Sunday, October 23, 2016

52 Saints ~ Week 43 ~ St. Abigail

This is going to be a very brief, cobbled together, mostly pictorial post about St. Abigail whose real name was Gobnait. As far as I can tell Gobnait means bring joy, and that is the reason for Abigail which means something like father's joy. There is another saint named Abigail who was one of King David's wives, but I found this one more interesting. I chose Abigail because that is the name of my new granddaughter, who is the reason for my muddled brain which is only capable of producing a very brief, cobbled together, mostly pictorial post.

St. Gobnait was born around the 5th or 6th century in County Clare, Ireland. Leaving home because of a family dispute, she lived temporarily on a small island called Inis Oírr. 

 One website said that she was the only female that was allowed to live there (not sure who was doing the allowing), but at any rate she did not stay long. An angel appeared to her and according to this site said, "Go until you find nine white deer grazing. It is there that you will find your place of resurrection." So go she did, but brief though her stay in Inis Oírr may have been, there was once a church there with her name.

After leaving Inis Oírr, Gobnait returned to the southern coast of Ireland where eventually she found three white deer which she followed until she found six more and there, in Ballyvourney, she founded a convent and kept bees. The sisters were healers and used honey when treating their patients. I found a bit more about the bees here.
Her connection to honey bees is complex, beginning with the angel telling her to find her “resurrection place,” where the soul leaves the body. In Celtic mythology, the soul was thought to depart the body as a bee or a butterfly. Bees have long held an important place in Irish culture, and ancient laws were called the Bech Bretha (“Bee Judgments”). Honey is well-known for its curative properties, and Gobnait was renowned for her care of the sick. She is said to have had a strong relationship with bees and used honey in the treatment of illness and healing of wounds.
In Balleyvourney today, St. Gobnait's house and holy well are visited by many pilgrims and tourists, particularly on her feast day, February 11 which, I believe, is the day on which this medieval statue is taken out of a drawer and venerated.

The website where I found this image has a great interactive map with 360 degree images of the pilgrimage site.

In Balleyvourney there is a trail with ten stations where people stop and pray and rub some relic or statue. The first stop is this statue by Seamus Murphy.

Here is Gobnait's grave.

One of the two Holy Wells

On this website you can see a video of the inside of the well and hear an audio of someone filling a cup from the well and pouring it back in which is better than it sounds, I think. You have to scroll down.

The church and graveyard

And in one of the walls of the church...

...this hole in which you will find...

This iron bulla or bowl which Gobnait is said to have thrown at unwanted visitors and which, after accomplishing its purpose, returned to her--or it might be a Cromwellian canonball.

Another time when some enemy or other was around, Gobnait is said to have sent the bees after them.

I like these banisters.

All of this makes me wish I could get on a plane and go to Ireland tomorrow.

Before I leave, I will mention that in England Gobnait/Abigail is known as St. Deborah, Deborah meaning honey bee. My Abigail's mother, however, really does not like the name Deborah for some reason, so we won't go there.

Janet Cupo is the proprietor of this blog.

If you want to see all of the posts in this series, click HERE.

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