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Biddy Early


CelticGypsy

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Biddy Early lived in County Clare, in western Ireland in the mid-nineteenth century as was known as a " wise woman." The local Church authorities remained suspicious of her power until she died. As a child, Biddy Early was able to see and talk to elemental spirits and faeries. They became her playmates. It was generally agreed that, as an adult, she received her knowledge of medicinal herb from " the earth folks ", who taught her how to use them for magical and semi-magical purposes. She cured illness, recommended medicinal remedies, and foretold the future. She also offered on at leat once occasion to perform a type of spirit retrieval for a woman who wanted to see her dead child.

In the early twentieth century, Lady Gregory, a folklorist, Irish nationalist, and friend of W.B. Yeats, interviewed people in County Clare who remembered Biddy Early and recorded several accounts of her shamanic powers and experiences. Some people thought that Biddy Early received her power to cure from her dead brother who had laid under a white thorn tree for shade while he was ill. She went to the tree to cry every day for a year after his death,

" and then he brought her under, " meaning he took her into the Otherworld where he gave her the knowledge of curing. Neighbors claimed Biddy Early was taken to the spirit realms for 7 years, a common length of time for faery abductions. It is not unusual for a shamanic candidate to be trained by the spirits of deceased relatives or ancestors. At some point in her life, Biddy Early began " seeing " cures and future events by means of a blue bottle, which she would shake until a mist formed inside. As the bottle cleared, she could see the illness and its cure. Sometimes she looked into the bottle to foresee a future event. Biddy Early received the blue bottle from the faeries by way of her eldest son who also had a personal relationship with the " earth folk ". One day he stoppd to play a game of hurly with them ( faeries seem to need mortal players to play hurly every now and then ) and as a token of their appreciation, they presented him with the blue bottle with instructions to take it home to his mother. The bottle became her power object, although she could "see " and cure without it. She left instrutions that after her death it was to be thrown into Loch Kilgarron where it remains to this day, even thought there have be numerous attempts by scavengers to retrieve it. Returning a power object to Faerie after one's death is a common Celtic theme.

Biddy Early " may have been in a trance " when she did her work, as one acquaintance put it. She was known to go into a small shed behind her home at night where she consulted with her invisible companions. This small, undoubtedly dark enclosure, isolated from the distractions of her home, would have facilitated the visionary state of consciousness that she needed to journey into the nonordinary realm where she met her helping spirits. Biddy Early appears to have practiced her form of shamanism with considerable regularity. One observer thought she was " walking with the faeries every night ."

Throughout her life Biddy Early engaged in and ongoing feud with the local priest and bishop who feared that her powers were from the devil. On more than one occasion the clergy visited her to discourage her shamanic practices. Obviously part of their worry was that her widespread following among the peasantry threatened their authority. But Biddy Early never " mended " her ways. She remained lax in her own church observances, had several husbands, and drank probably more than was good for her. She died in 1873.

 

Regards,

Gypsy

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She sounds like a very interesting woman and a well versed witch. I'm always interested in hearing how the Witches of old were renowned by their communities and the retelling of their powers. The mentioning of her Blue Bottle and how she used it sounds very much like crystallomancy; I would very much like to try out this method.

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One observer thought she was " walking with the faeries every night ." ...

But Biddy Early never " mended " her ways. She remained lax in her own church observances, had several husbands, and drank probably more than was good for her.

 

She sounds like my kind of woman. :) Thanks for sharing!

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Thanks CG! there are a number of pubs over here called 'Biddy Early's' (especially in that county) so I am sure that is probably who they are named after

- must do further research in these soon.. LOL! :cheers:

 

 

LOL ! You're welcome, Winter ! What a fine tribute to have her name over a Pub ! When you do your " further research ", I'd safely say the conversation could get lively regarding Biddy ! I'll drink to that !:beerchug:

 

Regards,

Gypsy

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  • 5 months later...

I love the tales of Biddy Early. It's interesting that they differ from source to source, but that's not really a surprise as folklore does have a tendency to transform over time. I read a book on Biddy that was written by Meda Ryan (titled Biddy Early, the Wise Woman of Clare). It was mentioned in the bibliography of another book and I wanted to know more, so I got the book. The fate of the bottle in this book is that it's taken by a Catholic priest who was present at Biddy's death bed. On his way home he throws the bottle into a lake to get rid of it. Interesting stuff.

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I love the Biddy Early stories. I love the blue bottle! Another witch's bottle folks? Is this bottle for scrying about the cause of an illness? And/or is there a spirit that communicated with Biddy? I am going to have to get that book about her, I saw it mentioned in the bibliography of another book I am reading as well (well I am assuming ST and I are reading the same book since we are discussing it in another thread).

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I love the Biddy Early stories. I love the blue bottle! Another witch's bottle folks? Is this bottle for scrying about the cause of an illness? And/or is there a spirit that communicated with Biddy? I am going to have to get that book about her, I saw it mentioned in the bibliography of another book I am reading as well (well I am assuming ST and I are reading the same book since we are discussing it in another thread).

 

From the material I've read so far, it appears that Biddy used the bottle for scrying in general (and often to discover healing remedies). The material seems to indicate a connection with faery folk when it comes to Biddy's work. But, there's also the mention of her dead mother speaking to her in a dream. I think I recall that part correctly. BTW - sarasuperid, in the other book we've talked about elsewhere, there's some stuff on Biddy in chapter 3, pages 68 - 71.

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ST I have two books on hold from the library and interlibrary loan on Biddy Early, as well as the Old World Witchcraft book. I am looking forward to learning a lot about Biddy because she is an Irish Witch and that is one of my particular areas of interest.

 

Cool! It's always nice to find connections to personal interests. I think you'll really enjoy Biddy. She looks to have been one powerful woman.

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