+ for st bride
Posted by Deirdre MacKenna
“It took forty days to weave this devotional work whilst all around, the world was unweaving into the chaos of the pandemic. It became clear that the original proposal for the exhibition at Dunoon Burgh Hall would have to change – to focus, without distraction, on the therapeutic symbolism of this singular tapestry.” Alexander and Susan Maris, 18.03.2020
On Saturday the first of February this year, Alexander and Susan Maris searched but were unable to locate the old well of St Bride in a churchyard in Dunoon. Nevertheless, Susan was able to gather a small handful of lichen from a tree in the church’s graveyard.
A week later, on the eve of Imbolc, the name given to St Brigid’s Feast, a celebration of the end of Winter and beginning of Spring, the Marises walked to The Well of Schiehallion in the centre of Scotland. They placed their votive quartz pebbles next to the White Cairn that locates the well, filled a small bottle with the sacred spring water, and dropped their payment of silver into its font.
When they returned home, an email from Revd Railton awaited them with news that he had found the remains of St Bride’s Well in the churchyard of Holy Trinity Church, Dunoon.
Sacred Wells are sources, or ‘springs’ of fresh, clean water which is one of life’s fundamental necessities, enabling mankind to thrive. Springs are capable of producing water continuously, in some records for millennia, and are located far from obvious water-sources such as lochs and rivers. They have become symbolic of wellbeing, healing and endurance and both Pagan and Christian faiths record them as having been blessed by saints, raising their status to sacred sources of water.
St Brigid was born in Ireland around 450 and became the founder and abbess of the first Irish monastery, and leader of the Christian spiritual community. She is considered by many to be a Christianization of the Celtic goddess Brigid and in Scotland is often referred to as St Bride. She is celebrated as a woman of peace who championed gender equality, made harmony amongst conflict and brought hope during despair, and is respected today as a symbol of healing and renewal. The cruciform design of the tapestry + for st bride offers a symbol of aid in a time of crisis and evokes the numerical proportions of the mythologies of the Cailleach, the ancient Celtic goddess who resides over Scotland and Ireland’s lands, and stirs up the seas to signify the changing seasons.
Water, a healing elixir that falls from the skies, appears on flowers at dawn, and collects in dells, valleys, rivers, and ponds in an almost miraculous fashion, is the one element that moves between land, air and the oceans, lochs and rivers.
Combining the water from the Well of Schiehallion with the lichen from trees surrounding St Bride’s Well in Dunoon, Susan Maris has transformed place and time into a biodynamic amber dye woven into a cross, to offer a symbol of reflection and mourning in this time of isolation, a call to be connected in solidarity with others.
+ for St Bride is part of the series The Well at the World’s End by Alexander and Susan Maris, commissioned by Cultural Documents as part of its programme strand ‘Locating Lorne’.
image: CRUX (+ for St Bride) March 2020 © Alexander and Susan Maris
Dunoon Burgh Hall, ., ., ., .,