Of Shrines and Holy Wells – Oughtmama

I found this well a few years ago while looking for the ruins of three early christian churches at a location called Oughtmama (from the Irish Ucht MámaBreast of the Mountain Pass), a valley situated off a secondary road that joins the coast to the village of Carron in Co. Clare. I returned to the place a couple of weeks ago.

The ash tree at the well

Inside the well

Like many of the wells in the Burren, this too is situated in a magnificent location. An ash tree stretches over the well as if protecting it. If you stand with the tree at your back you command the view of the entire valley, of the expanse of the limestone pavement that, wet from the recent rain, was shining against the green of the fields below. There you can pick out the cluster of stone walls that form the ruins of the churches; you may reach them by setting out across those fields in a straight line.

Getting there however is a different story because, specially after abundant rain, much of the terrain is muddy and soggy and it feels like walking on a gigantic wet sponge full of hidden holes. All in all not a bad experience if you have the right footwear.

The churches are well worth visiting as are the surroundings and particularly the wood that stretches beyond the boundary wall. Its dense vegetation of white thorn, hazel and ash is covered by an abundance of silvery, grey-green lichens and thick moss which lend a magical fairyland quality to the place.

Oughtmama smaller church

The other two churches

This valley and indeed the whole of the Burren is a shifting place where light and water play a central role shaping the landscape, the vegetation and the people who live in it. Here I have the impression that nothing feels certain or predictable and it is here that I am learning to live in-between, to be flexible, to adapt to new circumstances letting go of the need to control or impose directions.

In this wide open landscape I am learning to open myself up and ride what comes along with less doubts or fears. I am becoming more aware that whatever way things turn out to be, they won’t be judged as failures or defeats but just as new experiences. In this new light abundance takes up a new meaning and trust is paramount.

Under this vast sky, rain and sun, clouds and wind play a beautiful game of hide and seek that creates a moving landscape. In it a hill or a lake, a tree or a rock becomes alive for a few seconds and disappears again only to come back later like in a never ending dance.

Corcomore Abbey and Muckinish Bay