All posts in Research

  • Lines

    Lines are traced and followed, made and extended, grooved and lived. I’m concerned with the lines of the pilgrim path. Using the ‘Pencil Sketch’ function on MS Powerpoint I altered some fieldwork photos take while Tóchar Phádraig as part of different groups over the past few years as a way of exploring the role of lines. Starting with the literal lines of the images rendered as drawings, I wish to explore the others lines and meanings present.

    Robert Stoddard, in his 1987 article Pilgrimages Along Sacred Paths, explored the geography of sacred space as points, lines, or areas, with the lines category referring to the routes of travel of activities associated with religious motives. This classification draws attention to the line itself, that is the pilgrim path in this cases, as having significance, rather than being a mere route to a sacred site (spot). Elsewhere, the anthropologist Tim Ingold, in his book Lines: A Brief History, explores the potential of the line as movement, through the concept of wayfaring.  The line is a pathway, it is movement, it is the means through a person engages with the surrounding environment.

    Through a few (geo) poetic stanzas I trace some thoughts on lines in this pilgrimage. I wonder where they will lead?

    TP Lines
    Pilgrims:
    A row setting out
    Near departure, pace emerging
    Movements and motions linking each person to the next
    Each person is the line
    Leading and following, a common rhythm, an alignment
    Pilgrims as line

    TP 3 Lines
    Path:
    The path is active
    It has been walked and will be walked
    Stretching across the boggy terrain
    A trackway towards the Reek,
    but also approaching other places
    Lines roaming out, in and beyond

    TP 2 Lines
    Landscape:
    Sweeping, reaching, gliding
    The path, the land, the pilgrims are spaced
    Each line mingles and flows
    The path is landscape, landscape is pilgrim, pilgrim is path
    All are lines

  • Within the Well

    St John 1

    Clam and shade on a sunny late June morning. June is the time to visit St John’s Well. Trees encase the site, as the beehive structure encases the well itself. Noises drift in from out of sight, while rays of sunlight piercing the canopy catch the broken glass spread across the ground, asserting the space’s hosting of other activities. A small flow of water gently emerges, the water which restored sight and started veneration. The edge of the well, the small rectangular entrance, is the cusp. The exact point of significance, the well water is accessed here before flowing off, the sacred diluting into the profane.

    St John Inside 1

    Within the well another realm awaits. An inner sanctum, the tabernacle within the church. Reaching down to collect, to drink or bless draws you into this sphere. The cooling ambiance of the water, the reflections onto the vaulted walls, sparkle and shade on rock, moss and mould. Inside the beehive structure is reminiscent of subterranean consistency. It is calm here, removed from that which is outside. Temperate, dusky and muted; perhaps it always is.

    The steady dripping of the water is a further layer of consistency. It captures an essence of the place. Always present, known but unobtrusive. It invites reflection and appreciation. The water – the substance of the well – emerging from the earth, gathering and flowing. It quietly splashes and echoes about, the reverberations affirming the chamber. Water sounds defining purpose and giving space.

    Within the well remains. A steady emergence: earth, water, well.

  • Path Croagh Patrick

    Path: Croagh Patrick
    Flesh & surface meet
    Foot & rock slide
    Belief & tradition imprint
    A pilgrimage, for some

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  • Lady’s Well, Cork: Renovations

    I had previously commented on the deteriorating state of Lady’s Well in Cork city. Thanks to works by Cork City Council* the site has been cleaned up and new structures have been put in place around the well. The necessity for grids over the well may be seen as unfortunate, but will not impinge on the well excessively as does not seem to be used for religious-spiritual reasons. These additions will ensure the preservation of the site and perhaps a revival of devotional activity in the future?

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    *I had raised the matter with one of my local representatives, Kiernan McCarthy (corkheritage.ie), who has done significant work in promoting Cork’s heritage.

  • Votive Offerings at St Brigid’s Well

    Whenever I’m in the Burren or the north-western part of Clare, I try to call by St Brigid’s Well near Liscannor. It is a wonderful site complete with a marvelous collection of votive offerings, for which it is known, in the grotto leading to the well.

    The vast collection of offerings which fill the grotto leading to the well.

    The vast collection of offerings which fill the grotto leading to the well.

    Votive offerings are beautiful objects each of which as an intention behind it. It has been left there for a particular reason by a person who firmly believes in the power of the place and the saint and the benefit of partaking in this custom. While some of the intentions may appear obvious, others relating to seemingly odd items are shrouded from everyone except the believer and the saint.

    The grotto spaces is crammed full of offerings, with every conceivable space being used to leave and insert items.

    The grotto spaces is crammed full of offerings, with every conceivable space being used to leave and insert items.

    Initial fascination with these objects, is replaced by curiosity, concern and speculation on their intentions. This is a rich material-based cultural practice, linked both to Catholicism and folk customs, but it is also people’s lives. Dreams, despairs, anxieties, losses and a host of deeply personal motives are materialised. Accordingly, regardless of your beliefs they and the place should be treated with respect.

    A small bible (wettened from the exposed spae above the well), with rosary beads inside, sits next to a whiskey bottle filled with some of the (presumably) well water.  The rest bwetween a statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and a cushion.

    A small bible (damp from the exposed space above the well), with rosary beads inside, sits next to a whiskey bottle filled with some of the (presumably) well water. The rest between a statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and a cushion.

    A collection of offerings hanging from the ceiling, including rosary beds, miraculous medals and a feather.

    A collection of offerings hanging from the ceiling, including rosary beds, miraculous medals and a feather.

    The rag tree which is over the well, with a selection of rags tied to the branches.

    The rag tree which is over the well, with a selection of rags tied to the branches.

  • ‘Doing the Rounds’: Video

    ‘Doing the Rounds’: Pattern Days at Holy Wells

    This is a collection of short clips of pilgrims completing the rounds at different holy wells. It captures some of the movements and circumambulations that occur as part of the annual Pattern Day at these places. The completion of the practices continues established traditions in honour of a patron saint, while also ensuring that the site remains an active devotional space.

    Featured in the video: St Gobnait’s Well Ballyvourney, Co. Cork, 11th Feb 2013; (2.01) St Fanahan’s Well, Mitchelstown, Co. Cork, 25th Nov 2012; (2.34) ‘The City’, or Cathair Crobh Dearg, Shrone, Co. Kerry 1st May 2013; (5.29) St Brigid’s Well, Liscannor, Co Clare, 1st Feb 2013.

  • Recreating Leaba Phádraig

    ‘St Patrick’s Bed’ (Leaba Phádraig) stands on top of Croagh Patrick as a focal point of ritual activity as pilgrims round the feature repeated sets of prayers. Small votive offerings and donations are also left there. In developing, my attempts to materialise or ‘Lego’ my research, I’ve tried to recreate a scene of pilgrims circling and praying at the bed.

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  • Lego Holy Well (1)

    Inspired the the great work of the good people at Follow the Things, I’ve attempted to use Lego to convey aspects of my research. It is a type of materialisation of research, which will complement more standard visualisations in photos and video. These are the photos of my first attempt at this process, it is an imagined holy well been visited by two pilgrims. The well has a bee-hive structure and a rag tree beside it. As an imagine place, although with specific features, it can be several holy wells or no holy well. It is a sort of creative non-fiction.

    Two Pilgrims visiting a holy well.

    Two Pilgrims visiting a holy well.

    The well has a beehive structure over it.

    The well has a beehive structure over it.

    There is also a rag tree next to the well

    There is also a rag tree next to the well

    Check out the Follow the Things blog for more about their good work.

  • Excursion to ‘The City’ and Tubrid

    Last week Vickie Langan (artist, soundy person and all round lady) and I visited two holy wells, The City, near Rathmore, Kerry and Tubrid, Millstreet, Cork. Below are a number of photos, videos and audio recordings, punctuated with text, that came out of the excursion. I also have a post on Researching with your Smartphone, based on our previous excursion.

    This photo of the well, which was posted while we were on site, shows the cement structure along with a cup and glass. Unlike many other wells, the one at the City is not adorned with many votive offerings or extra materials. Like the site itself, it has a certain rawness. On a wind swept Tuesday in February, with the threat of serious rain, we had the places to ourselves.

    Using the Soundcloud App on my phone, I took several recordings of the cup in the water, you can hear me lifting it, submerging it, pouring out some water and replacing it. This simple activity is central to these wells.

    Vicky with her hydrophone, a superb piece of equipment for working with wells.
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    The altar at Tubrid holy well, on the Rathmore side of Millstreet. The altar is sheltered by a structure with offerings, signs and memorial cards throughout.

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    This short video of the candles on the altar indicate the recent visits by numerous people that day. Each one serving as an elemental remnant of a believer’s intentions and memories.

    The site is very well maintained, as is demonstrated by this rack made especially to hold the cups used to drink the water and the other structures. It is at this point, where the water bubbling up in the well flows out, that people collect and drink the water.

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    Another recording using the SoundCloud App, of the water flowing.

  • Places, without people

    This photo was taken while all of the pilgrims were attending evening mass on Lough Derg. At this time, the Penitential Beds are devoid of people (except in this case myself). I began thinking about the nature of place without people. The Beds are usually a hive of activity, with people walking around, kneeling and praying; but, here they are still, quiet, deserted. This place now feels completely different, like walking city streets early in the morning or being in an empty sports stadium. While the structures and constructed elements remain, the character that living, moving humans give a place is absent. This changes the place, not necessarily making it less or more, just different.

    The Beds, Lough Derg