The pool was clear, icy cold. I put my foot in it and it felt fresh, invigorating. I saw the wreath – willow for sorrow, snowdrops a sign of hope, of spring, new life. But how did the lilac get there? Lilac doesn’t bloom at the same time as a snowdrop. Who had come, and from where, to light the candles and bring the lilac?
The pool looked deep, but it also seemed as if there was a cleft in the far side of the rock. I my foot in again, and found a hold when the water nearly reached my knees. The stones were hard, but I managed to tread to the other side and squeeze through the moss surrounded cleft. I came into a larger cavern, lit by candles, with a round circle of water in the middle. Not a pond, not man-made, no drips from the ceiling, glowing with an inner glow, beckoning, mysterious. As I raised my eyes from this entrancing sight I became aware of a figure seated at some distance from the other side of the pool. He looked like the pictures one sees of old monks or hermits. He wore a coarse brown gown, tied at the waist with a piece of rope. He wasn’t as old as I would have expected. His hair was tinted with grey, ‘pepper-salt’ they call it, and his brown eyes were friendly and gentle. A gnarled stick lay on the ground beside him. He smiled – ‘I was expecting you,’ he said. ‘What have you come to seek?’ Without any previous knowledge of what I would ask, I heard myself say: ‘I have come for healing.’
‘You have chosen well,’ said the hermit. ‘We all need healing, healing of the spirit. The rest will follow.’
‘Who are you?’ I asked.
‘My name is Clether,’ he replied. ‘I am the custodian of this holy place. Come, take my hand.’
Gathering his robes, he slipped out of his sandals and stepped into the pool, holding out his hand for me to follow. I was scared, but I took his hand, brown, hard-working, and followed him out to the centre of the water. My feet shone gold in its translucence, it was cold, yet not cold, fresh and cleansing. Something shone beneath the ripples our movements made. Clether stopped and picked up a large opalescent concave shell. He poured water over my head. It ran down my neck and shoulders, but my clothes seemed to stay dry and warm, although my hair was wet.
‘You are healed,’ said Clether softly. ‘But remember, you have also to work with that healing. Spring follows winter, just as lilac follows the snowdrops of spring, burgeoning to summer,. We all have to come to fulfilment before we tread our final path. What do you not understand now, you will understand later.’ He laid his hand upon my head as if in blessing. ‘You must return now,’ he said. ‘You still have work to do. My earthly work is over.’
Suddenly I was standing on the grass again, looking down into the Holy Well. But I hadn’t dreamt it, that I knew. I was surrounded by things and people that no earthly eye could see, but they were as real as the stones and grass around me. If I kept in tune, I would see them again, but in their time and their place.
I laid the willow wreath on the water and watched it float to the back of the well, then I picked up the lilac and slowly walked away, the candles glowing and shimmering behind me.
Sister Elizabeth Morris