Story Archaeology

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Fochard Bríde

Brigid's well

According to the early hagiographies, St. Brigid was born at Fochard Muirtheimne, a few miles north of Dundalk, about 450 CE. Though  of the strength of this tradition, the place  later became known as Fochard Bríde.

On the hill nearby, are the remains of an Iron Age fort, a Norman motte-castle and a medieval church. St Brigid’s Well is in the graveyard. There is also the base of an old cross and a horseshoe-shaped mound.

I visited the site in 1990, but have not had the opportunity to return since. However, I found it a fascinating experience, particularly the stations along the stream. Each is supposed to help cure problems with a particular part of the body.

The Waist Stone at Fochaird Bríde

The Waist Stone

For example, at station 8, is the Waist Stone, for illnesses connected with the waist or hips.

The Hoof Stone at Fochaird Bríde

The Hoof Stone

The Eye Stone is to be found at station 9. This holds water for washing the eyes to improve vision.

Station 10 is a bit odd. This “Head Stone ” has a shallow indent with a white circle painted around it. As far as I know, you have to put the top of your head in the concave circle, presumably to treat heaaches.

The strangest stone of all is at station 6. This is the Hoof Stone. I am uncertain how this one is applied!

It is a calm and beautiful place, but there was one thing that surprised me in my visit all those years ago. I might even say it came as a shock.  I was perfectly prepared to encounter the long established folk practice of tying   rags  to a thorn tree.As I understand the intended  purpose of this practice,  problems would be solved as the rag decayed. However, here I saw. not rags,, but plastic bags tied on a barbed wire fence. This gave a completely different impression. No natural decay here!

I have seen the same in other places since, and am no longer surprised.  However, it would seem that the ancient practice now has a somewhat different significance for the participants.

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