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Monk in the World Guest Post: Margo Hennebach

We are thrilled and delighted to be releasing a brand new compilation of songs, curated from some wonderful musicians we know and love. These are songs for Celtic seekers as they are inspired by the tradition of pilgrimage in Ireland and accompany Christine’s newest book which will be released in September 2018 from Ave Maria Press – The Soul’s Slow Ripening: 12 Celtic Practices for Seekers of the Sacred. For six weeks we will be featuring the musicians from this album who so generously agreed to share their beautiful music with our community for this project.

Next up is Margo Hennebach who wrote “Holy Well” for the Abbey. Read her whole reflection below and to hear a clip of the song go to the album page at CDBaby here>>

We’re climbing the hill to Maumeen Pass in Connemara to visit the last holy well of The Soul’s Slow Ripening pilgrimage with Christine and John.  I’m aware of my fellow pilgrims.  Some are in front, some behind, and I realize that I’m trying to hold my place and keep up.  This suddenly seems crazy, so I pause.  I take a breath, hear the wind and sense the uneven ground through the soles of my shoes.

I leave the trail and sit on a rock and feel a song coming.  I love this moment.  In my imagination, the light changes slightly, there’s electricity in the air, and my ears grow big.  I begin to listen for something that I can only barely hear.  When I’m lucky, it knocks me over the head.

Today I’m lucky.

Even though I prefer pen and paper, I have none.  Instead I grab my phone to record a voice memo and sing softly, but it feels too early for me to sing aloud.  I’d rather let the song come slowly as it begins to trust me.

I decide to walk again and discover that the tempo of the song matches my pace.  Ah, this feels right, so I sing quietly to myself:

I am just a pilgrim who is on her way
Thankful for the path that I can walk today

By this time, I’ve lost sight of the other pilgrims, and suddenly wonder if I won’t make it up the hill in time.  I recognize the worry as a ploy to divert my attention, so I stay with the song:

This is not a race to see who comes in first
When I think like that I’ll never quench my thirst

This trip is my first exposure to holy wells.  The ones we’ve visited so far have been in low, miry ground, and we’ve had to step down and crouch towards the water to touch them.

Today we’re climbing upwards to the well. I follow my feet through streams, wet grass and onto limestone, pausing long enough to marvel.  I hear the bridge of the song:

Wells can spring up anywhere
Underground or in the air
Listen to your feet
They will take you there

Eventually I arrive to the top and it’s a circus!  There are statues, piles of new and discarded offerings, and people from all over the world talking, singing and taking selfies.  I notice my surprise, disappointment—and entitlement.  I’m not sure why I expected that we’d be the only ones here.  Up to now, it’s felt like we were the only pilgrims in Ireland.  Now I feel part of a much larger community of pilgrims who’ve been traveling here for centuries.  I am humbled and feel grateful.

There’s enough for all at the holy well

I’m so happy to see John who is standing by the well.   He welcomes everyone and offers a ladle in case someone can’t reach the water with their hand.  I begin my clockwise walk around the well and stumble onto the final double chorus:

Holy well, oh holy well
Walking slowly three times ’round the holy well
Holy well has this to tell:
“Every hill you meet can surely serve you well.”

Holy well, oh holy well
Dancing seven times around the holy well
Holy well has this to tell:
“Whatever path you’re on I surely wish you well.”

That night when we gather with everyone in our group, I want to sing the song, but it’s not ready yet.  It’s still a photo that hasn’t fully developed, so I wait.  Over the next couple of weeks in Ireland, Mark Saunders, my husband and musical comrade, and I will work through the song, honing lines and bringing to life the harmonic structure that feels ancient and modern at the same time.  Soon it will be time to go home, but I’m grateful to have found a song  from this beautiful, sacred place.

Margo Hennebach is Guild Certified Feldenkrais® Practitioner, Music Therapist, workshop leader, vocal improvisor, recording and performing artist.  She’s recorded several CDs as a soloist and with her trio, Mad Agnes, and several of her original songs are part of the Smithsonian Folkways collection.  Find her at, on iTunes (as Margo Hennebach and Mad Agnes), and singing from the moment she first wakes up.

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