The Sacred Well, or Holy Well, is one of the most evocative of the Celtic symbols. To the Celts, as to many pre-Celtic populations, water was believed to represent a boundary dividing the land from the sky, and the physical world from the Otherworld.
Caves, wells and springs were ‘gateways’ to the Otherworld and, therefore, sacred places. Consequently, the water that sprung from such places, especially hot, steamy or bubbling water, was believed to have healing properties.
The sacred well as a Celtic symbol of the feminine.
In the ancient Celtic religion and culture the sacred well was seen as the entrance to the womb of the Goddess or Great Mother.
Sacred wells and springs were believed to be guarded by the three-fold Goddess.
Coventina – the ‘Lady of the Lake’
Coventina was the Romano-Celtic goddess of the sacred well. Coventina is believed to be associated with the Lady of the Lake from Arthurian legends, also known as Vivienne, a name said to derive, in fact, from the Celtic Co-Vianna or Coventina.
The Chalice Well of Glastonbury, England (left), according to Christian mythology, is said to have sprung from the ground after Joseph of Aramathea buried the Holy Grail below the nearby Glastonbury Tor. Archaelogical evidence, however, dates the well back to a far more ancient period.
The lid of the well features a symbol known as the Vesica Piscis (see below left), which consists of two inter-locking circles that form an almond, or mandorla, shape in the centre.
Viewed vertically, this shape may be related to the fish symbol used by early Christians. When viewed horizontally, however, the mandorla becomes the universal symbol of the Divine Feminine: the pointed oval representing the birth canal (see Sheela-Na-Gig).
The masculine equivalent of the Sacred Well was the Standing Stones, which were the most evident of the Celtic symbols representing masculine virility and power.
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