Boann and the Well of Segais
contributed by Druid Melissa S Burchfield
Boann and Bebhionn were as opposite as day and night, one as bright and vibrant as the sun, the other as deep and sensual as the night. Both were visions to behold. The sisters were always very close—and sometimes prone to mischief in their curiosity, for both were amazed by all manner of wonderful things in the world. When they were old enough to marry, the sisters were courted by several men. Bebhionn was happily wed to Aed Alainn. The lovely Boann had caught the eye of Nechtain, the Keeper of the Sacred Well of Segais.
Now, the Well of Segais was said to be full of the Waters of Inspiration and Knowledge, and only Nechtain and his three cupbearers were permitted to approach it, for one glance into the Well would, in the very least, strike the violator blind.
While taking a walk one afternoon, Nechtain’s carefree path led the two within distant eyesight of the Well. As beautiful as it was ancient, the Well was surrounded by nine hazel trees, heavily laden with the largest hazelnuts Boann had ever seen! When Nechtain realized where he had taken them, he hastily turned, and though he led them away once more, Boann’s thoughts remained on the Well.
For days, Boann dreamt of the Well and imagined all manner of life and gifts teeming within it. She was driven to discuss her preoccupation with Bebhionn, whose eyes widened with wonder as Boann wove her visions of the well around her sister. Bebhionn, being happily married and uninterested in disfigurement, kept at bay the curiosity that consumed her sister. She left Boann with a warning to avert her thoughts as well.
One day while picking berries for a pie, Boann found herself once more within eyesight of the Well. She waited. She saw no one. She waited a bit more. Still, she saw none. She waited yet longer, and suddenly, the stillness was broken when a splash echoed toward her from within the Well. And then another. She took a few careful steps toward the Well, and before her eyes, she saw a great salmon jump out of the Waters, shimmering in rainbows of sunlight, to eat of the hazelnuts on the trees surrounding the Well. At the sight of the magnificent fish, Boann forgot all about the warnings and dangers of the Well. She only wanted to see for a moment. The Waters within were so inspiring that the mere echo of their splashing enraptured the mind and amplified the desire to gaze.
Boann approached the Well with an awe and innocence that belied her age. She cautiously placed a hand on the side of the Well and peered in. In an instant, the Well began to shake and to crack, and the Waters rose up in a great wave. Boann let out a shocked cry as the Waters whirled around and slashed her arm. Boann began to run. Behind her, the Waters continued to spiral round and round and finally slammed through the sides of the structure, shattering the walls of stone. Freed from their ancient tomb, the Waters began to chase after Boann, erasing her footprints almost as fast as she made them.
On and on, across the breadth of the island, the Waters pursued her until she finally leapt into the sea, where she was caught by a startled Manannan mac Lir. The Waters were calmly assumed into the Sea where they disappeared into the inky depths with a final, silvery flicker. Manannan, surprised by the sudden disruption in his day, looked toward the path where Boann had come, taking in the breathtaking view of a silvery river, almost laughing in its freedom and sparkling in the sunshine.
And so it was that Boann freed the Waters of Knowledge and Inspiration and brought them to the land.