Friday, March 23, 2012

Gobnait: Woman of the Bees

There are many ancient, sacred wells in Ireland. The wells were originally of Celtic origin, but were later assimilated into the Christian religion. On the way to the airport we stopped for gas in Ballyvourney and got directions to Gobnait's Well, tucked away on a small, quiet road with an old church, abbey ruins, and a cemetery. 

Gobnait (of the 6th century) kept the plague out of Ballyvourney by designating it consecrated ground. She had a special relationship with honey bees and used honey to treat illness and wounds. Her name is the Irish equivalent of the Hebrew name Deborah, which means "honey bee." Bees were part of ancient Irish laws called the Bech Bretha (Bee Judgements). 

Gobnait was born in County Clare, but "fled" from there for some reason (honey bees perhaps?) to the Aran Islands. She encountered an angel who told her to go on a journey and stop when she came upon nine white deer. She journeyed across southern Ireland, found three white deer and followed them to Ballymakeera, found six more white deer there, then carried on to Ballyvourney and, sure enough, found nine white deer. Why didn't the angel just say "Go to Ballyvourney"? Jeez louise.

Gobnait (aka Deborah) founded a women's community. Ballyvourney is still a popular pilgrimage site, especially on February 11, Gobnait Pattern Day (Pattern Day is a special day when large crowds assemble).

Fortunately, it's not Gobnait Pattern Day, which makes for a nicer visit and uncluttered photos.

Deborah's Well is on a hill above the church grounds, just out of view in the bottom section of the top photo. Notice the tea cups that are available for sampling the water. Carla and Robin took a sip, then buzzed around the cemetery. 

The trees around the well continue the ubiquitous green color scheme very nicely.

These are the ruins of a famine porridge house, where I assume starving people came for food during the Irish Potato Famine.

Inscription: 1846 - 1848 Famine Porridge House.

The church and cemetery are still being used.

Jamie and I walked down the road for more photos. He snapped while I tapped (using an iPhone, y'know).

Peace. Quiet. Beauty. Serenity. Might want to consider a Starbucks with Wi-Fi, however. 

Inside the roofless abbey is a nice spot for more burial plots. The mat of lush green grasses was so thick and spongy that it felt like walking on thick foam rubber. That's pretty much what I was going for in our front yard in Santa Fe. After losing all three blades of grass I gave up and covered the yard with stone pavers.