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55 MAGICAL PRACTITIONERS [Back to Contents] Recent research has demonstrated that nineteenth and twentieth-century Ireland was served by a variety of supernatural healers. This included magical practitioners who cured specific ailments or diseases using a gift inherited or passed onto them, faith or divine healers who transferred God’s power onto the sick in order to heal them, and commercial magical practitioners. This latter group offered a range of services, including the diagnosis and cure of humans attacked by fairies and witches. They were particularly concerned with changeling abduction and the effects of elf-bolts and fairy blast. These practitioners were known in Ireland by variety of names, including elf-doctor, fairy man or woman, herb doctor, cow- doctor, wise-man or woman, and spae-man and spae-woman.25 Commercial practitioners [Back to Contents] James Orr, ‘The Spae-Wife’ (Song, taken from Poems, on Various Subjects, 1804) Tune – “Come under my Plaidy”. The weaver, small farmer and poet James Orr (1770-1816) is now rightly regarded as one of the most prominent labouring-class Romantic Irish poets of his generation. Orr’s poetry is particularly remarkable for its insightful chronicling of his local, Ulster Scots, East Antrim community. As the poem below demonstrates, Orr, like his friend and fellow poet Samuel Thomson, was critical of superstitious practice, directing readers, in well-wrought Ulster Scots vernacular, to instead consult the Bible in matters of wisdom and foresight. ‘The Spae-Wife Ye frien’s o’ deep knowledge, if wise ye wad be, 25 See: Young, ‘Some notes on Irish Fairy Changelings in Nineteenth-Century Irish Newspapers’: 38-43; Correll, ‘Believers and Sceptics, and Charlatans: Evidential Rhetoric, the Fairies and Fairy Healers in Irish Oral Narratives and Beliefs’: 2, 11-14; Richard P. Jenkins, ‘Witches and Fairies: Supernatural Aggression and Deviance Among the Irish Peasantry’ in, Ulster Folklife, 23 (1977): 33-56; Connolly, Priests and People in Pre-famine Ireland, 1780-1845: 115-16; Catherine Cox, ‘The Medical Marketplace and Medical Tradition in Nineteenth Century Ireland’ in, Ronnie Moore and Stuart McClean (eds), Folk Healing And Health Care Practices In Britain and Ireland: Stethoscopes, Wands and Crystals (Oxford and New York, 2010): 55-6, 73; Bourke, The Burning of Bridget Cleary: a True Story, chapter 2; St. John D. Seymour, Irish Witchcraft and Demonology (London, 1913): 236-7, 239-42; Richard Jenkins, ‘The Transformations of Biddy Early: From Local Reports of Magical Healing to Globalised New Age Fantasies’ in, Folklore, 118 (2007): 165-70.

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