Wishing Wells

There is something beautiful and magical about wishing wells, especially old stone ones. I’ve always felt drawn them.

Have you ever wondered why would your wish come true after tossing a coin in a well? Have you ever wondered where the idea comes from?

smoke-2147831_1920Wells and lakes were believed to be the entrances to the otherworldly and faerie realms by the ancient Irish. Water has been associated with other realms and death for eons. Some Native Americans tribes would put a stone in the river when someone died and believe that the soul of their loved one would reach the sky at the horizon where water and sky met.

I personally feel amazing when standing next to a lake, river or ocean. There is something about water that is soothing. A study has shown that living in a place where you can see the ocean reduces stress because viewing water and the colour blue has a calming effect.

It was believed that tossing something expensive in a well, lake or river would please the gods/goddesses would be and grant your wish.

It would appear from the modern Christian practice of the veneration of holy wells that the ancient people held a reverence for wells prior to the arrival of Christianity and that Christianity absorbed/used this reverence to indoctrinate people to their religion. We know that the Irish embraced Christianity and one of the reasons for why this might have been Christian baptism. The water was revered in the old religion so that the transition to the new religion was easy and not at all strange. Christianity used local beliefs to make people more accepting of the transition.

Most holy wells are located in Ireland with some in Britain. At first glance this may look they were artifacts of a common shared old Celtic religion, perhaps dating back to a time before Britain was invaded by the Romans and later the Saxons. This is true of a number of wells but other wells could be deemed holy due to the influence of Irish monks, who evangelized large parts of Britain. Most holy wells have been forgotten in Britain but not so in Ireland where the tradition lives on to this very day.

That said, Romans in Britain, despite having their own religion, made wishes by dropping coins into a well thought to be the entrance to the home of the Celtic goddess Coventina. Romans were also known to be diverse and acceptance of local beliefs to a certain point as it included conquered people in their ranks.

Incidentally, it is also interesting to note that the ancient Greeks, whom greatly influenced the Roman culture and history, venerated water in many different forms. They had many numerous gods and spirits associated with water, to do with both fresh and salt water, of rivers, springs etc and of the seas and ocean. Like as with the Naiads and Nereids for example, who were different types of a nymph, corresponding with fresh and salt water respectively

So when you toss a coin into a wishing well, you are engaging in a time honoured tradition of your ancient Irish, British, Roman and Greek ancestors. I don’t know about you, but I find it fascinating to see and understand the effect and traditions that ancient times still has in today’s society.


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