St. Gobnait and a Place of Resurrection

In the early 6th century when Gobnait fled her home in County Clare, she went to Inis Oírr. We don’t know why she fled, only that she believed she would find refuge in the Aran Islands. Legend states that an angel appeared to her there and told her that her place was not on Inis Oírr, and instructed Gobnait to go on a journey – to seek her true place of resurrection. “Go until you find nine white deer grazing” the angel told her. “It is there that you will find your place of resurrection.” So Gobnait wandered about the southern coastal counties of Ireland – Waterford, Cork and Kerry – searching.

She saw three white deer in Clondrohid and followed them to Ballymakeera where she saw six more. But it wasn’t until she came to Ballyvourney to a small rise overlooking the River Sullane that she saw the nine white deer all together - grazing … just as the angel from Inis Oírr had prophesied. She crossed the river and settled there. She founded a religious community for women, performed memorable – some say miraculous works, and it was there she died and was buried.

February 11th is St. Gobnait’s feast day -the day her memorable life is celebrated. She is one of the few Irish saints that is not only remembered in her native region, but has been proclaimed by the Irish bishops to be a national saint. There are shrines and places of devotion to St. Gobnait in all the places she is believed to have stopped on her journey - including Inis Oírr. But Ballyvourney, where she carried out most of her ministry, is the place that draws the greatest number of pilgrims devoted to this saint.

Today there is an active church on the former monastic site. St. Gobnait’s grave and marked spots around the churchyard are places where pilgrims pause for devotion and reflection. It is here that they can do the “rounds” or turas, always moving in a clockwise direction – a tradition that has pagan roots. One of the strongest mystical draws on this site is St. Gobnait’s Holy Well, with its arched entryway that takes the pilgrim into a deeply shaded path. Just next to the well is a sturdy tree, and hanging from it are hundreds of tokens or clooties that have been placed there by pilgrims hoping to leave behind a part of themselves or loved on in need of healing. There are taps and cups available for drinking from the well or for pouring into personal vessels to take holy well water home.

St. Gobnait was best known for her care of the sick. There is a legend that tells of her staving off the plague from Ballyvourney by drawing a line in sand with a stick and declaring the village “consecrated ground.” Inside the church today, there is a medieval (possibly 13th century) figure of St. Gobnait which is kept in a drawer. Every year on her feast day, the parish priest brings out the figure to celebrate a devotional tradition. He holds up the ancient figure and the faithful each step forward with a piece of ribbon. They hold the ribbon up and measure it against the length and around the circumference of the figure, then take it home as a blessed relic used for healing or further devotion.

A tall statue of St. Gobnait that was erected in the 1950s stands near the monastic site. She appears with a nun’s habit standing on a bee hive surrounded by bees. Gobnait is the patron saint of bee keepers, and there are several legends recalling Gobnait forcing invaders out of Ballyvourney by setting swarms of bees upon them. It’s probable that Gobnait had a close relationship with bees and used honey in healing efforts.


Dan and I visited St. Gobnait’s monastic site many years ago. It is indeed, a thin place. The stories of St. Gobnait specifically mention a “place of resurrection.” I heard Dara Molloy use this phrase when referring to his home on Inis Mór and have seen a few authors reference the phrase. But regarding thin places … a place of resurrection is the pinnacle – that place where one’s spirit is totally whole, at home, with no longing or yearning to be anywhere else. A place of resurrection is not only the place where one’s spirit will resurrect from its lifeless body upon death, but also the place where that spirit is most alive inside the living body. And I believe that a place of resurrection is the spiritual home where one is most completely alive and able to create, to discern, to prophesy … to be wise.

The connection between the eternal world and the physical is nearly unidentifiable in a place of resurrection – as they are knitted together in an inextricable pattern where neither can be separated from the other. The place of resurrection then is unto itself the combination of both worlds particularly suited to that specific spirit. … and Ballyvourney was St. Gobnait’s place.

What is yours?

Image of St. Gobnait courtesy of Patricia Banker; Copyright by Patricia Banker, All Rights Reserved. Used With Permission.

Thin Places Mystical Tour of Ireland

I'm planning a 9 day trip to Thin Places in the South of Ireland this May. It will be an intimate group of 20 people. All accommodations will be arranged, and we will travel to over 20 sites on a small tour bus. There tentative itinerary is below.

Stops will center around places associated with Celtic spirituality and mysticism, but will include other activities and time on your own for exploring the towns.

Sites include Newgrange and Knowth, Dublin sites, Kildare, the Rock of Cashel Ardmore, Cork sites, Drombeg Stone Circle, Gouganne Barre, Kenmare, Beara Peninsula and Dingle. 

TOUR DATES - MAY 16 - 24, 2010 - 8 Nights

If you have an interest in attending or want more information please visit the Thin Places Tour webpage and view the itinerary.  Land package is $1920 per person (based on double occupancy).

Your Trip Includes- thin places tour
  • 8 nights in premiere town-center hotell
    • Double, Triple & Single Occupancy available
  • All hotel taxes/fees
  • Airport Transfers to/from city centers while in Ireland
  • Transportation via luxury coach between towns & for daily touring
  • Traditional full Irish breakfast every morning
  • 5 Dinners (4 Dinners d’hote, 1 Dinner Show- Irish House Party)
  • Full time host & guide – Mindie Burgoyne & Private Driver
  • Emergency Tenon Tours Contact available 24/7
  • Complete offering of optional tours for purchase in Dublin
  • Welcome party in Dublin & Farewell evening in Ennis
  • Daily Private Tours of Thin Places to include sights such as:
    • Newgrange
    • Knowth
    • Kildare Cathedral
    • St. Brigid’s Holy Well
    • Holy Cross Abbey
    • Hore Abbey
    • Rock of Cashel
    • Ardmore
    • St. Declan’s Cathedral & Holy Well
    • Skibbereen
    • Drombeg Stone Circle
    • Kinsale
    • Beara Peninsula
    • Dingle Peninsula
    • Gouganne Bara
    • Gap of Dunloe

Land Price = $1,920 per person*, double occupancy – Save $50 if you deposit by February 12th!

$50 Group Discount once group reaches 14 travelers

Tour Limited to 20 spots.  Enrollment deadline is March 15th

Payment Terms = $250 deposit** required per person to lock in current rate, balance/full payment due 60 days prior to departure.

For full itinerary and booking instructions visit the Thin Places Mystical Tour Website.