An Introduction to Mythology

Page: 100

Throughout the Middle Ages the shrine and well of St Triduana were famous for the cure of blindness, and to it came pilgrims from all parts of Scotland and the north of England. Sir David Lyndsay makes two allusions to it. Devotees thronged to St Tredwell, he says, "to mend their eine," and again he states in his curious inventory of saints in The Monarchie:

Sanct Tredwall, als, thare may be sene
Quhilk on ane prick hes baith her ene.

At Rescobie, her first place of sojourn in Scotland, each September brought round a St Trodlin's Fair.

Authorities are divided as to the exact site of St Triduana's Well. Indeed, much confusion attaches to the subject. A well dedicated to St Margaret, and roofed by a structure obviously copied from or copied by the chapter-house hard by Restalrig Church, stood for many generations on a site now covered by the locomotive works of the North British Railway Company. (Its groined roof now shelters another St Margaret's Well in the[Pg 226] King's Park.) This well I do not believe to have been, as is generally stated, that of St Triduana, afterward known as St Margaret's. I incline to the belief that the building known as the 'chapter-house,' close to Restalrig Church, and almost certainly a chapel of St Triduana, sheltered the original well. This building was erected at the close of the fifteenth century, and was probably the second or third so raised over the miraculous well to which came the stricken from all over broad Scotland. It is a notable fact that since the restoration of this chapter-house modern engineering skill has proved unequal to the task of stemming the flow of water, which constantly remains at the same level here. Was not this, then, the ancient bath-house of the shrine of St Trid, down whose steps groped the sightless in hope of the precious boon of light?

What is the mythical kernel to this saintly tale?

Firstly, be it noted, St Triduana does not figure in the Roman calendar.

Secondly, such wells as hers are by no means uncommon in Britain. Well-worship is still to be traced in the Celtic or semi-Celtic portions of the country—Wales, Lancashire, and Scotland. In Teutonic Southern England, although many wells are still known as 'holy,' no trace of any reason for regarding them as such remains; but a fully developed ritual is still observed in drawing from many wells in Wales. Thus at St Tegla's Well, near Wrexham, coppers are cast into the water, the well is thrice perambulated, and a cock left as an offering by the patient who suffers from epilepsy. Semi-Celtic Shropshire, too, is rich in wells which cure sore eyes, and Miss C. S. Burne of that county, in Shropshire Folklore, suggests that the legend in the Scandinavian prose Edda of Odin giving his eye in return for a draught of water from the wisdom-giving well of Mimir might perhaps account for it. I myself had arrived at the same conclusion before perusing Miss Burne's work, and I further think that the theory is strengthened by Odin being a sun-god; the round 'eye' of the sun pierces the depths of the dark water in which it is reflected. Indeed I advanced some such explanation in the article "Mimir" in my Dictionary of Mythology, published in 1910.

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We know that after the introduction of Christianity into ancient Gaul those well-spirits in which Celtic imagination delighted were frequently metamorphosed into saints, and that the teeming Gallic pantheon added many a name to the calendar of Rome. May not the same be true of our Restalrig saint? The name is obviously Latinized. It appears as 'Triduana' in a charter of James IV, but to the people she was St Trid, and we have seen that Rescobie folk called her Trodlin—an affectionate diminutive. We probably have in Trid-well a spot where the mystic rites of some Celtic goddess of the spring were celebrated. Was not the 'Young Tamlane' of Carterhaugh, near Selkirk, such a well-spirit or deity?