24Zucchelli, Christine. Stones of Adoration Sacred Stones and Mystic Megaliths of Ireland. Doughcloyne, Wilton, Cork: Collins, 2007. xiv-xv.
Generations of Irish clergy, both Catholic and Protestant, attempted to suppress the folk practices at holy wells and other sites. John O'Donovan quoted an earlier 1815 source regarding a well in Co. Monaghan: "It is even now visited by many of the poorer class of the R.C. Religion whose votive rags suspended on the over-hanging thorn attest their unshaken faith in its miraculous virtues. Strange! that a custom decried by the ministers, unpracticed by the more enlightened ranks of their religion should continue unsupported by precept or example. The mist of superstition which clouds the intellect can only be dispersed by the powerful rays of a widely diffused system or education. It is worthy of remark that to the many superstitious rites which have been or are yet in use in this island some corresponding superstition may be found practiced in the most distant ages and in the most remote quarters of the Globe." (O'Donovan, John, Eugene O'Curry, Thomas O'Connor, and George Petrie. Letters Containing Information relative to the Antiquities of the Counties of Armagh and Monaghan, Collected during the progress of the Ordnance Survey in 1835. Ed. Michael O'Flanaghan. Bray: Reproduced under the Direction of Rev. Michael O'Flanaghan, 1927. 27-28.)
Other authors were less charitable regarding these practices: "...when I pressed a very old man, Owen Hester, to state what possible advantage he expected to derive from the singular custom of frequenting in particular such wells as were contiguous to an old blasted oak, or an upright unhewn stone, and what the meaning was of the yet more singular custom of sticking rags on the branches of such trees, and spitting on them - his answer, and the answer of the oldest men, was, that their ancestors always did it; that it was a preservative against Geasa-Draoidacht, i. e. the sorceries of Druids; that their cattle were preserved by it from infections and disorders; that the daoini maethe, i.e. the fairies, were kept in good humour by it; and so thoroughly persuaded were they of the sanctity of those pagan practices, that they would travel bare-headed and bare-footed, from ten to twenty miles, for the purpose of crawling on their knees round these wells, and upright stones, and oak trees, westward, as the sun travels, some three times, some six, some nine, and so on, in uneven numbers, until their voluntary penances were completely fulfilled." (Hardy, Philip Dixon. The Holy Wells of Ireland: Containing an Authentic Account of Those Various Places of Pilgrimage and Penance Which Are Still Annually Visited by Thousands of the Roman Catholic Peasantry. With a Minute Description of the Patterns and Stations Periodically Held in Various Districts of Ireland. Dublin: Hardy, & Walker, 1840. 100. Dixon is here quoting the Rev. Charles O'Connor.)