I have never had the opportunity to visit a sacred well or spring. Yet. But I do have a well on my property and it is our only source of water where we live.
Wells are not inexhaustible. We all try to be water conscious on a daily basis, but living out in the country you must be more than conscious; you must be perfectly diligent. You must also honour your well, the pure, clean water that comes from it, the element of Water and of course, Spirit that protects the water. You must show gratitude everyday for this blessing.
Some people are unable to drink from their wells because the groundwater is polluted, so we are especially lucky that our water is pure and clean. Of course we still get it tested monthly and are very careful about what we put down the drains (as we have a septic tank that leaches into the ground).
It is a wonderful experience to honour water and the sacredness of clean drinking water in ritual. You may want to use a bowl of fresh rainwater, or if you have a lake or stream near you use some of its water. Of course, failing a natural source, you can just use the purest water you can get. If you are like me and refuse to buy bottled water, simply use the water you have at home. If you do not filter your water, let the bowl sit for a couple days to let the chlorine dissipate.
We will come to the ritual at the end of this post.
May 26th is Sacred Well Day!
How Wells are Created
Well construction dates back at least 8,000 years ago when they were dug by hand. So basically, we can say that a water well is an excavation. This process is performed by boring or drilling so as to access the groundwater. The groundwater is pumped or brought manually up to the surface.
In North America we rarely dig wells by hand, opting to drill wells with machinery. This allows us to go down to much greater depths.
The casings for old wells used to be made of rocks and boulders, now we use fabricated casings of steel or plastic. (Ours is actually concrete).
Folklore Surrounding Wells
Wells, along with springs, were used to receive blessings for oneself and their families. Wells were also employed as divination tools. There are even tales of how people used wells to curse their enemies.
Pagans most frequently visited wells during Beltane and Lughnasadh. When it comes to honoring well, the Summer Solstice is the most popular festival for many modern Pagans.
As time marched on and the old Pagan religions were forced out by the church, the wells that were once sacred to the people became dedicated to Christian saints.
Timing and Offerings
The most appropriate time to visit a sacred well for things such as healing, was sunrise. There were many rules and superstitions for these customs right down to what direction you are to approach the well from and what type of vessel is appropriate to drink from. While not all rituals called for the participant to actually drink from the well there were other customs that were part of the healing ritual. For instance, if one had an injury on a certain part of the body, they would rub the water on that part. Sometimes they even traveled with a cloth or rag wrapped around that body part on the way to the well or spring and then the cloth would be tied to a nearby tree upon completion of the ritual. It was said that as the cloth rotted, so the affliction would disappear also.
The type of offering varied by region. Many offerings were those of coins or pins.
Modern offerings include burning some incense, lighting a candle, leaving flowers or grasses, stones and shells.
Since wells are considered to be entrances to the “Otherworld” wells have always had guardians. Typical guardians would include fish and frogs. However, eels and serpents were quite common in lore. The beliefs were based on those of the inhabitants of the particular region.
There were even a few instances when humans would guard a well. Offerings to these guardians were also based on the beliefs of that particular region.
A Ritual For Honouring a Well.
As I said, if you can’t get to a well you can use a bowl of water for this ritual and good visualization. You can adapt this ritual for whatever your tradition may be.
Brigid is honoured in our hearth and home. Brigid is a Goddess of wells and flame. Red candles are appropriate for representing Brigid. Offerings to Brigid include oats and corn.
Coins were often offered at wells as it was believed Brigid returns what is offered. Since I would never throw anything into my drinking water supply, I lay out some coins and once the ritual is complete, I donate those coins to charity. This is just one adaptation. Do what feels right to you.
Flowers were also left as offerings at wells based on the tradition of that region and being a flower lover I think it’s fitting to leave beautiful flowers to the spirits of the well and to Brigid.
Sit at your water source (well, lake, bowl). Have your offerings ready. You may also have a candle if you wish, I like to use red for Brigid and white for purity.
Ground and center. Sit quietly for a few minutes and connect with the energy of the well. Connect with Spirit. When ready say:
Sacred well and Goddess Brigid,
We honour you,
this day and everyday
for the blessing of pure, clean drinking water.
Water connects us all.
Water sustains us all.
We are born of water.
We give thanks and praise
for the gift of water
for this sacred well
and to our sacred Goddess Brigid.
(If you are using a candle you can light it now)
With love, gratitude and respect
we honour this, sacred well.
(Place your offerings where you like)
You may wish to tie ribbons to the well or around the flowers you have placed on the well. Red and blue stones are also representative of Brigid, so you could add those as well. Bury them near the well when you remove the offerings.
Never leave anything that will disrupt the local ecosystem when doing outdoor ritual. Things like seeds will sprout if they were not toasted properly and that can introduce non-native plants. These can become invasive species that cause great damage. Also, if you live near bears and other wildlife don’t leave food out too long. Common sense and magick go hand in hand.
Enjoy the blessings and inspiration of water ritual.