All posts tagged Pilgrims

  • 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

  • Walking Tóchar Phádraig

    “As you ‘walk the Tóchar’, whether on foot or in fantasy, you will be going not only on a spiritual pilgrimage, but on a cultural and historical journey down through the ages also. And both experiences, if fully entered into, should bring about that change of heart and insight of mind which is essential to a pilgrim’s progress.” (p.v) Fr Frank Fahey in Tóchar Phádraig: a Pilgrim’s Progress.

    Tóchar Pádraig is a walkway that leads from Ballintubber Abbey to Croagh Patrick. This old pilgrim road stretches c.35 km across mid-Mayo on a route that is both cross-country and on quite rural roads. Annually, Ballintubber Abbey organises four group walks during the summer months. This account is taken from one such event.

    Pilgrims gathering in the morning in Ballintubber Abbey. Mixing and preparing for the pilgrimage ahead.

    Pilgrims gathering in the morning in Ballintubber Abbey. Mixing and preparing for the pilgrimage ahead.

    The gathering in the Abbey is a starting point where Fr Frank Fahey gives an introduction to the route and the concept of pilgrimage. Although some people arrive in the groups – in my case, my father accompanied me – most people don’t know each other. During the day people, through chat and travelling together, will get to know each other better, leading to the emergence of a camaraderie or communitas. My research was a nice topic of conversation which I shared with different people throughout the day.

    Pilgrims are invited to light candles before they begin walking. It serves as a means of connect with an intention and the Divine.

    Pilgrims are invited to light candles before they begin walking. It serves as a means of connect with an intention and the Divine.

    A tóchar is an historical route way which served an important land-based transport systems in ancient and medieval times. They were particularly associated with pilgrimages and ecclesiastical foundations. It is speculated that Tóchar Phádraig is based on an earlier route from Cruachain, Roscommon, the seat of the Kings of Connacht to Croagh Patrick, which itself is a site of ancient ritual activity.

    The group setting off on the Tóchar, walking across the fields adjacent to the abbey.

    The group setting off on the Tóchar, walking across the fields adjacent to the abbey.

    The route meanders through the landscape, as we move in meadows, walk along ridges and navigate boggy areas. The removal from the everyday is most definitely expressed in the cross-country sections where soft paths carry us away from the world through quiet patches of nature. Even the on-road sections can be very sedate with little traffic coming by. This withdrawing from the rest of the world and our own lives is a central part of pilgrimage. The landscape itself, is central to the creation of this liminality.

    Walking through one of the many fields the Tóchar passes through, the group spreading out as people chat and walk.

    Walking through one of the many fields the Tóchar passes through, the group spreading out as people chat and walk.

    The Tóchar follows is known route as much as possible which involves walking on road and through countryside. However, many of the roads are very quiet boreens on which you encounter little, if any, traffic.

    The Tóchar follows is known route as much as possible which involves walking on road and through countryside. However, many of the roads are very quiet boreens on which you encounter little, if any, traffic.

    Gathering for mass on Boheh stone (St Patrick's Chair) a former mass rock with ‘cup and ring’ motifs which are a fine example of neolithic rock art.

    Gathering for mass on Boheh stone (St Patrick’s Chair) a former mass rock with ‘cup and ring’ motifs which are a fine example of neolithic rock art.

    On the long stretches of road in Teevenacroaghy the group is very spread out. It is in the latter part of the day, as we approach Croagh Patrick.

    On the long stretches of road in Teevenacroaghy the group is very spread out. It is in the latter part of the day, as we approach Croagh Patrick.

    Only a few climb to the actual summit of Croagh Patrick, as it is an extra undertaking: it is explained to us that the main part of the pilgrimage is the route itself, in doing this you have completed the pilgrimage. This speaks to an ideal of pilgrimage as a journey, rather than a destination. The typical outlook would see the summit of the Reek as a requirement, but in this event our attention is called to other ways of walking and being. It is a readjustment, a pleasant one.

    Beginning the climb of the Croagh Patrick ridge form the northern, Teevenacroaghy, side. The path is less clear here, as we walk across rough ground.

    Beginning the climb of the Croagh Patrick ridge form the northern, Teevenacroaghy, side. The path is less clear here, as we walk across rough ground.

    As the bus takes our group from Murrisk back to Ballintubber, we chat and rest. We say our goodbyes and each of us, in our previous groupings or as individuals, go on our own paths.

    “Reminding yourself that life is a journey not a destination, you now let slow motion time drift past on diaphanous wings while you absorb the timeless sensations and colours of the Mayo countryside.” John O’Dwyer, Pilgrim Trail, The Irish Times, Jul 14, 2012.

    Reading:
    Tóchar Phádraig: a Pilgrim’s Progress. 1989, Ballintubber Abbey Publication, Mayo.

  • Collaging the Beds

    The ‘Beds’ are one of the most prominent features associated with the Lough Derg pilgrimage. The six Penitential Beds – small low circular walled structures – are the remnants of monastic beehive huts. They form a central part of the Stations which pilgrims perform during their stay on the island. This post is a collage of images and texts which centre on the beds.

    At each of the beds, pilgrims walk barefoot three times around the outside; kneel at the entrance, walk the interior three times and kneel at the cross; during each of these they say three Our Fathers, three Hail Marys and one Creed.

    LD Beds Coll 1

    This image is a collection of different photos I took over three days in mid-July. By connecting a selection of separate, but related, moments, it is possible to see the beds in a fuller manner. A segment from the morning shows only one or two pilgrims, while the afternoon slices – in the centre – has the beds crowded and silently bustling, and, then, the evening photos present empty beds. They are simultaneously spots of movement and pause, physicality and ethereality, and presence and absence.

    Every performance of the beds, by each individual, is a new experience. It links the present realities with the prayers and intentions of each person. Also, they are following the paths trod by those who have gone before. Personal and social memories mix with the pilgrimage, as the recent and distant pasts are felt to be present here. The circling and pauses intermix the physical practice and the intentions of the pilgrims so that the beds are both continuity and change.

    To this visual presentation of the beds, I wish to add a textual component. Three relatively random quotes about the beds, garnished from historical and contemporary sources I am using in my research, show other perspectives on the beds.  Alice Curtayne, writing in 1933, described the activity on that beds as being “endless files of pilgrims, walking, kneeling, dipping, murmuring” which made “a scene fantastic beyond all telling” (p.13). I find parallels between her thinking and my own, as when the beds are in use, particularly with a larger crowd, they are alive. The sheer motion of so many people completing a complex set of rituals animate the place and create a unique scene.

    T.R. Gogarty’s account from twenty years earlier is similarly evocative, albeit a bit more penitential. “Paths, worn and quarried by human feet through rocks that wrench and stones that bend every ambulatory muscle with a pain” (p.809). This highlights the intensely carnal nature of the pilgrimage. A focus on the interactions of the unprotected feet and the rough, yet eroded, rock captures so much of what the beds are for pilgrims. Simon Kennedy’s poem Lough Derg, in a lovely recent collection, Pilgrims’ tales … and more, gives a simple structure to the pilgrims encounter with the beds: “Barefoot pilgrim meander | Over your hobble stones | Of penitential beds. | St Patrick – Pray for us. | St Brigid – Pray for us. | St Columba – Pray for us.” (p.90). The physical activity, the personified island and saintly invocations mingle at this place.

    Sources:

    Curtayne, A., 1933. St Patrick’s Purgatory: The sanctuary of Station Island, Lough Derg or An excursion into the fifth century. Anthonian Press, Dublin.

    Gogarty, T.R., 1913. Some pilgrim impressions of Lough Derg, (with several photographs). The Catholic Bulletin, 3, pp.800–813.

    McDaid, M. and McHugh, P. eds., 2000. Pilgrims’ tales … and more. Blackrock, Co. Dublin: Columba Press.

  • Reek Sunday 2013

    Reek Sunday, the last Sunday in July, sees several thousand people climb Croagh Patrick on the southern shore of Clew Bay in Mayo. The sheer scale of the event and its links with the ancient and more modern past, mark it out as one of the most distinct events in Ireland. It is a combination of a variety of elements, including the Celtic feast of  Lughnasa, Patrician lore, spiritual devotion, personal and familial tradition and the sense of an event. For a historical overview of Croagh Patrick, checkout the post from Pilgrimage in Medieval Ireland.

    Although Croagh Patrick is climbed throughout the year, Reek Sunday is a special day. People from all over Ireland travel especially on that day. You are guaranteed to encounter all manner of humanity here. It is also on this day that some of the more religious or spiritual elements come to the fore. My fieldwork involved me engaging with the events, people and landscape of Croagh Patrick throughout Reek Sunday. I started off about 6am walking; however, I made frequent stops to photograph and record events. I spent a few hours on the summit taking everything in and talking to some people and, then, descended slowly, arriving down by 4pm.

    This video is an amalgamation of different recordings I made throughout the day. It attempts to give a sense of the movements, sounds and moments that make up the pilgrimage.

    One of the most striking aspects of the day is the significant numbers who are climbing at an early hour. While some people still practice the traditional night pilgrimage, the main crowds start arriving from about dawn. When I was walking up after 6am, there were at least several thousand people on the Reek. While most of the world rests on this Sunday morning, the approaching roads, fields being used as car parks and the paths are alive with activity. In a previous post, I have outlined the route and character of the main path leading up from Murrisk.

    Pilgrims pass the statue of St Patrick as they begin their ascent, just after dawn.

    Pilgrims pass the statue of St Patrick as they begin their ascent, just after dawn.

    A long trail of pilgrims ascending to the main ridge at about 6.20 am.

    A long trail of pilgrims ascending to the main ridge at about 6.20 am.

    The steep pathway leading up the Reek proper – Casán Phádraig – is what is associated most frequently with Croagh Patrick. Pilgrims, usually with sticks, struggle up the loose surface, while those descending are moving cautiously, ever conscious of balance. On this day, the path is a stream of activity with hundreds of feet, unsecured stones, encounters and conversations. This audio secording gives as sense of how much is actually going on and how active the path is

    Pilgrims climbing Casán Phádraig, the path leading up the Reek proper, early in the morning.

    Pilgrims climbing Casán Phádraig, the path leading up the Reek proper, early in the morning.

    The summit is the site of masses all morning with pilgrims gathering on the gable end of the Chapel from where the mass is celebrated; confessions are also available. While acting as a central point of the pilgrimage as a Catholic event, it is also related to the Plenary Indulgence associated with Croagh Patrick. Rounds of the chapel and St Patrick’s bed are practised, with each been circled by pilgrims saying the Rosary. Many others rest, eat and often take photos of the views across Clew Bay. Also, there are usually a number of stalls selling drinks, tea and bars of chocolate (at airport prices!). There is a sense of being separate from the mundane on the mountain. The views allows a wider perspective, with many of the immediate concerns being left behind. This sense is a crucial component of the pilgrimage experience; and, although the summit is so busy there is still a feeling of being removed from everything else

    St Patrick's Chapel on the summit, just after one of the masses (one every half hour between 8am & 2pm). Pilgrims on the left are queueing for Confessions and those on the right for Communion.

    St Patrick’s Chapel on the summit, just after one of the masses (one every half hour between 8am & 2pm). Pilgrims on the left are queueing for Confessions and those on the right for Communion.

    A recording of the gospel (The Beatitudes formthe Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5:3–12) at the 9.30am mass, read by Archbishop Charles John Brown, Apostolic Nuncio to Ireland.

    A pilgrim rounding the chapel with their rosary beads. The congregation at mass are in the background.

    A pilgrim rounding the chapel with their rosary beads. The congregation at mass are in the background.

    Leaba Phádraig: A number of pilgrims follow the traditional stations of the route by rounding St Patrick's Bed reciting prayers.

    Leaba Phádraig: A number of pilgrims follow the traditional stations of the route by rounding St Patrick’s Bed reciting prayers.

    Going down, which is often seen as being more challenging, involves steady footing and heavy use of the stick almost as a third foot. The mountain is known for the camaraderie it encourages in people. Those descending continually assure those coming up that there almost there, some giving slightly unrealistic estimations, possible to bolster confidence and determination. Furthermore, these seems to have been a perennial characteristic of Croagh Patrick with one 1910 commentator, known only as E O’L. writing in The Irish Monthly saying that such assurances were “well calculated to cheer and revive the drooping spirits, such as ” Bravo ! you’re getting on grand, you have only a few hundred yards more to climb,”…” (p.592).

    Descending the Casán: going down the steep path on uncertain surfaces is often considered to be the most challening aspect. Here the feet, the means by which the pilgrim engages physically with the mountain, are adjusting to the incline.

    Descending the Casán: going down the steep path on uncertain surfaces is often considered to be the most challening aspect. Here the feet, the means by which the pilgrim engages physically with the mountain, are adjusting to the incline.

    The Reek proper in the early afternoon, the steady flow of pilgrims are evident, animating the path all the way up the peak.

    The Reek proper in the early afternoon, the steady flow of pilgrims are evident, animating the path all the way up the peak.

    Further down the path one goes the more the everyday world encroaches, as everything gradually becomes closer and more real. Adding to this sensation is the collection of stalls and people at the end of the path. Whether selling or promoting something, they speak to a real world, with concerns beyond the mountain

    Numerous groups and business set up stalls at the base of the path in Murrisk. While, some are promotion particular causes or denominations, others are selling religious items or food.

    Numerous groups and business set up stalls at the base of the path in Murrisk. While, some are promotion particular causes or denominations, others are selling religious items or food.

    This was my second Reek Sunday (both being motivated by my research), but I’ve already grown fond of the day. It has a distinct feel to it and I can understand some of what draws people back year after year. Also, the role played by groups such as volunteer first aiders, stewards, Gardaí, the Air Corps, clergy and local people should be acknowledged.

    Suggested Reading:

    Hughes, H., 2005. Croagh Patrick: Ireland’s Holy Mountain. The Croagh Patrick Archaeological Committee.

    Hughes, H., 2010. Croagh Patrick: a place of pilgrimage, a place of beauty. O’Brien Pub.

    O’L., E., 1910. A Pilgrimage to Croagh Patrick: July 31, 1910. The Irish Monthly, 38(448), pp.585–596.

    Road to Emmaus staff, 2011. Croagh Patrick: The glorious climb of Ireland’s holy mountain. Road to Emmaus, 12(2), pp.1–45.

  • Nine Stations, Lough Derg

    Lough Derg is one of the main sites of pilgrimage in Ireland. Station Island or St Patrick’s Purgatory is a small island on the lake in south-eastern Donegal. It has been a place of pilgrimage and retreat for over 1,000 years. The primary practice associated with the island is the three pilgrimage which sees the pilgrims fasting, keeping Vigil, going barefoot and completing a series of exercises and a set number of ‘stations’.

    I recently completed the pilgrimage and later returned to the island as a researcher observing and discussing the pilgrimage. To give a sense of what is involved in this pilgrimage, I have put together this account of the pilgrimage station and some of the exercises. It is a synthesis of observations and recordings over a four day period.

    Station Island

    Station Island

    Pilgrims arrive on the morning/early afternoon of the first day, having fasted since midnight. The journey across to the island is the physical element of the break from the world, this is also facilitated through the non-use of mobiles. A central component of a pilgrimage is a break from the everyday which allows pilgirms to consider deeper more meaningful aspects of their lives.

    Barefoot

    Barefoot

    Pilgrims remove their shoes almost immediately on the island. As well as being part of the traditional penitential exercise, the removing footwear creates an equality and shared-experience among the pilgrims. It doesn’t matter what you do outside of Lough Derg, everyone is equal.

    The Bell, standing on the site of the original cave in which pilgrims spent their Vigil, punctuates daily life, announcing ceremonies in the Basilica and marking the Angelus.

    Order of the Station:

    Tabernacle, St Patrick's Basilica

    Tabernacle, St Patrick’s Basilica

    Each station begins with a visit to the Blessed Sacrament in tabernacle in St Patrick’s Basilica.

    St Patrick's Cross

    St Patrick’s Cross

    Pilgrims go to St Patrick’s Cross, adjacent to the Basilica, kneel down, and say one Our Father, one Hail Mary and one Creed; and finish by kissing the Cross.

    St Brigid's Cross

    St Brigid’s Cross

    At Brigid’s Cross, on the outside wall of the Basilica, pilgrims again kneel down and this time say three Our Fathers, three Hail Marys and one Creed. Standing with their back to the Cross and arms outstretched, they say three times “I renounce the World, the Flesh and the Devil”.

    Rounding the Basilica

    Rounding the Basilica

    The Basilica is then rounded four times, clockwise, during which seven decades of the Rosary and one Creed, at the end, are prayed silently.

    The Penitential Beds

    The Penitential Beds

    There are six penitential beds – St Brigid’s, St Brendan’s, St Catherine’s, St Columba’s, St Patrick’s and Saints Davog and Molaise’s (the latter two are a double bed). At each bed the pilgrims: walk three times around the outside, clockwise, while saying three Our Fathers, three Hail Marys and one Creed; kneel at the entrance to the bed and repeat the prayers; walk three times around the inside and say the prayers again; and, finally, kneel at the Cross in the centre and say these prayers for the fourth time. There is a slight variation at the last double bed which is circled six times, while saying six Our Fathers, six Hail Marys and one Creed.

    Beads and Booklet

    Beads and Booklet

    Pilgrims frequently carry Rosary beads on the station to assist in the saying of prayers. The pilgrim leaflet acts a guide to the stations and is carried around as well

    St Columba's Penitential Bed

    St Columba’s Penitential Bed

    Large numbers of pilgrims frequently complete the stations together. Here there are number of people circling the outside of St Columba’s Bed, two kneeling and four at the cross in the centre.

    Praying at the water's edge

    Praying at the water’s edge

    At the water’s edge, pilgrims stand saying five Our Fathers, five Hail Marys and one Creed and then kneel repeating these prayers; after which they, make the Sign of the Cross with the lake water as a reminder of their Baptism.

    St Patrick's Cross by the Basilica

    St Patrick’s Cross by the Basilica

    Pilgrims return to St Patrick’s Cross; kneel down and say one Our Father, one Hail Mary and one Creed. They proceed to the Basilica and conclude the station by reciting Psalm 16 (or by saying five Our Fathers, five Hail Marys and One Creed), for the Pope’s intentions.

     

    Pilgrim Meal

    Pilgrim Meal

    The Lough Derg Meal, which is available at any stage from 1.15-8.15, consists of black tea or coffee (sugar is available) with dry bread, toast and oatcakes. This is eaten once on Day 1 and 2, pilgrims are allowed a similar meal off the island on Day 3.

    Night Vigil:

    The all-night Vigil is a central part of the Lough Derg pilgrimage, it involves pilgrims staying awake for 24 hours. It begins with the group gathering in the Basilica and the doors being locked. This refers back to a time when pilgrims spent the Vigil in a cave or when they were locked into the ‘Prison Chapel’. While it remains symbolic as the doors are opened later and pilgrims are free to move around the Basilica, it still resonates as a group of people cut themselves off from the world and pray together throughout the night.

    The Vigil Candle

    The Vigil Candle

    The Vigil Candle remains lighting for the 24-hour period, its lighting marking the beginning of the Vigil and its extinguishing, at Night Prayer, signifies that the pilgrims can go to their beds.

    The Basilica at during the Vigil

    The Basilica at during the Vigil

    The light and sounds of the the vigil pour out from the Basilica on an otherwise silent island.

    During the night, four stations are completed within the Basilica. One of the pilgrims leads the prayers, with everyone else responding. The communal prayer helps each person keep their Vigil

    Praying the Night Vigil

    Praying the Night Vigil

    The doing of the station within the Basilica involves pilgrims circulating while following the pattern of movements (rounding, kneeling, standing), as if they were outside.

    Pilgrims departing

    Pilgrims departing

    On the morning of Day 3, pilgrims, having completed all the stations, put on their shoes, gather their belongings and leave the island. However, they continue fasting until midnight that night. The fantastic and tranquil feelings this morning is hard to describe, but many are confident they will return.

    While Lough Derg is firmly one of those places that must be personally experienced to truly understand it, I hope I have in some conveyed even a sense of the place and the practices. I would urge anyone with an interest or subtle desire, to go on pilgrimage to Lough Derg; it will be worth it. The three day pilgrimage runs from 31st May – 13th August annually (see the website for further details).

  • St John’s Well Carrigaline

    St John’s Well Carrigaline is venerated on St John’s Eve (23rd June) in a tradition that dates as far back as at least the early nineteenth century. The communal celebration of the well sees over a hundred locals gather for prayer and hymns at the site.

    The well, also referred to as  Tobar Eoin Óg or St Renogue (in a corrupted form), is located to the north-west of the main town, along a path between the Ballinrea Road and the Ballea Road (R613), adjacent to the Dun Eoin residential area. It is encased by a bee-hive shaped structure, with a small entrance from which water flows. A damaged cross tops the structure, while five pilgrim crosses are inscribed on the exterior walls. While a number of locals are very dedicated to the upkeep of the site, anti-social activities (a common feature of wells and other sites near towns) still make their presence felt.

    St John’s Eve is a traditional time of celebration. It is a mixture of the Summer Solstice, Pagan/Celtic customs and Christian/Catholic saintly devotion. The lighting of bonfires (large open air fires) was a prominent way of marking the occasion; this practice is still common in Cork city with both official community events and unofficial (sometimes dangerous) fires. As part of the customs surrounding the night, wells and sites associated with St John are venerated.

    The current form of the devotions at St John’s Well are organised by a small group in conjunction with the Catholic parish clergy. The rosary is lead by a priest who circles the well, with someone inscribing crosses to mark each decade of the rosary. The Eucharist or Blessed Sacrament is displayed and venerated, while music is provided by members of the parish choir and the Carrigaline Pipe Band. After the formal service, some go to the well to drink the water, bless themselves and/or collect some to take way.

     

    While the format of the events see only one or two people doing the ’rounds’ during the service, a number of people individually circle the well, marking the crosses and praying. The structure over the well forces pilgrims to bend down and really get into the well if they are to access the water. The bodies and movements of the pilgrims, therefore, respond to the spaces in a particular way. Also, while a minority are content to bless themselves with the water as it flows from the well, many gather it from the well directly. This speaks to a firm continuation of faith in collecting, touching and drinking the water at the exact point of the source, where it is held to be purest.

    The organisation of and attendance at the 2013 service  indicated a healthy belief in the well and the importance of continuing its veneration in this community. This is the third year in-a-row that I have attended this event and it has consistently attracted  large crowds (although torrential rain last year resulted in a simplified service and a smaller crowd). Also, on this visit I meet Louise Nugent of the blog Pilgrimage in Medieval Ireland who has also written a post on the evening.

    Locating the well:

     

    Further reading and sources: 

    Carrigaline Catholic Parish website features information on the Well.

    CO086-056 (Archaeological Survey of Ireland, Record Details) on http://www.archaeology.ie. Posted: 14 Jan 2009

    St John’s Eve article from Irish Culture & Customs .com

    St John’s Eve post from A Silver Voice from Ireland blog

     

  • The City, Shrone May Day 2013

    ‘The City’, or Cathair Crobh Dearg, is a local pilgrimage site in Shrone, Rathmore, Kerry, on the northern slopes of the Paps. The name ‘The City’ refers to the locations role as a cathair (ringfort). The surviving walls and features of the antiquity serve as setting for the pattern that is performed there.  It is believed that this has been a place of continual devotion and worship over several millennia.

    Both the location and possibly a pagan deity were Christianised with the space being associated with St. Craobh Dearg ( a sister of St Gobnait of Ballyvourney). In a further pagan/Celtic connection, the pattern is performed on May Day, that is the feast of Bealtaine and it is linked with ensuring the health of cattle, or sometimes agriculture more generally.

    The Well is located on western side of the City. It is the last station on the pattern. It is enclosed by a stone wall with a small amount of votive offerings present.

    The Well is located on western side of the City. It is the last station on the pattern. It is enclosed by a stone wall with a small amount of votive offerings present.

    Some work was done in the recent past with the well being located within concrete piping, with surrounding steps which facilitate access.

    Some work was done in the recent past with the well being located within concrete piping, with surrounding steps which facilitate access.

    At the western station of the pattern, there is a statue of Our Lady with the Infant Jesus and a number of cross slabs. Devotees make the shape of the corss as part of the pattern. The deep groves speak to the age of this practice.

    At the western station of the pattern, there is a statue of Our Lady with the Infant Jesus and a number of cross slabs. Devotees make the shape of the corss as part of the pattern. The deep groves speak to the age of this practice.

    The Well from the road, with a woman doing the rounds and a man at the well.

    The Well from the road, with a woman doing the rounds and a man at the well.

    A woman doing the rounds, circling the outside of the City. The flow of people that day has created a 'path' in the grass.

    A woman doing the rounds, circling the outside of the City. The flow of people that day has created a ‘path’ in the grass.

    The water is taken away on sprinkled on cattle or the land. It is also kept to give to sick cattle. Some people take several bottles of water, collecting it for their neighbours and friends.

    The water is taken away on sprinkled on cattle or the land. It is also kept to give to sick cattle. Some people take several bottles of water, collecting it for their neighbours and friends.


    A recording of me collecting some water from the well.

    A video of me walking around the outside of the City, along the pattern route. The flow of earlier pilgrims has left a clear on the route.

    Suggested Reading:

    Cronin, D. (2001) In the Shadow of the Paps

    City of Shrone‘ : Stone Fort posting on Megalithomania

    The City and the Paps of Anu posting on Voices from the Dawn

  • St Fanahan’s Well, 2012

     

    St Fanahan’s holy well complex, Mitchelstown, Co. Cork. A collection of photographs taken on the afternoon of Sunday, 25th November 2012, which is the feast day of St Fanahan. The seventh century saint, who is referred to as a warrior monk, is the patron of the town.

    Photos, clockwise from top left: The holy well site just north of Mitchelstown, the well, with a semi-circular concrete border, is to the fore, a stone cross, some trees and a circular path are behind it; the stone cross, including a sculpture of the saint, with a sword in his belt and holding a staff, above a serpent, and a number of artificial candles surround it; a group of pilgrims do the pattern around the site, involving rounding, saying decades of the rosary, stopping at the well, blessings themselves and consuming the water; a glass, with some well water still in it, stands on a flagstone by the well, left by one pilgrim, awaiting another.

  • Reek Sunday 2012: Pilgrims climb Croagh Patrick

    A photo showing people climbing Croagh Patrick on the annual pilgrimage day, Reek Sunday (the last Sunday in July). The photo looks eastward, down the path from a little way up the scree-covered peak and across the ridge, which the main path runs across. This section of path is known as Casán Phádraig, the path of St Patrick. The significant number of ‘pilgrims’ results in lines or flows of people, almost creating one continuous row going up the mountain. The large crowd animates the path itself. The erosion of the path, the relative smooth surface of the most walked-on section and the loose nature of the outer track are all evident. The mountain rescue/first aid tents are visible below in the middle ground.