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Blog / Pagan tradition survives at St Tecla's Well

Gorey Things
02 December 2017 | comments: 0 | Categories: | Tags:

Pagan tradition survives at St Tecla's Well

In April 2014 I walked the 285km Offa's Dyke Path along the Wales-England border from Chepstow to Prestatyn, passing through the small Welsh village of Llandegla.

St Tecla's ChurchI was intrigued to read in the guide book the village has a well that's associated with an ancient tradition of curing epilepsy.

St Tecla's Well is a few hundred metres from the church of that name. It's believed St Tecla was a Welsh princess named Tegla Forwyn ("Thecla the Virgin").

I immediately deduced the well was pagan in origin and must have been adopted by early Christians who wished to retain their customs.

The early church was pragmatic about accommodating this and, no doubt, it helped to convert superstitious people.

This website says the most recent "cure" was in 1813 when the church sexton's son was relieved of his epilepsy.

Those hoping for a cure had to follow this ritual:

  • Visit the well on a Friday after sunset
  • Wash the hands and feet in the well
  • Walk around the well three times repeating the Lord's Prayer and carrying a rooster in a hand basket
  • Prick the rooster with a pin, which is then thrown into the well
  • Give a groat at the well to the parish clerk
  • Then walk around the parish church three times with the bird, again repeating the Lord's Prayer
  • Enter the church and place another groat in the poor box
  • Lie under the communion table, with the Bible as a pillow until daybreak
  • Place the rooster's beak in the mouth and blow, before letting the bird go
  • Put a piece of silver in the poor box and leave the church.

The 19th century church apparently discouraged this custom and the well became overgrown and almost forgotten.

It's been revived in recent times for its historical curiosity, and when I visited there were ribbons tied to a nearby tree, suggesting it's still a shrine for believers.

This off-the-beaten-track discovery was one of many highlights of my journey along the Wales-England border.

Llandegla has a population of about 600. It's on one of the main drovers' roads from the north-west coast of Wales to the markets of England, and the cattle trade was central to its economy.

St Tecla's Well


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