An Tobar: A Two-Day Workshop on Holy Wells & Sacred Springs

26 & 27 June, 2017, Waterford, Ireland

Sacred watery sites and their traditions are a rising subject of scholarly inquiry internationally. A regularly recognized part of Hinduism, Christianity, Islam, Taoism and Shintoism, sacred springs, wells and pools are found in indigenous religious traditions around the globe from the sacred topographies of Aboriginal Australia or Scandinavia‘s Samiland to various water bodies inhabited by spirits and beings collectively referenced as Mami Wata in western Central Africa. Thousands of holy wells exist across Roman Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox Europe: Austria has 467, Denmark has 650, and Russia has nearly 3500. The National Monuments Service of the Republic of Ireland has documented the location of 2996, of which several hundred remain sites of daily devotions or annual feast day celebrations for associated saints. Neighboring Wales has 1779. This workshop will examine how holy wells and sacred springs around the world are understood through archaeology, anthropology, folklore, geography, history and related fields and consider new interdisciplinary directions for future research.

Papers on day one of the symposium will consider the following and related themes in a over a dozen countries:

  • archaeological & hydrogeological characteristics of holy wells and sacred springs
  • saints & spiritual guardians of holy water sources
  • pilgrimage & folk liturgies at sacred watery sites
  • medical humanities & the folklore of healing wells

Proceedings will take place in Waterford City Hall in the heart of the city centre (see ‘Accommodation and Directions‘).

The second day of the workshop will consist of two parts. The morning session, to be held in the undercroft and Garden Room in Waterford Museum of Treasures, will feature  poster and presentation sessions about county-specific surveys and research being conducted around Ireland, Wales and Scotland. The afternoon will consist of an excursion to St. Declan’s holy well at Ardmore, County Waterford with a talk by Dr. Stiofán Ó Cadhla (University College Cork), followed by afternoon tea at the Cliff House Hotel.

An Tobar is delighted to partner with our gracious host, Waterford Museum of Treasures, and supporting institutions University College Dublin and Sewanee: The University of the South.