by Yeshe Rabbit
It had been an absolutely enchanted romp through the green hills of Ireland: the rural towns, the sheep farmers, the magic of the land and its people. Everything was picture perfect and cosmically delicious, full of serendipity. Ancestors were thick in the underground cavern at New Grange. Whispers led us along an unmarked road to a steep cliff with red rocks jutting out over a sunset sea: a place called the Bloody Foreland in County Donegal.
The last day of our trip was to be a piece-de-resistance: a tour of the Cathedral of Brigid (goddess-and-saint) in County Kildare (Cill Dara, “church of the oak”). We arrived fresh from lunch and ready to see the venerable building, first constructed in 1223 on one of Ireland’s oldest sites of goddess worship. A sign on the locked gate offered dismay, then disappointment: “Closed until June.”
A wave of intuition rippled through me, and without wasting a moment I took off down the street to a row of small houses at the end of the block. An older woman answered the door with questioning eyes. “Please excuse me,” I began, “I know this sounds strange, but we’ve come all the way from the U.S. and one of the things I wanted to see most was the Cathedral and something told me to knock on your door.” The woman nodded, pulled out a huge ring of keys, and said, “Well, you’ve found the caretaker. Come on, I’ll show you around.”
It was a feast for the eyes: gorgeous wooden altar chairs, stunning stained glass, crypts and sarcophagi. Legend mingled with history against the backdrop of magnificent architecture. At one point, our guide pointed out one of the largest stone crypts with a big cross engraved next to the name of an old church family. “Crawl under there,” she commanded. On the underside was carved a tiny Sheila-Na-Gig, a pregnant goddess in birthing position, legs open and pushing. A pagan symbol of rebirth and new life, of the earthly womb that produces us and receives us again at our end. She then took us outside and showed us where the perpetual flame of Brigid was tended by priestesses in prehistoric times and later by Catholic nuns. It was said that for 19 days, 19 women tended the flame, and on the 20th day Brigid tended the flame Herself. I stepped into the stone circle that had once housed the fire. Standing on sacred Earth, I felt as though I was downloading lessons from the Universe.
Our guide said, “No trip here is complete without visiting the sacred well.” She gave us directions to a location not far from the Cathedral, and shushed us on our way. The sky was darkening and we stopped quickly in the twilight at the well. It was, and is, a simple orifice in the ground that conveys gentleness and power. People find this place, secreted away in the parking lot of the Japanese Gardens as time and commerce have grown up around it. Devotees leave strips of fabric, bread, eggs, butter, milk, photos, money. They make wishes. They say prayers. They experience connection and meaning. And they leave, as I did, refreshed with a sense of hope, faith, and purpose.
This was the birthplace of the vision that shaped what Barry and I have been creating since 2007 — a retail store, community resource, and gathering place where people experience the divine in many forms: arts, crafts, gifts, jewelry, wearable art, ritual, education, natural and ecologically sustainable products, intuitive services, wisdom, and a space for exploration of meaning. We named it The Sacred Well because, like that rustic site, it offers a powerful message:
“Magic happens every day.”