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Boyne valley Hill of Tara Myths and legends

Stories Myths and Legends throughout the Boyne Valley County Meath 

Holy Wells / Wishing Wells / Wishing or Holy Trees (Hill of Tara)

Pagan rites throughout the Boyne valley were originally celebrated at the sites of springs and wells. Once St Patrick arrived into Ireland 432 AD he set about christianizing these places and using the water for baptism. The descriptions in early records suggest that baptism by immersion was common in the early Irish Church.

There is an old belief that if a cure is effected or a prayer answered, the pilgrim will see a fish in the bottom of the well - in some places it is said to be a trout, but an eel is also mentioned. This sounds pagan in origin but some writers maintain that the monks used to keep a fishpond within the enclosure to maintain supplies for their meatless meals, and that simple people regarded the monks' fish as sacred creatures. It was common practice throughout Ireland in the countryside to go on pilgrimages to these wells and springs, pilgrims would circle the wells with special prayers to recite; The Patron, or, as it was pronounced, 'Pattern', Day was not a wholly religious occasion. Drinking and breaches of the peace were known to occur. For these reasons clergy discouraged visits to holy wells, and, as a consequence, many were forgotten. Until very recent times the custom of leaving votive offerings at holy wells survived. Commonly, if a tree overhung the well - and almost always there was a sacred tree (Hill of Tara) - the pilgrim tied a scrap of his clothing to it. These would be referred to as rag-wells.

River Boyne – origins of its name (Boyne valley)

There was once a magical well – “the well of wisdom” it belonged to Nechtain, who was king of Leinster, he was married to the goddess Boann. The king was very protective of this well, and the story go’s that he and three of his cupbearers were the ones allowed to visit it. One day Boann decided to visit for herself. Some say she simply looked into the well others that she walked three times anti-clockwise around it, what is told is the waters in anger rose up, blinding, mutilating, and drowning the goddess, before rushing east towards the sea. Although nothing remains of the well today, its waters remain in the form of the river Boyne, which is named after the goddess Boann today. 

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