Sacred Texts  Sagas and Legends  Celtic  Index  Previous  Next 

The Holy Well and the Murderer

THE Well of St. Brendan, in High Island, has great virtue, but the miraculous power of the water is lost should a thief or a murderer drink of it. Now a cruel murder had been committed on the mainland, and the priest noticed the people that if the murderer tried to conceal himself in the island no one should harbour him or give him food or drink. It happened at that the there was a woman of the island afflicted with pains in her limbs, and she went to the Holy Well to make the stations and say the prayers, and so get cured. But many a day passed and still she got no better, though she went round and round the well on her knees, and recited the paters and aves as she was told.
Then she went to the priest and told him the story, and he perceived at once that the well had been polluted by the touch of some one who had committed a crime. So he bade the woman bring him a bottle of the water, and she did as he desired. Then having received the water, he poured it out, and breathed on it three times in the name of the Trinity; when, lo! the water turned into blood.
"Here is the evil," cried the priest. "A murderer has washed his hands in the well."
He then ordered her to make a fire in a circle, which she did, and he pronounced some words over it; and a mist rose up with the form of a spirit in the midst, holding a man by the arm.
"Behold the murderer," said the spirit; and when the woman looked on him she shrieked--"It is my son! my son!" and she fainted.
For the year before her son had gone to live on the mainland, and there, unknown to his mother, he had committed the dreadful murder for which the vengeance of God lay on him. And when she came to herself the spirit of the murderer was still there.
"Oh, my Lord! let him go, let him go! "she cried.
"You wretched woman!" answered the priest. "How dare you interpose between God and vengeance. This is but the shadowy form of your son; but before night he shall be in the hands of the law, and justice shall be done."
Then the forms and the mist melted away, and the woman departed in tears, and not long after she died of a broken heart.
But the well from that time regained all its miraculous powers, and the fame of its cures spread far and wide through all the islands.

Next: Legends of Innis-Sark--A Woman's Curse