Rowan and Red Thread

Magic and Witchcraft in Gaelic Cultures
by Annie Loughlin, Treasa Ní Chonchobhair, and athryn !rice Nic"h#na


Published by An Chuallacht Ghaol Naofa. Published 30 November 01 . !irst edition. Co"yright # 01 Annie $oughlin% &reasa N' Chonchobhair% and (athryn Price Nic)h*na. All +ights +eserved. Published in the ,nited -tates of America. &y"ogra"hy and interior layout by Aestas )esigns. -"ecial than.s to P/l 0acAmhlaoibh and -.y )avis for the initial read1through and feedbac.. Without li$iting the rights under co%yright reser&ed abo&e, no %art of this %ublication $ay be re%roduced, stored in or introduced into a retrie&al syste$, or trans$itted, in any for$, or by any $eans 'electronic, $echanical, %hotoco%ying, recording or otherwise(, without the %rior written %er$ission of both the co%yright owners and the abo&e %ublisher of this boo)* +f you are downloading this fro$ any site other than www*gaolnaofa*co$ or www*scribd*co$,GaolNaofa %lease )now that you-&e downloaded an illegal co%y*



Rowan-tree and red thread Make the witches tyne their speed.1

2n Gaelic cultures there are a number of traditional ways of interacting with the s"irit world. &hese old ways are still used by modern Gaelic Polytheists to communicate with the s"irits and create change in the world for the benefit of our communities% and can include "rotective rites% trance1wor.% various forms of divination% and rites aimed at gaining ins"iration 3 imbas4. 2n modern "arlance% some also call these meta"hysical "ractices% 5magical "ractices5 or magic.5 Attem"ting to change the world around us via meta"hysical means is not necessarily an essential "art of Celtic +econstructionism 3or its subset% Gaelic Polytheism4% but these traditional ways can be enriching for many% no matter the focus or Celtic culture in which the individual might "ractice. &here are a variety of traditional terms for these various "ractices% as used by our ancestors as well as contem"orary Celtic +econstructionists. 6owever% it seems that there is a tendency in the Neo"agan community for "eo"le to lum" a lot of these ways together under the label of 5witchcraft.5 As this article will outline% we believe that such a term is not a""ro"riate for the ma7ority of these traditional ways% whether historically or within contem"orary Celtic +econstructionism 3C+4 or Gaelic Polytheism 3GP4. &his is one of the many ways in which we differ from most of the wider Neo"agan community. 3 &he term 5witchcraft5 has long had a very s"ecific meaning within Celtic cultures%
1 Tyne 8 -cots for 5lose.5 Chambers% Popular Rhymes of Scotland% 19:0% "3 9. And from the ;orders of -cotland< 5;lac. luggie% lammer bead% = +owan1tree and red thread% = Put the witches to their s"eed>5 0cNeill gives a slightly different version 3i.e.% in -cots4< 5+owan tree and red threid = Gar the witches tyne their s"eed5 3 The Silver Bough ol !% 1?@:% ":94. Gregor has it as 5Gars%5 Gregor% "otes on the #olk-$ore of the "orth %ast of Scotland% 1991% "199. Nic)h*na et al% The &R #'(% 00:% "11@. $et us define these terms a bit. 5Neo"agan5 means 50odern Pagan%5 yes% but acce"tance of that tends to carry the assum"tion that we also share 5the attitudes most "revalent in the Neo"agan community.5 Ahile the current forms of C+ and GP are certainly Neo"agan in the sense that they are modern traditions informed by ancient beliefs% they are not Neo"agan in the sense of sharing most of the assum"tions% values% terminology and "ractices of that community. &his is not about claiming our traditions are older than anyone elseBs% only that we do not agree with many of the common assum"tions and "ractices of those who consider themselves "art of the Neo"agan community. $i.e other reconstructionist% revivalist and traditional lifeways% we "refer to distance ourselves from the Neo"agan label in order to avoid misunderstandings and misconce"tions about what we do and what we stand for. |3|


and it is one that is wholly negative. C 0ost of the Gaelic magical "ractices that Neo"agans attem"t to include under the 5witchcraft5 label are not% historically% viewed as witchcraft. @ Considering all this% we believe that on a very basic level 5witchcraft5 is sim"ly an inaccurate and unhel"ful term to use for these "ractices% and to insist on a""lying such a term incorrectly isDwe believeDboth wrong and "otentially offensive to those within the living Celtic cultures who still "ractice these ways today. As a result we have decided to outline the issues surrounding witchcraft% magic and C+% in the ho"es of encouraging those who identify as Celtic +econstructionists and 3in "articular4 Gaelic Polytheists to consider using more a""ro"riate terminology. Eust as FsatrG uses terms li.e seidr or spae for their magical "ractices% we believe that there are terms that can better describe the magical "ractices to be found in C+% and to that end we will ta.e a loo. at the different .inds of magic and magic "ractitioners that can be found in the sources% and eH"lore the .inds of terminology that might be more a""ro"riate for use. ;efore we continue% it should be said that we realise that we have no "ower to dictate what "eo"le call themselves% and nor would we wish to. Neither do we claim to s"ea. for the Celtic +econstructionist or Gaelic Polytheist communities as a whole. &his is merely an essay of o"inion bac.ed with evidence and references% and we ho"e the reader will follow u" those references and draw their own conclusions. Ae also ho"e that this essay will "rom"t some healthy and res"ectful discussion in the community. As "racticing Gaelic Polytheists weBve decided to concentrate on what we .now best% which is why the remainder of this article will eHamine witchcraft as seen in Gaelic culturesDinstead of covering all Celtic culturesDand search for more culturally a""ro"riate labels while 3ho"efully4 some misconce"tions. Iven so% we believe that the issues raised here are worth eHamining within each culture that falls under the Celtic umbrella% whether Gaulish% ;rythonic or Aelsh% and so on% and as such this essay has relevance to the wider Celtic +econstructionist community as well. )uring the course of this essay we will be at the .inds of labels that have
C de ;lJcourt% B&he Aitch% 6er Kictim% &he ,nwitcher and the +esearcher< &he Continued Ividence of &raditional Aitchcraft%B in de ;lJcourt et al% The 'tholone )istory of *itchcraft and Magic+ olume ,- The Twentieth &entury % 1???% "1@111@ L (iec.hefer% Magic in the Middle 'ges% 1?9?% "10="1?CL ;lac.% The .aelic /therworld% 00@% "1:CL 0ac(enMie% .aelic !ncantations+ &harms+ and Blessings of the )ebrides % 19?@% "@L -im"son% BAitches and Aitchbusters%B in #olklore+ ol. 012% 1??N% "@119. 6utton% B0odern Pagan Aitchcraft%B in The 'tholone )istory of *itchcraft and Magic+ olume ,- The Twentieth &entury % 1???% "1:. |C|


historically been used to describe a number of magical or meta"hysical "ractices and "ractitioners in 2reland% -cotland and 0an% which might offer more a""ro"riate terminology for Gaelic Polytheists to ado"t. Ae will also loo. at what labels li.e 5witchcraft%5 5witch%5 and 5magic5 have meant throughout history% how they might have changed and been redefined% and what they mean to us as Gaelic Polytheists and religious reconstructionists today.

Celtic Reconstructionism and "Magick"
50agic.%5 in the mind of many modern Pagans and occultists% is borne from the definition given by Aleister Crowley< 5&he -cience and Art of causing Change to occur in conformity with Aill.5N According to this definition% 5magic.5 is a way of acting in harmony with oneBs 5&rue Aill5 and as a means through which one comes to understand the 56igher -elf%5 and this is achieved by way of a number of "ractices that have filtered into many forms of Neo"agan traditions in some way or another. &hese "ractices include things li.e circle casting% invocation% evocation% banishing% commanding gods and s"irits% astral travel% "urification and consecration% Iucharistic rites and seH rites. Ahile they have a rich and com"leH history in their own right% none of these things can be said to have much 3if anything4 to do with Celtic cultures in general. : &he basic worldview these "ractices are rooted in% as well as the "hiloso"hy and assum"tions about how one a""roaches the s"irits% and what the role of a s" is% are often in direct conflict with traditional Celtic lifeways.9 A very sim"le eHam"le here is the use of an athame 3or other .inds of .nife4 to command gods or s"irits% as can be found in some Neo"agan traditions. Ahile the very notion of or commanding deities or s"irits
N $ewis et al% )andbook of &ontemporary Paganism% 009% "9 . Note< Crowley changed the s"elling from magic to magic. for Gematrical reasons% and in order to avoid confusion with stage magic. AeBve decided to .ee" with his s"elling when referring to the modern% Neo"agan view of magic. for consistencyBs sa.e. Otherwise we will be using the standard s"elling of magic. i.e.% Ae see influences from classical "hiloso"hy and Neo"latonism% medieval grimoires% Cabbala% and alchemy% but none of these things are Celtic. Ae strongly believe that combining these foreign attitudes with Gaelic traditions is not acce"table. 2t leads to the neglect of actual Gaelic traditions% and these mash1u"s easily lead to offending the s"irits and creating s"iritual% "sychological and even "hysical harm where none was intended. 2nevitably there are going to be some ga"s in our .nowledge of ancient Celtic lifeways% but 3es"ecially for Gaelic Polytheists4 we can loo. to the eHtant Celtic cultures% to Celtic ways of listening to the s"irits% and to the feedbac. of trusted community members over decades of "ractice% to hel" inform us. &here is "lenty that survivesL we donBt need to mangle our traditions to revive them. |@|

: 9

is at odds with the way Celtic cultures interact with the gods% s"irits and ancestors on a very fundamental level% the addition of iron or steel into the ePuation is even more at odds. &his is es"ecially true in a Gaelic conteHtL in traditional belief% iron 3at best4 can act as a deterrent to the gods and s"irits% defeating the whole "ur"ose of a ritual that may be attem"ting to communicate with them. At worst% it can be an eHtremely dangerous and offensive addition to the miH.? 2ncor"orating Ceremonial 0agic or Neo"agan "ractices into a reconstructionist conteHt can be eHtremely "roblematic% then. 0ore than that% however% since Celtic +econstructionism is rooted in the historical and surviving traditions of the Celtic cultures as the basis for our "ractices% these occult and Neo"agan ideas of 5magic.5 are sim"ly not relevant to us or our worldview% and can undermine the very "ur"ose of reconstructionism. Aside from the fact that many 5magic.al5 "ractices contradict our own values and beliefs% incor"orating such non1Celtic "ractices and beliefs would damage our wor. of bringing "re1Christian Celtic ways into our lives in a modern% Celtic s"iritual conteHt. At the most basic level% since Celtic +econstructionism began as a reaction against the ram"ant eclecticism and a""ro"riation that has been so "revalent in the Neo"agan community%10 incor"orating modern% eclectic elements that have no relevant cultural roots into our own "ractices is com"letely at odds with our methodology. As such% our view is that the only meta"hysical "ractices that should be included in a Celtic +econstructionist tradition are those found in traditional Celtic cultural attitudes and beliefs% not eclectic Neo"agan or occult ones. 11 At this "oint% then% we ho"e it is clear that we are at magical or meta"hysical "ractices and their definitions from a cultural conteHt% not a Neo"agan one.

Historical Witchcraft and Modern Witchcraft
!rom a historical and traditional "ers"ective the words 5witch5 and 5witchcraft5 have never had "ositive connotationsDeven in cultures that ha""ily include magical "ractices and magical "ractitioners. Iven today% 5witchcraft5 refers to harmful% malicious
? Nic)h*na et al% The &R #'(% 00:% "130. 10 Nic)h*na et al% The &R #'(% 00:% "NC. 11 -ee footnote Q3 for clarification on how we define 5Neo"agan.5 |N|

magic in the living cultures.1 5Aitchcraft5 is traditionally seen as a cause of illnesses of otherwise uneH"lained origins% bad luc. and misfortune% miscarriage% the failure of cro"s or ePui"ment% the failure of cows to give mil. or for butter to come during churning% and "oor catches for fishermen and hunters. Aitches might also raise storms and cause shi"s to sin.% or do harm to travellers.13 &he word 5witch5 as understood and used by many of todayBs Neo"agans% however% is much different. 2n this conteHt% witchcraft tends to encom"ass a variety of magical "ractices% regardless of whether or not they are seen as malicious. On the one hand% this has largely been influenced by Christianity% which has had an increasing tendency to conflate any magical "ractices under the heading of witchcraft% 1C and is something that has filtered into intellectual and academic wor.. &he Neo"agan view of witchcraft has also been es"ecially influenced by the wor. of 0argaret 0urray and her "ro"osal that the witch trials of the 0iddle Ages and beyond were nothing to do with )evil worshi""ers% as they were traditionally seen at this time% and instead argued that those who were "ersecuted as witches were in fact adherents of a "re1Christian religion. 1@ 6er ideas were controversial in certain Puarters from the outset% but Gerald Gardner% for one% was ins"ired and influenced by her ideas 3even collaborating with her to "resent a "a"er on the surviving relics of witchcraft to the !ol.1$ore -ociety in 1?3?4. 1N Not sur"risingly% then% GardnerBs conce"tion of Aicca was based on the idea that witches were "art of a much maligned and misunderstood Pagan religion that had ancient roots. &o him% 5reclaiming5 the word witch made "erfect sense% and since then% many Neo"agans have followed suit% both within the many different Aiccan traditions and outside of it in other traditions of Aitchcraft and Neo"aganism. &odayBs Neo"agan conce"t of witchcraft has therefore been redefined from its original conteHt. Ahile most Neo"agans today acce"t that Aicca is not the ancient tradition that Gardner "romoted it as% 5witchcraft5 is a term that is still used to refer to a
1 de ;lJcourt% B&he Aitch% 6er Kictim% &he ,nwitcher and the +esearcher< &he Continued Ividence of &raditional Aitchcraft%B in de ;lJcourt et al% The 'tholone )istory of *itchcraft and Magic+ olume ,- The Twentieth &entury % 1???% "1@111@ L (iec.hefer% Magic in the Middle 'ges% 1?9?% "10="1?CL ;lac.% The .aelic /therworld% 00@% "1:CL 0ac(enMie% .aelic !ncantations+ &harms+ and Blessings of the )ebrides% 19?@% "@. 2bid. Although this has by no means always been the case% as we will see. )avies% BAitchcraft< &he -"ell &hat )idnBt ;rea.%B originally "rinted in )istory Today% August 1???% ":113. 6utton% B0odern Pagan Aitchcraft%B in de ;lJcourt et al% The 'thlone )istory of *itchcraft and Magic in %urope+ olume ,- The Twentieth &entury% 1???% "C3. |:|

13 1C 1@ 1N

variety of thoroughly modern "racticesDwhether in a Pagan% religious conteHt or as an entirely secular "racticeDwhich often incor"orate 3to some degree4 magical "ractices that have been found in historical sourcesDthe latter of which were never considered to be 5witchcraft5 by those who originally engaged in such "ractices.1: Ahile witches are traditionally defined solely by their harmful nature regardless of their degree of s.ill or eH"ertise% there are different terms used to define different .inds of wise1men% wise1women% healers% and charmers. &hese terms de"end on the .ind of services and degree of s.ill they can offer% although in general they all served similar functionsL along with removing bewitchments 3and identifying the bewitcher4 wise1men and wise1women also often wor.ed as healers% being sought out when all medical avenues had failed to yield any cure% and might also have s"ecialised in divination% love charms% and the removal of the Ivil Iye 3which may or may not have been the result of a witch4. 19 -ome% however% might concentrate on a few different areas% li.e divination and love charms% or offer sim"le healing services. 1? &hese "eo"le wereDand still areDdiametrically o""osed to witches% although de"ending on their behaviour and standing in their community% they might gain a re"utation for witchcraft themselves if they u"set the wrong "erson or choose to engage in harmful magic. &he belief in witchcraft as a wholly negative% malicious force is still "ervasive in Gaelic1s" areas today 3and beyond4% 0 though it is not something that is "ublicly or o"enly tal.ed about very often. 2n modern -cotland for eHam"le% new houses or housing estates often have rowan sa"lings "lanted% not only because they are fast1growing trees% but because they are a traditional feature% said to .ee" the witches away. 1 &his common
1: -ee 6utton% B0odern Pagan Aitchcraft%B in de ;lJcourt et al% The 'tholone )istory of *itchcraft and Magic in %urope+ olume ,- The Twentieth &entury% 1???% "1:L de ;lJcourt% B&he Aitch% 6er Kictim% the ,nwitcher and the +esearcher< &he Continued IHistence of &raditional Aitchcraft%B in de ;lJcourt et al% The 'tholone )istory of *itchcraft and Magic in %urope+ olume ,- The Twentieth &entury% 1???% "1@111@ . 19 -chmitM% BAn 2rish Aise Aoman< !act and $egend%B in 3ournal of the #olklore !nstitute+ ol. 04+ "o. 5% 1?::% "1:@. 1? 0ac2nnes% B&raditional ;elief in Gaelic -ociety%B in 6enderson 3Id.4% #antastical !maginations- The Supernatural in Scottish )istory and &ulture % 00?% "1?1L )avies% *itchcraft+ Magic and &ulture 025,-067 1% 1???% " 191" 1?L R Crualaoich% The Book of the &ailleach- Stories of the *ise-*oman )ealer % 003% ":11: L R Crualaoich% B+eading the ;ean !easa%B in #olklore+ ol. 00,% "o. 0% 00@% "3:L )avies% BA Com"arative Pers"ective on -cottish Cunning1!ol. and Charmers%B in Goodare 3Id.4% The Scottish *itch-hunt in &onte8t% 00 % "19N119:L ;lac.% The .aelic /therworld% 00@% " 00L Een.ins% BAitches and !airies< -u"ernatural Aggression and )eviance Among the 2rish Peasantry%B in NarvaeM 3Id.4% The .ood People- "ew #airylore %ssays% 1??:% "3 013 1L 0oore% The #olklore of the !sle of Man% 19?1% ":91:?. 0 0ac2nnes% B&raditional ;elief in Gaelic -ociety%B in 6enderson 3Id.4% #antastical !maginations- The Supernatural in Scottish )istory and &ulture% 00?% "199. 1 0ac2nnes% B&raditional ;elief in Gaelic -ociety%B in 6enderson 3Id.4% #antastical !maginations- The Supernatural in Scottish )istory and &ulture% 00?% "199L ;ennett% B-tories of the -u"ernatural< !rom $ocal 0emorate to -cottish $egend%B in 6enderson 3Id.4% #antastical !maginations- The Supernatural in Scottish )istory and &ulture % 00?% ":?L +oss% #olklore of the Scottish )ighlands% 1?:N% "N@. |9|

fol. "ractice is not based in Christian belief% but rather in the belief of the common "eo"le that it is good to .ee" malevolent "eo"le away. -tories of "owerful and damaging curses from witches affecting the fortunes of towns also "ersist in some "laces% although again% "eo"le tend to be circums"ect about the effects these curses might have% even as ste"s are ta.en to "revent the curse being fulfilled.

Magic in Ireland: .isidecht, .ilidecht, is "ruidecht
Ahile many Neo"agans tend to lum" diverse magical "ractices under the sim"le heading of 5witchcraft%5 if we loo. at how magic has been viewed historically% we see a different "icture% all the way from the earliest sources u" until the "resent. &he early medieval 2rish made distinctions between different vocations or s.ills that involved magical "ractices% and also had all .inds of different words for different .inds of magic. Eust across the 2rish -ea% we can find "lenty of evidence to see that the Anglo1-aHons did too% 3 so the 2rish arenBt uniPue or s"ecial in this. 2t all adds u" to suggest that these different words and their very s"ecific meanings were im"ortant in defining who you were and what you did% and as reconstructionists this is "erha"s a "oint that needs to be considered carefully. 2f we are to reconstruct religious% s"iritual and indeed 5magical5 "ractices then should we not also res"ect the historically1attested definitions and labels for the "eo"le who "racticed these different vocationsS 2n the earliest written sources% the druids are called dru9 in 2rish% or magi in 6iberno1 $atin. C &he use of the word magi was deliberate on the "art of the Christian mon.s who recorded these tales% in order to to associate the druids with the "agan 0agi of the ;ible. &he 0agi of the ;ible were seen as astrologers and sorcerers who harmed others with magic% so it was a not so subtle com"arison% and it allowed the early 2rish scribes to
&he Paisley Curse% for eHam"le. 3 Anglo1-aHon terms include scinn-craeft 35magic s.ill54% galdor-craeft 35s.ill at enchanting54% lyb-lac and lyb-craeft 3referring to drug1based magic4% wigle and wiglung 35divination54% wiccecraeft and wiccedom 35witchery54% bealocraeft 35evil art54% tunglocraeft 35stars.ill5Dastrology and astronomy4% only some of which im"ly ill1intent or wrong1doing. -ee Griffiths% 'spects of 'nglo-Sa8on Magic % 1??N% "9?. &he word 5witch5 itself has its origins in the Old Inglish word wicce 35female magicianL sorceress5Dmale version being wicca4. Itymology OnlineL Griffiths% 'spects of 'nglo-Sa8on Magic% 1??N% "109. C &he .ind of $atin used by the ecclesiastical 2rishL as a common language in the Church% early ecclesiastical writings often favoured $atin% allowing a wider circulation within the Church in general. 56iberno1$atin5 is called such because the early medieval 2rish develo"ed a distinctive form of $atin that incor"orated certain $atinised 6ebrew% Gree. and 2rish words. |?|

"ortray the druids in somewhat ;iblical 3and negative4 terms when it suited them. shows them to be magicians first and foremost.


2n Old 2rish% the art 3including magic4 of the druids is druidecht% N and the literature 2n the surviving tales they are seen "erforming all .inds of magic and divination 3such as n:ldoracht or 5cloud1divination54. 9 A seer% who may or may not have been a druid% is called a f;ith or fisid. #isidecht refers to s.ill in occult .nowledge%

and the word for "hysician 3or 5leech54% f;ithliaig% indicates the

meta"hysical roots of healing% since the first element of the word is f;ith 35seer54.30 &he word f;ithliaig is es"ecially used in early 2rish literature% where the magical s.ills of "hysicians are more "ronouncedDli.e )ian CechtBs fashioning of a silver hand for Nuadu% which wor.ed 7ust li.e a normal hand only of metal% 31 or his son and daughter reviving the dead by throwing them in a well and chanting s"ells over them.3 0any of these words associate magic and divination with each other% which is sensible enough when we consider the su"ernatural nature of both arts. &he filid are the "oets% whose art is referred to as filidecht. Originally% in "re1Christian times% it is li.ely that they served as "ro"hets or seers% since fili is thought to have originally meant 5seerL diviner.533 &he source of their art is imbas forosnai% or 5great .nowledge which .indles%5 3C and the word imbas can refer to 5magical lore%5 or .nowledge gained by magical means. 3@ As such% their role can be seen to be rooted in the meta"hysical as well. Closely related to the "oet is the satirist% or c;inte 3although any "oet could "erform satire% the c;inte s"ecialised in it4 whose satire could ta.e on magical overtones. &here were seven different .inds of satire% 3N de"ending on its nature and intent% and they include such things as tamall molta% 5a slight bit of "raise%5 which the form of a "raise "oem so
@ &he 2rish were also influenced by the siHth century -"anish Archbisho" 2sidore of -eville% who wrote of the 0agi< 50agi are those commonly termed BsorcerersB on account of the magnitude of their crimes. &hey agitate the elements% derange "eo"leBs minds% and without any draught of "oison they cause death by the mere virulence of a s"ell Tor B"oemBU.5 -ee Ailliams% #iery Shapes- &elestial Portents and 'strology in !reland and *ales+ 211-0211% 010% "C?1@0. N -ee e)2$. : Ahether this was based on reality% or "layed u" for literary "ur"oses% is a different matter. -ee< Ailliams% #iery Shapes- &elestial Portents and 'strology in !reland and *ales+ 211-0211% 010% "3N. 9 Ailliams% #iery Shapes- &elestial Portents and 'strology in !reland and *ales+ 211-0211% 010% "3C. ? -ee e)2$. 30 2bid. 31 e)2$L &ath Maige Tuired. 3 ;itel% $and of *omen- Tales of Se8 and .ender from %arly !reland% 1??N% " 1:. 33 -ee e)2$. 3C 0cCone% Pagan Past and &hristian Present in %arly !rish $iterature% 1??0% "1N?. 3@ 56ence < imbas forosna3i4 3lit. .nowledge which illuminates4 a s"ecial gift of clairvoyance or "ro"hetic .nowledge su""osed to be "ossessed by "oets in ancient 2reland.5 -ee e)2$. 3N (elly% ' .uide to %arly !rish $aw% 1?99% "13:L 3C3. | 10 |

generic and lac.lustre that it can only be seen to be an insult on whomever it is aimed at. 3: Another form is dallbach becthuinedhe% 5lightly1established innuendo%5 which does not eH"licitly name the intended victim% but gives enough clues to ma.e "eo"le tal.. 39 &hese forms of satire are not seen as inherently magical% but nonetheless in some cases they could only be truly effective if "erformed at certain times of the month% or over a "rescribed length of time. Of them all% however% it is the glam d9cenn which is described as being magical% and descri"tions of the accom"anying ritual suggest that it was very similar to the cursing ceremony of corrguinecht.3? -atire has long been a "owerful and fearsome tool in 2reland% and according to the early 2rish sources it was believed that it could cause blemishes to a""ear on the victimBs face% or even .ill% resulting in some sources describing the effects of satire as 5magical wounding.5 C0 &his "ractice of 5rhyming to death5 was also used in rat or mice satiresDcharms which em"loyed satire to get rid of rodent infestations% a s.ill commonly associated with 2rish "oets from the siHteenth century onwards.C1 IHam"les of these satires can also be found in -cotland.C Other ty"es of magic include muirgeintlecht 35sea1magic54%C3 gesad<irecht 35sorcery% divination54%CC and fithnasacht% the meaning of which is unclear but a""ears to refer to a .ind of sorcery.C@ &hen there is corrguinecht 35crane magic%5 "ossibly referring to the one1 legged stance that is ta.en in "erforming it4% which encom"asses a variety of su"ernatural actions% including casting illusions% some forms of satire% divination% and su"ernatural attac.s.CN ;attle magic is also something that is found in the myths% with the 0orr'gan "ledging her magical s.ill to hel" the &uatha )J )anann against the !omorians in &ath Maige Tuired 35&he -econd ;attle of 0ag &ured54% and in &:t-&hath Maige Tuired 35&he !irst ;attle of 0ag &ured54 we see ;adb% 0acha and the 0orr'gan sending forth 5magic showers of sorcery and com"act clouds of mist and a furious rain of fire% with a down"our
3: -tacey% =ark Speech- The Performance of $aw in %arly !reland% 00:% "10?. 39 A famous eHam"le goes< 5't; bean as t9r > ni h-abar a h-ainm? maighidh esdi a delm amal cloich a tailm . 1 &here is a woman from the country V 2 do not say her nameL 6er fart brea.s from her li.e a stone from a sling.5 -tacey% =ark Speech- The Performance of $aw in %arly !reland% 00:% "11 . 3? -tacey% =ark Speech- The Performance of $aw in %arly !reland% 00:% "110. C0 2bid. C1 (elly% ' .uide to %arly !rish $aw% 1?99% "CC. C ;lac.% The .aelic /therworld% 00@% "1 11 3. C3 -ee e)2$. CC 2bid. C@ )uffy% Medieval !reland- 'n %ncyclopedia% 00@% "@1?. CN ;ors7e and (elly% B&he Ivil IyeB in Iarly 2rish $iterature and $aw%B in &eltica olume @4% 003% " 31 @. | 11 |

of red blood from the air on the warriorsB headsL and they allowed the !ir ;olg neither rest nor stay for three days and nights.5C: &he magical "ractices that we have loo.ed at so far refer to a variety of different vocations and s.ills% mastered by different .inds of "eo"le. &his shows that the "ractice of magic itself was at one time a dee"ly ingrained "art of 2rish society% and wasnBt limited to 7ust druids% or even 5witches5 3who donBt feature "rominently in our early sources at all4. &his it very difficult to see how such "ractices could "ossibly be lum"ed under one heading% miHed together and mashed u" without regard to their historical conteHt and sim"ly labelled 5witchcraft.5 ;y ignoring the historical conteHt and the subtle differences of what these "ractices are really about% a cultural Pualifier can hardly be 7ustified< when such things as 52rish witchcraft5 3as it might be called today4 never involved these "ractices% is it really 52rish%5 let alone 5witchcraft5S 6aving now loo.ed at 7ust some of the different forms of historically1attested magic% and who was "racticing them% the neHt "art of this essay will ta.e a loo. at the evidence of how witches have been seen historically.

Witchcraft in Ireland
Ahat we .now of magic and witchcraft comes to us from sources that s"an from as early as the fifth century C.I. to the "resent day. 2tBs im"ortant to remember that these sources are all very much a "roduct of their time% and what we find in them is inevitably going to be influenced by the different ideas and attitudes that were "revalent de"ending on the "eriod. &his has to be ta.en into account when we loo. at evidence of beliefs and attitudes as far as the "ractice of magic is concerned% because at the very least we have to consider why the sources might say what theyBre saying. On the one hand we might be seeing genuine evidence of native belief and "ractice% or else we might be seeing attitudes that are the "roduct of Christianity and an attem"t to deliberately s.ew the "icture for religious "ur"oses. 2n some cases% things might not be so clear1cut as being one or the other... !rom the early medieval "eriod onwards there are three different waves or "hases
C: The Battle of Moytura. |1 |

that affected attitudes towards magic and witchcraft% from the earliest sources we have to hand through to the late fourteenth1 to early fifteenth1centuries. C9 2n the first wave we have the very earliest sources that were written at a time when "re1Christian beliefs eHisted side1by1side with Christian beliefs. )uring this time it wasnBt uncommon to find that older% "re1Christian beliefs and "ractices were ado"ted or ada"ted into a nominally Christian way of life% and so in these early sources we might find "rayers and liturgy or "ractices that seem to be very magical in feel and a""earance. &he ninth century -towe 0issal% for eHam"le% contains liturgy on the 0ass and ;a"tism% for eHam"le% but also three healing charms.C? &wo other healing charms% thought to date to the eighth or ninth centuries% call on 2rish deitiesDGoibniu and )ian Cecht res"ectivelyDto cure a variety of ailments%@0 the style and form of which echo the -towe 0issal charms% as well as a charm for staunching blood that has been "reserved in a fifteenth century manuscri"t. @1 )ian CJcht also gave his name to an eighth century legal tract% Bretha =:in &h:cht% that covered the .inds of obligations and rights as far as the sic.% and those who had to care for them% were concerned.@ &hese references to gods may seem to be at odds with Christian Certainly they seem that way to us now% but as far as the "eo"le who recorded such charms and called on the names of deities li.e )ian CJcht in order to lend authority to legal tracts% they were sim"ly effective ways of healing and hel"ing. ;ut while these sources show us that the use of charms was acce"ted in this "eriod 3otherwise% why record them and advocate their useS4% other ecclesiastical sources li.e "enitentials and saintsB lives consistently "ortray magic as evil and destructive. @3 2t is magic that does not hel"% or that is seen to be outwith the realm of God that is condemned in these sources% and one of our earliest sources even condemns the very belief in witches<

C9 Eolly% B0edieval 0agic< )efinitions% ;eliefs% PracticesB% in The 'thlone )istory of *itchcraft and Magic in %urope+ olume 5- The Middle 'ges% 00 % "13. C? and -trachan% Thesaurus Paleohibernicus olume !!% 1?03% " @01 @1L One of which has been recently translated. @0 &he charm to )ian Cecht accom"anies the a""lication of a salve and goes< W2 save the dead1alive. Against eructation% against s"ear1thong 3amentum4% against sudden tumour% against bleedings caused by iron% against ...which fire burns% against ...which a dog eats% ...that withers< three nuts that ... three sinews that weaveB 3S4. 2 stri.e its disease% 2 vanPuish blood... < let it not be a chronic tumour. Ahole be that whereon it 3)iancechtBs salve4 goes. 2 "ut my trust in the salve which )iancecht left with his family that whole may be that whereon it goes.X and -trachan% Thesaurus Paleohibernicus olume !!% 1?03% " C91 C?. @1 -tifter% BA Charm for -taunching ;lood%B in &eltica olume @7% 00:% " @1. @ (elly% B0edicine and Iarly 2rish $aw%B in !rish 3ournal of Medical Science olume 021% "umber 0% 001% ":3. @3 )uffy 3Id.4% Medieval !reland- 'n %ncyclopedia% 00@% "@1?. | 13 |

A Christian who believes that there is such a thing in the world as a lamia% that is to say a witch 3striga4% is to be anathematisedDanyone who "uts a living soul under such a re"utationL and he must not be received again into the Church before he has undone by his own word the crime that he has committed% and so does "enance with all diligence. @C &his is a rare early mention of witchcraft in eH"licit terms 3although the word lamia can also be inter"reted as meaning 5vam"ire54% @@ though the early ecclesiastical sources also contain "lenty of disa""roving references to the magic of women% druids or magical "ractice in general. According to this teHt% a Christian should not condone "aganism or magical "ractice% and the two are often seen to go hand in handDthe Old 2rish word for "aganism itself% gentlidecht% has a secondary meaning of 5heathen magic%5 suggesting that magical "ractices were commonly associated with non1Christians. @N &he famous "rayer attributed to -t Patric.% &he )eerBs Cry% as.s for "rotection against Bthe blac. laws of "aganism%B as well as the s"ells of druids% blac.smiths% and women< Tocuiriur etrum inna huli nert so fri cech nert namnas n:trocar frist;i dom churp ocus domum anmain+ fri tinchetla s;ibf;the+ fri dubrechtu gentliuchtae+ fri s;ibrechtu heretecdae+ fri himcellacht nidlachtae+ fri brichtu ban A gobann A druad+ fri cech fiss arachuiliu corp A anmain duini... 2 summon today all those "owers between me and every cruel% merciless "ower that may o""ose my body and my soul% against the incantations of false "ro"hets% against blac. laws of "aganism% against the false laws of heresy% against the deceit of idolatry% against the s"ells of women and smiths and druids% against every evil .nowledge that is forbidden manBs body and soul... @: 2t can hardly be a coincidence that all of the things mentioned here are ones that are considered to be the greatest threats against Christian teachings< "agans% smiths 3whose art
@C !rom B&he !irst -ynod of -t Patric.%B which is thought to date to around C@:C.I. ;ors7e% B$ove 0agic in 0edieval 2rish Penitentials% $aw and $iterature< A )ynamic Pers"ective%B in Studia "eophilologica% 01 % "1. @@ ;itel% $and of *omen- Tales of Se8 and .ender from %arly !reland% 1??N% " 1?. @N &he word gentlidecht itself is clearly derived from the same root as 5gentile%5 showing that it is not a native word% and one that came into 2rish from Christian influence. -ee e)2$. @: 0ees% &eltic &urses% 00?% "1 :. -ee also (elly% ' .uide to %arly !rish $aw% 1?99% "N0. | 1C |

was heavily rooted in magical% Otherworldly beliefs4% and women who might lead godly men away from their calling 3and away from celibacy4. 6owever% itBs also worth noting that Patric.Bs use of the term br9chtu ban 35the s"ells of women54 echoes a much earlier eHam"le of an incantation found at a Gaulish site% which contains the "hrase briamon bBrCictom.@9 &his may be a coincidence% or else evidence that such magical threats% and the "rayers of "rotection against them% are a dee"ly ingrained "art of Celtic society from the "re1Christian "ast as much as the Christian "resent of &he )eerBs Cry itself.@? &he "enitentials and letters of Patric.% the laws and saints lives% and so on% may contain genuine sni""ets of magical belief and "ractice in 2rish tradition% which ma.e them incredibly im"ortant for us to sift through. 6owever% they are also firmly rooted in Christian and learning% and as such they "articularly reference attitudes and ideas towards magic that were "revalent in the wider Church% and which had filtered into Christianity from +oman thin.ingLN0 +oman law of the "eriod condemned the "ractice of magic% es"ecially magic "erformed by "ractitioners on behalf of a client. N1 All of this is reflected in the .inds of magic% and "ractitioners of magic% that are condemned in early 2rish Christian sources. ;y far% the ma7ority of "enitentials and legal teHts refer to the magic of women as the greatest "roblem% and go so far as to define magic as being that which might involve magic "otions% charms to cause abortions% .illing love rivals% or "erforming love magic to brea. u" a marriage or influence a manBs lustDin the sense of causing im"otence or "erha"s inflaming "assions in order to encourage adultery. N As with the laws% li.e the seventh century &;in 'domn;in 35$aw of AdomnYn%5 also .nown as the 5$aw of the 2nnocents54 which legislated against the the .illing of women by charms or s"ells 3epthai4% the "enitentials encouraged the marginalising of those who would use harmful magic% or maleficium%N3 by stri""ing the individual of their status and "osition in their community.NC &hese ty"es of magical "ractices were singled out in "articular because
@9 @? N0 N1 0ees% &eltic &urses% 00?% "1 :. ;itel% $and of *omen- Tales of Se8 and .ender from %arly !reland% 1??N% " 0L 0ees% &eltic &urses% 00?% "1 :. Eolly% The 'thlone )istory of *itchcraft and Magic in %urope olume 5- The Middle 'ges % 00 % "1@. Peters% B0edieval Church and -tate on -u"erstition% 0agic and Aitchcraft< !rom Augustine to the -iHteenth Century%B in The 'thlone )istory of *itchcraft and Magic in %urope+ olume 5- The Middle 'ges % 00 % "1:?. N -ee for eHam"le ;ors7e% B+ules and $egislation on $ove Charms in Iarly 0edieval 2reland%B in Peritia @0% 010L ;itel% $and of *omen- Tales of Se8 and .ender from %arly !reland% 1??N% " 1?. N3 5&he term maleficium designated what we term some .inds of 5magic5 and all .inds of 5witchcraft5 down to the end of the eighteenth century. Peters% B0edieval Church and -tate on -u"erstition% 0agic and Aitchcraft< !rom Augustine to the -iHteenth Century%B in The 'thlone )istory of *itchcraft and Magic in %urope+ olume 5- The Middle 'ges % 00 % "191. NC ;itel% $and of *omen- Tales of Se8 and .ender from %arly !reland% 1??N% " 1?. | 1@ |

5&hey subversively aimed the devious wea"on of s"ells and "otions at the "atrilineal .in grou"% the community% and all orderly% congenial gender relations.5 N@ Along with the healing charms discussed already there are the many eHam"les of 5magical5 miracles "erformed by great 2rish saints in their hagiogra"hies% or saintBs lives% which detail the many feats the saints "erformed that resulted in their sainthood and "ower. &he saints are often seen countering the magical attac.s of druids% with fire s"urting from their fingerti"s% curses abounding% and calling on GodBs "ower to defeat the "agansL with righteousness on their side% the magic of the saints was seen as su"erior and more "owerful.NN Ahile the magic of the druids is seen to be "agan% it is not something that Christian writers could condoneL the magic of the druids did not call on God% even if it didnBt eH"licitly call on gods either. &he druidBs "ur"ose and "ower was not rooted in Christianity.N: Iven so% the lines between magic and GodBs will 35miracles5 "erformed by 5saints54 remained blurry% and it is often difficult to distinguish between the two. N9 2t is between the two ends of this s"ectrumDdruids versus saints% the fol. magic of the common "eo"le versus the teachings of the ChurchDthat we find the surviving fol. beliefs and "ractices. 2n this "lace live magical ways such as the charms used for "rotection and healing% and "rayers for 7ustice and victory% which have long occu"ied an uncomfortable and slightly mur.y s"ace between acce"table and unacce"table% Christian and "agan% witch and wise1woman 3or wise1man4< Although the "ractice of magic has never been entirely acce"table in the Church% the definition of what magic actually is has always been somewhat blurry and fluid% allowing a sort of grey s"ace in which all .inds of magical "ractices might eHist and survive. As weBve already seen there has long been a magical element to the art of healing 3and by eHtension% the s.ill of the "hysician4% and before a modern understanding of medicine% many remedies and treatments were little more than what we would consider charms or s"ells. )uring the 5first wave5 weBve been discussing% when Christian and "re1Christian eHisted side1by1side% healing charms were seen as legitimate and acce"table "ractices. All this began to change from the twelfth century onwards when our 5second wave5 began and saw an increasingly intellectual and analytical attitude towards magic ta.e hold in the
N@ NN N: N9 ;itel% $and of *omen- Tales of Se8 and .ender from %arly !reland% 1??N% " 1:. (iec.hefer% Magic in the Middle 'ges% 1?9?% "@CL (elly% ' .uide to %arly !rish $aw% 1?99% "N01N1. (iec.hefer% Magic in the Middle 'ges% 1?9?% "@CL (elly% ' .uide to %arly !rish $aw% 1?99% "1@. 2bid. | 1N |

Church and s"reading into 2rish society in general. &he charms and salves that were once seen as being effective came to be seen as 5low magic%5 associated with heresy and ignorant su"erstition.N? &his did not sto" them from being used or recorded 3the charm for staunching blood% above% being an eHam"le4% but alongside this% 5high magics5 became de rigeur amongst the learned classes% largely influenced by Arabic and Eewish sources% as well as bac. to Classical natural "hiloso"hy. :0 2n this sense% native "ractices were frowned u"on% but more eHotic forms of magic from sources that were seen to be intellectually su"erior% were acce"table. 0oving into the 5third wave5 of changing attitudes towards magic% from around the late fourteenth1century onwards we see the .ind of attitudes emerge that we are most familiar with today. Although 2reland was never "articularly enthusiastic about the "ersecution of witches 32reland "roduced very few trials% and even then they only too. "lace in Protestant areas% i.e.% those largely "o"ulated by Inglish or -cottish settlers :14% unli.e much of the rest of Iuro"e% that is not to say that it remained immune to the .ind of beliefs that too. hold among Iuro"eans elsewhere% with a view of magic being the "roduct of organised and demonic sects who s"ecialised in the "ractice of witchcraft% necromancy and general sorcery.: &he idea of a demonic influence in magic was not new in the fourteenth century:3 and it is in this light that we see magic being shown as far as our sourcesDthe myths in "articularDgo% and one that we should consider when at the .ind of terminology being used in them. Although the early ecclesiastical sources do mention witches 3 lamia% or striga as weBve seen in the eHam"le from &he !irst -ynod of -t Patric. given above4% the fact is that witchcraft is not something that features massively in any of the early 2rish sources. 0ost often it is the druids who are shown to have vast magical "owers and are most commonly seen to eHercise their arts%:C or otherwise it is the gods and fol. from the s9de% the
N? Eolly% B0edieval 0agic< )efinitions% ;eliefs% PracticesB% in The 'thlone )istory of *itchcraft and Magic in %urope+ olume 5- The Middle 'ges% 00 % " 11 . :0 Eolly% B0edieval 0agic< )efinitions% ;eliefs% PracticesB% in The 'thlone )istory of *itchcraft and Magic in %urope+ olume 5- The Middle 'ges% 00 % "13. :1 Gi7swi7t16ofstra% BAitchcraft After the Aitch1&rials%B in The 'thlone )istory of *itchcraft and Magic in %urope+ olume 7The %ighteenth and "ineteenth &enturies% 1???% "1C . : Eolly% B0edieval 0agic< )efinitions% ;eliefs% PracticesB% in The 'thlone )istory of *itchcraft and Magic in %urope+ olume 5- The Middle 'ges% 00 % " 3. :3 Eolly% B0edieval 0agic< )efinitions% ;eliefs% PracticesB% in The 'thlone )istory of *itchcraft and Magic in %urope+ olume 5- The Middle 'ges% 00 % " 1. :C Ailliams% #iery Shapes- &elestial Portents and 'strology in !reland and *ales+ 211-0211% 010% "3N. | 1: |

Otherworldly mounds that dot the 2rish landsca"e. Ahere witchcraft is mentioned at all it is mostly in association with druidic magic or 5su"ernatural women%5 and always with the negative overtones common to ecclesiastical sources. &he descri"tion of the &uatha )J )anannBs s.ills in the magical arts in &ath Maige Tuired 3or &MT% 5&he -econd ;attle of 0ag &ured54% for eHam"le% reads li.e the author loo.ed at a thesaurus and "ut together as many words as they could "ossibly thin. of to show how much they disa""rove of magic< 5&he &uatha )e )anann were in the northern islands of the world% studying occult lore and sorcery% druidic arts and witchcraft and magical s.ill% until they sur"assed the sages of the "agan arts. &hey studied occult lore and secret .nowledge and diabolic arts in four cities< !alias% Gorias% 0urias% and !indias.5:@ 0agic here is em"hatically associated with both diabolical 3demonic4 and "agan artsDty"ical of Christian writers% as weBve seenDand throughout the teHt the words describing magical arts are ones that are thoroughly negative in nature. &wo women in &MT% ;e Chuille and )ianann% are referred to eH"licitly as witches% ban-tuathaig% while the )agdaBs arts are referred to as amaidichtai% 5witchcraft% evil influence.5:N &he conscious association of such "ractices with "aganism% magic and evil1doing can therefore only be seen as a deliberate choice of wording by a Christian writer wishing to dis"arage such arts that could not "ossibly be condoned in a Christian conteHt. 2n 'ided &hrimthainn maic #idaig 35&he )eath of Crimthann54 the Pueen 0ongfind is called a witch% and is res"onsible for the death of her brother and ultimately herselfDa casualty of her scheming to get her own son on the throne. !rom her a""earances here and in other tales% her character shows clear elements of having originally been a sovereignty goddess. As a goddess 0ongfind should have chosen her .ing% her consort% after he had shown himself to be worthy of being elevated to such a status. -hould the .ing show himself to be unfit for the roleDby failing to show good 7udgement% generosity% or courage Dthe goddess had every right to withdraw her su""ort for her consort. 2n most cases this would result in the death of the .ing% enabling the goddess to choose a better candidate for the role. )uring the inauguration rite of a .ing% he would receive a cu" of mead from a
:@ &ath Maige Tuired% lines 11 . :N -ee lines 11N and 11? of -to.esB The Second Battle of MoyturaL c.f. e)2$. | 19 |

woman% a symbol of the .ingBs marriage to the sovereignty and the land. &he "oisoned cu" 0ongfind gives to her brother would ordinarily be a symbol of the sovereignty withdrawing her favour% and his .ingshi"% :: but here it is nothing more than a symbol of 0ongfindBs evil scheming for her own sonBs sa.e% her own selfish means. -he is eH"licitly referred to as a witch< Moingfinn aidche samna?... conid do garar f:il Moingfinne frisin samain ocon daescarshluag+ ;r ba chumhachtach side 2 bantuathaid... conid de cuindgit mn; 2 daescarsluag itcheda aidchi samna fuirri...:9 50ongfind dies on -amain Ive... so it is from this that -amain is called the !east of 0ongfind by the common fol.% for she was "owerful and a witch... therefore women and common fol. rePuest -amain Ive boons of her...5:? 2n the conteHt of the tale% 0ongfind may indeed be termed a 5witch%5 but her "ortrayal and the choice of wording to describe her goes beyond a sim"le tale of evil scheming and could be seen as a deliberate attem"t to undermine her divine roots. 90 Ahereas here it is said she is a""ealed to by 5the common fol.5 as a witch% it may be that she was originally a""ealed to as a deity. $i.e the word gentlidecht% magic and 0ongfindBs divine% "agan roots are brought together into one bundle% underlined by the fact that she is said to have been worshi""ed at -amhain% a time traditionally seen as "articularly ri"e with su"ernatural threats and dangers. 91 2n this sense% the word 5witch5 is a wea"on% a careful choice of vocabulary to degrade and subvert the divine nature of a goddess to something evil and demonic. &he tale a""ears in a fourteenth century manuscri"t and seems to reference genuine fol. "ractice of the timeL 9 however% the date may also be significant because it coincides with the early days of the witch hunts in Iuro"e% the 5third wave5 of evolving attitudes towards magic when it was seen in an almost entirely negative light and women in
:: :9 :? 90 Ni.olaeva% B&he )rin. of )eath%B in Studia &eltic DDD % 001% "300. -ee e)2$. &ranslation by )ennis (ing% 5Ae can note that in the original 2rish this B)eathB is rendered as Aided% a technical literary term meaning BKiolent )eathB. &he violence involved here is% on the surface of the story% the violence of the self1administration of the "oison% but it is also% surely% the violence of the smashing of the status and "ower of the autonomous% sovereign female and the violence of her ignominious dis"lacement and degrading 1 in "atriarchal narrative eyes 1 to the ran. of a BbansheeB and a witch.5 R Crualaoich% The Book of the &ailleach- Stories of the *ise-*oman )ealer % 003% "CN. 91 +ees% &eltic )eritage- 'ncient Tradition in !reland and *ales % 1?9?% "?1L 0cNeill% )alloweEen- !ts /rigins+ Rites and &eremonies in the Scottish Tradition% " ?. 9 R Crualaoich% The Book of the &ailleach- Stories of the *ise-*oman )ealer % 003% "C:. | 1? |

"articular were frowned u"on for acting under their own agency. Although 2reland was never as enthusiastic about the witch hunts as many other "arts of Iuro"e were% it does have the dubious honour of being host to one of the earliest witch trials< in the fourteenth century.93 2t was at this time that tales of the evil and sinful nature of magic reached their heightL9C clearly there was some concern about witchcraft at the time 0ongfindBs story was written down. 0ongfind isnBt the only eHam"le of a goddess1turned1witch. 2n some cases% the very name or title of a formerly1revered goddess or s"irit woman has been co1o"ted as a general term for 5witch.5 Perha"s the most common word in the 2rish language to be translated into Inglish as 5witch5 is cailleach% but this definition for the word is a very late addition to its associations. &ailleach has its origins in the $atin word% pallium% meaning 5veil%5 and from this% cailleach originally meant 5veiled one.5 9@ 2t "rimarily referred to a nun% but it soon develo"ed to refer to any woman who was no longer seHually active and could no longer bear any children. !rom this% cailleach came to refer to old women or hags as well% and by eHtensionDgiven their "eri"heral role in society and the often ambivalent attitude towards themDthe word eventually 3only in modern 2rish4 "ic.ed u" the additional associations of referring to a su"ernatural being or witch.9N &he fact that age is often a .ey factor in identifying a witch is significant here% and gives a good reason for cailleach having been a""ro"riated to refer to witches. On the one hand% age infers eH"erience and wisdom% and those who wor.ed magic and made charms were often called 5wise1women5 in deference to their s.ill and s"ecialist .nowledge. 2n wielding such "ower% the wise1woman might sometimes be viewed with a certain amount of sus"icionL while she 3and her male counter"arts4 might always use her s.ills to do good% some "eo"le may fear that she could switch sides and choose to do the o""osite. On the other hand% the word cailleach refers to women who are different in some way% occu"ying a
93 ;urns% *itch )unts in %urope and 'merica- 'n %ncyclopaedia+ 003% ""1N011N1. 2n s"ite of the fact that this too. "lace in 2reland% the woman accused% Alice (yetler% was herself of !lemish descent. -he was accused by ;isho" +ichard de $edrede of Ossory% a !ranciscan who was trained in !rance before his return to settle into ecclesiastical life in 2reland. 2n addition to being one of the earliest trials recorded in Iuro"e% it is also one of the few eHam"les of a witch trial in 2reland "er"etrated by a Catholic. &he rest are recorded in Protestant areas. -ee also< Cawthorne% *itch )unt- )istory of a Persecutions+ 003% "" 31 :. 9C ;ors7e% B$ove 0agic in 0edieval 2rish Penitentials% $aw and $iterature< A )ynamic Pers"ective%B in Studia "eophilologica% 01 % "1. 9@ R Crualaoich% The Book of the &ailleach- Stories of the *ise-*oman )ealer % 003% "91. 9N n' )honnchadha% BCailleach and Other &erms for Keiled Aomen in 0edieval 2rish &eHts%B in Figse @9% 1?:1% "?31?CL R Crualaoich% The Book of the &ailleach- Stories of the *ise-*oman )ealer % 003% "9119 L ;itel% $and of *omen- Tales of Se8 and .ender from %arly !reland% 1??N% " 1. | 0|

somewhat "eri"heral or abnormal status in societyDthe nun% the old woman or hag% and so on. Normally women were eH"ected to get married and have children% but a nun dedicated herself to God and was symbolically married to him% choosing to live a celibate life and not have children. 2n doing so% the nun effectively "laced herself outside of the norms of societyDinfertile by choice% 7ust as the old woman or hag is infertile by circumstanceDbut she also attained at least some level of "ower through her involvement in the Church% in a society that was otherwise heavily weighted against women. 9: &hese womenDchildless% widowed% old% or sim"ly inde"endentL on the "eri"heryDwere eHactly the .ind of "eo"le who were most li.ely to be accused of witchcraft. 99 As such% cailleach is a word that can refer to a variety of beings and su"ernatural figures% in addition to the more mundane associations with old women or nuns. As well as Cailleach ;hJarraDthe goddess who laments her old age% having abandoned her "agan ways and ta.en u" the veil of a nun9?Dand her many counter"arts of a similar e"ithet% who are associated with many different geogra"hical features of 2reland% -cotland and the 2sle of 0an 3often as the creators of these landsca"es4% cailleach can also refer to a number of revered su"ernatural women who "lay a .ey role in the fol.lore and mythology of the Gaelic1s" regions. 2n fol.loric usage% we also find the word attached to terms li.e cailleach feasa 35wise womanL fortune1teller5Dsee below4% cailleach phiseogach 35sorceressL charm1wor.er5Da dis"araging e"ithet given to Zueen IliMabeth 2 ?04 and cailleach na gcearc 35the hen hag54. 6owever% all three of these idioms have also been used to mean 5witch.5 )uring the height of the witch "ersecutions across Iuro"e% it was old womenD es"ecially those who had never had children% or were now widowed and alone% or lived on the outs.irts of a village or somewhere Puite isolatedDwho were often the first to come under sus"icion of witchcraft when things went wrong and a cause and cul"rit was loo.ed for%?1 and cailleach came to be the "erfect choice for its connotations of su"ernatural hag% or goddess in her destructive form. ? 2n a modern "olytheistic conteHt% we would argue that cailleach is therefore not an a""ro"riate term to describe a magical "ractitioner%
9: ;itel% $and of *omen- Tales of Se8 and .ender from %arly !reland% 1??N% " 1. 99 Gi7swi7t16ofstra% BAitchcraft After the Aitch1&rials%B in The 'thlone )istory of *itchcraft and Magic in %urope+ olume 7The %ighteenth and "ineteenth &enturies% 1???% "1C3. 9? 0ur"hy% %arly !rish $yrics% 1?@N% ":C193. ?0 6ighley% Shakespeare+ Spenser+ and the &risis in !reland% 1??:% " 00. ?1 Een.ins% BAitches and !airies< -u"ernatural Aggression and )eviance Among the 2rish Peasantry%B in NarvYeM 3Id.4% The .ood People- "ew #airylore %ssays% 1??:% "3 :. ? R Crualaoich% The Book of the &ailleach- Stories of the *ise-*oman )ealer % 003% "9 L 9C. | 1|

because aside from its somewhat misogynistic roots% it is hardly res"ectful to the Cailleach herself% or to the Cailleachan 3the hags as a grou"4. Badhbh is another word that can be used to refer to a witch% and li.e cailleach it is a word that can also refer to a number of su"ernatural beings 3such as battle furies and the banshee4 or a goddess.?3 &he word badbDthe earlier% Old 2rish s"elling of badhbhDcan be defined "rimarily as 5scald1crow%5 describing the form the ;adb on the battle1field. 2n many tales ;adb% or her battle furies 3collectively .nown as badba4 is shown in the form of a crow% "ro"hesying or heralding death% or coming to claim the dead. ?C Given these associations itBs not sur"rising that the word can also mean 5deadly% fatal% dangerous% ill1 fated%5?@ and over time the word evolved to em"hasise the gorier as"ects and elements of the ;adb and her furies% and eventually it came to carry derogatory connotations towards womenD5a bhaidhbh>5 35thou witch>54.?N &he definition of badhbh as 5a scold% a Puarrelsome woman%5 came to be attached to the word in the eighteenth century% ?: and this definition can also carry magical connotationsL a scold is a raving% unhinged woman who nagged and nagged so much that she might end u" cursing someone% such was her ill will. &he term can also be found in -cots Gaelic% as baobh% which Cam"bell defines as 5a wild furious woman% a wic.ed mischievous female who scolds and storms and curses caring neither what she says nor what she does% "raying the houses may be raMed 3 lGrach lom4 and the "ro"erty destroyed 3sgrios an codach4 of those who have offended her.5?9 &he -cots Gaelic baoE as a term for wiMard is a 5careless conversational form5 of baobh.?? &he idea of the nag was common to medieval Iuro"e as a whole% and "unishments for it sometimes overla""ed with those who were found guilty of witchcraft% underlying its magical 3and malicious4 nature. 100 Ahatever the case% the word badhbh has come a long
?3 Clar.% The .reat (ueens- !rish .oddesses #rom the Morr9gan to &athleen n9 )oulihan % 1??1% " CL $ysaght% The Banshee- The !rish Supernatural =eath-Messenger% 1?9N% "3N13:. -ee also section C. of 6ei7daBs *ar-goddesses+ furies and scald crowsThe use of the word badb in early !rish literature. ?C Clar.% The .reat (ueens- !rish .oddesses #rom the Morr9gan to &athleen n9 )ouihan% 1??1% " C. ?@ -ee e)2$. ?N $ysaght% The Banshee- The !rish Supernatural =eath-Messenger% 1?9N% "3:. ?: OB;rien and $huyd% #ocal<ir gaoidhlig-sa8-bh:arla+ or 'n !rish-%nglish dictionary % 1:N9% "3NL $ysaght% The Banshee- The !rish Supernatural =eath-Messenger% 1?9N% "3:. &hough notably the association is not consistent early onL Charles KallanceyBs ' .rammar of the !berno-&eltic+ or !rish $anguage% 31:9 % "914 no reference to the scold connotations. ?9 ;lac.% The .aelic /therworld% 00@% "1:3. ?? 2bid. 100 Punishment for being a 5scold5 or being sus"ected of witchcraft in -cotland 3and Ingland% Aales% and then other Iuro"ean countries as far as Germany4 might include resorting to force the scold to wear the 5-coldBs ;ridle%5 or bran.. 2t could be used for men as well as women 3though it is mostly associated with women4% and was designed to be incredibly uncomfortable% with a gag that had a s"i.e on it it% that "ressed against the tongue to "revent s" &he scold would be "araded through the village or town while wearing the bran.% to show everyone that they were | |

way from its original roots< !rom a goddess% battle fury or banshee heralding the death of a family member% to a raving% unhinged nag. Another word translated as 5witch5 3or 5magician54 is tHaithaid% or bantuathaid 3also s"elled ban-tuathaig4.101 &he word ultimately comes from tHath-% meaning 5left% "erverse% evil% wic.ed%5 and so in its very basic sense it can be translated as 5evil1doer5Dor% in the case of bantuathaid% with the addition of the female "refiH ban-% 5female evil1doer.510 0agic is frePuently associated with the left% north and evil in early 2rish literature% 103 and the bantuathaid are a class of female curse1wor.ers who use negative magic against their enemies. &wo daughters of the goddess !lidaisD;J Chuille and ;J &JiteDare considered bantuathaid% as were those who aided 0ongfind. 10C 2n modern translations% the word is often rendered as 5witch5Din the traditional% negative sense of the word 10@Dand of all the terms discussed here% tHathaid or bantuathaid are "erha"s the most a""ro"riate word to describe a witch in the traditional sense. Other words sometimes given the translation of 5witch5 are< ammait% or aimmit 35witch% hag% s"ectre%5 or 5foolish woman5Dit is in this secondary form% amait% a 5fool5 or 5foolish woman%5 that the words survives today 3as amaid in both 2rish and -cots Gaelic4% although it is used rarely 10N4L and bantuathecha 35wise woman5Dwhich is an unusual% out of "lace translation given the connotations of tHath-4.10: &here is also cumachtach 35"owerfulL witchL wiMardL rulerL woman "ossessing magic "ower54.109 &he use of cumachtach can be found in !mmram Brian 35&he Koyage of ;ran54 and also in 'ided &hrimthainn maic #idaig 35&he )eath of Crimthann54 in relation to 0ongfind. 5Aitch5 is only one of the meanings that can a""ly to cumachtach and for 0ongfind it a""ears to be used as 5"owerful5 more than 5witch5.10? &here are some "olytheists who have ado"ted such terms in modern usage and%
being "unished. 101 As seen in &ath Maige Tuired% mentioned aboveL 6ennessy% The 'ncient !rish .oddesses of *ar% 19:0. 10 -ee e)2$. &he word tHath lends itself to a variety of magical words% including tHaithe 35witchcraft% sorcery54% tHaithach 35having magic "owersL witch54 and tHathch;ech% which may be defined as 5with a sinister eye.5 -ee ;ors7e% B&he 0eaning of tGathcYech in Iarly 2rish &eHts%B in &ambrian Medieval &eltic Studies olume 45% 00 % " C. 103 )uffy 3Id.4% Medieval !reland- 'n %ncyclopedia% 00@% "@?1. 10C 0ac(illo"% ' =ictionary of &eltic Mythology% 1??9% "C1NL C ?. 10@ -ee e)2$. 10N !rom whence we get amad;n. )wellyL 0ac2nnes% B&raditional ;elief in Gaelic -ocietyB% in 6enderson 3Id.4% #antastical !maginations- The Supernatural in Scottish )istory and &ulture% 00?% "19?. 10: -ee e)2$. 109 0ac(illo"% ' =ictionary of &eltic Mythology% 1??9% "C1NL C ?. 10? -ee translation by )ennis (ing given above% | 3|

given their negative associations% it can only be seen as either refreshingly honest% or ina""ro"riate. &hese are not labels that anybody should willingly want to identify with unless they are advertising the fact that they "ractice magic for harmful% self1serving "ur"oses. 2n traditional terms% these are "eo"le who would be avoided or outright shunned by the community. As labels go they are ones that are rarely embraced willinglyL rather% they tend to be im"osed on an individual by the rest of the community% in recognition of dishonourable behaviour. Given the meanings of these titles% we believe that such labels are not accurate descri"tions of what most magical "ractitioners within Gaelic Polytheism are about today. &hese are not titles that can be 5reconteHtualised5 or 5reclaimed5 when they have such consistently negative connotations. +edefining is not reclaiming. &o try to change the meaning of these words disres"ects language and tradition. 2n addition% the way cailleach and badhbh have been twistedDfrom the titles or names of "owerful deities to evil old womenDcan only be seen as offensive to those deities and s"irits. &hese redefinitions cannot be considered "ositive or desirable% and to call oneself by the name of a deity or revered s"irit could be seen as an act of hubris. Considering all of this% it begs the Puestion< 2f these are unsuitable for use to describe our "ractices% what can we loo. toS One answer is to loo. to the words li.e corrguinecht% fisidecht% and so on% to see if they are a good fit. Another is to consider how magical "ractices have survived u" until today% and this means to the arts of the bean feasa.

Wise-woman, or /ean feasa
A bean feasa 3Gaeilge% 5woman of .nowledge or wisdomL a wise1woman54 110 harbours the gifts of "ro"hecy and second1sightL she also deals in herbal cures and healing.111 &he bean feasa% or less commonly her male counter"art the fear feasa 35man of .nowledge or wisdomL a wise1man5411 is a source of hel" in times of crisis% sought out by
110 R Crualaoich% 5+eading the ;ean !easa%5 in #olklore 00,% 00@% "3:L -chmitM% BAn 2rish Aise Aoman< !act and $egend%B in 3ournal of the #olklore !nstitute+ ol. 04+ "o. 5% 1?::% "1:0. 111 )anaher% !rish &ustoms and Beliefs% 00C% "1 1L R Crualaoich% The Book of the &ailleach- Stories of the *ise-*oman )ealer % 003% ": . 11 -middy% 'n essay on the =ruids+ the ancient churches and the round towers of !reland % 19:1% "11?L Een.ins% BAitches and | C|

those afflicted with misfortune% illness% or accidentsDoften as a last resort. 113 ,nli.e healers from -cotland or 2sle of 0an% the bean feasa a""ears to be s"ecifically an aged% and usually unmarried% woman.11C &he "owers of the bean feasa 3and her -cottish and 0anH counter1"arts4 were not something inherited or acPuired by mortal means% but were usually seen to be a gift from the fairies% or Good !ol.. 11@ -ometimes% however% her "owers came from divination li.e 5cu"1tossing5 or 5bowl1reading.5 11N &he most famous bean feasa was ;iddy Iarly of County Clare% who hel"ed "eo"le in the west of 2reland with her cures and buid:al dra9ochta 35magic bottle54% which was said to have been given to ;iddy by fairies and was considered to be the source of her "ower.11: 2n 2rish culture% the benevolent bean feasa is the o""osite of a witchL 119 while the bean feasa heals and aids the community% the witch es"ouses traits li.e aggression and greed. !or eHam"le% a witch is said to steal butter by mumbling 5come all to me% come all to me5 under their breath whilst a neighbour is churning. 11? A story in !ermanagh s"ea.s of a woman who% des"ite the label of witch% would go door to door on ;ealtaine and attem"t to borrow a cu" of mil. in ho"es of the household[s luc. with it. 1 0 &he lore also s"ea.s of witches who can turn themselves into hares% steal mil. from cows% and cast the Ivil Iye.1 1 A bean feasa is called u"on to reverse these evil events% her function being 5to sort out the various ty"es of influence and counteract or neutraliMe them.5 1 Peter !lanagan% as recorded by fol.lorist 6enry Glassie% summed it u" best as< 5the seer gives a forecast to the less blessed as the gives a "ound of butter to the less fortunate. &he witch who steals butter is either evilly misusing a gift from God or "ro"erly using a gift from an evil source.51 3 Ahere the bean feasa see.s to hel" the
!airies< -u"ernatural Aggression and )eviance%B in NarvaeM 3Id.4% The .ood People- "ew #airylore %ssays% 1??1% "3 0. 113 R hRgYin% The $ore of !reland% 00N% "C@?L R Crualaoich% B+eading the ;ean !easa%B in #olklore 00,% 00@% "C L R Crualaoich% The Book of the &ailleach- Stories of the *ise-*oman )ealer % 003% ": . 11C R Crualaoich% B+eading the ;ean !easa%B in #olklore 00,% 00@% "C1. 11@ R Crualaoich% B+eading the ;ean !easa%B in #olklore 00,% 00@% "C L -chmitM% BAn 2rish Aise Aoman< !act and $egend%B in 3ournal of the #olklore !nstitute+ ol. 04+ "o. 5% 1?::% "1:1L Ivans1AentM% The #airy #aith in &eltic &ountries% 1?11% " @3. 11N R Crualaoich% B+eading the ;ean !easa%B in #olklore 00,% 00@% "C . 11: !or a more detailed loo. at ;iddy% see -chmitM% BAn 2rish Aise Aoman< !act and $egend%B in 3ournal of the #olklore !nstitute+ ol. 04+ "o. 5% 1?::% "1N?11:?. 119 -chmitM this distinction very clear% 5\the bean feasa who is not% in the "ro"er sense of the word% a witch.5 1 BAn 2rish Aise Aoman< !act and $egend%B in 3ournal of the #olklore !nstitute+ ol. 04+ "o. 5% 1?::% "1:3. 11? Glassie% Passing Time in Ballymenone- &ulture and )istory of an Ilster &ommunity % 1?9 % "@30. 1 0 Glassie% Passing Time in Ballymenone- &ulture and )istory of an Ilster &ommunity % 1?9 % "@3C. 1 1 R -GilleabhYin% !rish #olk &ustom and Belief% 1?N:% " CL Een.ins% BAitches and !airies< -u"ernatural Aggression and )eviance%B in NarvaeM 3Id.4% The .ood People- "ew #airylore %ssays% 1??1% "311. 1 -chmitM% BAn 2rish Aise Aoman< !act and $egend%B in 3ournal of the #olklore !nstitute+ ol. 04+ "o. 5% 1?::% "1:@. 1 3 Glassie% Passing Time in Ballymenone- &ulture and )istory of an Ilster &ommunity % 1?9 % "@3:139. | @|

community% a witch see.s only to hel" themselvesDto steal% to trade the embrace of community for lonely self1"rofitDand eHist in isolation. 2n Gaelic cultures% as in many other traditional cultures% community is everythingL without it one is un"rotected% alone% 5\lost in an immense world% adrift in an atmos"here that is .ind to the body% confusing to the mind.51 C &his of things that are 5.ind to the body% confusing to the mind5 also indicates that the witch "rioritises his or her bodily comfort% even at the eH"ense of their own mental health. &he bean feasa% on the other hand% "laces the well1being of the community ahead of her own material needs% and "rovides a needed and benevolent lin. between the community and the su"ernatural.1 @ Overall% it is not the meta"hysical gift itself which one either a wise1woman or her "olar o""osite the witch% it is the intent "laced behind the gift< hel"ing the community% or hel"ing only oneself. Other names the bean feasa might be encountered under are bean leighis 35woman of healing54%1 N bean siubhail 35travelling woman54% seanbhean 35old woman54% bean chumhachtach 35"owerful womanL woman of su"ernatural "ower54% or bean chrosach 35fortune1telling woman54.1 : Ahatever the label% these were often considered to be synonymous with the term cailleach 35old womanL hag54% which 3as noted above4 can also mean 5witch%5 but this connection comes from the Church% wherein cailleach is used in negative terms% to highlight the fact that there was a dee"ly entrenched ecclesiastical disa""roval of the role the bean feasa% bean leighis% or bean chrosach 3etc.4 occu"ied% as well as the wor. they did.1 9 As in other cases where gifts% talents and achievements are recognised and ac.nowledged by the community% we must also eH"ress the im"ortance of the community conferring these titles% when earned% not an individual deciding in isolation to ta.e them u"on themselves.

1 C Glassie% Passing Time in Ballymenone- &ulture and )istory of an Ilster &ommunity % 1?9 % "@9C. 1 @ -chmitM% BAn 2rish Aise Aoman< !act and $egend%B in 3ournal of the #olklore !nstitute+ ol. 04+ "o. 5 % 1?::% "1:CL R Crualaoich% The Book of the &ailleach- Stories of the *ise-*oman )ealer % 003% ": . 1 N &hough -chmitM claims the bean feasa and bean leighis should not be confused with one another since the bean feasa does not deal in actual% "ro"er medicine 3-chmitM% BAn 2rish Aise Aoman< !act and $egend%B in 3ournal of the #olklore !nstitute+ ol. 04+ "o. 5% 1?::% "1:CL 1::4. 6owever% in some teHts they are indeed conflated. 1 : R Crualaoich% B+eading the ;ean !easa%B in #olklore 00,% 00@% "C0L R Crualaoich% &he Book of the &ailleach- Stories of the *ise-*oman )ealer% 003% :11: . 1 9 As above% then% it is not a term we would consider to be desirable to ado"t in a Gaelic Polytheist conteHt. R Crualaoich% The Book of the &ailleach- Stories of the *ise-*oman )ealer % 003% "?C. | N|

Witchcraft in Scotland
2n Gaelic -cotland% witchcraft is .nown as buidseachd%1 ? and the witch is .nown as a buidseach 3male4 or bana-bhuidseach 3female4.130 2t may be significant that while 2rish has "lenty of words that relate to witchcraft% the -cots Gaelic word has been borrowed into the language from the Inglish word 5witchcraft%5 with the word buidseachd 3and related forms4 only a""earing in written record from the siHteenth century onwards. 131 ;efore then the word amait was used for 5witch%5 but as buidseach came to be the most common descri"tor% amait came to refer only to 5foolish woman.513 &he ma7ority of "eo"le accused of witchcraft have traditionally been womenD though men may be accused of it as wellDand it was normally something inherent in certain families and "assed down.133 As in 2reland% these witches are always malevolent and they are seen as being res"onsible for causing disease in "eo"le and beasts% raising storms to destroy cro"s% stealing a cowBs mil.% stealing the 5goodness5 from mil.% shi"s% and other destructive wor..13C &hey are .nown to wor. curses using a waH or clay effigy .nown as a corp creadha 35clay body54 which they stic. with "ins.13@ 2t is also claimed that they 5"lunged into Becstasies and transisB abandoning their lifeless bodies in the form of an invisible s"irit or animal 3a crow4.5 13N &he buidseachan are also traditionally said to have the ability to turn into a hare.13: At the height of concern about witchcraft in -cots Gaelic society% those who were accused of witchcraft were usually ill1favoured in the community for one reason or anotherDan old woman who lived alone% someone who "ros"ered ineH"licably while

1 ? &he alternate s"elling% buitseach% is also found% notably in )wellyBs. 130 0ac2nnes% B&raditional ;elief in Gaelic -ociety%B in 6enderson 3Id.4% #antastical !maginations- The Supernatural in Scottish )istory and &ulture% 00?% "19?. Plural of buidseach is buidseachan or buidsichean. 0odernly% the words is sometimes also translated as 5wiMard%5 but this is a modern variation on the original Gaelic meaning of 5witch.5 131 As has the 0anH word% see below. 6enderson% BAitch1hunting and Aitch ;elief in the G*idhealtachd%B in Goodare et al 3Id.4% *itchcraft and Belief in %arly Modern Scotland % 009% "N. 13 0ac2nnes% B&raditional ;elief in Gaelic -ociety%B in 6enderson 3Id.4% #antastical !maginations- The Supernatural in Scottish )istory and &ulture% 00?% "19?. 133 Gregor% "otes on the #olk-$ore of the "orth-%ast of Scotland % 1991% ":1. &he -urvey of -cottish Aitchcraft )atabase has calculated that 9C] of those accused of witchcraft were women% with only 1@] being men 3and 1] whose gender is un.nown4. 13C Gregor% "otes on the #olk-$ore of the "orth-%ast of Scotland% 1991% ":1. 13@ +oss% #olklore of the Scottish )ighlands% 1?:N% ":01:1L Cam"bell% *itchcraft and Second Sight in the )ighlands and !slands of Scotland% 1?0 % "CNL 0cPherson% Primitive Beliefs in the "ortheast of Scotland% 003 31? ?4% " 0C. 13N GinMburg% %cstasies- =eciphering the *itchesE Sabbath% 1??1% "100. 13: Gregor% "otes on the #olk-$ore of the "orth-%ast of Scotland% 1991% ":1. | :|

others didnBt% and so on.139 Although in theory any .ind of magic was considered sinful by the Church% beneficial magic continued Puietly alongside nominal Christian life. &hose who hel"ed the community were su""orted and turned to for hel" in times of need. 13? &he ma7or concern within traditional communities was with those who did harm to othersD witches.1C0 2nstead of legal means being em"loyed to deal with sus"ected witches% unofficial "ersecution% shunning and even mob eHecution seems to have occurred in the 6ighlands of -cotland insteadL 1C1 as in 2reland% the wides"read and devastating witch "ersecutions of the Iuro"ean 0iddle Ages never gri""ed the Gaelic1s" "arts of -cotland 3unli.e the $owlands of -cotland% that isDwith a few eHce"tions4. Although witches were seen as a threat% legal means of dealing with them were only rarely em"loyed%1C and the lac. of "ersecutions in Gaelic countries as a whole suggests that there was a higher level of tolerance and acce"tance of magic amongst the general "o"ulation% in s"ite of the Church and secular laws that ruled against it.1C3

139 ;lac.% The .aelic /therworld% 00@% "1:3L see also AleHander PolsonBs Scottish *itchcraft $ore% 1?3 % where Polson recounts an interview with a woman accused of witchcraft by her local community. Although shunned socially by them% the woman 3who lived on the outs.irts of the community in an area re"uted to be inhabited by fairies% and whose husband died shortly after they marriedDboth being factors in the initial sus"icion and resulting accusation4 "layed u" to her re"utation in order to eHact "ayments from locals to ma.e sure she wouldnBt curse them% in order to ma.e a living. 13? Ahen saints went around cursing "eo"le and "erforming miracles reflecting the magic of the druids with whom they battled% and many "rofessions retained ultimately meta"hysical roots 3see above4% there eHisted a grey area in which magical "ursuits could survive and evolve. (iec.hefer% Magic in the Middle 'ges % 1?9?% "1@L "@C1@N. 2n -cotland in "articular% "riests were often assigned large areas as "arishes% which were s"arsely "o"ulated. $ocal "o"ulations could therefore be left without a "riest for wee.s or months at a time while the "riest made his circuit around his "arish and tended to his floc. elsewhere. &his meant that "eo"le would have to deal with their own "roblems that a "riest might otherwise have attended toDand thus allowing wise1men and wise1women to flourish and combat such "roblems of a su"ernatural nature or causeDbut also meant that the (ir. in "articular 3who was largely res"onsible for the brutal "ersecution of witches in -cotland4 had less influence in such areas% and therefore less sco"e to stam" out such "ractices and beliefs. 6enderson and Cowan% Scottish #airy Belief% 00:% "1 1. 1C0 )avies% BA Com"arative Pers"ective on -cottish Cunning1!ol. and Charmers%B in Goodare 3Id.4% The Scottish *itchhunt in &onte8t% 00 % "19?. 1C1 6enderson% BAitch1hunting and Aitch ;elief in the G*idhealtachd%B in Goodare et al 3Id.4% *itchcraft and Belief in %arly Modern Scotland% 009% "N. 1C 6enderson% BAitch1hunting and Aitch ;elief in the G*idhealtachd%B in Goodare et al 3Id.4% *itchcraft and Belief in %arly Modern Scotland% 009% "NL ;lac.% The .aelic /therworld% 00@% "1: . 1C3 2n both -cotland and 2reland the recorded witch trials were not "er"etrated by the general Gaelic1s" "o"ulation. 2n 2reland% the only witch trials recorded were notably in Inglish or -cottish settled areas% while in -cotland the trials are "rimarily associated with the (ir.. -ee Gi7swi7t16ofstra% BAitchcraft After the Aitch &rials%B in The 'thlone )istory of *itchcraft and Magic in %urope+ olume 7- The %ighteenth and "ineteenth &enturies% 1???% "1C L 6enderson and Cowan% Scottish #airy Belief% 00:% "1 1 6enderson% BAitch1hunting and Aitch ;elief in the G*idhealtachd%B in Goodare et al 3Id.4% *itchcraft and Belief in %arly Modern Scotland% 009% "N1:. | 9|

Magic in Scotland: Healers, Charmers and .iosaichean
At the other end of the -cottish magical s"ectrum there are a variety of different "ractices and ty"es of "ractitioners. 6omeless% wandering men and women% who were generally eHtremely "oor and relied on the hos"itality of others to give them food and shelter for the evening% often wor.ed as fortune1tellersDusually by "alm reading or using cartomancy 3divination using "laying cards4. &hese fortune1tellers restricted themselves to 7ust one or two ty"es of divination% and that was the eHtent of their s.ill. Charmers or healers% on the other hand% concentrated on curing sim"le ailments using herbs or charms. &hey rarely diagnosed an illness% sim"ly offered a cure for a "roblem that had already been labelledDan illness that was easy enough to cure with the right treatment% but not necessarily something that was serious enough to necessitate a doctor 3who would cost a "retty "enny4. &he charmers=healers did not acce"t financial "ayment for their wor.% although they might acce"t giftsL their s.ill was seen as God1given and therefore ca"italising on it for financial gain was seen as wrong. 1CC &hese healers or charmers didnBt deal in illnesses that were seen to have uneH"lained and "ossibly su"ernatural originsL that was left to the wise1men and wise1women. 2n addition to the basic healing s.ills of the charmer% the wise1men and wise1 women offered a range of magical services% including love charms% detecting thieves% fortune1telling% astrology% herbalism% charms of "rotection% 5unbewitching%5 and divining the cause and cure for illnesses.1C@ &he -cots Gaelic terms for these wise1men and wise1 women are fiosaiche 3male4 or ban-fhiosaiche 3female4% and they derive from the Old 2rish word fios< 5.nowledgeL information.5 #iosaiche therefore translates roughly as 5seer5Da diviner of hidden .nowledgeDand has come to mean wise1man 3or 1woman4 in the sense of their ability to determine and a""ly this .nowledge. 1CN &he ma7ority of fiosaichean1C: in -cotland were men% and unli.e the cunning1fol. in Ingland and Aales% the -cottish fiosaichean tended to em"hasise the fact that their "owers
1CC )avies% BA Com"arative Pers"ective on -cottish Cunning1!ol. and Charmers%B in Goodare et al 3Id.4% The Scottish *itch-hunt in &onte8t% 00 % "19N. 1C@ )avies% BA Com"arative Pers"ective on -cottish Cunning1!ol. and Charmers%B in Goodare 3Id.4% The Scottish *itchhunt in &onte8t% 00 % "19?L ;lac.% The .aelic /therworld% 00@% " 00. 1CN 0ac2nnes% B&raditional ;elief in Gaelic -ociety%B in 6enderson 3Id.4% #antastical !maginations- The Supernatural in Scottish )istory and &ulture% 00?% "1?1. 1C: &he "lural form of fiosaiche. | ?|

came from the daoine sJth 3the Good !ol.L fairies4.1C9 2n Ingland and Aales it was far more common for cunning1fol. to em"hasise that their occult .nowledge came from boo. learning% utilising 5eHotic5 sources such as Cabbalistic and 6ermetic teHts 3es"ecially from the seventeenth century onwards4% but the wise1men and 1women of the 6ighlands em"hasised the fact that their "owers and .nowledge came from the daoine sJth and tradition% not boo.s.1C? 0uch of the wor. that fiosaichean dealt with involved determining the "resence of the Ivil Iye% and then determining the source of it so that it could be removed from the victim. &he Ivil Iye was commonly associated with witches% but there were also "eo"le who were otherwise good% u"standing members of the community% but had the misfortune to be afflicted with the ability to 5cast the Iye5. &hese "oor unfortunate souls had to be careful% lest they be accused of using their 5gift5 for their own gain. Or else the Ivil Iye could even come from somebody who was sim"ly "ossessed by 5...a discontented and unha""y mind full of envy 3farmad4% covetousness 3sanntachadh4 and suchli.e mean feelings% and re"iningly on the good of others% and it may too earnestly be and anHiously on what belongs to oneself.51@0 Affliction from the Ivil IyeDmuch li.e the witchesB curse 3which might be seen as heavily overla""ing the conce"t of the Ivil Iye4 1@1Dcould result in illness% infertility% death% delayed and dangerous births% the mil. of an animal or nursing mother to dry u"% or for the churning of butter to fail. 1@ 2n serious cases% the wise1man or 1woman would be consulted to hel" identify whether or not the Iye had been cast% and the first thing to do was to determine who was res"onsible for it% since it was often necessary for the victim to force the witch or "erson res"onsible for casting the Iye to remove it.1@3

1C9 -utherland% Ravens and Black Rain- The Story of )ighland Second Sight% 1?9:% " 1. 1C? )avies% BA Com"arative Pers"ective on -cottish Cunning1!ol. and Charmers%B in Goodare 3Id.4% The Scottish *itch1 hunt in &onte8t% 00 % "19?L 0ac2nnes% B&raditional ;elief in Gaelic -ociety%B in 6enderson 3Id.4% #antastical !maginations- The Supernatural in Scottish )istory and &ulture% 00?% "1?1. 1@0 ;lac.% The .aelic /therworld% 00@% " 01. 1@1 ;ors7e and (elly% B&he Ivil Iye in Iarly 2rish $iterature and $aw%B in &eltica+ olume @4% 003% ":. 1@ )avidson% Rowan Tree and Red Thread% 1?C?% ":N1::. 1@3 )avies% *itchcraft+ Magic and &ulture 025,-0670% " 19. | 30 |

Witchcraft on the Isle of Man
On the 2sle of 0an a witch is .nown in 0anH1Inglish as a butch%1@C from the 0anH buitch or buitKh1@@Da term which a""lies to both seHes. Aitchcraft is .nown as buitcheraght.1@N &he buitch is said to ta.e the form of a hare% therefore itBs considered bad luc. to see a hare cross the road. 1@: -ome 0anH fol. even refuse to eat hare for fear they might be eating a woman.1@9 &he Curragh Glass% a bog near &ynwald% is re"uted to be associated with witch trials by the ordeal of water 3i.e.% if a woman floated% she was a witch and if she san.% she was deemed innocent4. 6owever% there are no actual records of this .ind of ordeal having ta.en "lace on the 2sle.1@? 2n fact% only three accounts of death for witchcraft eHist on the 2sle of 0an< Alice 2ne Zuay in 1@N? and 0argrett 2nePuane with her son in 1N1:. 1N0 Charges brought against 0anH witches often included< 5the "ower to ta.e away the tarra% or increase% from a manBs cattle or cro"s% and transfer it to another% to cast s"ells u"on men and cattle% cro"s and churning and to change% at will% into hares.5 1N1 $i.e the 2rish word cailleach% its 0anH cognate caillagh was co1o"ted and twisted to mean 5witch.5 $i.e in 2reland and -cotland% this was originally the name of a goddess or revered s"irit and more correctly means 5old woman.5 &he authors res"ect the original meaning and the sacred beings .nown by this name% so consider it an ina""ro"riate for humans who do witchcraft. Ahile the Cailleach 3in all Gaelic cultures4 can be an ambiguous figure% and "rone to acts that are destructive as well as creative% ultimately she is a divine being% and in a different category than humans who use magic for selfish means. 2n 0anH lore% the Cailleach was .nown as &aillagh-ny-.ueshag 35the Old Aoman of the -"ells54 and &aillagh ny .roamagh 35the -ullen Old1woman54. &he following is one anecdote on how she came to 0an< 5Caillagh ny groamagh% the gloomy or sul.y witch% was said to have been
1@C 0oore% B!urther Notes on 0anH !ol.lore%B in The 'ntiLuary+ olume 50% 19?@% " ?CL +hys 30iller% Id.4% Man8 #olklore and Superstitions% 1??C% "3. 1@@ Plural% buitchyn. Cregeen% ' =ictionary of the Manks $anguage% 193@% "30L +oeder% Man8 "otes and (ueries% 1?0C% "9@. 1@N 0orrison% B0anH !ol.1$ore Notes%B in !sle of Man Times% 1?0C% Cb1d. 1@: (illi"% The #olklore of the !sle of Man% 1?:N% "@N. 1@9 (och% &eltic &ulture- ' )istorical %ncyclopedia% 00N% "1N39. 1@? Craine 30iller% Id.4% MannananEs !sle- Selected %ssays% 1??C% "N. 1N0 2bid. 1N1 TarraL c.f.% toradh in Gaelic. Craine 30iller% Id.4% MannananEs !sle- Selected %ssays% 1??C% "?. | 31 |

an irish TsicU witch who had been thrown into the sea by the "eo"le of 2reland with the intention of drowning her. 6owever% being a witch% she declined to be drowned% and floated easily until she came to the 2sle of 0an% where she landed on the morning of !ebruary 1 th.51N !urthermore% ;errey )hone 35;rown ;errey54Da figure who might actually be -entainne ;Jrri% or Cailleach ;Jrri% rather than any anonymous witch 1N3Dis a fabled 5witch5 and the sub7ect of Puite a few 0anH ballads and airs.1NC

Magic on the Isle of Man: the .er0obbee and /en0obbee
Ahen collecting his small but valuable cor"us of 0anH lore% Charles +o"er made the distinction between 5witch5 and 5wise woman5 in his writings. 6e re"orted that fisherman collect herbs from wise women in the north% bring them to their boats% brew a decoction% drin. some and then "our the rest over their nets for luc.. 1N@ +o"er goes on further still to s"ea. of Nan Aaid% a witch1.iller who lived in -t. EohnBs. &his witch1.iller was a woman who could reverse the evil done by witches.1NN -o"hia 0orrison also "rovides anecdotes about Nan Aaid 3or Nan Aade4% and refers to Nan as a 5charmer.5 1N: One such account relays a charm that Nan told a man in order to cure his sister of bewitchment< 5Nan told him% he said% the girl was to get the liver of a "ullet% and stic. it all over with "ins% and "ut it on the "an on the fire.5 Ahen the girl did this% a scream was heard outside and a witch was found with red1hot "ins stuc. in her liver.1N9 &hese wise1men and wise1women were .nown in 0anH as fer-obbee and ben-obbee D5men1charmers5 and 5women1charmers5 res"ectivelyDand in addition to hel"ing fishermen ensure a good catch% they were consulted in matters of removing the Ivil Iye% dis"ensing a pishag 35charm5 or 5incantation54 to counteract those of witches and fairies%
1N Mn $ior Manninagh+ ol !% 19?1% " 3. 1N3 ;roderic.% B;errey )hone V A 0anH Cailleach ;JrriSB in Neitschrift fOr &eltische Philologie olume 41 % 1?9C% "1?:11??L R Crualaoich% The Book of the &ailleach- Stories of the *ise-*oman )ealer % 003% "9?. 1NC ;roderic.% B;errey )hone V A 0anH Cailleach ;JrriSB in Neitschrift fOr &eltische Philologie olume 4 0% 1?9C% "1?NL 0ac(illo"% =ictionary of &eltic Mythology % 1??9% "C1. &he Caillagh ny Groamagh is also .nown to ta.e the form of a giant bird% and is associated with weather omens on $aaBl ;reeshey 3$Y !hJile ;r'de=2mbolc4. 1N@ +o"er% *here the Birds Sing- ' Selection of Rustic Sketches and !dylls of &ommon $ife % 19?C% "19 1193. 1NN +o"er% *here the Birds Sing- ' Selection of Rustic Sketches and !dylls of &ommon $ife % 19?C% "199119?. 1N: 0orrison% B0anH !ol.1$ore Notes%B in !sle of Man Times% 1?0C% Cb1d. 1N9 2bid. |3 |

and curing illnesses with medicinal herbs. 1N? $i.e the benaaishnee 35fortune1teller54% the benobbee also "racticed fassishlaght 35"alm reading54.1:0 &he abilities of these charmers are believed to be hereditary.1:1 &he Ivil Iye is usually combated by the dust from under the feet of the afflicted and=or from the threshold of the sus"ected witch and rubbing on the victim.1:

Protection against Witchcraft
&he distinction between the hel"ful charmer and the harmful witch shows even more clearly in the many customs that safeguard against witches and witchcraft. As the Puarter days 3es"ecially ;ealtaine and -amhain4 are believed to be a time when a witchBs "ower is renewed and at its strongest% there eHist numerous customs "erformed on these days which see. to "revent their influence. &his belief is hinted at in the 0anH saying that on Puarter days a witchBs chimney smo.e goes against the wind. 1:3 According to AleHander Carmichael% the first 0onday of each Puarter held similar dangers to the Puarter day itself. &his was said to be a "rime time for the Ivil Iye to be aimed at other "eo"le% and for witches to steal mil. away from cows.1:C -ince the bean feasa% fiosaiche% or ben-obbee were only really loo.ed to for hel" in "articularly "roblematic cases that went beyond the s.ills of the ordinary fol.% most "rotective rites are "erformed in the homeDsometimes with the hel" of the whole household% or else they are "erformed by 7ust one member of the household. Prevention is always better than the need for a cure% and so "eo"le too. matters into their own hands in order to "rotect themselves against witches% daoine sJth%1:@ and the Ivil Iye 3which may or may not come from a witch4% in order to ma.e sure that no harm or misfortune fell on the household. 2n all three countries it is believed that sacred wells should be visited on $Gnasa for
1N? 0oore% The #olk-lore of the !sle of Man % 19?1% ":91:?L Eeffcott% B-ome Ancient 0anH -u"erstitions%B in Man8 "otebook+ ol 0% A"ril 199@. 1:0 Eeffcott% B-ome Ancient 0anH -u"erstitions%B in Man8 "otebook+ ol 0% A"ril 199@. 1:1 0oore% The #olk-lore of the !sle of Man% 19?1% ":?. 1: 0oore% The #olk-lore of the !sle of Man% 19?1% ":9. 1:3 Craine 30iller% Id.4% MannananEs !sle- Selected %ssays% 1??C% "11. 1:C Carmichael% &armina .adelica% 1?? % "NC 1NC3. 1:@ &he daoine sJth are generally neutral in natureDneither inherently good nor inherently malevolent. &hey can be hel"ful to humans when "leased% or deadly when angered. | 33 |

healing and charms against fairies and witches% and many ;ealtaine customs are concerned with the reinforcing and redefining of boundariesDeither within the "hysical s"ace of the house and the farmland 3such as the doorways% windows% and then field boundaries4. &hese boundaries% liminal s"aces of neither one "lace or another% are considered to be under "articular threat by the su"ernatural forces that are believed to be at large on the eve of ;ealtaine itself% and without the "ro"er "rotection witches or evil s"irits could enter and have away with the "ros"erity and "roduce of the household. 1:N Ahile these eHam"les are universal to all Gaelic countries 3and the dias"ora4% there are also localised customs that are traditionally observed< Ireland On -amhain% a cross .nown as a parshell is made and affiHed to the s"ace over the front door to ward off illness% bad luc. and witchcraft for the coming year. 1:: ;ealtaine was a time when mil.1stealing might be a "articular "roblem% with 7ealous neighbours or witches secreting charms or s"rigs of rowan in the tails of cattle to "rocure the mil. for themselves. -o on this day% cattle are ins"ected for bewitchment and should anything sus"icious be found% it was removed and burnt% and vervain or s"rigs of rowan were substituted to "rotect the cattle and remove the curse. !inally% after the ins"ection was com"leted% the cattle were then s"rin.led with sgaith an tobair 3the first of the well ta.en in the morning4 in blessing.1:9 -ince hares were often thought to be the animal of choice for witches to sha"eshift into% any seen amongst the cattle on ;ealtaine would be shot immediately in order to "revent the mil. being stolen% and hedgehogs often met the same fate for the same reasons. &here are "lenty of tales that relate how a farmer shot a hare one ;ealtaine and shortly after found an old woman in the village had suddenly develo"ed a lim". 1:? Other ;ealtaine rites safeguarding against witches included< s"rin.ling "rimroses% marsh1marigolds% or gorse on the threshold% wreaths for door "osts% or tying bunches to cowsB tailsL190 carrying iron 3es"ecially a dar. handled .nife4 or a charm of
1:N 1:: 1:9 1:? 190 Newton% ' )andbook of the Scottish .aelic *orld% 000% "19 . )anaher% The Mear in !reland- !rish &alendar &ustoms% 1?: % " 09. )anaher% The Mear in !reland- !rish &alendar &ustoms% 1?: % "11N111:. )anaher% The Mear in !reland- !rish &alendar &ustoms% 1?: % "111L Ailde% !rish Popular Superstitions% 19C?% "@N1@:. Ailde% 'ncient $egends+ Mystic &harms and Superstitions of !reland% 199:% "1?:L Aood10artin% Traces of the %lder #aiths of !reland+ olume @% " N3L )anaher% The Mear in !reland- !rish &alendar &ustoms% 1?: % "9?. | 3C |

woven rowan in your " if you needed to leave the house after dar.L 191 and lighting and 7um"ing over bonfires.

Scotland Nailing a rowan cross or branch above the door of house or byre "rotects cattle and "regnant women from the influence of witches. 19 Cattle are further "rotected by "lacing a garland of rowan and honeysuc.le around their nec.s with red thread woven in their tails.193 Areaths of twisted cattail fibers were also created as a safeguard. 19C &he Samhnagan 3-amhainn fires4 are lit at dus. believing to have "rotective Pualities against the su"ernatural elements that are believed to be abroad that nightDthe fairies% witches% or demonic beings.19@ $ocal communities often engaged in friendly rivalry with their neighbours to see who could build the biggest. Aalter Gregor records that% 52n the villages the boys went from house to house and begged a "eat from each householder% commonly with the words% BGeBs a "eat tBburn the witches.B519N -aining the house with the smo.e of burning 7uni"er at New ^earsB% s"rin.ling stale urine around% or s"rin.ling menstruum 3silvered water or water miHed with s"ittle4 around with a sop seille 35s"ittle wis"5Dli.ely a "iece of straw4% also served as good "rotection% and hel"ed to ma.e sure that any evil influences were forced out as well as .e"t away. 19: 2n the "rocess of observing these rites% charms might be s"o.en. A seun% or sian% is the Gaelic for a "rotective charm.199 Ahile the best .nown ty"e of charm is the eolas 35.nowledge54%19? many of which are detailed by Cam"bell in his *itchcraft and Second Sight in the )ighlands and !sland of Scotland .1?0 &hese eolas charms are for curing. An ubag or ubhaidhDa word that is "ossibly related to the Gaelic obair% 5wor.5 3i.e.% a wor.ing4Dis associated with the .ind of charms associated with common su"erstitions 3see below4. 1?1 A
191 19 193 19C 19@ 19N 19: )anaher% The Mear in !reland- !rish &alendar &ustoms% 1?: % "1 1. +oss% #olklore of the Scottish )ighlands% 1?:N% "NCL N:. +oss% #olklore of the Scottish )ighlands% 1?:N% "N:. 0c(ay% More *est )ighland Tales% 1?N?% "3N?13:0. ;lac.% The .aelic /therworld% 00@% "@@?L 0cNeill% The Silver Bough olume 5% 1?N1% "1:. 0cNeill% The Silver Bough olume 5% 1?N1% "19L Gregor% The #olklore of the "orth-%ast of Scotland% 1991% " 1N:. Saining< -cots for 5warding% blessing% consecrating.5 )erived from the from the 2rish and -cottish Gaelic seun and sian and the Old 2rish s:n. -ee ;lac.% The .aelic /therworld% 00@% "13N1:% 11L Carmichael% &armina .adelica olume !!% 1?00% " N13:L 0acbain% %tymological =ictionary of Scottish-.aelic % 1??9% "30?. 199 2bid. 19? 0ac(enMie% .aelic !ncantations+ &harms+ and Blessings of the )ebrides% 19?@% "@. 1?0 -ee also ;lac.% The .aelic /therworld% 00@. 1?1 ;lac.% The .aelic /therworld% 00@% " 00L 0ac(enMie% .aelic !ncantations+ &harms+ and Blessings of the )ebrides% 19?@% "@L +oeder% Man8 "otes and (ueries% 1?0C% "9@. | 3@ |

soisgeul% 35gos"el54 is a .ind of charm that was usually obtained from a "riest% with the intention to hel" cure or "rotect the reci"ient. 2t usually consisted of a "assage or verse from the ;ible% a hymn% 5or some good words%5 that were then sewn into the clothes. -o long as the soisgeul was worn% it would give "rotection against s"ite 3which might therefore include witchcraft4 or 5wea.ness of mind.51? -ince the daoine sJth are also often heavily associated with witches% bad luc. and misfortune% the charms all tend to blur into one% covering all bases. &oday% observing "ractices such as this would be seen as engaging in geasagan 35harmless su"erstitions54.1?3 &he word itself% however% has a long and com"licated history% and has its root in the Old 2rish word geis% a 5"rohibition or taboo.5 Over time the conce"t of geis evolved to "ic. u" associations with 5s"ells and incantations%5 and that is how the word survives in modern -cots Gaelic today. .easagan% therefore% while referring to 5harmless su"erstitions5 today% originally made their magical associations eH"licit% being defined as 5enchantmentsL belief in witchcraft.51?C

Isle of Man On $aa ;oaldyn 3;ealtaine4% hedges of koinney 3gorse4 and bonfires are lit to scare off witches1?@ and the crosh curinDa crude cross made without the aid of a .nife from small branches of mountain ash 3rowan or cuirn4Dis renewed. 2t is believed that this cross "rotects against witches% elves and the phynnodderee.1?N Also% gathering the morning dew on $aa ;oaldyn 3;ealtaine4 is believed to ensure luc.% im"rove the com"leHion and "rovide immunity against witches. 1?: 2n both -cotland and 2sle of 0an% an elder tree growing outside of your house is believed to "rotect the inhabitants from witches. 1?9 aelic Cultures as a Whole 2n all of the Gaelic areas% as witches were most active at the festivalsDes"ecially
1? ;lac.% The .aelic /therworld% 00@% " C. 1?3 0ac2nnes% B&raditional ;elief in Gaelic -ociety%B in 6enderson 3Id.4% #antastical !maginations- The Supernatural in Scottish )istory and &ulture% 00?% "19:1199. 1?C 0ac(enMie% .aelic !ncantations+ &harms+ and Blessings of the )ebrides% 19?@% "@. 1?@ +hys% B0anH !ol.1$ore and -u"erstitions%B in #olklore+ ol. @+ "o. 5 % 19?1% "303L Paton% B0anH Calendar Customs< -econd Zuarter%B in !olklore+ ol. 70+ "o. 4% 1?C0% " :9L 90. 1?N Cashen% Man8 #olk-$ore% 1?1 % Cha"ter 1% B6ome $ife of the 0anHBL +hys% B0anH !ol.1$ore and -u"erstitions%B in #olklore+ ol. @+ "o. 5% 19?1% "301L Paton% B0anH Calendar Customs< -econd Zuarter%B in #olklore+ ol. 70+ "o. 4% 1?C0% " 9C. 1?: Paton% B0anH Calendar Customs< -econd Zuarter%B in #olklore+ ol. 70+ "o. 4% 1?C0% " 931 9C. 1?9 0oore% #olklore of the !sle of Man% 19?1% "1@ L ;lantyre1-im"son% #olk $ore in $owland Scotland% 1?09% "1@1. | 3N |

;ealtaineDmany of these charms and customs to ensure "rotection against witchcraft were "erformed as "art of the observances of the festivalL 7ust as witches might be at their most "owerful% so the charms against them might be as well. &oday% many Gaelic Polytheists also incor"orate these traditions into their "ractices% in order to "rotect against witchcraft% the Ivil Iye% bad luc.% or the unwanted attention of any daoine sJth who may have mischievous or malevolent intent. As such% we would not define these "rotective charms as witchcraft% though we certainly might regard them as magical or meta"hysical in "ur"ose. 2n this sense% we might say that% to one eHtent of another% we believe in geasachd 3-cottish GaelicL magical charms or enchantments% as well as things such as augury41?? or that we are piseogach 32rishL su"erstitious% one who "ractices or believes in piseoga T5charmsL su"erstitions5U4% 00 whether we sim"ly believe in the eHistence of these things or also "ractice them ourselves.

Concerning the Witch as !utsider, or !utcast
As shown above% the 5witch5 has long been a contem"tible figure who lived on the outs.irts of society. Ahile ancient Gaelic tradition does have honourable "eo"le who lived on the fringes 3the fianna% for instance4% the 5witch5Das defined by Gaelic culturesDis not one of them. Aitches cause harm% cast the Ivil Iye% and steal from their neighborsL they were something to be feared and guarded against. Gregor says the 5witch5 5...lived in a lonely house by herself% and .e"t her affairs very much to herself.5

!urther on Gregor

states< 5-uch a woman was dreaded% and all her neighbours tried to live on good terms with her% bore from her what they would bear from no one else% and% if she as.ed a favour% would have granted it% however much it cost to do so.5

Ahile witches were dreaded% to some eHtent they might be tolerated 1 not out of love% but out of fear of what they might do if offended. ;ut as Celtic +econstructionism and Gaelic Polytheism are built on the foundations of community and family% "eo"le who wor. to harm the innocent do not have a role within the community. &he values that the
1?? 0ac2nnes% B&raditional ;elief in Gaelic -ociety%B in 6enderson 3Id.4% #antastical !maginations- The Supernatural in Scottish )istory and &ulture% 00?% "19:1199. 00 !rom the Old 2rish pise<c 35charms54. 01 Gregor% "otes on the #olk-$ore of the "orth-%ast of Scotland% 1991% ":1. 0 2bid. | 3: |

Celtic +econstructionist community generally hold in commonDu"holding honour% truth% 7ustice% courage% community% loyalty% strength and gentleness 03Dare not com"atible with the traditional conce"t of witchcraft. &hose who choose to "ractice magic for themselves or others% and do so for "ositive% hel"ful "ur"oses that benefit the community% certainly have a welcome role within Celtic +econstructionism% Gaelic Polytheism% or whatever sub1 tradition they might follow. &hose who choose to act against the interests of the community and choose to "ractice witchcraft as we would traditionally define it% have no "lace.

"ut isn#t modern "$raditional Witchcraft" %ust folk charms, cures, etcetera&
&he ma7ority of "eo"le who refer to themselves as 5witches5 today do not seem to intend to claim they are "racticing malevolent magic% and most actually seem to be aiming for the ePuivalent of the wor. of the 5wise woman=man5 or 5cunning woman=man5. Ahile most of the "eo"le now claiming to be 5witches5 are Aiccans% Neo1Aiccans or other eclectic Neo"agans% using charms and s"ells from a variety of cultures% there are others who attem"t to base their "ractices in traditional Gaelic healing and fol. magic. &he latter ty"e are at least in some cases modelling their "ractices on the fol. charms and cures that can be found in historical sources. As we have already established% however% the 5witch5 and 5cunning1fol.5 are inherently o""osed to one another% and considering this fact% conflating them is ina""ro"riate. 2n some cases% the use of terms li.e 5witch5 and 5witchcraft5 to describe such "ractices in a modern conteHt are "erha"s the result of a lac. of historical "ers"ective% as well as a lac. of familiarity with the languages. -ometimes% for those who come to Gaelic Polytheism from Aiccan bac.grounds% it may also be the result of an attachment to a "ast identity% romanticism% and=or a reluctance to let go of the assum"tions from that faith.

2n the broader Pagan community the view of Aicca as a recent% eclectic invention has only
03 Nic)h*na et al% The &R #'(% 00:% "111111N. 0C ;y the 1?90s at the latest% some "rominent leaders of AleHandrian and Gardnerian covens% for eHam"le% were already aware that Aicca is an eclectic% modern s"iritual tradition% cobbled together by Gardner and )oreen Kaliente in the 1?C0s% from various literary and diverse cultural sources. ^et some of them made the choice to maintain the 50yth of the Aica%5 and rePuired that their initiates maintain the fiction of Aicca as an ancient% "re1Celtic religion% maintained in secret for millenia. &he myth continued among many covens through the 1??0s% and some hold onto it to this day. -ee e.g.% the documentary The Supernatural- *itchcraft% which maintains the 5Old +eligion5 fallacy. | 39 |

ta.en hold since the widely influential "ublication of wor. from the of Aidan (elly and +onald 6utton%

which give a critical review of AiccaBs origins and the claims made

by Gardner 3although there is still a vocal minority of Aiccans who refuse to let go of the origin story they learned in their covens4. As the reality of AiccaBs modern origins began to be acce"ted in the wider Neo"agan community% we began to also see the increasing "o"ularity of 5traditional witchcraft5Dgrou"s and individuals who claim their traditions are inde"endent of Aicca% even though they are clearly influenced by% or even directly derived from% Gardnerian Aicca. +obert CochraneBs Clan of &ubal Cain is one such eHam"le% and Cochrane himself claimed to have been raised in a hereditary witchcraft traditionDby an aunt% rather than the usual grannyDand described himself as a 5"ellar5 3thus clearly attem"ting to conflate witchcraft with cunning1fol.4.

Cochrane influenced various offshoots% including Ivan

Eohn EonesB wor. with )oreen Kaliente that resulted in the boo. *itchcraft- ' Tradition Renewed 31?9?4. 09 2t is "robably a fair assum"tion that many of these newly1minted 5traditional witches5 are trying to find a way to maintain GardnerBs illusion of an unbro.en magical and religious tradition% while distancing themselves from both Gardner and the mainstream Neo1Aiccan fluff most commonly found in boo.sho"s today. Ahile in some cases "eo"le are sim"ly unaware of the contradiction between the modern% Neo"agan meaning of terms li.e 5witchcraft5 when com"ared with traditional understanding of such labels% there are some "eo"le who identify as witches who are well aware of all of this. -omeDwhen having to clarify what they meanDmay Pualify the marrying of these two different vocations with the term 5white witchcraft%5 as a catch1all term for all the different .inds of fol. magic. 6owever% while the idea of 5blac.5 and 5white5 witchcraft is a conce"t that has been widely used in Inglish fol.lore studies from only the nineteenth century onwards% it is not something that has much relevance to Gaelic culturesL the Gaels have no conce"t of 5white5 or 5blac.5 witchcraft.

0@ (elly% &rafting the 'rt of Magic+ Book !- ' )istory of Modern *itchcraft 0656-06,4 % 1??1L 6utton% The Triumph of the Moon- ' )istory of Modern Pagan *itchcraft% 1??:. 0N -ee for eHam"le Phili" 6eseltonBs boo.s% and ;en AhitmoreBs &he &rials of the 0oon< +eo"ening the Case for 6istorical Aitchcraft. 0: 6oward% The Roebuck in the Thicket- 'n 'nthology of the Robert &ochrane *itchcraft Tradition % 001% "9L see also )oreen KalienteBs cha"ter B+obert Cochrane% 0agisterB in The Rebirth of *itchcraft% 1?9?% "11:113N. 09 -ee also< KalienteBs The Rebirth of *itchcraft% 1?9?. 0? &o be more s"ecific< 5BAhite witchB was a term little used in "o"ular discourse% although it was commonly em"loyed by fol.lorists and other middle1class commentators.5 )avies% *itchcraft and &ulture 025,-0670% 1???% " 1@. -ee also 0ac2nnes% B&raditional ;elief in Gaelic -ociety%B in 6enderson 3Id.4% #antastical !maginations- The Supernatural in | 3? |

Although the conce"t of 5white5 vs. 5blac.5 is a flawed attem"t to distinguish between 5good5 and 5bad5 magic% the fact remains that those misnomers a""ly moral values onto "ractices that are not traditionally seen in such a wayL the "ractice of magic in itself is very much a grey area in Gaelic culture% and modern% scholarly witchcraft studies now ma.e a concerted effort to distinguish between witchcraft and the magical "ractices of the cunning1fol. without resorting to artificial terms li.e the 5blac.5 and 5white5 "aradigm. 10 5;lac.5 and 5white5 witchcraft aside% there are some Neo"agans who are aware of all of the issues raised so far and still choose to ado"t the label of 5witch5 because% if their cultural matriH is the mainstream of the Neo"agan community% 5witch5 is a word that has a shared meaning to most "eo"le in that communityL in essence% although the term is not correct% they find it easier to use because it doesnBt need eH"laining in discussions with mainstream Neo"agans. Needless to say by now% we disagree with this line of< Eust as other reconstructionist communities use culturally a""ro"riate labels to define their own magical "ractices% we are advocating eHactly the same. Ahile misusing the word 5witch5 may ma.e communication easier among those embedded in the mainstream Neo"agan community% for those of us whose "rimary alliances and social matrices are with and within other% traditional communities% it is not an easy or useful term for us at allL not unless we are using it to mean what it meant to our ancestors% and still means in the living cultures today< a malevolent "erson who is trying to harm the innocent via su"ernatural means. !or those of us who believe in hel"ing and "rotecting our communities% in "lacing the well1being of the community above our own% and for "eace and healing% to call ourselves 5witches5 would not only be wildly inaccurate% it would be a""alling% alienating and shameful. One of the core challenges of Celtic +econstructionism and Gaelic Polytheism is to
Scottish )istory and &ulture% 00?% "1?0. 10 Owing much to the wor. of Owen )avies in his studies of cunning1fol.. 2n )avies dissertation which was later "ublished as *itchcraft and &ulture 025,-0670% 31???4 and his subsePuent title &unning-#olk- Popular Magic in %nglish )istory 3 0034. &here are many different local terms for these cunning1fol.% with pellar being favoured in Cornwall% dyn hysbys in Aales% and terms such wise1man or 1woman% or 5fairy doctor5 historically favoured in Gaelic s" areas. 2n academic terms% 5cunning1fol.5 is now used as a catch1all to refer to the "rofession in general% though it is not a descri"tor that has ever been used in -cotland 3or 2reland and 0an4 at all. -ee< )avies% BA Com"arative Pers"ective on -cottish Cunning1!ol. and Charmers%B in Goodare 3Id.4% The Scottish *itch-hunt in &onte8t% 00 % "199L )avies% *itchcraft and &ulture 025,-0670% 1???% "199L 1@. Additionally% there is a serious critiPue in many Puarters of the Aestern worldBs association of dar.ness with evilL many involved in race studies and dialogues feel "er"etuating those associations of 5blac.8bad5 and 5white8good5 subtly or not1so1subtly contributes to the unconscious validation of racism and hatred of the Iarth. | C0 |

be willing to let go of misconce"tions as we learn more about our ancestors and their ways. 2n the early waves of the movement% this was es"ecially crucial as we were still struggling with gross misconce"tions li.e 5Aicca is Celtic%5

and we have had to throw

out many things we had learned were wrong. &he label 5witch5 is another thing that must be discarded% as much as we no longer acce"t "eo"le claiming to be C+ while they wave .nives at the s"irits% cultures. 13

attem"t to command or 5use5 the deities% "erform rituals without offerings% or incor"orate beliefs and "ractices misa""ro"riated from other

Magic in Contem'orar(

aelic Pol(theism

0any of the names for magical "ractitioners we have discussed so far s"ecifically describe individuals who have made such "ractices their lifeBs wor.% and are terms that describe "eo"le who have s"ent many decades in study% "ractice% and effective service to the community before being recognised as being Pualified to wear such labels. 2n Gaelic Polytheism% these labels are seen in the same way but this does not mean that magical "ractices are only reserved for the eH"erts. One thing that tends to be overloo.ed when discussing meta"hysics and identity in Gaelic Polytheism is that many of our rites may be seen as inherently 5magical5% regardless of whether or not we label ourselves as "ractitioners of 5magic5% or whether or not we are interested in s"ecialising in any of the magical% mystical% or meta"hysical vocations we may have inherited from our ancestors. Our s"iritual beliefs "ermeate our daily lives on many different levels% and so to us% our religion is a lifeway.

0uch of what we do on a daily basis as "art of our religious

11 &oday% after decades of wor. by the "ioneers of C+% itBs common .nowledge that Aicca is not Celtic 3and even noting this may seem to be stating the shoc.ingly obvious4% but twenty years ago% attem"ts to educate Neo"agans about legitimate Celtic traditions were met with hostility% necessitating basic articles with content li.e% 5;eltane is% among many NeoPagans% considered a ma7or fertility celebration and holiday. 2n ancient Celtic society% however% it was not Puite so cut and dried...5 &ides -taff T(athryn Nic)h*na and P/l 0acAmhlaoibhU% B&urning of the Aheel.B Tides% ;oston% 0A% Kol. 1% No. 3% ;eltane=-ummer -olstice% 1??3% "3L and 52t is debated as to whether the 0ay"ole ribbon dance can be considered Celtic at all.5 N' )hoireann% (ym $ambert% ibid% " . At the time% such articles were challenging and revolutionary. 1 -ee Nic)h*na et al% The &R #'(% 00:% "130. 13 5C+ is not eclectic. ... C+ was actually begun as an alternative to eclectic Neo"agan traditions%5 Nic)h*na et al% The &R #'(% 00:% "NC. 1C And for the core members of Gaol Naofa% s"ecifically< Our Gaelic Polytheist $ifeway 3Gaeilge< Pr n=<igh Bheatha !ldiach is .aelach% G*idhlig< 'r =Qigh-Beatha !oma-=hiadhach .hGidhealach4. Gaol Naofa has coined this term to better describe our s"ecific tradition and beliefs% as "racticed by the members of Gaol Naofa. &his is "artly in order to distinguish ourselves from other Gaelic Polytheist grou"s% but also to em"hasise our commitment to our s"irituality | C1 |

"ractices may be seen as magical in some way or another% and so one does not have to claim to be a bean feasa% for eHam"le% in order to "ractice magic as "art of a Gaelic Polytheist identityL one sim"ly has to be a Gaelic Polytheist. 0uch of what we doDfrom daily "rayers or offerings% "erforming rites of blessing or "rotection% or rites of divination and the of omensDall involve communication with the s"irit world. &he s"iritual and "hysical is interwoven in every facet of our lives. -im"ly by living this traditional way of life% every "racticing Gaelic Polytheist is involved in s"iritual% magical "ractice% whether or not one has the calling and talent to s"ecialise in it.

!or those who dedicate themselves to a "articular vocation% the titles li.e fili% dru9% bean feasa or fiosaiche describe a level of "roven mastery only achieved by a combination of inborn talent% training% and after decadesDor a lifetimeDof study and dedication. &hey also describe vocations that serve the community% and as such they are only really conferred on individuals in recognition of their service to that community.

Not everyone

can ho"e to reach such heights% but they can still engage in a fulfilling and meaningful way of life that serves their needs% and the needs of others. 2t is not necessary for Gaelic Polytheists to "ursue mastery of meta"hysical arts% such as the "ractice of divination and seershi"% or changes in the world via meta"hysical means% and not everyone has the a"titude or interest in doing so 37ust as not everyone will be interested in "ursuing the sacred art of the "oet 3filidecht4% the druid 3druidecht4% or warrior% etc4. 6owever% because many of our rites and "ractices might be seen as 5magical5 in some way or another% meta"hysical wor. is something that affects Gaelic Polytheists far more than some other vocations might. 2n the case of "rotective rituals% everyone in the community traditionally "erformed rites of saining on a regular basisDat the Puarter days and other festivals li.e 6ogmanay. &hese rites ty"ically involved burning 7uni"er 3which "roduces a lot of smo.e% easily filling an enclosed s"ace4%

and=or by s"rin.ling silvered water around the house%

concentrating on thresholds and windows% and each member of the family 3including
as a way of life. Although admittedly a bit of a mouthful% we feel the "hrase s"ea.s to the heart of Gaol NaofaBs "hiloso"hy and community. 1@ &he degree at which these "ractices are engaged in may differ widely from one individual% household or grou" to another de"ending on a"titude or interest% but through 5right action5 3ortho"raHy4 we might communicate with the gods% s"irits% and ancestors even if we are not "articularly sensitive to their res"onses. 1N And% when humanly "ossible% by Ilders or at the very least% "eersL that is% by those who fully understand the standards that need to be met. 1: 0cNeill% The Silver Bough olume 5% 1?N1% "113111C. |C |

animals4. 19 ,nder s"ecial circumstances% howeverDin times of murrain or sic.nessDa s"ecialist might be called in to give eHtra su""ort.

2f a whole town or village was

affected then they would all 7oin in% eHtinguishing the hearth fire and gathering on a hillside to light a needfire that everyone hel"ed to build% and then a torch from the flames to relight the hearth 0D7ust li.e the saining rites of ;ealtaine when the hearths were eHtinguished and relit from the needfire% after the cattle and other livestoc. had been driven between two bonfires% or across the dying embers. As well as "rotection% these rites can be seen as a .ind of cleansing and renewal% then. &oday% entire villages might not ta.e "art in these rites% but Gaelic Polytheists may observe such rites individually or within their own grou" or community when necessary. -aining charms may also be recited before im"ortant 7ourneys% or whenever "rotection might be needed.

At 3or 7ust before4 dawn on ;ealtaine morning% the first water of the day might be drawn to "reserve the toradhDthe 5"roduce5 or 5goodness5 of the householdDand this water can be saved and used in saining rites% or added to healing salves% balms or ointments. &he toradh of the water effectively holds the "otential wealth and well1being of the household and so where wells were shared amongst a number of households it was often the case that "eo"le would com"ete to ta.e the first draw% and thus the toradh for themselves. &here was also the "otential to steal the toradh from a neighbourBs well by s.imming it before they did% so ;ealtaine morning was a time that could be Puite fraught% de"ending on how nice your neighbours were. &he dawn of each festival is seen as a "owerful time when divination rites such as frJth can be "erformed% to see what the neHt Puarter might hold% or else to try and divine the whereabouts of lost items or the well1being of loved ones who might be far away.

Other .inds of divination might also be s"ecialised in% based on traditional "ractices such as n:ldoracht 35cloud1divination54% or through observing the behaviour of birds and wildlife.

Aeather divination and to the direction the wind is blowing in on the

19 -ometimes stale urine or s"ittle might be used instead. ;lac.% The .aelic /therworld% 00@% "13:. 1? One eHam"le is described in great detail by AleHander Polson% whereby the whole house was smo.ed out with 7uni"er in order to cure the illness of a young girl% after other means of curing her had failed. 6owever% in this case the density of the smo.e .illed her as a result of her wea.ened state. Polson% Scottish *itchcraft and $ore% 1?3 % "1:?. 0 0cNeill% The Silver Bough olume 0% 1?@:% "N31NC. !or more on this% see< B;reath of $ife< &he &ri"le !lame of ;rigidB by (athryn Price Nic)h*na and &reasa N' Chonchobhair. 1 -ome eHam"les< Carmichael% &armina .adelica olume !!% 1?00% " N13:. 0ac2nlay% #olklore of Scottish $ochs and Springs% 19?3% " ?:L Ailde% !rish Popular Superstitions% 19C?% "@C. 3 Carmichael% &armina .adelica% 1?? % "@3 L "N1N. C Abercromby% B2rish ;ird1$ore%B in #olk-$ore olume !!% 199C1199@% "NN1N:. -ee also +oss% Pagan &eltic Britain% 1?N:% "3 :1 | C3 |

morning of the festivals can also be "erformed% traditionally the "reserve of the s.illed few.


but these .inds of divination are

Ahile it is unclear whether or not ogham

was traditionally used for divination by the "re1Christian Gaels% there is evidence to suggest that it came to be used in such a way at a later date and some Gaelic Polytheists

have develo"ed their own methods of divination by ogham staves 3or fe;nna4.

2n addition to all of these rites there are other .inds of rituals and "ractices that might be seen to have magical undertones% from the blessing of food for consum"tion at festivals 3or the ritualised of certain foods for divinatory "ur"oses4% hanging of "rotective charms made of rowan and red thread%
30 ?

or the

;rigidBs crosses made at $Y

!hJile ;r'de% or parshell crosses made at -amhain. 0any of these traditional rites are concerned with the "rotection and "reservation of the household from bad luc. or disaster% 31 which might be seen as having su"ernatural causesDsuch as from causing offence to the s"irits% gods or ancestors% or due to the influence of the 5Ivil Iye%5 which might have been cast intentionally or accidentally by another human. from the Gaelic cultures themselves%
33 3

&hese observances are based on what we .now of historical and surviving "ractices from at sources li.e AleHander CarmichaelBs &armina .adelica% which has "reserved many of the songs and charms that accom"any the rhythms of daily life for the Gaels% as well as to the myths and legends% and other sources we have to hand. &hese .inds of rites ePui" the average Gaelic Polytheist with the ability to loo. after their own everyday needs and those of their family. -ometimes outside hel" might be necessary% and this is where the s.ills and eH"ertise of
3 9. @ 0eyer% )ibernica Minora% 19?C% ""3?1C1L ;lac.% The .aelic /therworld% 00@% "@3@. N Gregor% "otes on the #olk-$ore of the "orth-%ast of Scotland% 1991% "1?9. : As evidenced by the use of ogham staves for divination by druids in some of the tales% as well as !ionnBs Aindow% "reserved in medieval manuscri"ts and which seem to have served a divinatory "ur"ose. 9 !or more information see< B&ree 6uggers< A 0ethodology for Crann Ogham Aor. 3a...a. +aven and (athryn Get $ost in the Aoods4B by +aven nic +h/is'n and (athryn Price Nic)h*na. ? e.g.% !estival ;annoc.s and Caudle. 30 Aood10artin% Traces of the %lder #aiths in !reland% 1?01% "1@NL Chea"e% B&he 0aterial Culture of Charms and AmuletsB% in 6enderson 3Id.4% #antastical !maginations- The Supernatural in Scottish )istory and &ulture% 00?% "91. 31 !or further eHam"les% see B+itual Aithin Gaelic PolytheismB by Annie $oughlin and &reasa N' Chonchobhair. 3 -ee for eHam"le< 0aclagan% %vil %ye in the *estern )ighlands % 1?0 % and also )avidson% Rowan Tree and Red Thread% 1?C?% ":N1::L Grant% )ighland #olk *ays% 1?N1% "139L ;lac.% The .aelic /therworld% 00@% " 01. &he Ivil Iye is commonly associated with witches% but might also be cast by those whoBve been lum"ed with the unfortunate affliction since birth. 2n some cases% it might be caused by ill will or eHtreme 7ealousy. ;eing the victim of the Iye means things can go wrongDdisaster% illness% one "iece of bad luc. or another...;ut sometimes shit 7ust ha""ens too. &here a "lenty of ways to remove the Ivil Iye% or droch shRil% and in "articularly stubborn cases the eH"ertise of the bean feasa is traditionally resorted to. 33 -ee Gaol NaofaBs B+itual within Gaelic PolytheismB and The .aol "aofa #'( for more. | CC |

the fiosaiche or bean feasa might come into "lay. As .nowledgeable healers and charmers% they are the "eo"le who can hel" when all else fails% and their "ractices are rooted in what we .now of historical sources and surviving "ractices. &heir title is not one that is ta.en on by the individual% but one that is given to them by the community they serve% in recognition of the talent they have% the services they have "erformed and the role they occu"y in the community. $i.e the bean feasa% the title of dru9 3druid4 is one that conferred on the individual by the Ilders and other long1term% eH"erienced members of the living community% rather than self1designated. &raditionally% the druid served as a "riest=ess and advisor% leader of grou" rituals% and eH"ert in areas of occult .nowledge 3 fisidecht4. &hey "erformed different .inds of divination% acted as seers% were s.illed in different .inds of magic 3such as battle magic and corrguinecht4 and li.ely served as 7udges% law ma.ers% and "olitical advisers as well. Given the fact that modern society is so different com"ared to the time of the druids% and the fact that Gaelic Polytheism is still in the early stages of develo"ment% the role of the druid is one that "resents certain difficulties. As yet% there are no druids serving in the Gaelic Polytheist community% because of the amount of s.ill and learning involved in being able to serve such a role.

Eust as the roles the druids served seem to have s"lit u"

and evolved into several different vocations after Christianity dis"laced their central role in Gaelic society% there are different "eo"le within modern Gaelic Polytheist grou"s who s"ecialise in certain areas that encom"ass one or more of the roles a druid traditionally fulfilled. !or eHam"le% our Ilders are our advisers and leaders of grou" ceremony% while some "eo"le s"ecialise in certain .inds of divination or seershi"% others are scholars with advanced degrees% or medical "rofessionals% and so on.

&here are a variety of different "aths that involve magical elements of "ractice not limited to the so1called everyday 5domestic5 "ractices that have been described above. &hose with talent and training to become a seer 3 f;ith4% for eHam"le% might choose to "erform the taghairm ritual% a -cottish form of divination which traditionally involves being wra""ed in the of a newly slain oH or cow.

&hose who are called to "ursue

3C Ahich is not to say that this will always be the case. 3@ -ee The ." #'( for more details on how this wor.s within Gaol Naofa. 3N As such% a reconstructed taghairm ritual would be a very serious oH or cows not being ten a "enny... -ee )welly1d entry for 5taghairm.5 &he ritual is similar in form to the tarb-feis described in early 2rish literature% but while the taghairm was used for any divinatory needs% the tarb-feis a""ears to have been solely used to divine who the neHt .ing might be. As such the tarb-feis may have limited a""lications in modern GP. | C@ |

filidechtDthe "rofession of the eH"ert% ins"ired% and gifted "oetDmight "erform the rite of imbas forosnai% 3: in order to gain a sort of 5enlightened ins"iration5 as "art of the "rocess of " 39 Part of their remit may be to "erform satire 3although the satirist may also be a se"arate vocation4% which as we have seen above% involves some forms of satirical "oetry that can be seen as magical. Other Gaelic Polytheists might s"ecialise in the arts of healing% and there are many charms associated with the harvesting of medicinal herbs that can be found in sources li.e the &armina .adelica. As we have seen from &he )eerBs Cry% which calls for "rotection 5against the s"ells of women and smiths and druids%5 as well as the charm against thorn that calls on Goibniu% smithing also contains magical undertones.

&he "ath of the

warrior can also involve some magical "ractices% including being s.illed in using ogham to "lace or recognise magical geasa on other warriors 3geasa are magical "rohibitions that affect how an individual must behave in certain situations4.

2n some cases% Gaelic

Polytheists may have geasa% which can be ta.en on% given at certain times% or sim"ly recognised as having been inherited. &his may ha""en during rites of "assage such as ba"tism% ado"tion% and the on of new tas.s or vocations. &he sources we loo. to in order to inform our meta"hysical "ractices are varied. Ae loo. to the myths and surviving fol. customs% sources li.e Sanas &ormaic% which describe a number of rites and "ractices 3including the "rotective ;ealtaine bonfires and imbas forosnai4% and AleHander CarmichaelBs &armina .adelica. Authors such as !. 0arian 0cNeill% (evin )anaher% +onald ;lac.% -Jan R -GilleabhYin% I. Istyn Ivans% $ady Gregory% Aalter Gregor% 6ugh Chea"e% 0argaret ;ennett% and 0artin 0artin give us a detailed view of every day Gaelic life% as well as the "ractices of the charmers% healers% wise women% and wise men who form our "oint of reference for the .inds of "ractices that might be deemed 5magical5 in a Gaelic Polytheist conteHt. !rom these sources we see how we ourselves can model our "ractices along traditional lines. !or us% eclectic Neo"agan
3: One eHam"le can be found archived here. 39 As with a number of other vocations within Gaelic Polytheism% the "ath of the fili is one that rePuires great .nowledge and eH"ertise in the art% and meeting the standards set by our ancestors. &hese rePuirements include memorising vast numbers of traditional "rayers% "oems and songsL being able to com"ose ins"ired "oetry on the s"otL eHtensive memorisation of lore and historyL and the "roven ability to communicate well with the s"irits and relay their messages with accuracy% among other things. Ahen it comes to vocations that demand fluency in at least one of the Gaelic languages% this is certainly one of them. As with dru9% fili is also a title that should be granted by .nowledgeable "eers and Ilders% not self1designated. 3? -ee +andol"h% BCeltic -miths and -atirists< Partners in -orcery%B in %$)+ ol. S+ "o. 5% 1?C1% "19C11?:. C0 As we see in the T;in% for eHam"le. | CN |

"ractices are not a "oint of reference at all% nor do we 5flesh out5 our "ractices by using eclectic or New Age sources% nor do we a""ro"riate from other cultures or "aradigms. &his means we do not cast runes% do &arot s"reads% incor"orate 5magical corres"ondences%5 cast a 5magic circle5 or invo.e elements% Aatchtowers or deities% or attem"t to 5use5 gods or s"irits in magical s"ells as some Neo"agan traditions might. Nor do we try to stealthily incor"orate non1Gaelic elements by misa""ro"riating things from other cultures and trying to disguise the theft by giving it an ina""ro"riate or new Gaelic name. C1 Our "ractices come solely from what we can find in tradition 3and where necessary% the careful a""lication of "ersonal ins"iration and vision% o"erating within the chec.s and balances of community and traditional cultural conteHt4. 2n this res"ect% it is not a""ro"riate to call our "ractices 5witchcraft5 because that would im"ly malevolent acts or an involvement in eclectic Neo"agan "ractices where there is none. Ahile these distinctions may be confusing for those new to Gaelic meta"hysical lore% and has led to some unnecessary misconce"tions among mainstream Neo"agans% with immersion in a Gaelic worldview these things become clear. As far as witchcraft in its traditional sense is concerned% the main thing that defines what is or isnBt witchcraft de"ends on the actions of the individual and their relationshi" to the community. As we see in the sources there are "lenty of occasions where magic might be used to cause harm to someone% and a good eHam"le here is satire. Iven saints are seen to use satire and curses 3in many cases% satire and curses can overla"4% but if this is done in the "ursuit of 7usticeDand it is agreed by the community that it is 7ust% not 7ust due to the obsessions of an unbalanced% harmful individual who wants to believe their "ersonal vendetta is 7ustDthis is not necessarily seen as witchcraft or bad behaviour. &his can be the case even though the satire may be magical in its "ower and harmful in its end resultD"ossibly .illing or maiming the victim. &he "ower of the satirist rests not 7ust on their s.ill and "otential "ower to harm% but on the im"ortance of honour in Gaelic society% and the "ower of words. &o be accused of dishonour can be hugely damaging to your re"utationDto your very being. &herefore% to be the victim of satire is a terrible thing% and why the results can be so devastating. 2t is therefore incumbent on the satirist to use their
C1 As has been seen when some non12ndigenous Neo"agans have "erformed their offensive% outsider fantasies of Native American sweatlodge ceremonies% but tried to claim they are the Gaelic taigh an fhallais or teach an allais ceremonyDwhich is an entirely different thing. Nor do we su""ort similar misre"resentations of our source materials% such as re"lacing the 2rish ideas in the medieval BCauldron of PoesyB "oem with conce"ts misa""ro"riated from -outh Asian &antra. !or more on this see< 0eehan% 0ichael E.% BA Protocol for 2mbas !orosnai.B | C: |

"owers wiselyL those who donBt% face severe consePuences... 7ust loo. at the fate of CridenbJl in &ath Maige Tuired 3hint< he abused his "osition and ended u" dead4. Ahen the satireDor threat of satireDis un7ustified% there are sanctions made against the satiristL 7ust as when someone is accused of "erforming magic for selfish% harmful "ur"oses% they are accused of witchcraft. 2n both cases% the individual only gains a bad re"utation as a result of their own dishonourable behaviour. 6onour and integrity are central values within our Gaelic Polytheist community% and those who act without honour or integrity% who use magic for malicious ends or selfish "ur"oses% or who actively wor. to cause harm and chaos in the community% may be seen as a witch.

In Conclusion
As Gaelic Polytheists there is an admittedly confusing% and historically dense% landsca"e of labels that may or may not be a""ro"riate for our magical "ractices and "ractitioners. -o it is "erha"s not sur"rising to find modern terminology 3even incorrect terminology4 filtering into Celtic +econstructionist and Gaelic Polytheist discussions% es"ecially among newer members or those who may not have contact with the living cultures. 6owever% as reconstructionists who loo. to the historical and living cultures to inform our "ractices% we believe that we should do the same in choosing the terminology with which we identify ourselves. 0any Celtic +econstructionists have done this in identifying the cultural focus of their traditions% ado"ting labels such as PGganachd=P;g;nacht% !ldiachas% Senobessus% or 'mldduwiaeth% C and calling for "eo"le to give even more s"ecific names to their branches of the tradition% so as to recognise the diversity that eHists under the C+ umbrella.

$i.ewise% filidecht and druidecht are some eHam"les of culturally a""ro"riate labels that are already in use to describe certain vocations that some Gaelic Polytheists might

C &he latter two describing Gaulish and Aelsh reconstructionist traditions res"ectively% while the former might be found in Gaelic conteHts. Senobessus translates as 5old custom5 while the other terms translate as 5"olytheism5 or 5"aganism.5 C3 Nic)h*na% (athryn Price% B&urning Point < &hird Point < Gateway 1 &houghts on the history of Celtic +econstructionism% 1?9@ 1 009.B A"ril 30% 009% "ailed to the door of the !nternet. | C9 |

dedicate themselves to achieving.


Ahile druidecht is "erha"s less commonly used

because 5druid5 can convey basically the same meaning in Inglish% filidecht is a term that is more widely used in the C+ community because it encom"asses a com"leH conce"t that is not easy to articulate sim"ly in Inglish. &he same is true when we consider the very nuanced beliefs and attitudes when it comes to varieties of magical "ractice% and vocations of a magical focus% in a Gaelic conteHt. Of the words that have been eHamined in the course of this essay% fisidechtDencom"assing 5occult5 and 5druidical5 .inds of .nowledgeDis a term that could "ossibly serve as a convenient catch1all label when discussing magical "ractices in general 3though this is 7ust one o"tion among many4. Ahat we are advocating here is hardly something new or revolutionaryL to our s"iritual cousins we find that the heathen community% for eHam"le% have long used culturally1a""ro"riate labels to describe their own magical "ractices and "ractitioners% and the same is true for living s"iritual traditions that have not needed any reconstruction.

&o name ourselves accurately% in the languages of our cultures% is sim"ly "art and "arcel of a reconstructionist methodology% and to ignore the historical and cultural conteHt and meaning of these labelsDand choose modern definitions over them% even though they are contradictoryDis antithetical to that methodology. Ae also believe that it is a sim"le matter of res"ect% since belief in witchcraft% according to its traditional definition% can still be found in Gaelic areas today. ;eneficial fol. magic and traditions also survive% and to insist on calling such "ractices 5witchcraft5 is both inaccurate and "otentially offensive to the "eo"le who still "erform them. !rom all sides% we must conclude that the word 5witchcraft5 has very little relevance to a reconstructionist community% unless the word is being used in its traditional and historical conteHt< to describe someone who is malevolent magic of the sort that blights a community and harms the innocent. &he abundance of Gaelic technical terms to describe different ty"es of magic% and those who might "ractice them% suggests that all of the different meanings and nuances between these terms are im"ortant. &his in itself has im"lications in how we might a""ly these terms in a modern conteHt% if and when they are a""licable today. Ae must also consider the fact that as times have changed% so have beliefs and the
CC ;ut see "revious notes on the necessity for res"ecting the great learning% achievement% and community recognition necessary for the granting of these titles. C@ -ee also< The .aol "aofa #'( 1 5;ut hasnBt the meaning of Aitchcraft changedS5 | C? |

conteHt in which some of these words have been used% as well as the .inds of words being used. As a result of these changes% we find that some words with very s"ecific connotations in a "olytheistic conteHt have been co1o"ted% subverted and redefined over time% and so are not necessarily a""ro"riate for us to ado"t. As we have seen% during the 0iddle Ages 3when views on magic were increasingly being framed as demonic or -atanic at their core4% the names of certain goddessesDsuch as ;adb and the CailleachDwere co1 o"ted and subverted to refer to witchcraft or witches. Along with 0ongfind% whose origins as a sovereignty goddess have been subverted to those of a mere witch% it is clear that these deities have been reduced to demonic% evil% yet mortal women rather than goddesses in their own right% in order to serve a medieval Christian narrative. As "olytheists% it could hardly be a""ro"riate to ado"t the names of these demoted goddesses as terms for ourselves as magic1wor.ers% either to use them in the Neo"agan 3"ositive4 sense of the word or to label someone as a 5witch5 in the traditional 3negative4 sense. 2n either conteHt% this usage of their names can hardly be seen as res"ectful or honouring the goddesses who have been subverted in the "rocess. 2nstead% if terms are needed to refer to the ty"e of "eo"le we would describe as witches in the Gaelic sense% there are surely more a""ro"riate terms that can be considered for use% such as ammait or tHathaid=bantuathaid. CN -ome of the terms that describe the "ractices of wise women and men% es"eciallyD such as bean feasa% fiosaiche=ban-fhiosaiche% or fer-obbee=ben-obbeeDmay be more relevant to the .ind of vocations that we as Gaelic Polytheists might wish to dedicate ourselves to% "rovided there is an understanding that these are not labels that are ado"ted in isolation% but ones that are earned and conferred in recognition of the eH"ertise% s.ill and .nowledge a "erson might "ossess% and share with their community. Ae have suggested these terms as they are more accurate descri"tors of the role that these "ractitioners may "lay in Gaelic Polytheist communities% and also to remove the many other "roblems that sim"ly identifying as a witch can bring. &he issues we have raised during the course of this essay go beyond a matter of accuracy and semantics in the words we might choose. 2f we embrace mainstream Neo"agan terms it often leads to the mista.en assum"tion that we ourselves embrace the eclectic range of "ractices that are commonly found as the norm within those communities% such as circle casting% divination by &arot or runes% the commanding of
CN -ee the section 5Aitchcraft in 2reland5 for more about these words. | @0 |

s"irits or the use of ritual "ro"s li.e the athame.


&hese things are rooted in a vastly

different worldview that is often diametrically o""osed to our own% and so they are not a""licable to a Celtic +econstructionist or Gaelic Polytheist "ractice. Ahen one chooses Neo"agan and "o" culture labels over culturally1rooted ones% such a fundamental and im"ortant "oint is often missed or misunderstood by newcomers 3or those with only a basic .nowledge of reconstructionism in general4% and this is "roblematic on many levels. Any im"lied agreement with the values of mainstream% eclectic Neo"aganism tends to also im"ly an acce"tance of this eclectic range of belief and "ractice% and this not only goes against the grain of what reconstructionism is trying to achieve% and the core values of reconstructionism% but it also has the "otential for introducing the .inds of culturally a""ro"riative elements that reconstructionism aims to avoid. 2n this res"ect% incor"orating elements from eclectic Neo"agan "ractices is sim"ly incom"atible with a reconstructionist a""roach. C9 Additionally% these .inds of misunderstandings run the ris. of newcomers doing things that might cause offence to the s"irits% which can lead to more than 7ust a mild headache. &his is a "oint that is often glossed over% but is something that cannot be understated. 2n many cases% "eo"le may not be aware of the issues that have been raised here% and considering the lac. of more a""ro"riate terminology on offer the use of such ina""ro"riate terms as 5witch5 3in its Neo"agan sense4 is "erha"sDu" until now% at least Dunderstandable. At the other end of the scale are those who are well aware of the traditional meaning of 5witch5% and are using the label with the harmful meaning in mind% whether to describe their own "ractices or "erha"s the "ractices of others.


5witch5 and 5witchcraft5 may not traditionally be seen as desirable labels or "ractices to ado"t% there are always going to be a small number of "eo"le who will choose to "ractice harmful magic% for whatever reason. &his is another reason why using such terms accurately within our own communities is im"ortantL when words can carry such weight%
C: Iven today there are some "eo"le out there calling themselves 5Celtic +econstructionist Aiccans%5 for eHam"le% which is an oHymoron. C9 As ;ill $inMie comments% in discussing the increasing tendency to incor"orate Bneo1shamanicB "ractices into heathen seidr wor.% to do so 5...the very foundations of the worldview can be undermined so that the cosmological Troots of our "ractice areU com"letely altered...5 Ahat we end u" with is therefore a 5confabulation%5 and one that isnBt rooted in the culture we are eH"licitly identifying with when we call ourself Gaelic Polytheists% or similar. -ee $inMie% .ermanic Spirituality% 003% "3@13N. C? 2f a""lied to others% we would consider this to be a very serious accusation% however% and would not recommend it being thrown around lightly. | @1 |

they should be used with care. 2n some cases% however% "eo"le may be aware that 5witch5 and 5witchcraft5 are not "ositive terms in a Gaelic conteHt but still choose to use them because the modern re1 definitions are so well1entrenched in the mainstream Neo"agan and New Age communities. 6ere it might be argued that because the modern re1definitions are so "o"ular it is both easier and sim"ler to go along with it because they wonBt need eH"laining li.e culturally1s"ecific labels might. A counter1argument might "oint out that heathen communities have no such trouble when referring to seidr or spae. !or some% it might sim"ly be the case that Neo"agan terminology is both familiar and comfortable% and that there is a reluctance to let go of such an identity even though oneBs "ractices have otherwise moved away from that. Ahatever the reasoning% that is their "rerogative% of course. 6owever% considering the issues that have been raised here% and bearing in mind that other culturally1s"ecific terms are widely used and "romoted within the C+ and GP communities% it seems contradictory% and a little incongruous% to sto" short at referring to other vocations in the same% culturally1accurate% fashion. 2n considering the .inds of labels that are available to us% it may also be the case that s"ecialised terminology is not even necessaryL much of what we do as Celtic +econstructionists might be seen as 5magical5 in some way% but that does not necessarily mean those acts define us or our vocation. 0any of us see. to build "ositive relationshi"s with the nature s"irits on whose land we live and wor.L we "erform rites of "rotection and blessingL we ma.e charms li.e the cros Br9de to hang above the hearth or set out the br9de<g to welcome ;rigid at her festival% and loo. for signs of her visit afterwards. Ae might ma.e crosses of rowan and red thread to "rotect the householdL smoor the hearth in the evening and re.indle it in the morningL

loo. for signs and omens in the clouds or in

natureL ta.e an ogham reading to divine the future or an answer to a Puestion% and so on. &hese things could be inter"reted as being 5magical5 in one way or another% but for most of us they are sim"ly "art and "arcel of the normal% everyday "ractices that ma.e us Gaelic Polytheists. &he .inds of terms that describe cunning fol.% or other .inds of magically1oriented vocations li.e druids or filid% are generally reserved for those who have decades of study% "ractice and s"ecialisation under their belts% and who can be considered
@0 Often a symbolic act in this day and age. |@ |

eH"erts at the to" of their fields. Iven if such s"ecialists have a "rohibition against money for the services they "rovide% they can be seen as the ePuivalent of degreed "rofessionals% and the difference between the normal "ractitioner of magic and these s"ecialists is much the same as the difference between someone who .nows how to clean a wound and a""ly a bandage% versus a "racticing surgeon. 0agic in Gaelic Polytheism is a vast and varied sub7ect% and witchcraft is 7ust a small "art of it. 2n eH"loring this sub7ect% and advocating for the ado"tion of more a""ro"riate terminology to describe our magical "ractices% we realise that we have only scratched the surface here. &here is surely much more to eH"lore and discuss% but we ho"e that what we have outlined here "roves to be a good starting "oint for further study and o"en dialogue% clarifies our "osition% and illuminates why we in Gaol Naofa use the terminology we use. ,ltimately% whatever labels or terminology grou"s or individuals choose to ado"t is going to be a "ersonal matter% but we ho"e that this essay has "rovided some ideas and avenues to consider.

| @3 |

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