St Tegla’s Well, Llandegla
Sufferers of epilepsy used to visit this well to follow a ritual which they hoped would cure them. To find the well, turn right out of the church gates, cross the river bridge, then take the footpath on the left.
The well water, rich in calcium, is in a shallow hole, c.50cm deep, lined with stone slabs. A stone near the well was known by the 18th century to be inscribed with something like “AGOE:G” (the first two letters the and last were clear). In Roman times the well may have been dedicated to Aesculapius, the Romans’ god of medicine and healing.
Excavations here in the 1930s revealed many objects which people used to throw into the well when praying for help from St Tegla (sometimes spelt Tecla). They included pieces of white stone, coins, pins and pottery fragments.
Epilepsy was sometimes known in Welsh as Clwyf Tegla (“Tegla’s disease”). Sufferers would bring a hen (if they were female) or cock and walk around the well three times after sunset while reciting the Lord’s Prayer. In a book published in 1781 (A Tour in Wales, vol 2), travel writer Thomas Pennant noted that sufferers would throw four pence into the well. They would carry their fowl in a basket around the well, then into the churchyard and finally into St Tegla’s Church. The sufferer would then lie under the communion table “with the Bible under his or her head”, was covered with the carpet or cloth, rest there until daybreak, then offer six pence and depart, leaving the fowl inside. If the bird soon died, the sufferer would be cured.
Variants of this routine included pricking the bird with a pin, which was then thrown into the well, and the sufferer blowing into the fowl’s beak to transfer the disease.