|A 'fairy-woman' lived at the Chair of Kildare. Well, she wasn't actually a fairy, but something like an intermediary who also dealt in herbal medicine, a bit of veterinarianism, seeing the future, that sort of thing. In fact, for once, it wouldn't seem like new age woo to claim she was a bit like a shaman. Not only could a fairy-woman or man "hold some mysterious sort of communication with the denizens of moats or raths" but they'd been over the Other Side: "In some cases it was rumoured that they had been changelings originally." Changelings were fairy children who were sickly who had been swapped for your own, obviously bouncing and healthy, baby. With a bit of intervention from someone who knew what they were doing, your child could sometimes be brought back. In truth this would have looked like distancing yourself from your sickly child and leaving it out on a dungheap to die, but in a socially acceptable sort of fashion.
"..as they usually lived a solitary and retired life, no ordinary sare of mystery shrouded their motions. [They] professed a familiar acquaintance with all secrets - past, present and future: the cure of most diseases affecting man and beasts; the discovery and restoration of lost goods; a description and detection of the thief if property had been stolen; fortune-telling, and a knowledge regarding all matters of personal concern; causing cream to produce butter in greater abundance: whilst they often took care to impress.. an opinion that their friendship would be desirable to prevent the certain evil effects of fairy resentment."
"Within the present century, one of these fairy-women, who was named Moll Anthony, lived near the Red Hills at the Chair of Kildare ... Her reputation as a posessor of supernatural knowledge and divination drew crowds of distant visitors to her daily, and from the most remote parts of Ireland. In various instances they were furnished with a bottle containing some supposed curative liquid, and directed to return homewards without falling asleep on their journey. This bottle was filled with water, darkly coloured by a decoction of herbs, gathered with certain incantations near a rath that afforded the customary materia medica of fairy-doctors for the cure of a special disease on which consultation was required."
The author is unimpressed: "The most accomplished and skilful member of the medical faculty seldom received a more remunerative fee for his services on behalf of a patient than the wise woman of the Red Hills pocketed from her credulous dupes." (I doubt it).
The piece also says: "After the death of Moll Anthony, her daughter followed the same profession, but never enjoyed a like celebrity."
From 'The Gentleman's Magazine Library: English Traditional Lore' 1868.
Posted by Rhiannon
31st July 2010ce
Edited 31st July 2010ce