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Sacred Springs

52 53 The ancient town of Downpatrick is south of Belfast, and to the east of the town can be found St Patricks Wells at Struel, consisting of the Eye Well, Drinking Well and two bath houses. Pilgrimages are also known as patterns or patrons because pilgrims gather in the name of the patron saint of the well. Patterns often involve very complicated rituals with special numbers and directions. In this case seven circuits each of the two wells, the bath houses as one and each of the seven cairns of stones have to be made, followed by seven cicuits of the whole site, making seventyseven circuits in total. This is all sometimes done with the person on their knees. The penitent then sits on rocks known as St Patricks chair, turning round three times sunwise left to right. This direction is considered to be lucky. The Irish people have a strong, continuing tradition of pilgrim age, as a journey of spiritual and religious reflection and renewal. At the Tobar an Ailt, in Sligo, pilgrims gather for Mass and to follow the Stations of the Cross on the last Sunday in July. This has its roots in the Celtic festival of Lughnasa, celebrating the first fruits of the harvest. Ireland has many holy wells spread throughout the land. In the 1980s it was reckoned in thousands, and throughout the British Isles the number is enormous. The following gazetteer can therefore only represent a minute proportion of these beautiful and atmospheric locations. STRuEl WEllS Downpatrick, Co. Down, Ireland
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