This page describes many traditions associated with Wells

Wells have many traditions associated with them. I hope to add to this list as time allows.

Well Waking

Well waking is said to have lasted through the middle ages. Its said that you drink the water then sleep on the ground near the well and drink the water again in the morning. These ceremonies used to be common but the early nineteenth century saw moves to stop them as they 'lead to mischief' . The festivities were slow to disappear, and there is evidence that some lasted into the first decade of this century. According to some authorities, the custom of 'well waking' began in the days when relatives and friends would keep vigil by wells in the hope of bringing cures to sick loved ones. Later there came the practice of holding fairs and markets at these places. These in turn evolved into pleasure fairs and were suppressed by the clergy because there were too many naughty things going on.

Shaking Bottle Ceremonies

Shaking bottle ceremonies are to be found connected with holy wells all over the country. Pieces of liquorice were put into a bottle and mixed with water from the well. This sugary concoction was then drunk. May 1st was the traditional day for the shaking bottle ceremonies to take place, though well waking could take place on other; saints' days.

This is an old Cumbrian doggerel rhyme:The June Days' Dingle,
The wells of rocky CumberlandHave each a saint or patron,Who holds an annual festival,The joy of maid or matron.
And to this day,as erst they wont,The youths and maids repair,To certain wells on certain days,And hold a revel there,
Of sugar-stick and liquorice,With water from the spring,They mix a pleasant beverage,And May-day carols sing.

Festival of Fontinalia

On the 14th October a Roman holy day called the Festival of Fontinalia. This festival was for fountains, holy wells and springs. This is a festival for Fons, the god of springs, and so garlands are thrown into springs and used to decorate wells.

Ancient history suggests that water was considered a miracle that deserved worship. Sources of water, such as rivers, wells and springs, were often times considered to be homes of the gods. The term fountain is derived from the Latin terms fons or fontus, which means the principium or the source. Latin references to the terms include fountain, spring, fresh water, source and origin. Fons was the name given to the god of sources. In Greek mythology Fons is the son of Janus, the Roman god of beginnings and Giuturna, a nymph of sources.

Interesting Book Suggestions


I have been in contact with Janet Board an author of Cures and Curses: Ritual and Cult at Holy Wells. This year she has also published Holy Wells in Britain: A Guide. 
They are both published by Heart of Albion Press, further details on their website: