St Brigid’s Day at the Cliffs of Moher
St Brigid is probably the best known and most beloved Irish saint after Patrick. She was an Irish nun, abbess and founder of several convents. Her feast day, St Brigid’s Day, February 1st, is also the first day of spring in Ireland. This interconnection can be traced back to Celtic pagan traditions in Ireland – Imbolc, the pagan festival of spring was celebrated on February 1st and marks the transition from winter to spring. The Celtic goddess of spring was called Brighid and as frequently happened the two traditions merged and “Brighid the pagan fire goddess” became “St Brigid”.
There are many holy wells associated with St Brigid throughout Ireland. One of the better known and most frequented is St Brigid’s well just outside Liscannor. St Brigid holds a special place in the hearts of people in the area and the local church in Liscannor is named after her. The well is very easy to find – turn left out of the car park at the Cliffs of Moher and on the right-hand side you will see the statue of Brigid in her glass case surrounded by a low stone wall. It is one of the oldest wells rumoured to have healing powers and the running sound of the water is audible.
It is housed in an open stone house or grotto that serves as a gateway to the ancient cemetery on the hill above it, accessible through steep paths and old stairs. The graveyard is the final resting place of several mythical kings and clan leaders of Ireland
Many still make the pilgrimage here on her feast day, February 1st, when mass is celebrated.
The well attracts visitors year-round, thousands of mementos, rosaries, prayers and pieces of clothing have been left in the stone grotto of the well and they continue to spill out into the trees lining the path to the cemetery. Votive candles are often lit 24 hours a day, left by locals and tourists alike. Traditionally, the water of this well should be sipped at the end of a visit to this shrine.
It is customary on 1 February to plait Saint Brigid’s Crosses. The crosses are woven by hand from rushes and it is a skill very much in evidence at the Cliffs of Moher. On St Brigid’s day we hold fun interactive sessions with visitors where staff skillfully demonstrate how to create crosses for visitors to bring home. And it is well worth doing so – the cross is thought to keep evil, fire and hunger from the home in which it is displayed.
Last year on St Brigid’s Day our team held a live demonstration to teach visitors how to make St Brigid’s crosses – watch below.