The origin of this devotion to St. Patrick on the last day of July goes back to pre-Christian times.
This day was called 'Domnach Chrom Duibh' meaning literally 'the Sunday of the Black Stooped One'. In early Irish mythological tales, Crom Dubh is synonymous with Balor of the Evil Eye whose glance withered crops, animals and humans alike. At other times he is called Deodruise, a name not unlike Truiste - the name of the townland where the well is situated.
Crom Dubh was overcome by Lugh, who in mythology is the Omnipotent One, mastering all the arts and skills of man in his own person. He gives his name to the first month of the harvest, Lughnasa or August (the word actually means 'Festival of Lugh'). It was a festival of first fruits in acknowledgement of Lugh, who once proved himself the master over Balor and often went on for three days.
According to tradition, Crom Dubh was cut off from the mainland by St. Patrick at Downpatrick Head and the sea stack is now known as 'Dun Briste'. St. Patrick is said to have travelled along the ancient road from Umhaill (where Croagh Patrick is situated) to Tyrawley. Here he rested, drank from the well and blessed it. Tradition mentions a church as well. The well, which was earlier associated with Lughnasad, is now associated with baptism and healing such as the restoration of lost eyesight.
The station at this well was traditionally performed to bring about reconciliation in families. There is a story of a woman who prayed at the well to have the affection of her jealous husband restored to her. She had her prayers answered, but on that occasion such thunder and lightening rocked the mountain, the pilgrims feared for their lives. On reaching home, she found her husband's affection was completely restored to her.
There are two wells - St. Patrick's Well nearest the altar and St. Bridget's Well on your left as you kneel at St. Patrick's Well, facing the hill of Tristia. The 'rock' is close by, to your right. Kneeling at St. Patrick's Well, recite seven Our Fathers and seven Hail Mary's; walk around the well seven times reciting one Our Father and one Hail Mary each time around.
Walk to the rock and, kneeling, say seven Our Father's and seven Hail Mary's. Move to the altar on your knees; here say fifteen Our Fathers, fifteen Hail Mary's and the Creed.
Move now to St. Patrick's Well for a second time, still on your knees as you go. Kneeling at the well, say seven Our Fathers and seven Hail Mary's.
Walk to St. Bridget's Well, kneeling say seven Our Fathers and seven Hail Mary's. This ends the traditional station and Mass is celebrated.
By Maeve Dunne