already there and they made the whole thing up.After her death a cult grew up centred on her relics which were moved to Shrewsbury Abbey in 1138,As you said King Henry the V walked on pilgramage from Shrewsbury to Holywell in 1416 and Edward the IV was said to have done the same.Even the reformation which i know little about could stop the pilgramages,i assume the reformation means christianity being hijacked and getting more corrupt and further from the truth not that anyone needs a middle man to find their Holy Grail imo.I think i can believe this story of her beheading and reheading in one sense as David Icke convinced me we are not quite what we seem and neither are our surroundings but who knows.A broadsheet from 1776 described the well like this-
St winefrides well,at Holywell,in Flintshire,North Wales;which spring produces every minute night and day one hundred tons of water;and bathing therein cures many distempers,and strengthens in an extraordinary manner all such as have had the smallpox or any other severe disorders.I know there are two types of moss that grow in the bathing pool and they are in local folklore,the first St Winifride's hair[Jungermannia asplenioides] was collected by pilgrims and dried to be moistened later with water from the well and applied as a poultice for the cure of sprains and other physical problems,this moss apparantly functioned as a third class relic of the saint.
The other moss which grows in the well[Byssus jolithus]was responsible for red stains on stones in the well causing miraculous pictures to form and also was said to smell of violets and incense.I will look up some individual cases of miraculous healing at the well and post them up.cheers
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Old 15-01-2010, 06:26 PM   #9
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The first thought I had when I saw this thread was Holly Wells, one of the two children murdered, allegedly, by Ian Huntley in Soham.
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Old 15-01-2010, 06:48 PM   #10
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i understand that hllywells are the blood of the earth bursting with nutrients and spirit form with in the earth, there all over the country i live near a village called healing i asked to why its so called , because there is a well in the woods ( healing well of life and energy giving from mother earth ) simple explanation now everytime i visist t a place i find simalair if there a wells or spring it will be for healing properties
here a link to the chalice well in glastonbury bit of a money spinner now but all the same a well

www.mystical-www.co.uk/glastonbury/chalice.htm

and another thing why are they called wells?
because drinking from them makes you well
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Old 15-01-2010, 07:44 PM   #11
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The first thought I had when I saw this thread was Holly Wells, one of the two children murdered, allegedly, by Ian Huntley in Soham.
interesting you saying that,well i didn't expect that to turn up in here,any subconcious trickery/murder going on do you think?.Airkraft said they used to pronounce the town holly well.
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Old 15-01-2010, 07:55 PM   #12
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i understand that hllywells are the blood of the earth bursting with nutrients and spirit form with in the earth, there all over the country i live near a village called healing i asked to why its so called , because there is a well in the woods ( healing well of life and energy giving from mother earth ) simple explanation now everytime i visist t a place i find simalair if there a wells or spring it will be for healing properties
here a link to the chalice well in glastonbury bit of a money spinner now but all the same a well

www.mystical-www.co.uk/glastonbury/chalice.htm

and another thing why are they called wells?
because drinking from them makes you well
Very nice way of putting it,"blood of the earth",Healing what a great name for a village,theres one i must add to the list to visit.Are there any particular healing properties the well is famous for eyes/madness etc?,the one in healing the village?
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Old 15-01-2010, 09:51 PM   #13
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I came across this and found the storyline interesting

A Morbid Taste for Bones
Cover of the Sphere new Edition (paperback)
Author Ellis Peters
Series Brother Cadfael
Genre(s) Mystery novel
Publisher Macmillan
Publication date 1977
Media type Print (Hardcover, Paperback) & audio book
Pages 250
ISBN 0-7515-1101-3
Followed by One Corpse too Many

A Morbid Taste for Bones is a medieval mystery novel by Ellis Peters, first published in 1977. It was adapted for television in 1996 by Central for ITV. It is the first novel in the Brother Cadfael series.
Contents
[hide]

* 1 Plot summary
* 2 Links with other works
* 3 Background and setting
* 4 Television adaptation
* 5 Footnotes
* 6 External links

[edit] Plot summary

The book is set in 1137. Brother Cadfael is introduced, contentedly working in the herb gardens of Shrewsbury Abbey. A Welshman who has been on Crusade and lived as a soldier and seaman before joining the Order of Saint Benedict in middle life, he is still sometimes regarded with curiosity by some of his brother monks, most of whom have been in the order since childhood and envy his worldly experience.

He has two young brother monks to assist him in his work; John, who is practical and down-to-earth, and Columbanus, who is ambitious and sanctimonious. At Mass one evening, Columbanus is taken ill with what some take to be the "falling sickness" (epilepsy) but which Cadfael reckons to be a hysterical fit. Brother Jerome, clerk to the ambitious Prior Robert, prays over Columbanus during the night and announces the next day that a young woman appeared to him and told him to take Columbanus to St Winefride's Well in North Wales. When they return, Columbanus is recovered. He in turn says that Saint Winefride appeared to him and stated that her grave at Gwytherin in North Wales had long been neglected, and she desired to be interred somewhere more accessible to pilgrims.

Neither Cadfael nor John believe the tales; Prior Robert is known to have been searching for some time for a suitable saint's relics to grace Shrewsbury Abbey. Robert, the lazy Sub-Prior Richard, Jerome and Columbanus prepare to journey to Wales to retrieve Winefride's remains. Cadfael induces Abbot Heribert to send him with them, as a fluent Welsh-speaker will be required, and John, to do the menial work.

The Bishop of Bangor and Owain Gwynedd, prince of Gwynedd, give their assent, and the monks reach Gwytherin, a community stretching for several miles along the Cledwen River. The local priest, Father Huw, is hospitable, but objects to Winefride's remains being removed without first calling an assembly of the free men of the parish. When it is held the next morning, Rhisiart, the most influential landowner in the community, opposes the Saint's removal. Prior Robert makes a misguided attempt to bribe him. Rhisiart storms off, announcing that he is implacably opposed to Robert. The assembly breaks up, with every man agreeing with Rhisiart.

Robert and Jerome take the view that Rhisiart is committing blasphemy, but Father Huw persuades Robert to appeal to Rhisiart for another meeting. Cadfael and John ride with Huw to deliver the message. At the house of Cai, Rhisiart's ploughman, John talks to Annest, the niece of Bened the blacksmith, and they quickly fall in love despite the difference in language. Rhisiart meanwhile does not change his views, but agrees to meet Prior Robert at Huw's house at noon the next day.

The next morning Robert tells John to make himself useful to the servants and sends Jerome and Columbanus to pray at Winefride's chapel while he, Richard, Cadfael and Huw wait for Rhisiart. Rhisiart does not appear. When he has been missing for some hours, a search is mounted, and he is found dead in some dense woods, apparently shot from in front with a bow and arrow. The arrow bears the mark of Engelard, an Englishman who has fled into Wales to avoid punishment for poaching, and who is in love with Rhisiart's daughter Sioned. When Engelard appears, many accuse him, and at Robert's insistence, prepare to take him into custody. He flees, and Brother John impedes the only local man close enough to stop him. Robert furiously orders John to be held for breaking the law of Gwynedd and his own vow of obedience. Since he is to be held at Rhisiart's house, where he will have contact with Annest, John meekly complies.

Cadfael meanwhile realises that Engelard's arrow did not kill Rhisiart. It had rained for an hour about noon. Rhisiart's back, on which he lay, is damp, while his front is dry. Rhisiart was stabbed from behind, by a dagger which penetrated through his body, and fell face down. Some time later, after it rained, someone turned him over and pushed the arrow into the wound from the front. For the moment, Cadfael can only speculate why anyone would do this. Although the monks from Shrewsbury all appear to have alibis for the time of Rhisiart's death, Columbanus confesses the next morning to sleeping rather than praying all the previous day, making Jerome a suspect.

Father Huw tells Robert that his flock have taken Rhisiart's death as an omen and no longer oppose Winefride's removal. Robert declares that he will exhume the remains only after three nights' vigil and prayer. Cadfael takes advantage of the superstition that a corpse will bleed afresh if touched by the murderer (though he does not believe it himself, having seen men who died in battle being handled by those who killed them). At his suggestion, Sioned asks that after each night's prayer, the two who maintained the vigil place their hand upon Rhisiart's heart in token of forgiveness.

On the first morning, Jerome appears to hesitate, but eventually does as Sioned asks. The next night, Robert excuses himself from the vigil on the pretext of relating the recent events to Prince Owain's bailiff. On the third night, Cadfael and Columbanus share the vigil, but Columbanus once again has a fit of religious ecstasy and is carried off unconscious in the morning. He recovers after Mass, and relates that Winefride appeared once again to him and said that Rhisiart should be buried in her grave when she is removed.

They begin digging out Winefride's grave. Cadfael finds the body several feet down, and carefully places it in the coffin brought from Shrewsbury. As they prepare to bury Rhisiart in her place, Sioned asks Peredur, another young man who has been in love with her, to place a jewelled cross on the body. Peredur refuses, terrified, and claims that Rhisiart cannot accuse him. He confesses that he found Rhisiart dead and pushed one of Engelard's arrows into the wound, thinking that Engelard would flee into England and thus remove himself as rival for Sioned's hand.

Shocked by these revelations, Peredur's mother Branwen becomes hysterical. Cadfael had previously prepared a flask of a tranquilising syrup derived from poppies, in case of further hysterical fits by Columbanus. He retrieves it from Columbanus's belongings and finds most of it is gone, though enough remains to calm Branwen. He then recalls that on the day of Rhisiart's murder, Columbanus confessed to sleeping while at vigil, but only Jerome drank some of the wine provided for sustenance. Had it been laced with the syrup, Jerome would almost certainly have slept through the vigil, but would have been ashamed to admit it. Cadfael is distracted from this train of thought by the news that the Prince's bailiff is about to take John into custody. When the bailiff arrives at Sioned's dwelling, he is met by Cai, who is wearing a bloodstained bandage and says that John broke free after striking him with a board. Though Robert is displeased, the bailiff, Cai, Bened and Annest all seem rather complacent over the escape.

On the last night before the monks depart, Columbanus, who Sioned and Cadfael reckon is taking the glory of the translation of the saint for himself, offers to mount another solitary vigil. As he believes himself to be unobserved, he composes himself to sleep. He is awakened by the vision of a young woman demanding to know why he murdered Rhisiart, her champion. Unnerved, Columbanus confesses and begs forgiveness from the saint, saying that the deed was for her glory. As she calls him a liar, Columbanus realises that the "saint" is actually Sioned, and slashes at her with a knife, inflicting only a graze, before fleeing. Cadfael and Engelard tackle him outside the chapel. Seeing Sioned bleeding from her wounds, an enraged Engelard hurls Columbanus to the ground hard enough to break his neck.

Faced with this unexpected development, Cadfael thinks fast, and recalls Sioned's inspired words about Rhisiart being her champion.

The next morning, Columbanus's shirt and habit are found empty on the floor of the chapel. Hawthorn petals are scattered around them. Though some wonder whether Columbanus has gone mad and is wandering naked, Robert proclaims that Columbanus's prayers to be taken from the world into a state of grace have been answered. The villagers help load the saint's suspiciously heavy coffin aboard a cart. As they leave Gwytherin, John can be seen (by Cadfael) bidding them farewell.

Two years later, Bened, the smith from Gwytherin, calls at Shrewsbury Abbey while on a pilgrimage to Walsingham. He tells Cadfael that John and Annest are married, and John will become the smith after Bened. Sioned and Engelard are also married, and have christened their first child Cadfael. To Robert's chagrin, he relates that what Robert fondly imagines to be Saint Winefride's former resting place in Gwytherin is the scene of many pilgrimages and miraculous cures, when the ornate tomb in the Abbey is treated with indifference by pilgrims and apparently the saint herself. Cadfael is left musing that the saint is unlikely to object to sharing a grave with Rhisiart.
[edit] Links with other works

St. Winifrede and her shrine are mentioned in most of the subsequent books, and Cadfael often prays to her or talks to her in Welsh. For much of the series, Cadfael is only partly sure that he acted correctly when dealing with the saint's relics. He admits his actions to his friend, Deputy Sheriff Hugh Beringar, in The Pilgrim of Hate, the tenth book in the series, and in that book he finally concludes that his actions are vindicated when he witnesses a miraculous healing at Winifrede's shrine in Shrewsbury Abbey. In The Holy Thief, St. Winifrede's coffin is stolen from the Abbey, and Cadfael lives in fear that the coffin will be opened and the deception discovered; he is much relieved when the coffin is eventually returned intact.
[edit] Background and setting

The book mixes fictional with real people and events. Abbot Heribert and Prior Robert Pennant were indeed officers of Shrewsbury Abbey in 1137, and Prior Robert wrote a history of the translation of Saint Winefride to the Abbey. As a matter of fact, the saint's relics remained at the Abbey until its dissolution in 1540 during the reign of Henry VIII. A finger bone found its way to Rome, and was returned to England in 1852. On the strength of Winefride's relics, Shrewsbury Abbey became second as a place of pilgrimage only to the shrine of Saint Thomas Becket in Canterbury Cathedral.[1]

Welsh village society (as in Gwytherin) and the terms of customary service are described. Foreigners (alltudau, or exiles) such as Engelard, with no place in the community guaranteed by family ties, may enter a form of indentured servitude. Unlike villeinage as in England, this may be terminated by the servant dividing his chattels with the master who gave him the opportunity of owning them.
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Old 15-01-2010, 10:22 PM   #14
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I thought this was interesting too.

Pen And Ink

Because life is the greatest adventure.
Thy Decay Shall Bloom Again: An Exposition
August 6, 2009

The following essay is an exposition of Gerard Manley Hopkins’ poem, “The Leaden Echo and the Golden Echo.” Please take the time to read this poem before you read the essay, or the essay will be nonsensical!

“Entrust Truth, whatsoever thou hast from Truth, and thou shalt lose nothing” said St. Augustine, and in so saying, he articulated the theme of Gerard Manley Hopkins musical poem, “The Leaden Echo and the Golden Echo.” In this poem, Hopkins explores the nature of beauty and life, and man’s unceasing quest to preserve both. Instead of simply telling the reader his conclusions, however, he shows the reader the problem and the solution in the form of a parable, leaving the reader to decide which course to take.

Understanding the significance of the poem’s subtitle is helpful in comprehending the meaning of the poem. First, the subtitle tells the reader that the poem is discussing maidens, young girls, who are singing at a well called St. Winifred’s. Second, the subtitle gives the setting of the poem, St. Winifred’s well, which tells the reader what the maidens are seeking. St. Winifred’s well is a Catholic sacred site in Holywell, Wales, a site which is purported to have miraculous healing powers. According to legend, the well sprung up at the site where St. Winifred was beheaded by her attempted rapist. Winifred was restored to life, however, at the prayers of her uncle, Beuno, and consequently spent the rest of her life as a nun. Winifred’s well is significant to this poem for two reasons: as the setting, it indicates that the the maidens are seeking healing; and second, the dedication of St. Winifred is set forth as an example and a cure to the despairing maidens.

Hopkins begins his parable by demonstrating the hopelessness of a life not given to God in the desperate plea of the maidens in “The Leaden Echo”. The maidens, who are the speakers in this stanza, are young and beautiful. They know, though, that their youth and beauty will not last, and some are already beginning to see the appearance of “sad and stealing messengers of grey”– indicators of the onset of aging. These indicators tell them that their beauty will soon be stolen by relentless time, so they seek a cure. The maidens have heard of St. Winifred’s well and its miraculous healing powers, and have come hoping to be healed from age. It is likely that they think the well is a fountain of youth. When they discover that the well cannot heal them, however, they ask, “Is there ány any, is there . . . nowhere known some, bow or / brooch or braid or brace, láce, latch or catch or key to keep / Back beauty, keep…beauty…from vanishing away?”(1-3).

The question of the maidens transcends just them, however, and their appeal is symbolic of mankind’s timeless quest to reverse the curse of the Fall through magic and science. The name of the poem and subsequently the stanzas are indicative of this as well, as the references to lead and gold refer to the ancient pseudo-science of alchemy. For centuries, alchemists sought a way by which to turn lead into gold, to turn the worthless into the priceless. Moreover, most alchemists also sought a mythical potion called the Elixir of Life, which was supposed to grant anyone who imbibed it immortality. It is transformation and immortality then, that mankind, symbolized by the maidens, seeks.

Hopkins continues his parable by showing the fruitlessness of seeking to preserve physical beauty through natural means in the reply that is echoed back to the maidens question. The leaden echo responds, saying that nothing exists to preserve youth and beauty, and harshly tells the maidens that, if they are wise, they will simply despair of keeping them: “No there ’s none, there ’s none, O no there ’s none, / Nor can you long be, what you now are, called fair, / Do what you may do, what, do what you may, / And wisdom is early to despair” (6-9). The stanza closes poignantly, describing the “despair, despair, despair” (19) that the maidens experience when they realize that the beauty and youth they value so much cannot be preserved.

Hopkins has powerfully shown the plight of those who seek to preserve their beauty through physical means and so concludes with the cure to mankind’s great dilemma of transformation and immortality. In “The Golden Echo”, he presents how the leaden can be made golden, how the corruptible can be made incorruptible. While it is uncertain who the speaker in the second stanza is, it appears that it is St. Winifred herself, as the speaker makes mention of her own fleeting feminine beauty as a point of commonality with the maidens: “whatever’s prized and passes of us, everything that’s fresh and fast flying of us . . . ” (23). The fact that the setting is Winifred’s well strongly suggests this also.

She beings by comforting the maidens, telling them to “spare” their cries of grief. She fully gains their attention in saying that she knows of a cure, but that it is “not within seeing of the sun”– that is, it is not physical. All that is beautiful and feminine, she continues, can be preserved, but only in giving it away. Suddenly, her reply turns into a request, even a challenge, to the maidens to give their beauty “back . . . to God, beauty’s self and beauty’s giver” (35). She then points to herself as an example of God’s preserving care, saying, “see; not a hair is, not an eyelash, not the least lash lost; every hair / Is, hair of the head, numbered” (36-37).

Unfortunately, the maidens do not understand and do not believe Winifred’s testimony, and therefore say that, if they give beauty and youth up so freely, it will certainly pass away and leave them with nothing: “Nay, what we had lighthanded left in surly the mere mould / Will have waked and have waxed and have walked with the wind what while we slept . . . ” (38-39). St. Winifred responds wearily that, if beauty must be given up either way, why not give it up to the One who can preserve it for us far better than we could preserve it for ourselves: “O then, weary then / Why when the thing we freely fórfeit is kept with fonder a care…than we could have kept it…(and we, we should have lost it)” (42-45). Still skeptical, the maidens ask, “Where kept? Do but tell us where kept, where” (46). St. Winifred, points simply to the sky and says, “Yonder” (47.) Finally, it begins to dawn on the maidens that Winifred is speaking of a spiritual, other worldly means of preserving vitality and beauty: “What high as that! We follow, now we follow” (47).

Hopkins has now concluded his parable and leaves the decision of the maidens uncertain. This inconclusive ending allows the reader to decide whether or not God, the author of beauty, is a good enough keeper of it. Hopkins’ own conclusion, however, is clear, and his poem’s theme echoes, quite literally, the words of Christ in Matthew 16:25, “For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.”

Hopkins’ poem creatively and powerfully communicates an answer to a timeless question. More than an answer, though, this poem is really a plea, a plea to give youth and beauty to God, the source of both. Only in doing this can one be transformed into something incorruptible, eternal, and beautiful. St. Augustine said it best when he said, “Entrust Truth, whatsoever thou hast from Truth, and thou shalt lose nothing; and thy decay shall bloom again, and all thy diseases be healed, and they mortal parts be reformed and renewed, and bound around thee: nor shall they lay thee whither themselves descend; but they shall stand fast with thee, and abide for ever before God, who abideth and standeth fast for ever.” Indeed, the resurrection of the dead upon Christ’s return is the only means by which beauty can be restored and preserved eternally. The prerequisite to this resurrection, though, is a complete surrender to God and a presentation of the body “as a living sacrifice” to Him (Romans 12:1). Immortality, then, comes at a high price– the price of a life given to the service of its Creator. It is wisely, then, that Hopkins’ allows the reader, as Winifred allows the maidens, to count the cost.
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Old 15-01-2010, 10:31 PM   #15
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Better late than never

(Maidens’ song from St. Winefred’s Well)


THE LEADEN ECHO

HOW to kéep—is there ány any, is there none such, nowhere known some, bow or brooch or braid or brace, láce, latch or catch or key to keep
Back beauty, keep it, beauty, beauty, beauty, … from vanishing away?
Ó is there no frowning of these wrinkles, rankéd wrinkles deep,
Dówn? no waving off of these most mournful messengers, still messengers, sad and stealing messengers of grey?
No there ’s none, there ’s none, O no there ’s none, 5
Nor can you long be, what you now are, called fair,
Do what you may do, what, do what you may,
And wisdom is early to despair:
Be beginning; since, no, nothing can be done
To keep at bay 10
Age and age’s evils, hoar hair,
Ruck and wrinkle, drooping, dying, death’s worst, winding sheets, tombs and worms and tumbling to decay;
So be beginning, be beginning to despair.
O there ’s none; no no no there ’s none:
Be beginning to despair, to despair, 15
Despair, despair, despair, despair.

THE GOLDEN ECHO

Spare!
There ís one, yes I have one (Hush there!);
Only not within seeing of the sun,
Not within the singeing of the strong sun, 20
Tall sun’s tingeing, or treacherous the tainting of the earth’s air,
Somewhere elsewhere there is ah well where! one,
Oné. Yes I can tell such a key, I do know such a place,
Where whatever’s prized and passes of us, everything that ’s fresh and fast flying of us, seems to us sweet of us and swiftly away with, done away with, undone,
Undone, done with, soon done with, and yet dearly and dangerously sweet 25
Of us, the wimpled-water-dimpled, not-by-morning-matchèd face,
The flower of beauty, fleece of beauty, too too apt to, ah! to fleet,
Never fleets móre, fastened with the tenderest truth
To its own best being and its loveliness of youth: it is an everlastingness of, O it is an all youth!
Come then, your ways and airs and looks, locks, maiden gear, gallantry and gaiety and grace, 30
Winning ways, airs innocent, maiden manners, sweet looks, loose locks, long locks, lovelocks, gaygear, going gallant, girlgrace—
Resign them, sign them, seal them, send them, motion them with breath,
And with sighs soaring, soaring síghs deliver
Them; beauty-in-the-ghost, deliver it, early now, long before death
Give beauty back, beauty, beauty, beauty, back to God, beauty’s self and beauty’s giver. 35
See; not a hair is, not an eyelash, not the least lash lost; every hair
Is, hair of the head, numbered.
Nay, what we had lighthanded left in surly the mere mould
Will have waked and have waxed and have walked with the wind what while we slept,
This side, that side hurling a heavyheaded hundredfold 40
What while we, while we slumbered.
O then, weary then why
When the thing we freely fórfeit is kept with fonder a care,
Fonder a care kept than we could have kept it, kept
Far with fonder a care (and we, we should have lost it) finer, fonder 45
A care kept.—Where kept? Do but tell us where kept, where.—
Yonder.—What high as that! We follow, now we follow.—Yonder, yes yonder, yonder,
Yonder.
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Old 16-01-2010, 09:20 AM   #16
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Very nice way of putting it,"blood of the earth",Healing what a great name for a village,theres one i must add to the list to visit.Are there any particular healing properties the well is famous for eyes/madness etc?,the one in healing the village?
hmm there is a few villages called healing around the country ,so left to chack that out , the 1 near me has it in a near by wood , also what about ealing in london was that called healing in the past but whaen the romans took over they dropped the h ,there is a wood in hanger hill there could be site of a spring or well for healing. its like the word stone eny village or town with stone or ton at the end, would of had a standing stone or stone circle there in the past

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Old 17-01-2010, 08:36 AM   #17
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i understand that hllywells are the blood of the earth bursting with nutrients and spirit form with in the earth, there all over the country i live near a village called healing i asked to why its so called , because there is a well in the woods ( healing well of life and energy giving from mother earth ) simple explanation now everytime i visist t a place i find simalair if there a wells or spring it will be for healing properties
here a link to the chalice well in glastonbury bit of a money spinner now but all the same a well

www.mystical-www.co.uk/glastonbury/chalice.htm

and another thing why are they called wells?
because drinking from them makes you well
You got me thinking about the blood of the earth and the old aborigine rainbow serpent legend,the way it courses through the earth,it makes sense now-it's just water-all the colours of the rainbow.
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Old 17-01-2010, 11:51 AM   #18
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hmm there is a few villages called healing around the country ,so left to chack that out , the 1 near me has it in a near by wood , also what about ealing in london was that called healing in the past but whaen the romans took over they dropped the h ,there is a wood in hanger hill there could be site of a spring or well for healing. its like the word stone eny village or town with stone or ton at the end, would of had a standing stone or stone circle there in the past
i just went out this morning and drove about 6/7 miles passing through Sywell,Overstone,moulton,boughton,broughton.No stones standing round here.They must have done a very thorough job destroying them.It's roughly in the centre of england,i wonder where the old sacred centre is,i hope it's round here.
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Old 17-01-2010, 12:44 PM   #19
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I wanted to post a few pics of one of my favourite places.
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Old 17-01-2010, 12:46 PM   #20
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