Hi allec <3 I'm writing a story set in a steampunkish XIX century England, and some of my characters are witches of Irish origin. But I'd rather not use the term "witch", because I find it too vague. Since you are specialized in gaelic mythology and folklore, which term do you think would suit an irish person practicing traditional witchcraft? Also where do you think I would have to look up for historical references about traditional witchcraft and maybe also celtic revival? Thank you <3
First of all, good luck with writing that story as it sounds like it has the potential to be AWESOME.
But into your question… well, there’s a few things to consider.
Traditional Witchcraft is a thing that I know very little about, so I am paging @spiritscraft and @visardistofelphame for both their help. They’re Traditional Witches and will know a ton more than me.
But if you want to know about traditional magic in Ireland… that’s different, I believe.
A particular person to investigate is an Irish woman who went by the name Biddy Early. She’s a well-known magical-sort-of-person in Irish folklore / history / oral stories. (I can’t quite figure out what she was called during her time, but most likely a ban feasa - wise woman - and/or a fairy doctor.) She healed people, she worked “magic”, she helped turn people’s misfortunes into fortunes. She was accused of being a witch (when the whole witch-burning thing was going on in Europe), but charges were dismissed due to lack of evidence after people who were to testify against her changed their minds. She most likely at least consulted with the Good Folk (faeries or the sidhe).
For naming, you may want to read Morgan Daimler’s blog article: “Nuances of the words ‘Witchcraft’ and ‘Witch’ in Old Irish”. To sum up a point that Daimler has: translations are tricky. There are many words in Old Irish that denote different types of “witchcraft,” and those nuances are important. Also, bandraoi or draoi – druid – may indeed be a more apt title, if you can strip it of it’s modern-day romanticism. But also phiseogach (male), bean phiseogach (female), and/or lucht piseog (group of “witches”) may work depending on what this person and/or persons are doing in your story is doing.
Some key things include that “witches” in Irish society worked against the community, whereas someone like a ban feasa worked for the community’s good. A lot of times, one’s magical know-how came directly from the fae. If they worked with the fae, they often were working against the community.
Also also! Poetry was seen as a sort of magic, so file may be something investigating. Filid were a sort of seers, but sorta also magic users, in that their poems half foretold the future and half made the future be what they wanted it to be, or thought it best to be. The satires they made could end kingships.
And lastly, “Celtic Revival” isn’t really clear… are you talking about the resurgence of Irish ‘pagan’ beliefs? The Druid Revival? Both? :O
But yeah, I think that should give you something to start with? I don’t have many books to recommend at the moment since I sorta just absorb this from heavy-duty research that Morgan Daimler and Lora O’Brien do (Lora O’Brien is fantastic and I think is working on a book specifically about Irish traditional magic at the moment? But I don’t know if I’m recalling that correctly or when it’s going to be published.)
If anyone has more help for this Anon, reblog away! :D