Although the story of St. Patrick driving the snakes out of Ireland is a metaphor for ridding the island of Goddess worshipping, it’s good to note that his effort didn’t completely work. This is most evident at the sacred wells. Wells dedicated to St. Patrick were water sources that had been especially important in Pagan times. Patrick wells were also Brigid wells.

On my way to Knockainy and Lough Gur in western Ireland, I stopped at one such well at the foot of a hill called Knockdere (pictured above). This particular well is an excellent example of how the Irish mingled the old and new religions. The site is well taken care of with a path and tiny footbridge over the stream that flows from the old well. Behind the original well is a small white shrine that houses a statue of Patrick, a candle, and offerings. The original well has a simple stone enclosure with steps leading down to the water. A blackthorn tree (guardian spirit) stood next to the well. Its branches overhanging the water sported a number of ribbons, a symbolic request for blessings.

Although Brigid is a solar deity associated with fire, she is also known for her healing powers. Because of this, Ireland was dotted with springs called Brigid wells. For a time during the conversion to Christianity these were called lady wells. Eventually many were reassigned to Christian saints with Patrick getting the lion’s share. However, many were eventually re-named Brigid wells as the goddess and female saint melded into one. But as we know, the Goddess has reemerged. Long live the Goddess!

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