3. Goddess of the Well

Questions to consider . . .

  • In which Welsh texts do we find the sacred well?
  • Why does the Goddess of Sovereignty care for the well of knowledge?
  • Why is water a symbolic source of knowledge?

Water is the element most closely connected to the Sovereignty Goddess. It appears time and time again in her myth.

Considering what this water symbolises about the Goddess’ nature, what knowledge or wisdom is granted to the king when he drinks it?

Water also plays a part in Celtic myth in general, and carries a variety of symbolic meanings in different tales and poems.

The knowledge granted by the Goddess’ water was also of interest to Celtic poets, musicians and storytellers. In the Irish and Welsh traditions a water source was often a symbol for divine inspiration.

And as mentioned in The Adventure of Cormac, the flow of the sacred water in five streams could also symbolise the five senses.

How does the Goddess’ gift also contain these types of knowledge?

Further Reading

Feel free to read the remainder of Sharon Paice MacLeod’s excellent paper linked below.

A Confluence of Wisdom

Notes and References

Sianann > Shannon
Mimir’s Well under Yggdrasil

Indo-European Languages
St Brannoc’s, Cornwall




A spring (not sluggish) under the pleasant sea

in the domain of Condla (it was fitting,

as we recount in telling the tale): —

to gaze upon it went Sinann.

A well with flow unfailing

is by the edge of a chilly river

(as men celebrate its fame),

whence spring seven main streams.

Here thou findest the magic lore of Segais

with excellence, under the fresh springs

over the well of the mighty waters

stands the poets’ music-haunted hazel.

The spray of the Segais is sprinkled

on the well of the strong gentle lady,

when the nuts of fair Crinmond fall

on its royal bosom bright and pure.


  • Sharon Paice MacLeod, ‘A Confluence of Wisdom: The Symbolism of Wells, Whirlpools, Waterfalls and Rivers in Early Celtic Sources’, Proceedings of the  Harvard Celtic Colloquium, 2006/2007, Vol. 26/27 (2006/2007), 340:

The well was said to be located under the sea, in the domain of Condla. It was located at the edge of a river and seven primary streams flowed from it. In the well could be found . . . the ‘great knowledge of Segais and over it stood  the “melodious hazel of the poets” . . . The nuts of the tree burst forth all at once  along with leaf, flower and fruit and fell from the trees into the “honored well.” From the seven streams came a “whispering” . . . of musical wisdom or inspiration . . .


  • Anon. ‘The Adventure of Cormac’, c. 12th century, trans. Tom P. Cross, Ancient Irish Tales, 507,quoted in MacLeod, ‘A Confluence of Wisdom’, 342:

I am…king of the Land of Promise; and to see the Land of Promise was the reason I brought thee I hither…. The fountain which you saw, with the five streams out of it, is the Fountain of Knowledge, and the streams are the five senses through which knowledge is obtained. And no one will have knowledge who drinks not a draught out of the fountain itself and out of the streams. The folk of many arts are those who drink of them both.


  • Snorri Sturluson, The Prose Edda, c. 13th. century, trans. Arthur Gilchrist Brodeur (1916), 27:

. . . under that root . . . is Mímir’s Well, wherein wisdom and understanding are stored; and he is called Mímir, who keeps the well. He is full of ancient lore, since he drinks of the well from the Gjallar-Horn. Thither came Allfather and craved one drink of the well; but he got it not until he had laid his eye in pledge . . .


  • Anon. ‘Golychaf-i Gulwyd’, c. 13th century, Haycock, Legendary Poems from the Book of Taliesin (2007), 277:

Harmonious is my song in Caer Sidi:

sickness and old age do not afflict those who are there,

as Manawyd and Pryderi know.

Three instruments / organs around a fire play in front of it

and around its turrets are the wellsprings of the sea;

and [as for] the fruitful fountain which is above it –

its drink is sweeter than the white wine.


  • Anon. Third Branch of the Mabinogi, c. 11th century, Davies, The Mabinogion (2007):

In spite of the advice he received from Manawydan, Pryderi approached the fort. When he entered, neither man nor beast,neither boar nor dogs, neither house nor dwelling-place could he see in the fort. But he could see in the middle of the floor, as it were, a well with marble-work around it. At the edge of the well there was a golden bowl fastened to four chains, over a marble slab, and the chains reached up to the sky, and he could see no end to them. He was enraptured by the beauty of the gold and the fine workmanship of the bowl. And he went to the bowl and grabbed it. But as soon as he grabs the bowl, his hands stick to it and his feet stick to the slab on which he was standing, and the power of speech is taken from him so that he could not utter a single word. And there he stood.