Beholding the Speckled Salmon: Folk Liturgies in the Sacred Landscapes of Ireland's Holy Wells

F÷studaginn 14. oktˇber n.k. kl. 16,00 mun Celeste Ray, prˇfessor Ý mannfrŠ­i vi­ University of the South, flytja erindi Ý stofu 206 Ý Odda.
Erindi­ er haldi­ ß vegum Stofnunar ┴rna Magn˙ssonar Ý Ýslenskum frŠ­um og Ůjˇ­frŠ­ingafÚlagsins.


Nßnari lřsing:

A lecture by Celeste Ray, Professor of Anthropology, University of he South, USA, will take place on Friday at 4 PM in room 206 in Oddi n:

Beholding the Speckled Salmon: Folk Liturgies in the Sacred Landscapes of Ireland's Holy Wells

Holy wells are springs or other water sources that are foci for spiritual devotion, and as the archaeological record indicates, have remained such for millennia though the religious beliefs celebrated wellside have come and gone. Agricultural reforms, and the lately-deceased economic boom in Ireland, led to the destruction of many wells. Others remain sites of daily Catholic devotions and of annual ôpatterns,ö or Patron days, affirming community identities and honoring locally- or regionally-venerated saints (many of whom are of dubious origin). Known for healing properties, a wellĺs association with specific ailments attracts particular pilgrims who perform syncretic folk-liturgies in a clockwise circuit and often deposit votive offerings at the site. If devotees see a salmon, an eel, or a trout in the well after prayers, their request is sure to be granted.
However, the increasing presence of international spiritual tourists and neopagans, and their introduction of new types of wellside rituals, contests the sacrality and community ownership of these numinous landscapes. For Irish families who have ritually-maintained particular wells for generations, landscape, liturgy and identity are all mutually-constitutive. These family stewards worry that "inappropriate" visitation and rituals may cause wells to lose their thaumaturgical power or become dangerous places. While most wells are blessed, some retain ôcursing stones,ö and may have such negative associations that locals avoid the site and hesitate saying its name.
Anthropologist Keith Basso has written about Apache place names serving as ômnemonic pegsö for right living. Likewise the Irish Dinnshenchas (the body of lore about places) ôstalksö the Irish with
stories. This paper considers the sociospatial dialectic of these sacred places.


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