14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
An excellent book,
This review is from: Cures and Curses: Ritual and Cult at Holy Wells (Paperback)
This is an excellent book, consisting of seventy-five short essays (in alphabetical order) discussing different aspects of Holy Wells, from Ampullae to Witches, looking at topics such as Dragons, Healing, and Rituals along the way. It is satisfyingly well researched and easy to use - many of the essays are cross-referenced, full details are provided of sources and there is a good index. It is well illustrated, too, with photos and drawings on most pages.
The essays explore both historical and current day responses to wells, considering how they have changed. Clouties, or rags, are, for example, are now more frequently left at wells as compared to twenty years ago. Nowadays, people are less likely to leave pieces of fabric ripped from their clothing, but do still tend to leave clothes or coins or (increasingly, it seems) other items. Our purpose in leaving these items has shifted as well- the author suggesting that whereas in the past it arose from a desire to seek a cure for an ailment, it has changed into the making of an offering to the spirit of the place. We may no longer hope that holy wells will cure our problems, but do wish to respond to the atmosphere and energy of the wells with honour and respect.
The author does not just cite beliefs about wells uncritically, being unafraid to say when there is no evidence for stories about a particular well. She argues, for example, that there is no real evidence that Holy Wells predated the Romans coming to Britain.
A wealth of material has been gathered here, and it has been well digested before being compiled into this book. It is a very useful reference book for those of us who are interested in the water element in general and in wells in particular. I found it both inspirational and interesting. The author well conveys her enthusiasm and love for wells. The book's format means that it can be just dipped into and read in small self-contained chunks.
The final section of the book lists twenty-five Holy Wells that the author recommends visiting in England and Wales - here each is accompanied by a photo. The addition of a map would have been an added bonus. I have felt stimulated to visit some of those which are closer to me very soon. The author adds that she is currently compiling a much more comprehensive guidebook to surviving Holy Wells in the British Isles - I'll look forward to that.