Holy well

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A holy well, or sacred spring, is a small body of water emerging from underground and revered either in a Pagan or Christian context, often both. Holy wells were frequently pagan sacred sites that later became Christianized. The term 'holy well' is commonly employed to refer to any water source of limited size (i.e. not a lake or river, but including pools and natural springs and seeps), which has some significance in the folklore of the area where it is located, whether in the form of a particular name, an associated legend, the attribution of healing qualities to the water through the numinous presence of its guardian spirit or Christian saint, or a ceremony or ritual centred on the well site. In Christian legend, the water is often said to have been made to flow by the action of a saint, a familiar theme especially in the hagiography of Celtic saints.

Nomenclature and etymology

The term haeligewielle is in origin an Anglo-Saxon toponym attached to specific springs in the landscape;J. Harte, ‘Holey Wells and other Holey Places’, Living Spring Journal, 1, 2000.A. Ross, Pagan Celtic Britain (London: RKP), 1967, 107; Willy Worcestre, Itinerary, ed. J. Harvey (Oxford: Clarendon), 1981, 290-91. The terms 'hole' and......
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