Desperate times, desperate measures.
I made this image on a trip to Saint Dympna's well not far from where I live in Count Cavan. The well is said to have cure 'nervous afflictions and mental illness' so my husband drove me there to take the waters on one particularly bad day in August past.
The shrine is in a beautiful glade that looks like a deserted Hobbit village. Along side the well is a shrine to Saint Dympna, patron saint of nervous afflictions, and the ruins of a ancient church. We had to get permission to visit from the farmer who's family have been the keepers of the well going back generations.
He functions in much the same way as a discrete receptionist at a mental health clinic and I wondered what a desperate trail of melancholic pilgrims he must have witnessed going for the cure over the years. We spent so long at the well documenting the ritual I imagine he thought us both very bad cases indeed.
The well itself is just a hollowed out stone that sits in the middle of a river with a foot bridge for access. I knelt down in the river and gave myself a good long dousing of the waters. While I really enjoyed the ritual involved in taking this cure and was most definitely refreshed by dunking my head repeatedly in the freezing cold water I am sorry to report I am not cured of my 'nervous affliction' as yet. I live in hope which, as you can imagine, requires some extreme magical thinking for an ardent atheist.
There is another St Dympna's well with the cure of 'the mental illness' in nearby County Monaghan after which the local psychiatric hospital Saint Davnets was named. I am feeling the need for another pilgrimage coming on and wonder if the well in Monaghan has a better melancholic pilgrim recovery rate than the Cavan one. Either way desperate times calls for desperate measures, even for atheists.
Posted by Jane McCormick, 5 October 2014
Last modified by Colin Hambrook, 6 October 2014