WELL-WORSHIP, embracing that of Rivers, Lakes, Fountains, and Springs generally, is of great antiquity. From all parts of the globe a vast accumulation of legendary lore connected with this cult has from time to time been brought to light, taking us back to ages far anterior to Christianity, through days of darkness, when all traces of the one and only true religion, revealed to man by God, as recorded in Holy Scripture, had been forgotten, or had died out. The tower of Babel had caused the dispersion of nations, and the farther they receded from the common centre, which was also the seat of the religion, the more corrupted became the forms of worship adopted, and gradually, in course of time, retained little, if any, of the truth at all.

These legends and traditions have, in the main, a twofold origin or source, sacred and pagan. The sacred are derived from the accounts of the Deluge, the miraculous passages of the Red Sea and of Jordan--the Jordan is still a sanctified stream, to which thousands make pilgrimages to perform ablutions in it; the members of the Royal Family are baptized with water brought specially from this river--the pools of Bethesda and of Siloah--the latter the precursor of eye wells-and other similar miracles recorded.

Those of a purely pagan source are the growth of a primitive belief in what has been termed Naturalism, or the worship of Nature. In countries, in early times, where all trace of the true religion had disappeared, the heathen, ever prone to obey a natural instinct to worship something, looked upon every object around him from which be derived personal benefits, as a physical iota like himself--the sun, which gave him warmth and light, hence fire-worship; the trees, that sheltered him, hence tree-[viii]worship; and, in an especial manner, the waters from above that moistened his soil, and those below which provided him with a very necessity of life. The upheaval of the waves, the rise and fall of the tides and floods, would greatly intensify his belief in the vitality and reality of their powers. As he advanced in this Natural Religion his mind would, at a later stage, associate a specific deity with attendants, as presiding over these physical objects of adoration. The water gods were aided by nymphs or naiads, one or more of whom had the care of, and watched or presided over, particular wells, rivers, lakes, etc. The Indians, Egyptians, Persians, and Greeks all had deities of fountains and streams. In Roumania each spring was supposed to be presided over by a spirit called Wodna zena or zona. The river Seine was under the protection of the goddess Sequana. In our own country we find the river Wharfe under the guardianship of Verbeia, the Tees of Peg Powler, who has an insatiable desire for human life, as also has the Jenny Greenteeth of Lancashire streams, the Ribble of Peg o'Nell, Blackwater of Easter, the Severn of Sabrina and of Nodens, the Skerne, etc. At Proclitia, i.e., Carrawburg, on the Roman wall in Northumberland, was a well under the care of a British water goddess, Coventina. The river Dee was worshipped as the image of a deified patriarch and his supposed consort.

Among the rustics only, now, does the nymph or mermaid, as at Rostherne, Cheshire, Chapel-en-le-Frith and Hayfield, Derbyshire, in the Shropshire meres, etc., find belief and inspire awe. The rapacity for human life has been traditionally attributed to several of our rivers as the old rhymes relate


"River of Dart, river of Dart!
Every year thou claims't a heart."


"Tweed said to Till,
'What gars ye rin sae still?'
Till said to Tweed,

'Though ye rin wi' speed,
And I rin slaw,
Yet where ye drown ae man,
I drown twa.'"



Div ye no ken
Where ye drown ae man
I drown ten."


The following is a small selection of legends from a large number, scattered all over the globe, which preserve to some extent the account given to us in Genesis:

In the Eddic, the flood is caused by the blood which sprang up to heaven from the body of the giant Ymer, whom Odin, Vilj, and Ve, the sons of Bor, slew, and not by rain as in the Bible.


The Indian "Mahâbhârata" gives us the following version:

King Manus one day standing on the bank of a river, doing penance, suddenly heard the voice of a small fish imploring him to save it. He caught it in his hand, and laid it in a vessel; but the fish began to grow, and demanded wider quarters. Manus threw it into a large lake, but the fish grew on, and wished to be taken to Gangâ, the bride of the sea. Before long he had not room to stir even there, and Manus was obliged to carry it to the sea; but when launched in the sea, it foretold the coming of a fearful flood. Manus was to build a ship, and go on board with the seven sages, and preserve the seeds of all things, then it would show itself to them horned. Manus did as he was commanded, and sailed in the ship; the monster fish appeared in fulfilment of his promise, had the ship fastened to its horn by a rope, and towed it through the sea for many years, till it reached the summit of the Himavân. There it bade him moor the ship, and the spot to which it was tied still bears the name of Naubandhanam (ship-binding). Then spake the fish : 'I am Brahmâ, lord of created things; a higher than I there is not. In the shape of a fish have I delivered you. Now shall Manus make all creatures, gods, asuris, and men, and all the world's things moveable and immovable.' And as he had spoken, so it was done. The first part of the Indian poem, where Brahmâ as a fish is caught by Manus, and then reveals to him the future, lingers to this day in our nursery tale of the small all-powerful turbot or pike, who gradually elevates a fisherman from the meanest condition to the highest [x] rank ; and only plunges him back into his pristine poverty when, urged by the counsels of a too-ambitious wife, he desires at last to be equal with God.--Grimm's Teutonic Mythology, ii. 578.


In the ancient Persian account, Tascheter--the spirit ruling the waters--found water for thirty days and thirty nights upon the earth. Every water-drop was as big as a bowl! (sic). The earth was covered with water the height of a man. All idolaters died through the rain; it penetrated all openings. Afterwards a wind from heaven divided the water, and carried it away in clouds, as souls bear bodies; then Ormuzd collected all the water together, and placed it as a boundary to the earth, and thus was the great ocean formed.


Ovid, Metam. 1, 24o et seq., represents the world as confederate in crime, and doomed therefore to just punishment. Jupiter sends down rain from heaven, and rivers and seas gushing forth from their caves, gather over the earth's surface, and sweep mankind away. Deucalion and his wife alone, borne in a little skiff, are stranded on the top of Parnassus. By degrees the waters subside; the only surviving pair inquire of the gods bow they may again people the desert earth. They are ordered, with veiled heads, to throw behind them the bones of their great mother. Half doubtful as to the meaning of the oracle, they throw behind them stones, which are immediately changed into men and women, and the earth spontaneously produces the rest of the animal creation.--Bundehesch, 7. Quoted in the Old Test. Leg. by the Rev. S. Baring-Gould.


A Chinese tradition from the writings of the disciples of Tao-tse is that Kong-Kong, an evil spirit, enraged at having been over-come in war, gave such a blow against one of the pillars of the sky with his head that he broke it (the pillar); the vault of heaven fell in, and a tremendous flood overwhelmed the earth. But Niu-Noa overcame the water with wood, and made a boat to save himself, which could go far: and he polished a stone of five colours (the rainbow), and therewith he fastened the heavens, [xi] and lifted them up on a tortoise-shell. Then he killed the black dragon, Kong-Kong, and choked the holes in heaven with the ashes of a pumpkin.--Mém. concernant les Chinois, ix., p. 383.


Among the Dog-rib Indians, America, Sir John Franklin found the story as follows : They say that Tschäpiwih, their great ancestor, lived on a track between two seas. He built a weir, and caught fish in such abundance that they choked the water-course, and the sea overflowed the earth. Tschäpiwih, with his family, entered the canoe, and took with him all kinds of beasts and birds. The land was covered for many days; at last Tschäpiwih could bear it no longer, so he sent out the beaver to look for the earth, but the beaver was drowned. Then he sent out the musk-rat, which had some difficulty in returning, but it had mud on its paws. Tschäpiwih was glad to see the earth, and moulded it between his fingers till it became an island on the surface of the water, on which he could land.--Lutke, Voyage autour du monde, i., p. 189.

The various accounts of the Deluge, as given by non-Christian peoples, are, it seems, but distortions of the Biblical story, which is not only the most ancient one, but a record of truth.


The flood recorded in Genesis is now pretty generally understood not to have been absolutely universal, being limited over the Countries known to the Hebrews, and which made their world, neither were all living things literally destroyed that were not in the ark. A negligent reading of chapters vi.-ix. of Genesis, with-out reference to the texts of other Chapters of the same book, has led to the literal view. After the death of Abel, God banished Cain from the earth, which had received his brother's blood, and laid a curse on him--A fugitive and a vagabond shalt thou be in the earth; using another word, one which means earth in general (éréç), in opposition to the earth (adâmâh), or fruitful land to the east of Eden. Cain went forth still further east, and dwelt in the land of Nod, i.e., "wandering" or "exile." Chapter iv. tells of Cain, his crime, his exile, and immediate [xii] posterity. The descendants of Sheth or Seth are enumerated in chapter v., and the list ends with Noah. These are parallel races : the accursed and the blest.

Chapters vi.-viii. describe the covenant with Noah, and re-peopling of the earth by his posterity (chapter ix.). Chapter x. gives the generations of Noah's three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth; of these were the nations divided in the earth after the flood. Each name in this list is that of a race, a people, a tribe, not that of a man. St. Augustine says the names represent nations, not men. The authors of this chapter consistently ignore all those divisions of mankind which do not belong to one of the three great white races. Neither the Black nor the Yellow races are mentioned at all, being left outside the pale of the Hebrew brotherhood of nations.

What became of Cain's posterity, of the descendants of those three sons of Lamech, whom the writer of Genesis iv. 19-22 clearly places before us as heads of nations, specifying their occupations? Nothing more is said of this entire half of humanity, severed in the beginning from the other half-the lineage of the accursed son from that of the blest and favoured one. They were necessarily out of the pale of the Hebrew world. The writer tells us they lived in the land of exile and multiplied, and then dismisses them. They did not count, being excluded from all other narratives; why should they, then, be included in that of the flood? The antiquity of the yellow race --the Turanians--which everywhere preceded their white brethren, who invariably supplanted them, tallies well with the Biblical account; for of the two Biblical brothers, Cain was the eldest. And the doom laid on the race, a fugitive and a vagabond shalt thou be on the earth, continues, for wherever pure Turanians are they are nomads.--See "Chaldea," by Zénaïde A. Ragozin, 128-143

In Great Britain, as at Gormire and Semerwater in Yorkshire, Mockerkin Tarn in Cumberland, Llyn Llion in Brecknockshire, Lough Neagh and Fior Usga in Ireland, we have instances of other partial floods.

The extraordinary Chaldean account of the Deluge, the most ancient recorded one as opposed to traditional ones, closely following the Biblical story in its general details, will be found in the [xiii] volume "Chaldea," pp. 3 14-17, in the "Story of the Nations" series quoted above, and should be read by all interested in the truth of the Holy Scriptures.

Among the Dravidian tribes of Assan, all chief deities are merely the rivers of the country.--Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal, 1849, p. 723. In the Vedas, rivers are constantly invoked for aid: see Lassen, Indische Alterthümer, i. 766. Amongst all the Slavonic tribes, rivers received distinguished homage and adoration. The ancient German addressed his prayers to the Rhine, Herodotus, iv. 59. The Alamanns and Franks worshipped rivers and fountains, prayed on the river's banks; at the fountain's edge they lighted candles and laid down sacrificial gifts. The Franks on crossing a river sacrificed women and children. Bulls were sacrificed to the god Mourie, who had his well on an island in Loch Maree, Scotland, as late as 1678. Horses were sacrificed at St. George's Well, near Abergeleu, in Wales. In Germany and Sweden the nymphs required the sacrifice of a black sheep or cat. The Persian magi sacrificed horses to the rivers crossed by Xerxes. In the first instance, adoration was not made to an Anthropomorphic deity (i.e., a god in human form), who, like the kelpies, lived in the waterfalls and made his residence in the stream, but to the visible stream itself, considered as possessing soul and will, rising and falling at its pleasure, capable of human affections and aversions. Hesiod, in his Works and Days, i. 735, gives us sufficient proof of this statement, where he warns his hearers not to cross a stream before washing their hands and praying, looking earnestly at the stream. It must have struck all readers of Homer that so many of his heroes were children of the river gods, who appeared in human form, showing to what degree Anthropomorphism had arrived at in his day. In the contest of Achilles with the outraged river Scamander, recorded in the 21st book of the Iliad, the former, not content with choking the stream with dead bodies, dares even to address insulting words to the deity, first deriding his lack of power to the Trojans who had honoured him with numerous sacrifices, striking down Asteropæus, taunting him with the lowness of his origin, he being the son of a small river, while Pelides was descended from Zeus himself, the founder of the Æacid race. Scamander rises from his waves in human form to reproach the too daring hero, and to demand him to carry on his murderous warfare elsewhere than amid the sacred waves [xiv] of a river-descended stream. With taunts only does Achilles reply, when, in bitter wrath, calling upon Apollo in vain, Scamander in fierce fury hurls himself upon Achilles in the form of the river, in waves and waterspouts, trying to overthrow him, and mingle his body with those of his many victims. Achilles, flying to the shore, is pursued by the river, until the timely intervention of Hephæstus, who comes down in fire, burning the trees on the banks of the river, slaying his fish, striking his waters, until he submits and sues for peace. It will here be observed Scamander addresses the hero in human form, but attacks him as a river--his voice is a man's, his hands as rivers. Other instances might be given. See Greek River Worship, Percy Gardner, Trans. R.S.L., xi. 173, and also legend under "Tweed," p. 103, in the following collection, where the spirit of the Tweed visits the lady of Drummelziel in human form.

We are told (St. John v. 2-4) that in Jerusalem, by the sheep-market, was a pool, which in Hebrew was called Bethesda, having five porches. In these lay a great number of impotent folk, of blind, halt, withered, waiting for the moving of the water. For an angel went down at a certain season into the pool, and troubled the water; whosoever then first after the troubling of the water stepped in was made whole of whatsoever disease he had.

In the Antiquities of Rome, Fontinalia was a religious feast, celebrated on October 13th, in honour of the nymphs of wells and fountains. The ceremony consisted in throwing flowers into the fountains, and placing crowns of flowers upon the wells.


"O fons Blandusiæ, splendidior vitro,
Dulci digne mero, non sine floribus,
Cras donaberis hædo,
Cui frons turgida cornibus
Primis et Venerem et proelia destinat;
Frustra : nam gelidos inficiet tibi
Rubro sanguine rivos
Lascivi suboles gregis."

Ode xiii., 3rd Book of Horace's Odes.

In the first stanza he addresses the fountain as brighter than glass, and worthy of offerings of sweet wine and flowers.

The custom of well-dressing with flowers, common to Derbyshire, Staffordshire, Shropshire, Westmoreland, and North Lanca[xv]shire, is most probably but a survival of making floral offerings to the spirit of the waters or to the waters themselves.

To certain mineral, sulphurous, or warm wells or springs, mystic powers are ascribed, other than the peculiar characteristics which give to them sometimes their curative properties. The ancient Greek, when consulting the oracle of Amphiaraüs, threw money into the well sacred to the hero. When a Roumanian or Wetterau draws water she spills a few drops to do homage to the spirit of the well. This is also done in England, in Derbyshire to wit. Some wells possessed virtues of a restricted nature in regard to divination. Pausanias (vii. 21-5) tells us of a well sacred to Demeter, to which resorted those afflicted with a disease, wishful to learn whether they would recover or die. The mode of consultation was quaint. A mirror, suspended by a cord, was lowered to the surface of the water. After prayer and sacrifice, the inquirer gazed at the mirror, and from its reflected appearance inferred a favourable or unfavourable answer. See Colan, "Our Lady of Nantswell," p. 31. At the spring of Inus, Laconia, was a small but deep lake, through which the water rose. Into this lake suppliants threw small cakes, judging whether these gifts were acceptable or not, and auguring accordingly, by their sinking into the depths, or by their rejection by the bubbling waters.--Pausanias iii. 23-25.

Before the introduction of Christianity or Christian baptism, the heathen Norsemen had a hallowing of new-born infants by means of water; they called this vatni ausa, sprinkling with water. Very likely the same ceremony was practised by all the Teutons, and they may have ascribed a special virtue to the water used in it, as the Christians do to baptismal water.--Grimm, Teut. Myth., ii. 592.

There is a "Woden's" Well at Wanswell, in Gloucestershire, and at Burnsall, Yorkshire, we have "Thorskill, or Thor's Well," signifying the well of the god of thunder. The latter was, undoubtedly, dedicated by the pagans, and after them, according to the custom of the Christians of the early Church, rededicated in honour of her saints; hence the two here dedicated in honour of St. Margaret and St. Helena. Up to the middle of last century, young people used to visit these wells every Sunday evening, and drink the waters, with sugar added. A similar custom obtains in Cumberland, Derbyshire, Shropshire, and Yorkshire.


There is an interesting Swedish superstition, that the old pagan gods, when worsted by Christianity, took refuge in the rivers, where they still dwell.--Welcker, Griech. Göterlehre, i. 269,

The best known prophetic wells were the springs called Palici, in Sicily, now rising into a small lake. Diodorus, xi. 89, says in his day were two deep basins of water agitated by volcanic springs, in the temple of Palici. They were regarded especially as the deities who watched over our oaths. The most solemn oaths were taken in their presence; and so present was the force of these deities, that perjurers departed from their presence blinded. Seneca, in Epistle iv., says: We worship the head of great rivers, and we raise altars to their first springs. . . . . Every river had its nymph presiding over it. The sites of many Roman villas and dwelling-houses have been discovered near the springhead of streams. A well occurs at the west end of the Romano-British church which has just been laid bare at Silchester. Roman pavements have been found at East Dean, Throxton, Cundall, Brundean, etc. We find also in Britain traces of the connection of water with divination--for there exist, or did until quite recently, numerous wells--as at Gulval, Roche, and Nantswell in Cornwall; Langley in Kent; Boughton and Oundle in Northamptonshire; Uttoxeter in Staffordshire, etc., sought for by those in difficulty or anxiety, and sometimes by throwing in a pin, needle, coin, or other small object, would judge by the nature of the bubbles which arose, the issue of the consultation. A discovery of Roman coins and fictile vessels, in a meadow at the village of Horton, Dorsetshire, was made in June, 1875, by some boys playing about the streamlet which rises on the north side of the meadow, who found in its bed a small vase and some coins lying in the gravel. The spring was eventually searched, and one hundred and forty coins, the earliest being one of Augustus, and the latest a coin of Valens, A.D. 364, and seven perfect vases were found. At Chester a large altar inscribed on two sides NYMPHIS ET FONTIBUS, was found not far from the Abbot's Well, which probably, even in Roman times, supplied water to the city. Close to the latter site, vases and coins in some quantity have from time to time been turned up, no doubt offerings.--Journal of Brit. Arch. Assoc., vol. xxxii., part i., p. 64. See p. 112 in this volume.

Some years ago by London Bridge, were found in the river-bed [xvii] a heap of various coins, dating in an unbroken line from the days of the Roman republic, probably thrown into the water as a tribute to the tutelary deity of the Thames.

The late Canon Rock, referring to ancient spoons, said: They almost always occur in pairs, and are occasionally found in springs of water, or in rivers.

Running water is said to have been held sacred by the Druids. It will have been noted that healing only took place at the Pool of Bethesda after the water had been moved by an angel. In Germany running spring-water gathered on holy Christmas night, while the clock struck twelve, and named heilwag, was considered good for pain at the navel. In this heilawâc we discover a very early mingling of heathen customs with Christian, The common people believe to this very day that at twelve, or between eleven and twelve on Christmas or Easter nights, spring water changes into wine; and this belief rests on the supposition that the first manifestation of the Saviour's divinity took place at the marriage in Cana, where He turned water into wine. Now, at Christmas, they celebrate both His birth and His baptism; and combined with these, the memory of that miracle, to which was given a special name, Bethphania. Durandus, Ration. Div. Offic., 6-16, says the first manifestation of Christ was His birth, the second His baptism (Candlemas), the third the marriage in Cana : Tertia apparitio fuit postea similiter eodem die anno revoluto, cum esset 39 annorum et 13 dierum, sive quando manifestavit se esse Deum permutationem aqut in vinum, quod fuit primum miraculum apertum, quod Dominus fecit in Cana in Galilaem vel simpliciter primum quod fecit. Et heac apparitio dictur bethphanie a Baetoo quod est domus, et Phanein, quod est apparitis, quia ista apparitio facta fuit in domo in nuptiis. De his tribus apparitionibus fit solemnitas in hac die: The Church consolidated the three manifestations into one festival. As far back as 387, St. Chrysostom, preaching an Epiphany sermon at Antioch, said people at that festival drew running water at midnight, and kept it a whole year, and often two or three, and it remained fresh and uncorrupted. Superstitious Christians then believed two things: (1) a hallowing of the water at midnight of the day of baptism, and (2) a turning of it into wine at the time of Bethphania : such water the Germans called heilawâc, and ascribed to it a wonderful power of healing diseases and wounds, and of never spoiling. Magic water for [xviii] unchristian divination is to be collected before sunrise on a Sunday, in one glass, from three flowing springs; and a taper is lighted before the glass, as before a Divine being.

On Easter Monday the Hessian youths and maidens walked to the Hollow Rock in the mountains, drew water from the cool spring in jugs to carry home, and threw flowers in as an offering; none would venture to go down without flowers. This water-worship was Celtic likewise; the water of the rock-spring Karnant makes a broken sword whole again, but--

"Du most des urs pringes hàn
Underm velse, ê in hescbin dertae (ere day bestrive it)."

Curious customs show us in what manner young girls in the Pyrenees country tell their own fortunes in spring waters on May-day morning.

Many places in Germany are called Heilbrunn, Heilborn, Heiligenbrunn, from the renewing effect of their springs, or the wonderful cures that have taken place at them. A Danish folk-song tells of a Maribokildc, by whose clear waters a body hewn in pieces is put together again. Not only medicinal but salt wells were esteemed holy.

Wishing wells are a curious survival. Their origin must be looked for in remote antiquity. Bright bubbling springs, as has been shown, were sacred objects long before the Christian Church consecrated them to the honour of God and of His saints. Abraham set aside seven ewe lambs as a testimony that he had digged a well (Gen. xxi- 30); and one of the special marks of the Divine favour to the chosen people was that they should come into possession of wells which they had not digged (Deut. vi. 11). The Jews had great faith in the healing properties of their sacred wells, which were frequented by the diseased and infirm, Siloam and Bethesda being much in request. The belief was not condemned by our blessed Lord. Mohammed speaks of the abandonment of wells as a sign of extreme desolation. How many cities which had acted wickedly have we destroyed? and they are laid low in ruin on their own foundations, and wells, abandoned and lofty castles (Korân, Sura xxii., Rodwell's Trans.). Homer supplies evidence:


It seems but yesterday .....
.....that when the ships
Woe-fraught for Priam, and the race of Troy,
At Aulis met, and we beside the fount
With Perfect hecatombs the gods adored
Beneath the plane-tree, from whose root a stream
Ran crystal-clear, there we beheld a sign
Wonderful in all eyes.

(Iliad, iii. II. 364-372, Cowper's Trans.)--E. Peacock.

Gildas, who is supposed to have lived in the sixth century, says: Neque nominatint inclamitans montes ipsos, aut fontes Vel colies, aut fluvios olim exitiabiles, nunc veto humanis usibus utiles, quibus divinus honor a cocco tune populo cumulabatur.-- Par. 4. Nor will I call out the mountains, fountains, or hills, or upon the rivers, which are now subservient to the use of men, but once were an abomination and destruction to them, and to which the blind people paid divine honour.

This species of idolatry was interdicted by the Council of Tours, A.D. 567, and by other laws, but such commands are seldom obeyed.

So deeply rooted was this feeling of veneration for the Holy Wells, that efforts were made from time to time to suppress the custom of worshipping at them, but without effect. King Egbert's "Poenitentiale" prescribes adoration, offering libations, and sacrifices to fountains : if any man vow or bring his offering to any well. If any keep his wake at any wells, or at any other created things except at God's church, let him fast three years, the first on bread and water, and the other two, on Wednesdays and Fridays, on bread and water; and on the other days let him eat his meat, but without flesh.

(A.) The "Penitentiale of St. Cummin," who died 669, has this canon : Si quis ad arbores, vel ad fontes, vel ad angulos, vel ubicunque, nisi ad Ecclesiam Dei vota voverit, aut solverit, tres annos pcenitiat, unum in pane et aqua; et qui ibidem comederit aut biberit ullum annum.

(B.) The "Bobbio Penitentiale," which is Irish, repeats St. Cummin's canon. In an Irish homily, in MS. of the eighth century, preserved at the Vatican Library, is the following sentence : Cum ergo duplica bona possitis in Ecclesia invenire quare per cantatores, et fontes, et arbores, et diabolica filacteria pre[xx]catorios aurispices et divinos, vel sortilegos inultiplicia sibi mala miseri homines connantur inferrer

A Saxon homily against witchcraft and magic says: Some men are so blind that they bring their offerings to immovable rocks, and also to trees, and to wells, as witches teach. One of the most curious ceremonies relating to wells was the watching or waking of them at night. Waking the well continued all through the Middle Ages. The prevalent custom appears to have been the following: The well was visited on the eve of the patron saint's day, some of the water was drunk, and the offering was made. The visitor lay all night on the ground near the well, drank the water again in the morning, and carried some away in a bottle. But the practice of waking, that is, keeping the vigil of the saint's day, led to such immorality that it was discontinued.

The 16th of the canons of the reign of Edgar, A.D. 963, enjoins the clergy to be diligent to advance Christianity, and extinguish heathenism in withdrawing the people from the worship of trees, stones, and fountains, and other heathenish practices therein specified; and the laws of Knut, 1018, prohibit the worship of heathen gods, the sun, moon, fire, rivers, fountains, rocks, or trees, some of which had probably been venerated by the preceding Romano-British and ancient British inhabitants from time immemorial.

The 26th canon of St. Anselm, A.D. 1102, directs: Let no one attribute reverence or sanctity to a dead body or a fountain, without the Bishop's authority.

Dr. Mitchell never knew a case in which the saint was in any way recognised or prayed to, and there was reason to believe that these wells were the objects of adoration before the country was Christianized, and it was a survival of the earlier practice to which Seneca and Pliny referred.

Mr. G. L. Gomme remarks: A worship that was formerly and officially prohibited in the tenth and eleventh centuries, and has been formally accepted in modern times could not, under any circumstances, have been brought over by, and become prevalent through the medium of, the Christian Church.--See Ethnology in Folk-lore, p. 80.

The adorning of fountains and springs with a lion's head, through which the water flows, is supposed to have been introduced from the Egyptians, who practised the same under a symbolized [xxi] illation. For, because its sun being in Leo, the flood of Nilus was at the full, and water became conveyed into every part, they made the spouts of their aqueducts through the head of a lion.--Brown's Vulgar Errors, London, 1686, book v., xxii.

The custom of affixing ladles of iron, etc., by a chain, to wells, is of great antiquity. Strutt, in his Anglo-Saxon Æra, tells us that Edwine caused ladles or cups of brass to be fastened to the clear springs and wells, for the refreshement of the passengers.--Ven. Bede in his Eccl. Hist., ii. 16.

A spring of pure water was absolutely essential to the early missionary for the regeneration of the newly-made converts, hence it is so large a number of holy wells and springs are found close to the churches which were afterwards built. Many of such wells had been rededicated in honour of the saints, others were founded by the early missionaries. Chapels were frequently erected over them, and a priest provided. Occasionally, as at York Minster, Carlisle Cathedral, Glastonbury, St. Michael's, Tenbury, and elsewhere, they are found within the walls of the buildings. At the present time in some places, the water for the font is still drawn from the well dedicated in honour of some saint, if not of the patron saint, near at hand, in preference to that of any other well.

The wells in England, as elsewhere, had not all the same virtues attributed to them. Some were blessed and used for baptisms, to others were attributed curative properties especially for sore or weak eyes, and for leprosy, while others possessed mystical and prophetic powers, at which offerings of cakes, pins, needles, and small coins were made, and sugar and water drunken. Wells are frequently found on the boundaries of counties.--See Berkshire Wells. The positions of the Holy Wells may also have marked the route pursued by pilgrims to certain shrines.

Tradition often ascribes the rising up of a well on the spot where a saint was martyred, rested, or buried; instances occur at Rome, near a church where St. Paul was beheaded, and at

St. Alban'sSt. Alban.
St. Winifred'sSt. Winifred.
ExeterSt. Sidwell.
WarehamSt. Edward the Martyr.
St. OsythSt. Osyth.
East DerehamSt. Withburga.
Stoke, St. MilboroughSt. Milburga, cf. Ov. Met., 5, 257 seq., Grimm, ii, 585.
MorwenstowSt. Moorin.
WinchcombeSt. Kenelym.
OswestrySt. Oswald.
ClentSt. Kenylm.
CoverdaleSt. Simon.
MardenSt. Ethelbert.

Or where a staff has been planted, or the ground struck by or at the command of some saint or notable personage, as at Stoke St. Milburga's, Cerne, St. Augustine, Carshalton Anne Boleyn.

The hanging of rags and scraps of clothing on the branches of trees, and on bushes about the Holy Wells, is probably a remnant of the old tree-worship; it obtains all over the globe; it is very common in Great Britain. In the church-prohibitions this tree-worship is variously mentioned as vota ad arbores facere arboruni colere; votum ad arborem persolvere; etc.

The tree most usually found at these wells is the ash, formerly held to be sacred, a world-tree which links heaven, earth, and hell together; of all trees the greatest and holiest.--Grimm's Teutonic Mythology, ii- 796 (Stallybrass's ed,).

The particular times, when it was considered most propitious to visit the wells, appear anciently to have been at daybreak or sunrise in May and at the summer solstice; later, Easter and Ascensiontide were the favoured seasons.

Mermaids appear to have a preference for appearing on Easter Day and at daybreak.

Two general sort of rules will be noticed with regard to the wells, when any benefit or divination was sought: 1. The observation of a particular day and time was necessary; and 2. The making of an offering.

The legend of St. Milburga, given on page 137, has a counterpart in that of our blessed Lord, St. Mary and St. Joseph in their flight into Egypt, coming to a field where a man was sowing, and, as they feared pursuit from Herod, they desired him to tell anyone that followed that Jesus had passed by while he was sowing his seed. The Holy Family went on, incontinently the corn sprang up, and the husbandman began to reap and carry. Soon [xxiii] some soldiers appeared, to whose inquiries the man answered as instructed; further pursuit being accounted useless, the soldiers returned from whence they came.

The connection between bells and hidden treasure with some of the pools is not quite clear. Their presence is generally ascribed to the wicked act of someone having attempted to steal them.

The Red Sea is the reputed resting-place of exorcised spirits.