Irish Pilgrimage: Holy Wells and Popular Catholic Devotion
Prior to the nineteenth century, the experience of popular Catholicism in Ireland was associated with extended pilgrimages and with rituals performed at thousands of holy wells. The study of popular religion in Ireland has for centuries been dominated by a model which sees these practices as remnants of an archaic and largely pagan tradition inherited from a distant Celtic past.
In Irish Pilgrimage: Holy Wells and Popular Catholic Devotion, sociologist Michael P. Carroll refutes this model and offers a fresh perspective. These rites were not ancient at all, Carroll explains; they arose in the wake of the Reformation as ordinary Catholics attempted to merge ideas imported from Counter-Reformation Europe with distinctively Irish traditions. The variant that resulted provided a religious experience that appealed to all levels of Irish Catholic society, in both rural and urban areas -- peasants and city dwellers alike thought pilgrimages essential to their identity as Irish Catholics. In the years just before the Famine, however, the structure of society changed, and the appeal of this variant would ultimately dissolve.
A social, historical, and psychological study of religion, history, and literature in Romantic Ireland, Irish Pilgrimage: Holy Wells and Popular Catholic Devotion is the unique story of people struggling to express their religious identities in ways that were both impeccably Catholic and yet distinctively Irish.