Many of us look for omens in our lives – signs that, we believe, tell us that good, or bad things may happen: Magpies, black cats, pins. Some of us even ask for these signs – trusting the universe to send a signal that will direct our choice one way or another.
But how many of us would radically alter our lives, dig up our land, spend our own savings, borrow money and redirect our careers, on the basis of what we believe to be divine communication?
This is exactly what Michelle Keane has done, and describes, in her book, The Discovery of Kingdom Water, about how she found seven natural springs on her land in Knocknagoshel in Co Kerry.
The book includes many wild-sounding moments: trips to Knock, Fatima, and Lourdes, a gruelling journey through the Himalayas, consultations with gurus and water diviners, as well as what she believes to be communication with divine entities and her own ancestors. As the kids say, “you couldn’t make it up”.
And yet, for all that the many bizarre happenings could be dismissed as so much fancy, the water itself clearly exists, and Michelle – who trained as an interior designer and has run her own company since 2000 – is currently in talks with potential investors from a selection of very un-fanciful sectors, including the pharmaceutical industry, luxury water and energy drink brands, and the health and wellness industry, around the sale of it.
Clearly, along with her undoubted belief in divine entities, Michelle also has a hard business head.
Along the way, she has confronted serious illness – including breast cancer – and an accident that left her unable to walk for months. Throughout, she has been driven by an unwavering conviction.
“I don’t know why this happened to me,” she says. “I have asked myself this question many times along the way, and part of me always will ask. But eventually I had to stop questioning it and just accept it.”
For Michelle, the story started in May 2018, with a bottle of water filled from St Michael’s Well in Ballinskelligs, Co Kerry, to give to a visiting friend. While sitting at the well, she believes she saw a vision of St Patrick. “I knew something strange was happening me deep inside my gut when I saw that,” she says. “But I’ve always been a very spiritual and religious person, so it didn’t disturb me as much as you might think. I accepted it. I don’t know why I felt like that, it just felt natural within my soul.”
Later, she gave the water to the friend, Tahnee Morgan, who herself believes that she sees and communicates with angels. That night, Tahnee said she was being shown messages from Michelle’s ancestors, who told her there were seven natural underground springs on Michelle’s land with water containing naturally-occurring minerals and trace elements, and that these springs must be released.
In fact, one of the springs had already broken the surface and was easily accessible, although the others were hidden and unknown. So Michelle, displaying the strange blend of blind faith and canny good sense that was to define her response throughout, bought a batch of sterilised bottles from the local chemist, bottled some of the water from the visible spring, and brought it to a science laboratory to be tested.
Those tests came back some weeks later with evidence of 25 minerals, 17 of which are known as rare earth elements.
At that point, Michelle, together with her husband Keith, decided to find and open the other springs. But that involved significant costs – Michelle’s life savings, as well as investment from a family friend willing to back them.
Surely, I say, that was the point at which her faith must have wavered? When it came to actual financial commitment? “No, never,” she says. “My faith got even stronger. There have been many times along this journey that I have been utterly exhausted and depleted, but I have never stopped believing in the power of Our Lady and Mother Nature.”
The springs were located through water divination (still more common than you might expect in parts of rural Ireland) – all six of them – and the first one was opened, whereupon it released a spurt of water that “shot into the air like oil does in the movies”.
By the time the drilling was finished, an entire underground river had been discovered. Again, Michelle took water samples and sent them off to the lab.
Around this time, she says that she began to see angels, and angelic signs herself, including lights, figures and numbers in the air, and pictures of rocks. Did that not freak her out? “I was initially terrified, to put it mildly,” she admits, “but then the images began to make sense to me and I accepted them.”
Persuading husband Keith was far harder. “That was the biggest challenge. I found that exceptionally hard, as he couldn’t see what I was seeing. I remember sitting in the kitchen with Keith and he could hear the light switch turning on and off, but he couldn’t see the visions I was seeing. I asked him, ‘do you believe me?’ and he said ‘I do, but it’s hard for me to comprehend…’ I knew he was doubting me, and I couldn’t blame him. But I knew in time his doubt and disbelief would go away.”
The remaining springs were opened, and again the water was tested. Each time, the results came back showing a strong mineral and trace element profile. At this stage, Michelle decided to bring the water to market, engaging industry consultants and testing her water against the leading bottled water brands. “On the basis of independent scientific analysis, our water shows a comparable mineral profile to the top 10 brands, and better than others.”
Disbelief hasn’t been the only challenge she has faced. She has had several serious health issues in the time since that May morning in 2018. “My health suffered a lot,” she says. “I’ve had three major operations, first a triple hernia operation, then surgery for breast cancer. Luckily, it was caught early, and surgery was all the treatment that was required and I’ve thankfully made a full recovery.
“Then, just when I thought all that was behind me, I fell and broke my ankle and had to have two metal plates inserted, and ended up in a wheelchair for over three months. I remember a doctor saying to me that I wouldn’t walk again for 18 months. Then, I thought my life was over. I had reached an all-time low, but hearing those words made me more determined than ever to get back on my feet. I kept my positive head and I prayed to God and the angels, and through their grace and divine mercy, I have made it this far. That accident was six months ago, and I am now back walking again.”
Faith aside, what kept her going on such a strange journey? “My kids, Luke and Holly. Children need our unconditional love, whether we succeed or make mistakes. It was their hugs and kisses and their meltdowns that kept me sane,” she laughs. “And Keith. I could not have kept this together without his enduring love and patience; he is the real hero in this book.”
She published her book last October and it’s already on its fourth reprint and launches in the US at the end of the month. Right now, she is “at the pre-planning stage for a commercial water bottling plant”.
This, clearly is not a conventional business story, something Michelle is ready to acknowledge. “This might all sound crazy,” she says, “but all I’ve done is document my journey. This is a true story – although not everyone will get it or understand it. But what is undoubtedly true is the presence of water, an abundant natural resource, on my land. And the scientific evidence, from two independent laboratories, to show the minerals in that water. And next year, the bottling plant will be verifiably true as well. I’m not begging people to believe this story, I’m just putting it out there.”
‘The Discovery of Kingdom Water’ is out now