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Sacred Springs

34 35 The ancient art of well dressing originates from early veneration of the spirit of the spring, bringing fertility to the land. The Romans introduced the festival of Fontinalia, dedicated to Fontus, the god of springs, where garlands adorned wells and streams. The early church saw this custom as water worship, and sporadically discouraged the practice, often rededicating wells to a saint. However the tradition slowly returned Tissington in Derbyshire revived it to celebrate the village escaping the Black Death in 1349. Other villages used well dressing as thanks for the provision of piped water, decorating the taps and pumps. The practice now takes a Christianised form with services and blessings. An elaborate, brightlycoloured picture is produced, usually of a biblical subject. The picture is made from natural materials such as petals, leaves, moss, bark and cones, which create the colours and outlines of the picture. They are pressed into wet clay that has been prepared on special large boards. The picture develops from the bottom upwards, with petals overlapping one another to allow rainwater to run off. Much hard work and skill go into creating these beautiful mosaic like pictures, which then go on show for about a week. Well dressing celebrations are seen mainly in Derbyshire from May to September. Buxton holds its ceremony in July, Eyam in late August and the picturesque village of Tissington in early June. In recent years, however, the custom has been spreading to an evergrowing number of places, such as Malvern. WEll DRESSING an ancient custom
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