My Pilgrimage to St. Elen’s Well, Part 1


​[Note: As I began to write this, I thought it would be an emotional look back at an important pilgrimage that I undertook last summer. However, as I began to write, it seemed that before I got to the actual pilgrimage and the feelings that it conjured, I had to wade through the logistics of discovering the well, and finding that it was important for me to visit it. The coincidences that have crossed my life’s path and Wales astound me every time I discover them.]

Not a day goes by since that first moment in 1987 that I have not thought of Wales. It is always there, on the wisp of my consciousness, an extra beat of my heart.

From the beginning, it left an indelible mark on my soul and my subsequent visit twenty some odd years later only reaffirmed that connection. I was afraid at that time that I wouldn’t feel the same things I felt in 1987, and that was true. Nothing felt the same, but it remained emotional and meaningful. It deepened who I was and continue to be, and through all the anxiety of traveling, and traveling alone, Wales continued to comfort me.

Still, I have to admit that the interconnection of my Wales attachment with my religious journey was a surprise. I did look for a Welsh saint for my confirmation, but it wasn’t until after choosing Elen that I discovered her connection to Caernarfon, a place recommended by a friend and the town which formed the basis of my second journey to Wales.

All three opportunities were random happenstance and it was only through research and chance that I discovered the history of where I’d been, most of the time accidentally despite planning the trips down to the minutia.

I could talk endlessly about each coincidence, each fortuitous fate-filled moment, but there are other future writings to address this.

After my mother-in-law died suddenly, we knew her ashes would be laid to rest in her homeland of Northern Ireland. Money was saved, cousins were called, a family trip was planned. We actually wanted to make it a long visit, partially vacation since we probably wouldn’t be able to get back anytime soon, and we began to add stops. My husband wanted London.

Well, if we were going to London we should really go to Stonehenge. Let’s not forget Wales. That was absolutely on the list and I pulled out my lng hidden wish list for “next time” that I honestly never expected to use.

We soon realized that logistically and monetarily this would not work, so after much deliberation and study we decided just on Ireland, but Wales…Wales still called.

My husband knew how important it was to me, so we figured out a way to travel there (by ferry!) (my least favorite way to travel, I really dislike boats), so because of my family’s support, I would be able to go on a religious pilgrimage to one of my saint’s holy wells. Before I even got on the airplane, it meant the world to me.

Our trip was finally planned: it would be a combination of visiting family, interring my mother-in-law’s ashes, tourism, holiday, and religious pilgrimage. On a side note, I was stunned to find that instead of one spiritual encounter (that I had planned), I had at least thirteen (!) unplanned spiritual experiences including an impromptu mass in Dublin where I received the Eu6charist.

I first became aware of of Elen’s Well, known locally as Ffynnon Elen through a WordPress, Wellhopper, who shares many (you’d be amazed how many there are) Welsh wells. I am indebted to their research which led me to visit this spot, what I consider one of my Welsh holy places; a sacred space.

To be clear, at the time of my trip, I was unaware of a second holy well to St. Elen near where we were; however I was aware that this well, unlike Patrick‘s and Olcan‘s wells, was not something that Elen blessed or used, but was instead dedicated to her patronage. The well itself has been known to help children who are ill and paralytics.

It was still important to me to visit it.

Part Two, Coming Soon

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