All posts tagged Objects

  • St Brigid’s Well, Clare: 1st Feb 2013

    A selection of photographs and an audio recording taken today (St Brigid’s Day, 2013) at St Brigd’s Well, Liscannor Clare. There was a steady flow of people visiting the well. A mass was due to be held there at noon, weather permitting; however, it was said in the parish church instead. Most of the visitors took away a bottle of the water, while some engaged some in prayer patterns.  A number of votive offerings were left in the well and rags tied to the trees adjacent to the well and pattern route.

    St Brigid's Well, Liscannor, Clare St Brigid's Day 2013

    St Brigid’s Well, Liscannor, Clare. The well is located at the rear of an artificial grotto or passage way, which is filled with votive offerings.

    A group doing their 'rounds' at the statue.

    A group doing their ’rounds’ at the statue.

    Crowds gathering by the well, the queue to the well can be seen coming out of the archway.

    Crowds gathering by the well, the queue to the well can be seen coming out of the archway.

    A woman doing the 'rounds'

    A woman doing the ’rounds’

    An hay arch (hay wrapped over a metal frame) covers the entrance to the well, it is adorned with St Brigid's Crosses

    An hay arch (hay wrapped over a metal frame) covers the entrance to the well, it is adorned with St Brigid’s Crosses

    Collecting the holy water

    Collecting the holy water

    The visit to the well frequently involves a lighting of a candle. This little alcove is adjacent to the well, it's a lovely micro-space.

    The visit to the well frequently involves a lighting of a candle. This little alcove is adjacent to the well, it’s a lovely micro-space.

    A recording of the water in St Brigid’s Well

  • Waiting Cups


    A central part of the tradition surrounding holy wells is the consumption of the water. This photo shows three cups on top of the low wall surrounding Our Lady’s Well, Timoleague, Co. Cork, which is sunken into the ground. On the outside of the wall, the gravel of a path surrounding the well can be seen, while on the inside the wall leads down to the still water. The three cups – a simple metal handle-less one, an old porcelain one with faded writing and a plastic mug from Lough Derg – rest, casting shadows in the mid-winter morning, awaiting use in personal and communal acts of devotion and reflection. The objects embody beliefs, vernacular traditions and absent rituals. The presence of the Lough Derg cup is a nice link between this local spot and the national pilgrimage location.

  • Christmas Lights

    Christmas lights are one of the most prominent ways in which the festive season makes a (visual) impact on the landscape. This part of the world has, over the past 10-15 years, witnessed increased participation in the practice of illuminating the exterior of houses and gardens with Christmas lights. This has been seen as one of the many Christmas practices which the Irish and the British have adopted from the North Americans. In the Republic of Ireland, the adoption of Christmas lights can be linked to the display-of-wealth and neighbourly-competitiveness that accompanied the Celtic Tiger in the 2000s.

    Based on a desire to explore the light displays in Cork and to compose a blog-post, I, along with my girlfriend (research associate), drove around the city in search of illuminations. The meandering route had vague destinations that were intermixed with random detours and wanderings. Upon the discovery of a noteworthy house – based entirely on our opinions on the richness and quantity of the displays – we slowed down, stopped momentarily and took a photo with a standard digital camera. The nature of the photos were influenced by the quality of the device, the inclement weather and the desire not to linger excessively outside private residences.

    In journeying, we speculated on the topic of Christmas lights as the focus of a PhD study, and found that with little effort a considerable range of social and cultural factors could be linked to the displays, including variation based on socio-economic areas, the meaning behind decorating a house, the influence of US American culture, any possible cluster of displays, the opinions of the owners, neighbours and passers-by, and so on. As with all good academic musing, the subject at hand was successfully related to all major social, cultural, political and economic issues, both historical and contemporary.

    A number of brief observations were made throughout the evening’s engagement with the Christmas illuminated landscape. Firstly, there did seem to be a general correlation between the displays and socio-economic areas, with working-class and lower-middle class areas having a greater number of very elaborate displays, compared to the more sombre illuminations of middle-class areas. In fact, many middle-class areas were devoid of exterior lights, although there was usually some effort an internal illumination, such as Christmas trees or candle arches in the windows. Next, there were several instances of clustering effects, with a number of houses in a row having similar types and scales of decorations – this may lead to observations of competitiveness, social norms and other factors.

    Thirdly, this is a night-time spectacle. Christmas lights and such decorations are enjoyed, consumed and noticed in the dark, while in daylight the wires are visible, the shapes obscure and the overall impression is absent. The illumination of the landscape in the dark hours of the winter symbolises the role of the festivities in Northern Europe, as the dreary night-time is transformed by the injection of complex and coloured arrangements of lights.

    Christmas Lights 12 1

    A series of rows and strings of light on a house near Ballintemple, although being an plentiful display it is still largely within the character of the house and surrounding area, as the lights are attached to the architecture features and shrubbery, thus, highlighting what is already present.

    CL 12 2

    This display near Ballinlough has additional lighted features, such as the reindeer and Santa climbing, which make it a distinct spectacle, especially as the surrounding residences mainly lack exterior illuminations.

    Cl 12 3

    The presence of candle arches in each of the windows creates a subtle Christmas display in this house near Ballyphehane. These arches, which originated in Northern European tradition, became very popular about 20 years ago, and can be found in the windows of many houses.

    CL 12 4

    A very elaborate illuminated collection covers this town house near Churchfield. The intensity of the display is emphasised by the fact that the entirety of the front of the house seems to be adorned with some feature or other. The photo captures a fraction of the sheer glow of the scene.

    CL 12 5

    The giant blow up Santa and snowman in front of this house near Ballyvolane make this a relatively unique display.

    Suggested reading: 

    Edensor and Millington (2009) ‘Illuminations, Class Identities and the Contested‘, Sociology, 43 (1), pp. 103 -121.

  • Rag Tree St Gobnait’s Cork

    A collection of photos concerning the rag tree at St Gobnait’s monastic site in Ballyvourney, Co Cork. Clockwise from bottom left: a selection of larger objects at the base of the tree, including a motorbike helmet, a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary, candle holders and flowers; a profile view of the rag tree located next to St Gobnait’s Well (obscured behind the tree) and the strips of material – from which these trees gain their name – hanging off different branches; a close perspective of very personal votive offerings, such as a keyring, a pen and lengths of wool, whose true meaning is only known to those who left them here; a number of rosary beads hanging together; a significant number of memorial cards and photos are pinned to tree, reinforcing its role as a place for personal reflection and communal expressions of grief.